Hauntingly Beautiful Photographs of Abandoned Places

I find abandoned places fascinating; as such, it probably comes as no surprise that my favorite type of photography features locations that have been left to their own devices for an indeterminate amount of time. I’ve mentioned before my theory that even though places may not be haunted by actual ghosts, if they’ve been around long enough, they’re haunted by their own history. Maybe that’s why I see such beauty in these types of photographs: Even through the decay, their subjects still hold a glimmer of what they once were.

Or maybe I’m just getting all artsy-fartsy about it.

In any event, even though I’m far too chickenshit to take up urban exploration myself, there are plenty of folks out there who are both A) more daring than I am, and B) much more skilled photographers than I am.

Just because they’re gone doesn’t mean they’re forgotten.

Six Flags New Orleans

Six Flags New Orleans originally opened as Jazzland in 2000; Six Flags purchased it in 2002, and in 2003, it opened under the name Six Flags New Orleans. As of the summer of 2005, there were plans in the works to add a water park; but in August of that year, Hurricane Katrina struck.

The storm left the park under seven feet of water for over a month. Initially, it was hoped that it would be able to recover enough to reopen eventually — but the wind and water damage turned out to be so severe that it closed indefinitely. These days, it’s a popular site for urban explorers and photographers…but the clowns don’t laugh anymore.

Pripyat, Ukraine

Now that it’s relatively safe to venture back into Pripyat — the Ukrainian city in which the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster occurred in 1986 — there are a lot of images of the abandoned city floating around out there. The most iconic feature is this Ferris wheel, which was part of an amusement park meant to open that spring. The Ferris wheel ended up operating for only a few hours on one day — April 27 — before the order to evacuate the city came; ever since then, it’s stood alone, along with the rest of the city, while nature quietly overtakes it.

Danvers State Hospital

I grew up not too far away from this place, so I have a soft spot for it; you also might recognize it from the 2001 movie Session 9. Often cited as the birthplace of the pre-frontal lobotomy, the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, operated as a live-in treatment center for the mentally ill between 1878 and 1969. Rumors of inhumane treatment of its patients floated about for years, but it was ultimately budget cuts that did the whole thing in. By 1985, it was largely abandoned.

Danvers State doesn’t exist anymore; the majority of it was torn down and replaced with luxury apartments in 2005. The old administration building still stands, though, and weirdly (as I discovered in a Reddit thread a few months ago), one of the roads in the complex still bears the name of the man who dreamed up the system of the asylum that followed: Kirkbride. There’s also still a huge mystery surrounding a fire that burned down four of the new apartment complex’s buildings in 2007.

Sanzhi UFO Houses

In 1978, construction began in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on what was intended to be a holiday destination for U.S. military personnel posted to East Asia. The strange, pod-like buildings had the appearance of flying saucers, which gave rise to the resort’s name: The Sanzhi UFO Houses. They were never completed, unfortunately; financial hardship and investment losses caused the project to be abandoned by 1980.

Like the Danvers State Hospital, the Sanzhi UFO Houses are no longer around; they stood unfinished for several decades, though — long enough for photographers to capture them in their decaying glory. Rumor has it that another resort is planned for their former location, but as of now, all that’s happened is the clearing away of the rubble.

Rolling Acres Mall

I find abandoned shopping malls particularly interesting; it’s hard to miss the symbolism of failed consumerism. Rolling Acres in Akron, Ohio, has been closed since 2008; the building still stands, though, a reminder of the fact that all the material goods in the world won’t help you if you go bust.

Image: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr

Cocoa Palms Resort

Like Six Flags New Orleans, the Cocoa Palms Resort on the island of Kauai, Hawaii is the victim of a hurricane. First opened in 1953, it played host to the rich and famous for decades, including Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Elvis Presley (it even served as a shooting location for Presley’s 1961 movie Blue Hawaii). After being hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, though, it closed down, too damaged to continue operations. Apparently it’s finally slated for restoration, with the plan being to open it as a Hyatt resort in 2017 — but I doubt it’ll have quite the same Old Hollywood pedigree.