Urban Explorers Share Their Weirdest Things They’ve Found
Urban exploration is not a new idea, but it has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. The idea of going into places that were built to be lived, worked or played in but instead have been left abandoned for years is one with a lot of draw for adventurous souls. Exploring buildings full of unlived potential or stories of people long gone is a thrill unlike any other.
Like any adventure, there are risks to exploring abandoned places. Some you might expect: weak floors, unstable ceilings, hazardous materials … but there are other dangers as well. Urban explorers often have tales of creepy experiences, some grounded firmly in reality and some with a more surreal turn. Here are some creepy, sometimes terrifying, adventures these curious souls have been part of.
There was a massive tunnel system down by the river in my old town that you could access through an outlet drain in the river or by climbing through a garaged exit in the sandstone cliffs. The tunnels had been sand mines to make glass in the ’70s, but they were then used as a Halloween horror trail.
There was a prop junkyard, prison, morgue, dentist and evil forest all inside this huge pitch black tunnel, and even an actual boat. There was one section that had a dead end, and my friends and I created a wall around it using the materials in there. We tied lines with bottles and cans to warn us of approaching people and animals. Once while walking around one night, we heard a banging, and we went to the garage door and saw a guy just hitting the door with a hatchet. Pretty freaky.
Whispers and Footsteps
One summer during high school, I went exploring with three guy friends in an abandoned school. It was all boarded up, so we got in with a crowbar, a baseball bat and some spray paint. We were walking around with our phone flashlights — it was a huge school. Dust, darkness and old furniture everywhere. We came up to a creepy looking staircase and started hearing whispers and footsteps. We looked at it and noped out of there. We were literally climbing over each other trying to get out the window we came in.
Living in the Dark
Last winter, I went into this abandoned parking lot under a closed shopping mall. It had two levels. The upper one had a bit of sunlight going in through the windows, but the lower level was pitch black. I made my way down this wide ramp that the cars had used, and I decided to have a look at the bottom level. After turning my flashlight on, I noticed that the space was huge, much bigger than the upper level.
I remember how the light danced through the many supporting pillars and cast vivid shadows. I said, “Hello,” and, “I’m just taking a look around,” just to make my intentions clear, but I was met with no response. I decided to walk around for a bit, but I couldn’t see anything of interest, just a lot of junk, some empty old bottles, but nothing that might indicate someone living or hanging around there. The place seemed completely abandoned. However, this uneasy feeling that someone might be hiding in the pitch black shadow of one of those pillars took the better of me, and I climbed back up the ramp.
I left taking a different route and passed under an overhead clearing that snow had fallen through. Just as I was about to hop the fence and leave, I noticed that the patch of snow that had formed had footprints in it.
Checking for Gas at Two a.m.
I went to a closed-up mental hospital in my city with some friends at night. Everything was cool until we got to the basement, where there were 5-meter wide and 4-meter high lit tunnels going far in both directions. We headed down one and found a huge active generator. Then we went the other way, and as we were about to hit another intersection, we saw two men wearing full green attire and face masks walking at the end of one of the corridors at two a.m. We got out of there real quick.
Abandon All Hope…
I was exploring a certain abandoned mill near a large city on the coast with a friend. We snuck in, messed around a bit and realized that we only had one flashlight, so we took turns. We kept hearing weird noises, and it was dark inside because there was no power. There was evidence of homeless occupation and empty needles. Real horror game material.
We come up a stairway and turn a corner. Ahead was a walkway bridge, which was the way to the rest of the building. To the right was a pitch black room that didn’t feel very nice. As we walked toward the bridge, the flashlight picked out a sign that said TO THE DARKNESS and pointed toward that dark room.
We didn’t go in. It didn’t feel right.
Is That You?
I entered an abandoned house with a couple of my friends back in high school. As we walked inside the house, we found a bunch of graffiti, blankets, empty soda bottles, bags of chips and a couple of syringes. Then we heard some coughing from an adjacent room and a man’s voice.
“¿We, eres tu?” (Dude, is that you?)
We ran out as fast as we could, with the man from the house shouting his lungs out behind us.
School of Troubled History
My wife and I plus a friend of ours were exploring an abandoned state-run school for troubled youth with a very nasty history, including the torture and demise of some of the students. Behind the campus and through some woods was a grave site with a couple dozen simple crosses to mark the graves.
My wife and I were working on photographing the crosses, and our friend was wondering around the grave site probably 50 feet away from us. He hurries over to us with eyes as big as saucers and told us he saw someone in the woods watching us. Considering how we were not in our hometown, trespassing and near a county jail, we packed our gear up quickly and started heading back the way we came. We would stop every so often in the woods between the grave site and the school to watch and listen. I never saw the person that was supposedly watching us, but I did hear someone else walking through the woods after us …
Two of my friends and I were checking out an old fort on the coast. Rumors of it being haunted and people who went there all returning injured drew us there. It was the middle of the day when we managed to climb into the place, but it was still really creepy.
So we split up (obviously we did not learn from horror movies) and started looking around the courtyard and the battlements. I found the remnants of a fire and noticed what looked like letters that had been burnt. I picked some of these up, and they pieced together to reveal that the recipient of these letters was released from prison for good behavior but wasn’t allowed to see his kids. Then there were increasingly urgent requests for this guy to check in with the authorities. Lastly, separate from the fire, I found a handwritten letter with a rock on top of it to prevent it from blowing away. This seemed to be from this guy’s ex-significant other, who refused to let him near his kids because what he had done was “unforgivable”.
This is the point where I become increasingly aware that I was alone and my friends had ventured into the bowels of the fort, which were hollowed-out parts of the cliff. So I go in the pitch-black tunnels, not knowing whether I’m going to bump into my friend or some sort of psychopath. Eventually, I found one of them and explained what I'd found. We started jumping at every noise before we found my other friend and legged it out of the place.
One friend broke two toes, the other dislocated his shoulder climbing out and I have an enormous scar from where my hip was cut open. Very creepy place.
The Real Danger
I watched my friend fall through a floor into the room below, which was filled with scrap metal and the like. He disappeared in a cloud of debris for a few minutes. It took us a little while to dig him out and dust the asbestos off of him, but he was pretty much unscratched. In our minds, however, he almost died that day. I never urban explored again after that. Some people don’t realize the actual danger is the building itself, not some ghosts.
Footsteps in a Nazi Bakery
My friends and I broke into an old Nazi bakery that used to be a part of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp complex. This is just outside of Berlin. At one point, we randomly heard footsteps walking around inside, and we weren’t sure if it was our imaginations, a drifter who had followed us in, or a ghost. We picked up wooden boards and blocks of concrete to use as weapons just in case.
Some friends and I explored an abandoned hospital that had been closed for two years. All the power was off. Made it to the ER. I saw a phone on the wall, and when I picked it up, I heard ringing. My friend didn’t believe me, so he picked it up and also heard ringing. Within 10 seconds, the phone rang at full volume and we all ran the heck out of there.
I went to an abandoned/unfinished subway station in New York City that had been turned into an illegal graffiti gallery. It was mostly murals, but one artist also decided to hide something extra creepy … As I was turning my flashlight in the pitch blackness, I saw a very realistic-looking body lying across the tracks. I nearly screamed.
It turned out to just be some clothes stuffed with newspaper, but holy guacamole, in that darkness, I almost died.
Take It Off While They Sleep
A group of my friends and I explored an abandoned mental hospital a couple of years ago in the Oklahoma City metro. (It was very unsafe at night for silly college freshman like ourselves.) The first experience we had was all of us taking our merry time enjoying the darkness and generally messing around. The only way in was through a broken window, and we were all gathered around it just being dumb when we heard loud, echoing footsteps coming down the hall running towards us. We all did that, “Who the heck isn’t here? Who’s messing with us?” look and turned. After realizing we were all present and none of us were sprinting down dark abandoned hallways, we booted out of there.
The second time, we could hear a group of people messing with us, jumping from around corners and such, but they never got too close. (We assumed it was an animal at first but got brave and realized it was a person). We managed to catch them. After staring at a collection of seemingly not-so-there twenty-somethings, they begged us for cans of paint and substances, and we got the not-so-good vibes (finally, you say?) and tried to leave. The “leader” of the haunted asylum asked if we had jewelry, which we denied. He then said the creepiest thing I’ve heard in my life. “I like jewelry. I take it off the girls here when they sleep.” We bolted.
Flash or Flesh
I went exploring at an old housing community. The place had bottomed out after the housing market fell apart and the construction stopped. Foundations and roads were laid, materials were left and the lights eerily came on at night. We got there just as the lights turned on. We were there for even a half hour when the lights suddenly turned off. It was creepy. There were clouds, so we couldn’t use the moon, and we didn’t want to use flashlights to alert anyone of our presence. A half hour went by with us trying to see things. My partner finally pulled out his flashlight, only it didn’t turn on, and he couldn’t figure out why. It was almost out of a horror film, except we found out what was wrong with the flashlight: The batteries were removed …
Old psych hospital closed for 20-something years … There were staged ritualistic murders using plush animals. Also, in really dark places, there were small writings on the walls and furniture that read, “I’m watching you.” Small enough to ignore in the daylight. Big enough to get caught in the beam of the flashlight.
We’re Being Watched
Exploring an abandoned construction site. It’s a site out in redneck country that’s got a bunch of old construction vehicles overgrown with plants. My girlfriend and I decided to go check it out, see what it’s all about. We looked around and didn’t find a whole lot. It was about to rain, so we decided to head out. As we were getting in my car, my girlfriend froze and said, “There’s a guy in the woods watching us.” I poop myself and ask if she’s sure. She repeated herself and added that he saw her see him and had now laid flat on the ground to hide.
Noped out of there really quick.
Out of Nowhere
I was exploring some factory ruins. I went through a few rooms with tarpaper floors just ready to collapse and nowhere to hide. After wandering around and taking photos a bit, I turned around and saw a guy standing where I’d just been looking, and nobody had been there before.
I was walking through an abandoned asylum and found an old building in the woods my friends and I didn’t know was there. We walked in, and the temperature dropped noticeably. It was incredibly dilapidated and smelled like asbestos. We later found out it was a high-security solitary confinement building, which meant everything there was in a cage or nailed in. After leaving, we saw a figure move in the woods. Obviously, we thought it was one of us, but we realized that we were all together, and no one could possibly have moved like that. I looked again, and there was nothing to be seen.
On that same day, my friend Camden and I immediately felt something. I don’t believe in ghosts, but something felt off in a way. It felt like we weren’t supposed to be there. After following our guts and splitting off from the group to leave, we got a text from our friend Madi who said that after we left, the cops showed up. Thank god we followed our guts.
I explored an old iron factory that no one bothered to demolish. It was damp and dark in there, really terrible. The whole time I was in there, I was always glancing around at the machinery because I had an overwhelming feeling I was being watched, but aside from my two friends and me, it was empty. Then one of the wooden beams on the side of the room holding up a catwalk collapsed inexplicably, and we booked it.
My friends and I were exploring an abandoned WWII ammunitions factory, which was absolutely massive and already had creepy vibes. There was more graffiti about violence than anywhere else I had been.
So we come to this room, and keep in mind that we are already two or three miles inside the complex, and there was tons of graffiti from just one guy. It turned out that it was the shrine of an infamously crazy local graffiti artist. There were bones hanging at different heights from the ceiling, a whole area full of deceased baby birds and graffiti saying to get out. As we were leaving, we hear some glass break behind us and saw what I assume to be the crazy graffiti artist, probably on something as he normally is. We all bolted like there was no tomorrow and ran all the way back to the entrance we came in through, not caring about visibility and just running out into a major roadway.
Walked Right Past Him
I explored an abandoned youth-hostel on the coast of the Baltic Sea. I went up to the roof, out a roof-window and climbed across one of the houses. I found a spot halfway up the highest roof (second or third story) in the sun with a nice view of the coastline. Suddenly, a police car stopped out front, and the two officers ran into the building. My friend and I just curled up, trying to stay in the cover of the roof and the chimneys. It took a few minutes for the cops to come back out, escorting some dude who tried to insult them the whole time. Later, I found out that he’d spent the night in the building, and nearby residents had seen him pee on their fence. My friend and I must’ve walked past him twice without noticing.
The Third Floor Was Different
I went to an abandoned factory that was being prepped for demolition. This was at the core of a major city, by the way. Seeing that the best time to go alone was after sundown, I found myself wandering around the main floor while looking for the stairwell going up. My goal was to get to the rooftop since there was an abandoned billboard up there overlooking the freeway and some high-rises.
After walking around the bottom floor for quite some time using a tiny flashlight to guide myself in the darkness, I found a set of stairs to go up. The second floor was equally dark, but I still decided to explore it as much as possible. The layout was genuinely interesting since it was a 100-year-old building. I noticed that every floor seemed to have a different layout, so there was a lot to take in. I grew accustomed to using a small flashlight to cut through the darkness.
I went up to the third floor and made a right into a pocket of darkness. I could sense that it was a big open space. When I swung the flashlight, the first thing I noticed was some type of patterned drawing on the walls, and I realized it was all done in red. Then I realized the drawings were on all the walls surrounding me. Then it sank in that the graffiti was actually symbols written in some glyph-like language. Then I recognized some symbols as looking like your typical satanic drawings. Then I see a mural depicting some really satanic stuff on the pillars. Serpents, glyphs, etc. I think I froze for a good 10 minutes, expecting to be jumped by some fanatics. I noped the heck out of that one.
Face in the Basement Window
I went on a little adventure here in northern Michigan. I had seen this old abandoned home way off the road a few times and finally got up the nerve to explore. I parked in an overgrown field and made my way to the house. Behind it is an old building that;s in the process of collapsing. I went in the front door, which was unlocked, and right away, it felt creepy. I started talking loudly right away just in case someone was in there. To my left was a dining table with a bunch of family photos on it. The entire interior looked like someone had bailed very quickly a long time ago. They left most everything: a microwave, fridge, dishes. I looked through some newspapers, and the most current ones were from 1992.
Now I had to go upstairs, and that's where things got really weird. At the top of the stairs was a bedroom with a beautiful rolltop desk and papers on it that looked like someone had been working there recently. There was a huge closet with clothing as well as boxes of old magazines from 1989. In the other bedroom, someone had made themselves a bed out of old blankets and a sleeping bag on the floor … very creepy. I peeked in the bathroom and noticed someone had used the floor in front of the toilet instead of on it. I looked around a little more and made my way back to the main level.
I found a door to the basement but told myself there was no way I was going down there. I swore I heard something moving around, and they didn’t respond to my yells. Let me just say, I’m not a small guy — 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds — so I’m not afraid of much, but this creeped me out. I left the house and went out back to the other building, but I didn’t go in there.
I did find a rusted 1932 Ford coupe that still has potential. Even so, when I walked back by the house to my car, I swore I saw someone looking out a basement window at me. I’m not certain, but it looked like a face. I want to go back, but not alone or unarmed. Scary place.
When I was in college, a few friends and I went to this local abandoned hotel. It was a swanky place back in like the 50s but had just been sitting around abandoned and fenced off ever since. We walked by and saw an open window on a second story ledge and ended up finding an old wooden ladder nearby on the property. We went in and saw a bit of great graffiti. The whole place was trashed with actual garbage as well as bits of the building that were falling apart.
We made it up the staircase to the third floor, looking in each of the rooms. The area we were in used to be the housing for the staff of the hotel. The third floor was covered in garbage from throughout the years. We got to the last room on the third floor and looked in to find a lit candle with no one else around. Realizing we were not alone, we booked it out of there, and once we were outside, looked up to see someone watching us from one of the windows. Now, we went to college in a city with a significant homeless problem and assumed we had just stumbled onto someone’s home, but we still freaked us out. They cemented up the place after another explorer fell down an open elevator shaft and broke his legs. It has recently been renovated, and they are turning it into an apartment building.
I was exploring an abandoned psych hospital in England. I climbed up into the attic; there was only one way in and one way out. I stayed up there about half an hour and went to leave, but the trap door was shut and wouldn't budge. Unfortunately, we had to kick our way out through the floor (I really didn’t wanna have to do that, as I prefer to leave things as they’re found). The door had chairs piled up from the floor to the roof. I still hope to this day that someone was just messing with us!
My friend and I were exploring an abandoned factory me. On the roof, there was a kind of secondary elevated flat rooftop. When we managed to climb on top of it, we found two animal heads. They were in a semi-advanced state of decay, but it was obvious they were dobermans. It was weird and super creepy.
Innocence and Butchery
As a young man in rural Alabama, I would explore an old brick house that burned down in the 1940s that my cousins and I called "The Break Down House.” It was totally isolated in the woods, and very overgrown. All that was left were three walls and a chimney, the concrete slab of the foundation and globules of melted glass strewn about the area. When I was over at my grandparents’ house (WAY out in the country, like two miles to the next door neighbor), the cousins and I would go out and mess around out there (not like that, we’re not that kind of Alabaman). It never scared me and was more just cool than anything else.
That is, until I found an eviscerated dog hanging from a tree there. One day, there was literally a dog strung up from a tree, like someone had put it there on purpose. It was definitely a dog. There was also what looked like an empty tent further up the hill, tucked up behind a stand of trees. And it looked like somebody lived there. There were clotheslines with children’s clothing on them … and more cans than you can count just thrown on the ground. Must have been over a hundred.
I guess it might have been a homeless family or something. But the spectacle of it was just very unsettling. A dog and clothes lines with Winnie the Pooh children’s clothing on them …
I never went back.
I was exploring the pitch-black basement of a seven-story abandoned building that had been used for the production of camera film when my phone died from the cold. (It was winter in Canada.) My friend’s phone died a moment after, and our third friend's was the only source of light with only 18 percent battery left. We panicked our way out of that labyrinth.
There’s an old abandoned factory in my city that’s been shut down about 40 years now. Since it was first abandoned, people have explored and left weird stuff in certain places. There’s a whole room filled with ’80s memorabilia: never opened cassettes, old dolls, etc. Of course, there’s the usual graffiti, creepy writing on the wall and symbols that are supposed to look like they’re part of some ritual. Like any abandoned place, there are a lot of urban legends surrounding it. No believable claims, but they’re enough to freak people out.
A couple years back, my friend and I decide to go check it out. Once we got there, we circled the whole factory while trying to find the best way to get in, as it looked pretty much boarded up. The old loading docks were locked to the ground to keep them from opening, windows were boarded up and metal doors were locked and chained.
We finally found a rolling door that looked like it could open up. It took about 30 minutes, but we were able to get it about a foot or so off the ground, enough for us to army crawl under. Looking around the room, there were some old moth-eaten mannequins and a bent-up bike, but nothing too unusual or creepy. We walked about 10 feet into the room when we hear a chuckle coming from the corridor maybe 50 feet away. Like a deep throaty laugh. Needless to say, we booked it out of there pretty fast.
One Thing Unbroken
There used to be an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan that my friends and I would explore on weekend nights in 2003. It was four floors plus a basement, which included a morgue, and we explored every nook and cranny of that place.
Judging by the most recent magazines in the fourth-floor waiting room, it seemed to have closed in 1990. The previous institution just up and left everything Chernobyl-style: furniture, equipment, drugs, patient files … even found some suicide reports! By 2003, the place was broken and trashed by vandals, while the building itself had started to decay. It looked worse than the hospitals in the Silent Hill games. However, that’s not even the creepiest, most mysterious part.
I once entered a room and saw a mirror that wasn’t broken.
Everything in this entire building had been destroyed except this one pristine mirror still mounted on the wall. I’ve never seen anything more out-of-place, and I get chills just thinking about it.