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GETTING TO THE CORE OF IT

This is an abandoned geology lab in Truro, Mass. It's quite a ways from any main roads, and most of the trek is uphill on deteriorating asphalt.

There’s an abandoned geology lab in Truro, so we geared up and headed out. Despite the fact that Pete said it wasn’t the place he was thinking of—there was an even cooler place just down the road—the lab was not only a beautiful example of art in decay, it was crammed with dated core samples and littered with items that didn’t seem like they’d belong in a geology lab. I love stuff like that, so I think it made a pretty fine “big ticket item.”

So I’ll give you the big news first: WE THINK WE CAUGHT TWO EVPs. I stress the word think–they’re still being looked at. An unexplained whispering in the “Pill Bottles” video, and an unexplained moan in the “Pete with Butt” video. I wish my camera had better audio, but there’s something definitely there. I have sent both videos off to qualified people with forensic experience in sound and better equipment. We’ll see what happens.

In the alleged EVP in “Pill Bottles”, I think the key will be if we can actually understand what the hell it says without totally front-loading.  What we do know is that it’s not the wind (it was a still day and there was no wind in the building), it’s definitely broken into specific words, it wasn’t me (holding the camera and I’m rather loud) and it’s not Pete — his voice, although soft, is clearly masculine; this whisper has that spooky androgynous quality I’ve heard on far too many of Nathan’s EVPs.

As far as the “moan” in “Pete with Butts,” I can’t deny it could’ve been natural causes, although I think I would’ve heard something with my own ears if it were that loud — we were both very aware of sounds around us for safety reasons and pretty much stopped to listen if we heard something odd. But I must admit, those woods are full of coyotes, and people do walk their dogs there. If we can clean it up enough to hear it better, we may be able to identify it as an animal.

There’s very little about this location that pops up in any online research; however, I’m certain the NPS on the sign is an acronym for National Park Service, which manages, of course, the Cape Cod National Seashore. What I did find online was a very interesting Geologic Resource Evaluation Scoping Summary prepared by John Graham of the Geologic Resources Division of the National Park Service (US Department of Interior) and published on July 15, 2008. This fourteen-page PDF may give us some clues about the work they were doing in the building.

First, the document details exactly what they do know about the area’s geologic make up, and discusses extensive mapping procedures, especially of the area they call “North Truro”, which is where this lab is located.  I have a feeling that this lab may have been partly responsible for some of the information contained in the report and many of the maps, possibly, that he refers to which have now been “digitized.”

Second, the building is littered with core samples. In the report, Graham talks a great deal about “stratigraphy” — a branch of geology that studies rocks and their layering. As far as I can remember, one of the practices used in any of the types of stratigraphy (I won’t go into it here, you can look it up or just read the PDF) is coring.

Third, there were several signs in the building that must have been put out in areas where terns were nesting, and this would tie in with the core sampling, maybe, because terns are particularly susceptible to disturbances in their nesting areas. These signs might have been used to tell people where they weren’t allowed to core.

Fourth, Pete did find a few rolls of unused paper that would have been used in a seismograph. In Graham’s report he specifically points out that seismic activity in Cape Cod is monitored, due to an earthquake in the 1700s. According to him, if such an event were to happen today, Boston would be in a lot of trouble.

Of course, what we don’t know is why this place was shut down. Perhaps someday we can get to the core of it. Someone’s got an answer somewhere. But until then what we do have is speculation, and Pete’s romantic spin on things. He quickly pointed out that the abandoned biology lab we’d visited back on January 23 was full of the evidence of partying: tons of beer bottles, graffiti, two-thirds-full packs of cigarettes. All we found at the geology lab was one beer cap from a Newcastle, but Pete was pretty sure he knew who it belonged to, because he had a friend who’d come up there once by himself and had one beer but then left. “We found one beer cap,” he said. “Not a six pack, not a pack of cigarettes, no graffiti, nothing recent, nothing. Now, it’s the furthest point out, and it’s also the highest point, and who the hell wants to be hammered walking back from that shit? But, you know. Do you get what I’m saying?”

Yeah, I get what you’re saying, Pete.

These are all totally wild guesses on my part and I could be completely wrong, but it’s fun to think about. If you’d like to read John Graham’s  report, it’s available here as a PDF hosted on this blog: CACO_scoping_summary_20081223. For purposes of citing the original source, which is the appropriate thing to do,  here’s the link where it can be found online: http://www.nature.nps.gov/GEOLOGY/inventory/publications/s_summaries/CACO_scoping_summary_20081223.pdf. If you want a good ghost story or two, head on over to the “Read My Work” tab and check out “Screams of Autumn” or “Wailing Station.”

Photos and videos below; my little camera doesn’t do well with audio, so I put transcripts of what was said in the videos below each one. Keep in mind, also, that when we finally get around to analyzing those EVPs, we may not be able to decipher what it says due to the audio’s low quality. But for now you can try to listen to the whisper and the odd sound and make your own call.

This is a view of it from what we think was the parking area for the employees. Because of the tree growth, it's hard to spot as you're walking up the winding, broken roads. We didn't see it until we stepped into the clearing.

The wire fences that surround it are rusted and unlocked. What I find odd is the barbed wire around the top. While I'm sure it's a common security measure, the romantic in me fantasizes about what could be in a geology lab that would deem barbed wire critical. There's a story cooking.

The fenced-in area includes the lab, which is to the right when you walk through the fence, a shed of some kind, and to the left, what I think might be part of the building's power source. It's fenced in separately, and this is the sign inside it. Those fences were lockd, although I wouldn't enter anything that gave me a warning like that anyway.

This is definitely a power-generating unit of some sort; it's next to that separate fenced-in area depicted above. I didn't get it in the shot, but the unit does bear the General Electric brand name and logo.

This is a window at the back of the building, just before the entrance. Notice the broken glass inside. That room was accessible, but it was pretty much full of broken glass. There was a board and an office chair, nothing exciting enough that I'd want to wade through the shards.

The lab had several of these stoves. The black junk all over this one is probably stuff that fell from the rotting ceiling--I didn't see much in the way of animal excrement.

The stove I just showed you is behind this rusted water heater. I love the pattern of the wall decay. I'm guessing this wall was temporarily put in to create storage and wasn't finished on the side we're looking at.

This is the main room. The ceilings in this building were in particularly bad shape.

This is what I meant when I said "things you don't expect to see in a geology lab." Unless some employees stayed over; maybe they did keep a bed for emergencies. It just seems strange.

Pete and I thought that these signs didn't belong in this building in the first place; maybe someone needed to dump them and had nowhere else to go. It's interesting to note, though, that on some of the signs the style of the writing is the same as it is on the building's nameplate. Maybe there were "shuttle stops" all along these roads for employees. Who knows? And although I didn't get too many photographs, in another room there were several stacks of signs in similar condition that were warnings for bird nesting areas.

About Walking on Insulation (Video)

This was a room at the back of the building which wasn’t locked, but the door to get in was badly warped. Pete managed to shoulder it open, though, and the ceilings are rapidly approaching non-existent–most of the material has fallen to the floor and is so decayed and wet you can’t even tell what it is (it also felt grossly squishy, like walking on sponges). The room featured several collapsing racks of geologic core samples that had been left behind. Most of the samples are dated, but don’t have any information as to the location from which they were taken.

Walking on Insulation Video Transcript

P: There’s racks and racks of core samples back here.

K: My God. I don’t even want to know what all this shit is we’re walking on right now.

P: It’s just old, smushed insulation.

This is a bathroom that was across from the core samples in the room we were just in. That sink shares a wet wall with a couple of showers on the other side, which you can only access from the large room where the bed remains are.

Here's a core sample. These litter the floors. Well, at least we know the place was still operating in 1979.

This is the inside of a freezer or cold storage; the wheel, which moves the shelves up and down, still works. A video of this is below, but visually, it's poor, since I don't have a light on my small camera; we just shot it because the sound it made was so wonderfully eerie in conjunction with our surroundings we wanted to have a record.

Working Crank (Video)

Working Crank Video Transcript

P: Look at that, it still works.

P: That [wheel] makes it go…the crank makes it go up and down.

K: It still works?

P: Yeah, yeah. (Eerie sounds) Reminds me of that old game Myst.

After we left the core sample room and closed the door, we entered another room that jutted off the main building. This is my favorite photo--look at the icicles clinging to the wood. It was beautiful; it reminded me of an ice cathedral.

About Pill Bottles (Video)

Of course, these weren’t really bottles of pills. They were probably sand samples; we couldn’t get into the mess to really pick any up and identify them. This was also the room–you’ll see it in the video–where there are signs warning about disturbing nesting terns. In addition, listen closely–with good headsets, or try to load it through your i-Tunes, it helps–to the moment before I say, “wanna go hit the warehouse?” This is the first of the alleged EVPs we picked up.

Pill Bottles Video Transcript

K: Just, the deterioration on that roof is like–

P: Did you ever see so many pill bottles in your life?

(K laughs)

P: Those look like sand samples, maybe, or I dunno, that’s what it looks like.

[Unexplained whispering JUST before K says ‘wanna go hit the warehouse’; neither of us spoke, this could be an EVP, I’ll have to check it out. We will keep you posted either way in a future blog post.]

K: Wanna go hit the warehouse?

P: Get what you can from here [referring to photos]

About Pete with Butt (Video)

Honestly, I just shot this because he was holding paperwork and reading it with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and for some reason this cracked me up. But the paperwork he found was pretty interesting, so I’m sharing this here. He’s been to this location before and noted that there was much more paperwork in the drawers of the desk, but since the last time he visited, the drawers have completely rusted to the point where they can no longer be opened.

Also note that this is the video that contains the second alleged EVP that sounds like a moan. It’s noted in the transcript.

And no, we didn’t leave any cigarette butts behind. We’re explorers, not litterers.

Pete with Butt Video Transcript

P: It’s a contract work schedule.

K: Really? (Thumping of boots on broken door; to self): Gotta make sure this holds (unexplained moan or sound in background immediately ensues.  This is the second thing that may be an EVP we have to check into. We’ll keep you posted whether we think it’s legit or not).

P: Contract work to commence immediately on June 1, 1976.

K: Oh my God, it’s like the old typing.

P: Yeah.

We found this in the room adjacent to where we found the contract paperwork: the old fold-down style attic stairs (I know houses have them now, but in modern ones they're much better constructed). These, however, were completely solid and safe to climb on. It was a creepy experience for me--they were THE SAME TYPE we had in my Dad's house. Shiver.

A close-up of the fold-down stairs. If there ever had been anything in this attic, I think it's weird the deserters left it that way. Of course, urban explorers could have come in before us and pulled it down and left it, too. But do you know how when you're little everything just looks so big and tall? These stairs, although the same as the ones at Dad's, were twice as high. So I had that strange feeling of being five as I looked up at them.

About Attic Ladder (Video)

This was the total jackpot of this place, I thought, because of the awful memories it evoked for me. This video was when we first discovered the stairs, and we’re talking about it; this is just before Pete convinced me it was safe enough for me to climb up there (he did it himself, first). The roll of paper you see him checking out on the desk is the one that I suspect would have been used in a seismograph that I mentioned earlier in this post.

No transcript for Attic Ladder Video — it’s me and I’m loud.

A shot of the attic roof before I got too high up on the ladder. I don't know if perhaps a ceiling fan went in there, but if it did, that wouldn't make sense unless there were some kind of cover on it, or the whole place would be damaged. There are clearly some rust streaks indicating that water does flow down through there, but, as you'll see in the ensuing pictures, the wood planking and the insulation in this attic area is in pretty good shape. In fact, it looks almost brand-new, or like the one in my own house.

Welcome to Creepsville, folks! This is exactly what the attic looked like in my Dad's house, although I must say, considering the place is abandoned and my Dad's wasn't, I'm very impressed by the lack of bat guano. Rock on.

I'm thinking this was duct work for a heating system. I did mention to Pete I didn't see any animal excrement at all, though, and was surprised. I mean, this stuff all looks like it could be in a new house.

Look closely. Think it might be a little late for the ant killer?


INTO THE OLD FOUNDATION

Beneath a house in P-Town.

Let’s be honest: Provincetown is a giant sandbar. Many of the homes here are built on sand. Some have basements, but there are some that don’t, especially the older ones.

I had to opportunity to go exploring beneath one of the older homes here on Thursday. My next-door neighbor Pete had to go beneath a house to make sure there wasn’t anything that needed immediate attention, like broken water pipes. We opened up an access hatch in the kitchen floor and shimmied down a narrow ladder into a musty, spider-infested jigsaw puzzle of rocks and boulders.

The floor was beach sand peppered with brittle driftwood; mats of dried seaweed—probably from prior to the foundation’s caulking—were thick over old rusted sewer pipes and broken cement. What was most interesting were the concrete blocks stacked in odd places. “Holding up the joists,” Pete pointed out. “Just wedged in there. Totally unstable.”

Rooting around down there made me think. Sometimes a situation in life is like a house built on sand: even if the house itself is simultaneously old, familiar, comfortable, and charming, underneath, it can be unstable and full of issues and dead seaweed. My little journey served as a reminder that sometimes we need to make the decision on whether or not it’s worth it to make repairs—or simply let the damn thing fall into the sea.

Pictures and video of our trip below. The video is of a seaweed-jammed broken sewer pipe; we shined the flashlight on it so hopefully you can get a sense of what it looked like.

This is the hatch in the floor. We ended up shifting the ladder so it didn't close well. Took us a while to figure that one out.

I wasn't using the flash, but here's the sandy floor. Notice the broken wood pieces. They were everyplace.

This is part of the foundation that looks like it was put in much later. Probably to help stabilize the damn thing.

The newer foundation, which we were standing in, is surrounded by the older foundation. These crawl spaces go all the way back to the original foundation.

A close-up of the cement and seaweed. God knows how thick that blanket is.

This caulking was done much later, probably, in an attempt to keep the sea out. More explained in the video below.

This is part of the same rusted old sewer pipe shown in the video, I think.

Here's the same pipe system, but this part of it is in pieces.

We were trying to figure out what this was. Maybe an old fireplace, or the bottom of one, where they dump the hot ashes? If anybody has an idea, gimmie a shout-out.

Spider webs. Yup. I was covered with 'em when we got back. And a few of their residents, too!

These are some of the blocks holding up the first floor of the house. I referenced these in the entry.

Me, coming up out of the floor. There's very little clearance between the ladder and the pipe, which is an active pipe but I'm not sure what for (but I know it's not for water). We had to be very careful not to bust it. I'm not thin anymore, but at least I was still thin enough to make it through there.

Here I'm laughing because my sweater got caught on the pipe (you know, I didn't bring appropriate urban explorer attire to P-Town; I didn't think I'd be doing any of this up here). Pete had to reach down and get me un-caught.

...and I successfully made it through undamaged.

THE LAST PEOPLE ON EARTH

Riches in the Ruins

In writing, as with any kind of intense pursuit, it’s important to have a balance while you’re doing it. I came up here to the Colony with a lot of work to do, and I’ve certainly achieved that. I even managed to get out to a few things—an art gallery opening, a wonderful dinner party at the Mailer house, a poetry reading. Last weekend, however, after working intensely for three or four days and only attending these events in the evenings, I realized I was feeling a little caged in. I wasn’t getting out enough.

Enter my next-door neighbor, Peter, and his friend Duff. They live here year-round and I definitely hold them among the coolest people I’ve ever met. During the first week I was here, I’d discussed with them my passion for abandoned places and urban exploring (something I do, in reality, very little of—I mostly just look at other explorer’s photos). And they had a surprise for me: some abandoned jewels just down the road apiece. Would I like to go? Hell, yeah!

So this past Sunday, although it was a bit nippy, it was sunny and a beautiful day to be out—in many ways, there’s no better weather in which to visit an abandoned place. All that beauty (especially by the sea) is so incongruous with the empty places, the rotting places, the places where, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the echoes of the lives that happened in them. I came home inspired; a new short story is cooking in my brain as we speak. In an odd way, all that incongruity—and being away from my keyboard for a full day—restored my balance.

Here are photos and videos of our day–we visited a base, most of which is now nature preserve and open to the public; some of it is still in use by local organizations, but the base ceased operations in 1985. The other building was a biology lab, and I’m not sure when that closed–although its closing pre-dated the late 1990s judging from graffiti on the walls.

Apparently, there are a couple more places, but we ran out of daylight. Here’s to hoping I get an opportunity to go see the rest before I leave!

Organized tour? NOT.

Walking Tour #1: A bit of background.

“[There’s just] all kinds of stuff out here…”


Next few pix: Seriously? This place is reminiscent of the set of The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price, precursor to The Omega Man (Charlton Heston, 1971) and I Am Legend (Will Smith, 2007). [If you’ve never seen The Last Man on Earth, or don’t even have any clue what the hell I’m talking about, you owe it to yourself to rent it now.]

These are all single family homes.

There are four streets of them…

Peter on the Roof.

Home sweet home! Those trees’d be a pain in the ass if your dinner party guests had to get through them to find your front door. Yup, that’s me. Martini, anyone? May I bring your slippers?

Broken merry-go-round on the playground.

Many years ago, parents sat on this bench and watched their kids:

Here’s a shelter where people, most likely, waited for transportation:

We were pretty fascinated with this cover, which we could have probably pried open if we’d had a crowbar. Check out the design, the year, and the strange symbols. Drunken mischief? Or does somebody have, like, food and stuff socked away down there (I didn’t put the photo here, but beneath this cement platform there are what appear to be air vents).

Fallen electrical equipment. The storms out here do get pretty wild.

I’m not sure what caused this hole. It was in one of the front windows of a home–a window that would have most likely looked into the family room. Where a Christmas Tree probably would have been.


Interior. What’s with all the weird art?

Dormant dining room.

These trees reminded me of scenes in Sleepy Hollow.

Walking toward the sea.

Abandoned beach.

The Abandoned Beach Cliff Adventure. This is truly great!


Nathan shot this while we were chatting.

An abandoned cistern. This view struck me as reminiscent of the pool area from which the piranha escaped in Piranha (1978).

I was fascinated by this creepy picnic area.

THE ABANDONED LAB

Obviously, someone was here before us…whoever it was drank his beer, but left a near-full pack of Marlboros.

From this point forward, we’re going counter-clockwise through the place. This was a loading door of some kind — the opening was large enough to fit a small vehicle through.

This is the area to the left of the door.

Notice this spiral painted on the wall–it looks like the same spiral painted on the man-hole cover I pointed out earlier. Weird.

Ceiling damage in one of the back rooms.

I’m always fascinated by fuse boxes that no longer work. This one I particularly liked because I swear it’s the same model I had in my house growing up. Or maybe they’re all the same anyway? I don’t know.

Could you imagine working in this dark hole? I think it would depress me.


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