Simply put - the exterior of this building is quite beautiful. A columned entrance, adorned in carved stonework, and crowned with a slightly depressed
looking cupola. It exhibits a presence that is quite impressive, even after having been left abandoned for several years. Unfortunately, this is all a charade –
its intriguing form is nothing more than a disturbed siren's song, heralded to entice photographers, urban explorers, and other curiosity seekers into its toxic maw.
Our first visit to this location did not start out unlike many of our other excursions. Things tend to be a bit trickier in the winter months,
primarily due to the lack of coverage which the summer foliage provides. This is something we have grown accustomed to thought, and we made
our way inside without much of a hitch. That day we were also blessed to have the aid of a fellow adventurer (Vacant New Jersey),
who informed us while en-route that the place had come to suffer from some pretty bad water damage. This is typical of abandoned locations,
especially those with big flat roofs (like this one), so we assumed that we would simply have to watch our footing during our stay,
and being as it was below freezing the night prior, to keep an eye out for ice patches.
As soon as we got through the door and stepped into the chambers of gurgling putrid hell which were once hallways, it was painfully
apparent that we had underestimated the scope of the “water damage”. This was not an old hospital, this was a primordial stew awash
with old wheelchairs and hospital beds. Finding the lone dry(ish) area in the immediate length of hallway, we set to unpacking our
gear and assembling our equipment. It was then that our hearts sunk, as we came to discover that we had failed to pack the media cards for the
video equipment. All of them. In fact they were left an entire state away, and the closest store which would carry what we needed
may as well been there too. After having spent just five minutes in this hallway though, we all somewhat envied the memory cards.
In an attempt to make the most of the situation, we decided to document the location through photography on the current trip, and to
return in the near-future to focus on filming the video. The thought of a return trip did not sit well, as the place only became more damp,
pungent, and dark the further we ventured into it's decayed anatomy. This was not one of those abandoned locations that people hope
to one day revisit, or even think a photo of which would look good framed on the wall above the mantel. This is the kind of place that
wakes you up at 3am in a cold sweat, or calls you late at night and breaths heavily into the phone until you get all freaked out and hang up.
Somehow we lived through it though, and upon exiting all we wished for was to bask in the sunlight and fresh air. This was not to be
however, as a security truck making its rounds forced us to quickly retreat to our vehicles and depart the area before being noticed.
A heaviness hung in our chests for a few days after our trip. I don't mean that in some cliché emotional context either.
There was a real, physical, discomfort in our chests. We chalked this up to being an after effect of almost (and actually) rolling around
in black mold for a few hours. Between wheezes, we vowed that when we returned it would be with respirators.
The inevitable day finally came, and we once again found ourselves on our way to the old hospital. This time we were being dropped off on
the property by a good friend. In doing so, we could avoid leaving the Jeep in a nearby lot, and any suspicions from the local law enforcement which
said Jeep may arouse. At least we knew what to expect this time, and we brought along respirators... or at least we would have, had we not forgotten them
back in our car that was now some several township lines away. Whatever, we did it once without masks, we can do it again. Probably.
Stepping inside the gigantic cesspool of a building, our expectations were once again slapped across the face. Somehow we completely failed to recall
that there was a considerable storm of rain and slush the day prior. Yes, the place was gross and soupy on our first visit, but what was once a bog of
decayed ceiling tiles and exotic fungus had now become a stagnant wading pool - The floor of the lower level holding some 2-3 inches of water across
nearly the entirety of the building. The levels above were not much better. Nearly every surface has a wet paper mache feel to it, and the floors were akin
to oatmeal, if oatmeal were dark green and tried to steal your sneakers from off your feet as you walked. The walls had grown boils, which,
when popped, oozed a thick brown sap down the wall. In some rooms, a strange kind of dark fungal(?) buildup was individually lifting the
laminate flooring tiles into the air, some protruding over half a foot upward, upon black glutinous stalks. As we walked, occasionally portions of the
remaining drop-ceiling saw fit to finally let go from their mounts, falling to the floor with a soggy “blop” that would echo down the dank corridors.
Adding further to the already incredible atmosphere was the waft of what we can only assume was the odor of backing-up septic lines.
In short - Traversing the hallways that day was essentially like exploring a giant colon. Of a dead person. In the summer sun.
Again, we somehow survived the whole horrendous ordeal, and were able to make a clean escape. However, unlike the first trip, we did not come away unscathed.
While popping one of the many boils on the walls, I experienced my first nosebleed since the age of 8. Something I later learned to be a red-flag for black mold exposure.
More importantly, I inadvertently rubbed my eye while helping to compose a shot. This was a totally subconscious action, and one I immediately knew I would regret
after realizing I just rubbed some fifty different species of mold into my eyeball. Turns out I was right, and a couple days later my eye developed what I thought was a stye.
This stye was weird though, in that it failed to go away after a few days. I'm not too big a fan of doctors, so I postponed visiting one for a month or so
(or as long as it took everyone I knew to say “Man, you should really see a doctor.”). When I eventually did he was pretty sure what I had going on was an infection of sorts
caused by some foreign matter being all up in my eyeball's grill. I didn't tell him about my adventures through the giant colon, but I did say that he was probably right,
and that I often rub my eyes “while out taking photos”. He wanted to sell me some snake oil remedy, and if that didn't work he suggested I schedule an appointment to have
the thing operated on. I wasn't keen on either, so I decided to just let my eye chill out and see how things go. After several months, the infection did indeed go away on its own.
Unfortunately, I am now left with post-traumatic tissue on the lower eyelid, which often causes my vision to fuzz over (something that I have been dealing with for the entirety
of my writing this story). It too will go away on its own, and in case anyone reading this is concerned – no, it will not cause me any permanent vision damage.
On a serious note, Christina and I are actually lucky to have walked away from such a place as well off as we did. The kinds of molds and fungus found in places like
this one can cause serious damage. If you plan on visiting something like this place, please act more intelligently than we did.
You can also read more about this wonderfully awful place here, in Weird NJ #40.