I remember, once, going to a conference with my parents. We took our camper and, somehow, the conference folks arranged for us to park it at an old fairground. We parked close to the old grandstand area and track where they must have had harness racing or something like that. The fairground and grandstand may have still been used every year, but for me, at that young age, it was old, abandoned and creepy. The rails were rusted. The seats of the grandstand creaked. It was just plain adventurous for a young boy. I had a blast.
Even as I got older I was fascinated with strange things. In Florida, where we used to vacation and then lived, there were large housing developments that cropped up all of the time. The developers would plot out the land, lay the streets and even put street signs up. Sometimes there would be miles and miles of roadway with stop signs and everything, but with nothing there. I remember driving through a huge housing development where I used to do a Bible club. You would drive down a street, and suddenly the houses would end but the road just kept on going for miles and miles. There would be cross streets as well that you could turn on to. There were street signs, but no houses...just nothing. It was just weird and surreal.
Although I haven't explored old abandoned properties for a long time, my interest was recently piqued when I saw an article on weather.com about old abandoned theme parks - http://www.weather.com/travel/creepy-abandoned-theme-parks-20130320 and then later one about eerie abandoned islands - http://www.weather.com/travel/eerie-abandoned-islands-20130404. I remember looking through the theme park pictures. Most were of theme parks that I had never been too but were still fascinating...until...wait! Something looked familiar. I looked at the description and was instantly overwhelmed with memories and curiosity. The pictures were of River Country, an old Disney water park. I remember going there many times. In fact, I used to work in Fort Wilderness at the Trading Post that was not far from the entrance to River Country! Looking at the pictures gave me that old feeling in the pit of my stomach but this time it wasn't just because of the imagined history of the place. This time it was because I was part of the history of the place!
Now I was really intrigued so I started doing some research on the computer and came across a video of River Country done by someone who is an "Urban Adventurer". An urban adventurer is a person who likes to explore old abandoned areas. They could be old, closed down hotels or houses, or they could be abandoned mines or something of that sort. Often it can be quite dangerous and often it can be illegal. This particular Urban Adventurer goes by the YouTube name of "Adamthewoo" and he happens to live and explore a lot of places around...yep, you guessed it...central Florida where I used to live. In fact, he explores places around my old home town of nineteen years, Kissimmee.
When we moved to Florida in 1979, Disney World was still young. It was only six or seven years old. We also vacationed two or three times before we moved there, so Kissimmee and Walt Disney World were very familiar to us. I remember when route 192, the highway that joins Kissimmee to Walt Disney World, was desolate. There was hardly anything there. I recall a little family owned horse riding stable on 192 and fields of nothing along the route. Slowly but surely, hotels and tourist amusements began to sprout up until, now, 192 is packed. In fact, now instead of 192 being desolate because there is nothing there, it is desolate because there are many closed down hotels and amusements that have been abandoned to waste away. Many of them I can remember visiting and exploring they opened up. Now several of my favorite spots are overgrown and are decaying. "Adamthewoo" has "visited" many of those places. It is eerie to see the places that I used to love to visit all broken down. Again, it gives me that odd feeling inside. Almost a sad feeling as I think of what once was.
I've included below a few of Adamthewoo's YouTube videos of those old familiar places for you to enjoy. I must warn you though. Although compared to many things on TV and even on YouTube Adamthewoo is fairly clean, I would suggest you parents watch them before you allow your children to view them. I felt that some of the jokes and language can be a bit crude and over the top and could have been avoided, but that could be just me. Nevertheless, I enjoyed them just because of the content. If you ever want to see what central Florida used to be like before it became a very touristy destination, search on YouTube for some of Adamthewoo's abandoned tourist attraction videos. Perhaps you'll get that old melancholy feeling that I get when I watch them. Enjoy the videos.
Abandoned River Country Video:
Abandoned Holiday Inn Hotel that I used to stay at on vacation:
River Adventure Mini-Golf where I used to go with friends and family:
Abandoned Splendid China - a small amusement park that I went to several times. Warning - many of the old buildings have been vandalized and spray painted with foul language that is shown on this video.