I'm an urban explorer. For those unfamiliar with the term, urban exploration (more commonly called UE or Urbex) is the act of breaking into derelict buildings or otherwise off limits areas of the urban landscape, usually for the purpose of photography or appreciation of the given structure. I myself am somewhat new to the scene and only go into more abandoned industrial sites. I've been all over Toronto. Tower Automotive, Linseed Oil Mills, Symes Transfer Station, Kodak Building No. 9, Wellington Destructor, etc. All of them went off without a hitch and were some of the best pictures I've ever taken (for those interested, here's my Instagram). My visit to The Hearn Thermal Generating Station didn't go as well. I would normally take my friend Erin or Max, but they were both busy that weekend so I decided to go it alone. I could have brought any number of different people, but this time I decided that the best course of action would be to do this one on my own.
Hindsight is 20/20.
It was the break of dawn on a bitter Sunday in early December. I got to the area without problems and parked my car at the marina near the structure. Because the roads leading to the building complex are private, I had to park a little ways away and walk the rest of the distance. No one was around to notice me, so I made my way onto the main grounds of the building and began looking for an entry point. The walk was about twenty minutes, too far for lugging my crowbar, so I had to hope I would find a movable board or an open door. Sometimes there were even holes in the walls that no one bothered covering up. In this case, I managed to find a door with the wooden bar dislodged. It was hell to get open, what with the rust, but it gave. This place was indescribable. It somehow seemed even bigger inside.
A wonder full of some of the best examples of industrial architecture I'd ever seen, all of which absolutely beautiful. I wasn't able to get very far up due to the entire upper part of the structure being metal grating and I'd heard that someone had died here in '08. The offices, however, were perfectly safe. I won't bore you with details of the whole expedition, but this was one of the coolest places I'd ever been to. After what must have been hours of wandering and shooting, my heart stopped. I found a picture taken with an old instant camera taped to one of the struts, clean and pristine against the rusting metal. It was of me. Someone had taken a picture of me while I was in the building's change room with an instant camera.
Now genuinely freaked out, I rationalized that it was a homeless guy playing a prank. I'd heard a few stories about some people getting spooked by some of the residents of these places, and I'd even met one of the pranksters a few weeks prior. Not sure why a homeless guy would have an instant camera, but it made me more calm nonetheless. I let out a chuckle and said aloud that this really freaked me out. Instead of being met by laughter, I was met with deafening silence. Now stung with the feeling that this wasn't a joke, I picked up my picture and looked at the back. WARM. I still have no idea why it said that, but at the time I just wrote it off as ravings of someone who'd lost themselves. Either way, it was time to leave. I made my way back to the door when out of nowhere an arm wrapped itself around my neck.
I struggled as much as I could, but it was hopeless. Everything started to get bright, then blended, like experiencing everything at once. In what felt like an instant, I was conscious and wracked with something far worse than a mere headache. The only thing I could properly perceive was the stench of old meat. As my vision failed to return, I realized that I must have been underground, or perhaps in one of the ventilation shafts. I reached for my backup light and turned it on, blinding myself in the process. When my eyes adjusted themselves, I found myself surrounded by the strangest decor I'd ever seen. Magazine covered walls, carved animal bones, the purpose they served completely beyond me, and tons of old decaying furniture and blankets that had been patched with a leathery peach coloured material. Skin.
This was about when I realized just how grave my situation was. I ran to the end of the tunnel and found myself at an elevated position near the base of the main smokestack. Doing an about-turn, I saw that the other end of the hall was illuminated by natural light, revealing a silhouette of a thin figure wearing a short tattered trench coat. I switched my light off, dropped to the ground and slowly made my way behind the couch next to me. I had a glow stick in my emergency bag, so I cracked it, being sure to cover the light as best I could, and threw it out into the darkness. It landed right on my pursuer, revealing a woman with the most dead expression I'd ever seen.
She screamed, picked up the glow stick and threw it away. I used this as an opportunity to get the hell out of there. I shoved the couch out, but it caught and flipped over, knocking her over. I sprinted out, switched my light on, and made a break for the smokestack. The fall must have been twenty to thirty feet, but I wasn't thinking anymore. I jumped, did something resembling a tuck roll, and flung myself onto the fence covering the opening. By some miracle, I managed to pick the very moment the security guard was right next to the stack. He let me out, and I shoved right past him, screaming at him to run. He yelled after me but I jumped the fence and ran to my car at the marina. I drove white-knuckled all the way home.
I calmed myself to a normal state over the next few days, checking relentlessly on the internet for any news, but I guess the guard couldn't be bothered with investigating and never called the police. Beats me. I still do urban exploration now, but I'm a lot more paranoid and I NEVER go alone. At first I felt I should keep my story to myself, but a friend recently told me that I should post it somewhere. Felt this site was good. Oh, and a message to any urban explorers. Take this as a warning to be really careful. You never know who's living in these buildings. Don't become an article on some forum.