Those of you with a taste for the desolate beauty of structures abandoned to nature may find a lot to like at Reddit.com’s AbandonedPorn subreddit. With a subscriber base of almost 80,000 the page is a never-ending virtual gallery dedicated to humanity’s vainglorious efforts to hold back the forces of entropy.
I developed my own taste for this kind of thing as a teenager. We had discovered an abandoned concrete factory in the middle of a plot of land left to nature. The building, with its flooded sub-levels, half-ruined factory floor and warren of abandoned offices, held an irresistible lure for us. Later, we discovered that the very same plot of land had once been a prison camp for captured German military officers during World War II. The factory rising above the scrubby trees and fields of grass cast a long shadow upon a territory long haunted by shadows of its own.
We were occultniks and weirdos as young people, and there were many times that we went on after-midnight excursions to what we started calling “The Castle” to perform various rites and rituals. The sound of our chanting, the smell of candles and incense and the glint of ceremonial knives eventually spawned urban legends of their own. Once, during a performance of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, we heard a group of terrified teenagers huddled in the woods. They retreated from the perimeter of our “Castle”; their cries – “Satanists! They’re chanting! They’re chanting!” – clearly audible as they hauled ass back to the cars they had parked some miles away.
When we heard rumors about a coven of “Devil Worshippers” performing human sacrifices at the Castle, We took steps to amplify this rumor by spattering the walls of our ritual space with a bucket of fake blood I made from corn syrup and food coloring. After that, we spray-painted half-literate babble about Satan in several of the nearby hallways. For a final touch, we left a knife at the scene – but not before carving nonsensical symbols into its wooden handle. Our efforts did the job: The popular (and probably better-adjusted) kids stayed the hell away. We were even told that the local cops were called out to investigate a possible murder scene, but we were never able to confirm this. For a while, we were happy, but soon our spooky disinformation campaign spawned a new problem: LARPers. I think they call this blowback, now.
The local “vampire” community was drawn like flies to our decrepit little lair. Soon enough, we had dozens of faux nightwalkers playing out their undead dramas among the ruins. The first few were okay, but with them came along the tourists: Bored kids just looking for the next big fad. There was nothing truly of the night about them; the Weird did not flow in their veins. We resented them. (The irony that we were play-acting out our own dramas didn’t occur to me until later.) We tried to establish a treaty with them: Our ritual space was off-bounds. The few committed darklings among them respected this, but the tourists did not. The crowds grew larger, and soon drug dealers came to supply their wares. With them came their own hangers-on, shifty-eyed characters with prison tats who really, truly wanted to be vampires. There were fights among the LARPers, and drug deals gone bad. A ritualist known by, but not associated with our circle, killed himself, and one of our guys, some kind of self-styled pseudo-Thelemite, claimed responsibility via “curse”. It was nonsense, but the very notion of it was vile enough for us all to disband and formally denounce him.
In the aftermath of the suicide, we deserted our Castle, leaving it to the Vampires – metaphorical and literal – and whatever Nazi shadows still stalked its halls. I also deserted my own Castle, abandoning or reconsidering many of my beliefs. Both the Castle Actual, and the Castle of my youth, were eventually demolished. Nothing now is left of either but memories and tales of perfidy and misdirection – like the one I leave you with today.