I live in a rural town in northern Wisconsin, so there’s no shortage of abandoned farmhouses and barns. A few years ago, I came across an exquisite abandoned home on the side of a country road. I continued driving down the road until I found a place to turn around. I slowly pulled up the driveway. My heart was racing. The driveway wrapped around, so I knew I could easily hide my car on the side of the house. The dwelling had no doors or windows remaining, so I knew I could easily access the inside. I grabbed my camera gear and headed into the main floor of the house. I only spent a few minutes in the house because I was afraid I would get caught. I guess that’s part of the thrill for me.
Photographing this house started my love of exploring abandoned houses throughout the state. Each house gives off a different vibe. Sometimes families leave behind all of their belongings, and some houses are completely empty. The fully furnished houses are much more interesting to photograph to me. After I leave a home, I try to do as much research as I can on the property and former inhabitants.
Exploring abandoned properties does not come without risks. You are trespassing at your own risk and can get arrested or ticketed. Most of the homes are no longer structurally sound. Sometimes a home may be abandoned, but the property it’s on is not. Many farmers will buy a property and decide not to take down existing structures. There’s nothing worse than coming across an angry property owner while you’re exploring.
I have personally been screamed at, broken my ankle, gotten a rusty nail stuck in my foot (which resulted in a tetanus shot), been approached by two men with guns, put my foot through a floor, and fallen down a cellar. That doesn’t include the numerous cuts and bruises I have received. I have come across a host of animals, dead and alive, living in some of the homes. You just never know what you will encounter in some of these properties.
This hobby is not for the weak of heart, but to me, it’s worth it. Every time I enter home I haven’t been to, I still get a rush of adrenaline. I plan on photographing and exploring abandoned homes for a long time.