Just a little update going back to one of my first entries. There’s a former bridge over Stockton Lake, all of which remains are two large stone pylons about 15-20 feet tall, depending on the water level. My friend Zenmaster and I were able to accomplish one of my long term goals earlier this year by climbing the pylon closest to shore, thanks to the abnormally low lake levels at the time. However, we were unable to repeat that feat with the second tower, which was surrounded by about 100 yards of cold water at the time. Fast forward to a week ago; the tower’s still surrounded by water, but it’s now roughly the temperature of warm bathwater.
Climbing the second tower took two attempts. The first came after a full day of canoeing, and we were simply too exhausted to make the climb. The second was far more successful, but still required swimming halfway across the lake and scaling the tower with our bare hands, sans rope. Of course, we were able to set a rope at the top after the first climb. This tower proved to be an excellent diving board, with the caveat that it was actually possible to get one’s feet stuck in the two feet of mud below Stockton Lake – something that was quite terrifying the first time it happened.
See the first of the two towers here: http://undergroundozarks.com/blog/sertile/index.php/2006/05/07/bridges_of_polk_county
A long time ago, our own Underdog stumbled onto a secret under one of MSU’s many classroom buildings. While he didn’t find the fabled lost swimming pool, he was able to verify that the building had once been used as a gymnasium, and found something even better – an entire phantom floor, existing beneath the current basement/classroom level, consisting of stairways, tunnels, bleachers, a concession area (which read “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry”), and a full basketball court, complete with hardwood floors. When I heard about it I had to see it with my own eyes, and I spent a good part of my last semester trying to find a way in. Finally I did, by way of an often-locked janitor’s closet. I had to check back several times before I finally found the door open, and was forced to sneak past a particularly burly-looking custodian. Luckily he seemed more interested in air conditioning filters than overly curious students.
After slipping down a stairway inside the supply room, I made my way down a dank corridor into what had been the stadium area. I was surprised by the scope of the place, which I spent about an hour exploring in almost total silence. It was like a dead world. Many areas were large enough to stand up and walk in, while others required one to crawl through narrow passages. A kind of gutter system connected the various rooms, traveling under stairways and classroom floors, eventually leading to the “Red Room.” The Red Room was little more than a dead-end under a staircase full of discarded chairs and desks. However, it was interesting for two reasons: One, an odd “shrine” that had been built up around a large red piece of tile, and two, the walls, which tell the story of the Red Room and its cruel inhabitants, the Trolls.
Transcribed for your pleasure, the graffiti read:
“The Red Room – Where the legend of the Trolls is passed down!”
“Beware of the Trolls – They live under the campus in the dark tunnels. Trolls feed on the flesh of the living. Do not enter the tunnels in the dark or alone. Heed this warning, the Trolls do live! I have seen them and felt the sting of razor sharp claws & teeth. For I am the teller of their tale!”
“Beware also – Do not disturb anything in the Red Room. To do so is sure despair & death. Trolls love their story, if black hearts can love. IF you dare this doom will be yours!”
While I wasn’t particularly worried about the trolls, I was a little uneasy down there. The fear of being caught was ever-present, but possibly more unnerving was the almost total silence, which was so permeating that I feared to break it. There were no classes going on at the time, but I almost wish they had been, as the shuffling of footsteps overhead would have helped mask my own. The gutter may have kept going, but the Red Room was clogged with debris and I was hesitant to rearrange it. I took a break on the bleachers and perused a several-years-old copy of the Southwest Standard before deciding it was time to return to the surface.
Satisfied that I had seen all there was to see, I began to tiptoe back toward the entrance. Unfortunately, when I reached the stairwell leading up to the janitor’s area I could hear the sounds of newspaper folding and food being eaten – someone was between me and the door, and they were on their lunch break. I crouched in a darkened corner for almost half an hour, waiting for them to finish. Finally, I grew impatient and bolted for the door. It was locked - from the inside - something which cost me several valuable seconds. Luckily the custodian turned out to be in the next room, and I’m unsure if he even saw me, though I’m certain he heard me slam the door on the way out.
While looking around for places to keep myself occupied in Southeastern Kansas, I happened upon an abandoned race track, Camptown Greyhound Park; “Greyhound Park” being a euphemism for “dog track.” The place was still in decent shape, and didn’t look to be that old, but I could tell it had been closed for a while as it was already getting kind of run down.
I pulled into the oversized parking lot – now becoming overgrown with weeds – and noticed I wasn’t the only one there. A couple of truckers were there sleeping, one of whom woke up just long enough to notice my presence, and then fell back asleep.
The place was big, and would’ve been pretty nice when it was all up and running. The main building still had its lights turned on, probably to scare away potential burglars and/or drifters, and I heeded their warning, though I did peer inside. There were sections of indoor bleachers set up so that gamblers could watch the dogs through a large window, but some of them had been torn out, as if they were in the process of remodeling when they closed (or possibly still building the place).
There were also several outbuildings and viewing platforms in various states of disrepair, and the scoreboard had definitely seen better days. I walked along the track, which was totally overgrown, and noticed some official Camptown cups sitting on a fencepost. The whole place exuded a somewhat eerie feeling, probably because, while it obviously hadn’t been used for some time, it didn’t feel like the owners had really abandoned it. I decided not to do any more poking around and continued into town.
The townspeople all had different stories about the place, some conflicting, but the general consensus was that it was a stupid place to put a dog track in the first place, and everyone expected it to go belly-up. The parking lot is used for Driver’s Ed classes, according to one source, and the site hosted a large New Year’s bash not too long ago, which may be the source of the cups I found. Apparently the owners are working on getting the place turned into a full-fledged casino, but only time will tell if that pans out.
Some time ago, while home visiting from KS, forum member Anne introduced me to a newly opened building in downtown Springfield, not far from some others we had previously explored. I had known about the place for a while, but couldn’t find a way in. Luckily, some civic-minded citizen had been kind enough to break the door down. We probed inside, and found it to be in a deplorable state. The walls and ceilings were crumbling all around us, and the building looked like it was ready to collapse. While 3-4 stories, there were no stairs, only a defunct elevator and a rickety wooden ladder.
Upon entering the elevator shaft I noticed the lift itself was stuck between the first floor and the basement, with a crude “stairway” made of discarded wooden pallets leading down. What we found at the bottom was a surprise, though it probably shouldn’t have been. Someone had basically turned the entire basement level into their own personal apartment
There was a bed, made from a foam mattress and a row of pallets, a bookshelf made from stacked tires and a board, two chairs, and several books and magazines. Now, I’ve come across places like this before, but the effort put into this one was especially impressive. There were even spotlights set up throughout the level, with extension cords running up the elevator shaft. They didn’t seem to work, but I assume they had at one time. Everything looked fresh at the time, and we feared the place might still be occupied, so we didn’t stick around long. Unfortunately we had both neglected to bring our cameras. I checked one of the upper levels on the way out, but found the floor too soft for my liking, and I didn’t trust the ladder enough to continue onward.
I finally got a chance to go back the weekend of the BBQ, after which I returned with Underdog to get a visual record of the place, and see if it was still inhabited. Fortunately, it seems to have been abandoned, but everything was much the same as we had left it. We took a few minutes to look around, and noticed a few oddities, like an October 1982 issue of Natl. Geographic, and a cassette, labeled “mix tape,” that I wanted very much to listen to. However, the building appeared to be in an even worse state than the time before, with the corkboard walls buckling and disintegrating all around us. As I stepped onto the elevator to leave it shook, and debris fell down into my hair.
We managed to get in and out without incident, and it being well after 2 am at this point, Underdog headed home. I started to leave, but realizing I had dropped my Maglite somewhere, I was forced to go back. I looked for a good half hour, returning to the building alone and combing the area outside, but to no avail.
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