Once upon a time, long long ago, I dated a man with city tastes who lived in the middle of NOWHERE. It was cool though, for I grew up in the middle of nowhere too, just a different nowhere to be in the middle of.
We had been dating for too long by the time I first was able to go to his house. This was before having GPS on your phone. Heck, it was before there was much of a signal on this dark, windy, country street. I was nervous, excited, and ready to demystify this house of his. Driving up there, I felt a little giddy, and joked with myself that this felt like the beginning of a horror movie.
I passed this dark church several times, trying to figure out if, on my printed out directions, going STRAIGHT meant following the road that curved sort of to the right, or going literally straight onto another road.
The church didn’t look like much, other than a dark church in front of a dark sky, with a dark cornfield across the street. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go. I called him from my flip-phone. (it was a new COLOR flip-phone, y’all!) I described the area. and he knew just the church I was talking about. I could hear the wind blowing inside his house, through the phone as I spoke.
“Are you by that creepy little church?”
For the next 6 months of our relationship, this church was always something we were curious about. It looked abandoned, but apparently was not. It had a funny name that made it seem like either it was run by hippies, satanists, or a cult. We joked that maybe if we got up early on a sunday, we’d show up there and hope that we didn’t burn or get sacrificed.
Fast forward to 11 or so years later. My current partner and I were hiking up in the middle of nowhere. The same middle of nowhere. Spontaneously, i decided to send the GPS down that same curvy road. As I passed a section where any love-struck, stupid, mind-wandering, 20-something year old girl on her way to a booty call might get confused on which road was straight and which was not straight, there it was. The creepy old church.
It looked even more abandoned than it did 11 years ago. I pulled over and left the car running, left my boyfriend IN the car, and went to take a photo of it. A few of the windows in the back were open. I peeked in. Definitely abandoned! The double-wide outhouse (so you can hold hands while you poop?) was ALSO definitely abandoned. I ran back up to the front, and to my surprise, the door was open. Car still running, boyfriend still sitting in the car, I did a quick sweep of upstairs.
the tin ceiling was covered in black mold. The chairs, the first time i was there, were arranged in a circle, a few melted candles around. A burned bible. A hideous easy chair with a toy snowman and a bumbo the clown in it. A piano, an asian arch, a pulpit, a jack o lantern. Hymn books. The front vestibule had lots of free pamphlets on things like AIDS, safe sex, depression, and things like that. It seemed like a fairly liberal church. However, my boyfriend, I was sure, was stewing in the car, so I made plans to come back after work one night.
And, so I did, but not before getting a little history on the place from someone who worked next door.
The church was small and only held services once or twice a week. There were only a handful of parishioners, and they were, well, weird, but very friendly. There was no running bathroom and the facilities were literally the outhouse around back. Hurricane Sandy, or maybe Irene, he couldn’t remember, hit, and the entire basement of the building was underwater. After that they pretty much never saw anyone from the church again, and it began to rot. Vandals stole the trippy sign outside with its funky name. Teenagers from the local high school came by to have seances. And the place continued to rot.
So when I finally got in this time, the chairs were arranged in neat rows. Artificial flowers, which had been strewn around the place, were now neatly arranged. It almost looked like it was waiting for people to come to a service. There was yet another bumbo the clown sitting in the pews with the first one. I dropped my fisheye lens twice in here, ultimately screwing up its ability to focus AND scratching it up. Fortunately, I was able, a few days later, to fix the focus issue, at least for now.
Alas, I hadn’t planned on taking most of the last bit of daylight getting the history of the place, so, as the sun went down behind the stick-on minimalist stained “glass,” I packed it in after only about 10 minutes inside and vowed to come back.
Come back, I did, this time with backup. We went downstairs, and lo and behold, I could see a water line around the whole downstairs, about 3 1/2′-4′ up, where the place was underwater. There was a kitchen, a small office, and a small living room/library area with lots of books, many of them on more liberal church topics, some of them traditional. And there were even more of those damn bumbo the clowns down here.
There were some photo albums of events that took place there, and I was very excited about this, but alas, the emulsion was all melted off of most of the photos from being underwater for so long.
I’ve been back a couple more times, and boy-howdy, does it get worse each time.
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