Along with my friend Ken, I had the privilege of visiting North Dakota with Tony and Keith Workshops (www.outofchicago.com/workshops-tony-keith). We met up in Bismarck, ND and drove to Minot, ND. Minot was our base for the next several days. The days were long, but very organized and planned to perfection. The sights we saw were the 100 year old boarded-up multi-level hotel; the huge abandoned asylum that reminded me of the movie The Shining; and the abundance of churches, houses and grain elevators.
If walls could talk, we could hear the chatter and whispers of decades gone by. Have you ever wondered what stories could be told in the old abandon places that are still standing, especially on the plains of North Dakota? The bitter cold winters, horizontal winds that can cut right through a person…I simply could not imagine what people had to go through with such a climate. They were strong, resilient and optimistic!
Each of the places we visited had their own personality…some felt as if you could embrace the warmth of home, but some just felt cold and evil. I love creepy, at least I thought I did! The one place I looked forward to the most was the abandoned asylum…San Haven Sanatorium! We ran into a couple of photographers at a different location who had visited the asylum the day before. They claimed that they actually photographed a ghostly shadow in the children’s ward and there was no one there except for them…EERIE!
San Haven Sanatorium is a former tuberculosis sanatorium. Patients received treatment between the year 1909 and the end of the TB endemic in the 1940’s. Prior to the advent of antibiotics which brought tuberculosis under control, roughly 50 percent of the patients died from the disease. A common remedy at the time was to surgically collapse a lung. One can hardly imagine the suffering that took place there.
Keep in mind the asylum is huge! Multi-buildings with tunnels going from one building to the next. Tunnels were used to transport the bodies and for staff to travel from building to building. You had to access the tunnels from the basement level. There was no way I was going down there – very dark and no lights except from cell phones. Even though the sun partially was illuminating the interior of the building, there was still an eeriness about it. In spite of that feeling, the team separated to go their own separate way to scout the facility. Ken and I explored the graffiti-ridden wards that looked like a war-zone. Open elevator shafts, broken glass, boards with nails and staircases with debris on the steps and no hand rails. We photographed and what we photographed was not pretty.
There was a presence among us! Time was pressing on and we had to meet the group at a certain time. Ken and I had to find our way out of the building we were exploring. We were on the top floor at the far end of where we entered. While we were going down the top flight of stairs, I froze…almost paralyzed! I felt as if I was about to be pushed down the stairs… I turned around to see who was behind me – NO ONE! I kept going down and it happened again. Very shaken, I FROZE! (see photos below)
Ken asked what was wrong and I was afraid to say anything for fear it would jinx me. I told him I would tell him after we got the hell out of there! Finally, we made our way out and tears of emotion flowed and I was able to tell him what I had felt. Real or not, it was real to me! I felt the place was evil and could not wait to leave! With that being said, I’m glad this location was one we explored.
This photographic journey to North Dakota was one that I loved! So many stories about the kind-hearted people who live there. Look for my next blog while I continue my journey through North Dakota.