Skillman part 2!

Skillman Travel Blog

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After my last visit to the Skillman Hospital Village I decided that I had to return!! Gary, the man whom my friend and I had bumped into, gave us the phone number to the engineer office and said that they would have information regarding the Village's history.. I did eventually call, but not to learn just the history.. I called the contact he gave and bluntly asked if there was any way in which I could gain access into the boarded up buildings. I explained to my contact who I was, what I do artistically and my interest in exploring the premises.

I was told to write an email expressing my desire to preserve the village via photography and to include a few images of my personal work. All of which I did immediately. A couple weeks later I receive an email detailing that I have been granted permission to explore certain buildings and the entire exterior premises in exchange for a handful of the photos I take.
. DEAL!!! :P I would gladly exchange my art for a chance to explore!!

I was allowed to bring a couple of people with me. I explained that I may need help with the equipment and in case of an emergency that there would be someone able to get help.. The real reason was that my two friends were just as eager to legally get inside these wonderful archaic buildings destine for demolition.. Yep the township's plan for the buildings is to tear them all down. They had wanted to preserve some of them, but the costs of repair are too much for the low budget of the town and during the economic recession the local citizens don't feel that their taxes should go to historical preservation... One roof repair would have cost $250,000. According to the engineer dept when the village was abandoned in the mid 90's the people just boarded up the windows on the lower floors and left the upper windows open.
The exposure to the weather over the past decade has cause a lot of damage to the foundations.. it is a heart breaking story and I am very proud to have had the chance to enter and photograph the remains of these buildings.. Our histories are important and therefore should be preserved for the benefit of future generations!

To prep for the photo experience I ordered a wide angle lens from I wanted to make the purchase but I still didn't have enough money to buy the lens and I wanted to try it out to see if I actually like it.. I also had to purchase extra batteries, portable lighting, ballheads for the tripods and compact flash cards among other tidbits... i usually don't use alot of equipment as I find it cumbersome and distracting.
.. but this was not a typical photo trip.. we will be entering buildings that are boarded up. The light is very limited and I had to adapt how I normally photograph to work effectively here in Skillman.

My feelings in the week leading up to the photo excursion was a mixture of excitement, giddiness, pride and a dash of nervousness.. I was slightly nervous that I would take horrible pictures. I was definitely pushing myself further with my skills and trying new things with my camera and hoping that it all worked out!! I would hate to come out of this feeling like a poor excuse for an artist who takes photos..

We started the morning off super early!! I wanted to get there before the sunrise so that I can take advantage of the morning light.
The buildings were not going to be unlocked for us for another few hours, but I knew how to get into some of the buildings already from my first unofficial trip to the hospital village. the three of us walked around and explored every little nook and cranny! we found some great stuff!! one building had a sound proof room with an observation window.. that room kinda freaked me out! I took one step in and immediately walked out.. the feeling in there was suffocating.. I felt this deafening silence and pressure in my head that I did not like.. My guy friend, of course, thought it was awesome and I don't think he really wanted to come out! we found psychological papers regarding various human behaviors from the 50's and 60's in a closet, we found rooms that we are guessing we meant for dispersing drugs to patients and rooms for education young children.
some buildings were occupational buildings meant to keep the patients working on various skills like plumbing, and sewing. other buildings were meant as dorms for the patients... Each room was a mystery and we looked for clues to what it was used for. We even found the remains of the old railway meant to bring people in and out to a larger train station.

A few times I had an encounter with what I think was a fox... it could have been anything actually! it was reddish in color, short legs and longish body.. I would unknowingly scare them with my approaching presence and they would scare me by suddenly jumping out of the bushes and running the heck away!!! Once I was taken so by surprise that I screamed like a little kid!! so thankful that no one besides my two friends were there to witness that!!

We were allowed to enter the Theatre and Maplewood house along with one hospital building.
. we didn't make the hospital building in time before they locked it back up.. and it was the one hospital building that I really wanted to explore.. I didn't know that they would lock the buildings back up at 3:30. I had assume that I would have until 5 pm... I should have asked about the time and therefore adjust our plan accordingly.. we got there just a few minutes too late :(.. but we did explore the Maple Wood house and theatre and had a great time in doing so!!

The theatre reminds me of the general purpose room in middle school. It was a room that served as a gym, theatre and cafeteria! The Skillman Theatre also seem to serve multiple purposes. The interior space was HUGE and open. a stage on one side and a basket ball net above it that could be lowered and raised as needed.
. There was also an upper lever balcony with some steps for people to sit on. in the back end of the building were a few rooms. one for storing chairs, bathrooms, a projection room and another that I couldn't figure out... behind the state we found changing rooms and locked doors to other rooms one being the basement and the other being the access to the side stages..

Interestingly while we were upstairs my friend Kara thought she heard someone walking around downstairs... no one was there... while me and her were exploring the stage together we both could hear creaking steps from the balcony.. no one was up there.. hmmm..

The Maplewood house was fantastic!!! It had like 8 or 9 bathrooms, two kitchens, a room with a peeling world map, dark room, beauty parlor room, a library room with fireplace and several other rooms probably meant to be bedrooms.
. it was huge!!! hidden stairways, some scary dead animals, and xmas decorations still hanging. The house was definitely a gorgeous building when it was first built and even in its present state it is still impressive to come across..

we stayed until about 5 pm... since the last building was locked on us and I was feeling creatively burnt out we left... but not before exploring the "newer" hospital building, the one that we were not given permission to enter.. we found a hidden way in and began exploring the well lit upper level.. it had a heavier feel inside compared to the other buildings.. Kara was feeling really uncomfortable here and I was fine at first... I found one room that was obviously the children's ward. colorful glitter was all over the floor along with a child's puzzle and some arts and craft projects.
in one corner there was a cabinet meant to hold the television and protect it from breaking.. from there we found the stairs and headed down to the first level.. It was pitch black and chilly! you can smell the damp wood and mold and see the destructive evidence of previous visitors.. we agreed to stay together since we only had two lights and didn't want to loose anyone.. there were large rooms and more rooms that appear to have been used for storing prescription medication... finally we found the shower room... I actually don't know what its official name would be.. it had two shower stalls on one side and a HUGE steel bathtub placed menacingly in the center. it didn't look like it would be an enjoyable experience to bathe in this tub.. I had heard hydro therapy was once used with mentally ill patients.
I wonder if the same was used with epileptic patients. If so how long did this form of "therapy" go on??? I didn't like the room. it made me feel uneasy and we walked out... a few minutes later, while my friend Jim is trying to find a way into one room, Kara and I both hear a singing and laughing girl...

We wait a few minutes and hear nothing more, but Kara and I are already a bit freaked out! No one else was in that building but us!! The sound came from down the hall and it was PITCH BLACK! you would have to have a light source to be down there and no one would come down there in the dark singing and laughing... There were children outside far across the property. but we could NOT hear them when we were outside the building. so there is no way that we could hear them inside a boarded up brick building.
.. Kara and I immediately left.. we were done! Jim stayed in to explore some more.

Looking back it I can't say that the voice or presence felt dangerous to me.. but I was not prepared for such an obvious sign of the village's ghostly inhabitants. I felt a few times when alone that I wasn't exactly alone and thought I had heard steps (like those heard in the Theatre) but this was a definite "hey I am here with you" kind of shout out and I wasn't ready for more...

But I am still planning to go back for a third time for retakes!!!! :P:P:P:P hahahaaha

esterrene says:
Thanks Andy!! who do you follow?? I would love to check out his work!

Posted on: Jun 20, 2010
Andy99 says:
Great work, Amber! Hope you'll be able to explore the buildings further. (I've been following a photographer on Flickr who photographs abandoned aslyums and hospitals in the UK. Very eerie places!)
Posted on: Jun 20, 2010
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Last picture taken before we heard…
Last picture taken before we hear…
Old photography room found on the …
Old photography room found on the…
Theatre, second level
Theatre, second level
Back stage of the theatre
Back stage of the theatre
Theatre projection room
Theatre projection room
photo by: esterrene