I’ve often fantasized about living in another time.
Maybe it’s just that I’d want to experience the zeitgeist of a particular era.
Maybe it’s to hear first hand the attitudes from those of which I ’d never been exposed. I’ve grown to believe that their stories would vastly differ from accounts I’ve read in textbooks.
It’s some nostalgic inclination I guess, to experience a time in this country when skies were bluer and it reflected in everyday thinking, In the clothes that were worn, the craftsmanship, and the designs of an age. It’s probably why I do what I do. We call it urban exploration, but I think of it as investigating stories lost to time.
It’s a dangerous hobby for sure. On different occasions, I’ve been run off sites by gun-toting property owners, had run-ins with unfriendly squatters and I’ve even found active meth labs, but it comes with the territory. I trespass and I have no right to be in these abandoned buildings.
I post most of the video footage of my investigations here on this YouTube channel- Jcaz_urbex, as you’ll already know if you’re a subscriber.
My friend Rachel comes along on most of my excursions to help out with the videos and to keep me sane in the dark rooms and basements. She’s an admitted tomboy that was my girlfriend for a time but we realized we are too much alike. This girl is as much a tech nerd as I am, talks as crude as I do, and can also drink me under the table. What’s not to love about that you’d ask…well, we are too much a mirror image and we didn’t think that would work beyond just being friends. Despite that decision, we are still close.
She laughs at me when I experience jump scares, and mock consoles me afterward as a best friend should. It makes for great cinema and she’s probably the more popular one when it comes to viewer comments on video posts.
I’ve only seen fear in her eyes once, that was the night we broke into the old Bridgman House of Tomorrow. A modernist home on Lake Michigan that was a showcase of innovation when built. It was rumored that architect George Fred Keck had designed it the year after a handful of others examples down the coast. Those were built as actual displays for the Century of Progress world’s fair in Chicago long ago. This house of tomorrow was built as a private residence, and it also had an incredible secret. I had no idea just what was in store for us. Because most of the footage I shot that night had been mysteriously erased from my camcorder, here’s my account of what happened.
It was December 27th last year, three inches of snow covered the ground and thin ice shelves lined the beach. Rachel and I had discussed how exciting the 1933 Worlds Fair must have seemed to a nation in the throes of the Great Depression. The very house of tomorrow concept must have felt as if progress was right around the corner. A horizon to grasp at, however unobtainable for a common man of the time.
Unfortunately, this house of tomorrow now stood empty and the promise of that future now sadly evacuated, deemed inefficient in the downsizing mindset of a more recent past.
Its wall-high windows are boarded up and partially covered with ragged house wrap from an abandoned restoration effort. Its bottom floor is disappearing behind overgrown shrubbery and well hidden from the road. Rachel was excited to check out the so-called modern amenities in store for us inside. I told her I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. Folks’ tastes change with the times.
It was after midnight when we approached the structure from the back side. We came to a door that was easily forced open on the garage and we slipped inside. I switched on the LED lamp of my Sony camcorder as we moved slowly along the black painted wall. Rachel pointed to a shadow saying “What’s that?”
I panned over to see a large cardboard cutout of Frankenstein from the classic movie. We both shuddered a bit and then had to laugh at ourselves. “This place looks spooky, but I didn’t expect to see a monster here,” she quipped. We proceeded up a few steps to enter the main floor. Rachel took a digital camera out of her backpack as we opened the creaky door. The ground floor was a mess. Construction supplies and buckets littered the room. Sheets half-covered the wood furniture that had been piled and pushed against the glass wall near a red metal fireplace. The plank wood flooring was probably impressive when new, but OSB board had been used to repair missing pieces in some places. A sign of ambitious do-it-yourself handiwork.
Rachel began snapping pictures. She loved looking for evidence of the paranormal. She’s a firm believer in ghosts, but I have yet to experience any proof of such. The so-called proof she notes is orbs of light that show up in the pics she takes. I wasn’t convinced that was anything other than dust bokeh.
My eyes finally adjusted enough to see in the peripheral low light around me. I stood in awe of the place, even in this state of disarray, it was amazing. I could imagine myself looking out of the huge window walls at the beach and glowing sunset while lounging on a club chair and reading a Chicago newspaper.
“See, look at this, James!” Rachel turned the screen of her camera around to show me a shot of what I saw as a torn curtain.
“See, right here. This ain’t normal.” Her pinky outlined a smoky shape that did resemble a human head and shoulders. “That’s interesting,” I said not all that impressed. She harrumphed. “This place is haunted, I’ll bet you.” I looked away and smiled thinking I’d take that bet.
“Let’s go in here,” I said pointing to the kitchen. Pale yellow paint covered the inner wall, with plaster missing in a few places. Some attempted repairs were apparent. Another sign of bad DIY work. Rachel was amused by the old refrigerator, she opened the side by side doors with huge chrome hinges and peeked inside. She pulled out an old plate with some crumbs still on it. “Damn ghosts, they ate it all,” she joked.
I told her I had a granola bar in my coat pocket if she needed it. That made her smirk.
Through an uncovered part of the window, I pointed out the open deck behind the kitchen. I informed her, I was going to go out there to take a leak over the railing.
Rachel said she wished she could just whip it out and go anywhere she wanted. That girl always finds a way to make me laugh.
She told me to go ahead and do my thing and she’d meet me upstairs. I nodded and sat my camcorder on the counter and up to this point the footage had recorded just fine.
I forced open the stubborn back door and stepped out on the snowy deck, I heard a terrible creaking noise like when you’d walk out on a frozen pond that might be thawing. I hurriedly did my business in fear of falling through some weak spot. I did linger for a few seconds to look at the cold moonlight out over the dark waves as they rolled, crashing on the icy beach. I watched a few clouds of my cold breath hang in front of my face and dissipate. I wondered who was the first person to stand here doing this decades ago. Were they reflecting on a good life, were they contemplating the problems of back then, or just enjoying a spirited night like I am?
When I returned through the kitchen door, I grabbed my camcorder off of the shadowy counter and turned it back on. Before I flipped on the LED lamp, I saw a flickering light under a door off the side of the kitchen. Rachel was in there I suspected. I walked to the door and turned the large brass knob. I opened the thick door into a warm flickering light, bright enough to make my eyes hurt. This was a room that looked well lived in. Slow orchestral music drifted from some low-fi source. I walked in bewildered at this all, the room glimmered in a halo effect. The furniture was an old style but appeared rather new and a fireplace crackled in the center of the room. I could smell cedarwood burning. I walked in a few steps stupefied but feeling so invited.
From behind, I hear my name in a melancholic quality almost like a song. “James, I’m here!”
I spun around to see a petite blonde woman with bobbed hair, wearing a white evening gown. I jumped.
“James, I’ve waited so long for your return!” Her face was so perfect. She was young and svelte and gazed into my eyes. I couldn’t resist when she reached up and cupped my cheeks. I felt a dizziness and I couldn’t speak beyond a whisper. “Return?”
She pulled off my leather coat, hugging it as she laid it on a chair close by. She then parted her red lips and pressed them to my mouth. I could feel her tongue slide alongside mine going deep inside. I was overwhelmed. She pulled back slowly, her dark hypnotic eyes begging my mind for acceptance. I relented, my five senses were convinced this was real.
“You glad to see me?” She asked.
“So glad!” The words seemed pulled from my mouth.
She tapped some powder out of a packet on to her slender finger and put it under my nose. I inexplicably sniffed it in. She then sniffed some herself. “This isn’t just any dope, it’s been purified, the finest for us my darling.” She took a scarf from her neck and brushed it across my cheek smiling seductively. It had a sweet citrus scent.
I’ve never felt so helpless, I was feeling bound at the mind level. The warm lights flickered almost strobe-like now. That vision of beauty then wrapped the scarf around my neck and gently pulled me to a red mohair sofa. I sat down with my head feeling quite woozy.
She stepped back slowly, her face beaming.“This is only for you James,” she paused and then with a side glance, pushed the straps of her gown off her shoulders.
She let the garment drop on to the Deco print rug beneath her, revealing most of her lithe white body. She looked like an alabaster Venus. I felt love like I never had when looking into those huge mournful eyes.
“I’m over the moon for you James, I want you to never forget that! I want to show you,” she said slowly swaying to the music. A long string of pearls enhanced the beauty of her bare skin as she moved. I wanted every lovely inch of her body all to myself. My logic had gone up the flue with the smoke of the fireplace.
“I love it here dear, I’ll never leave you again!” I found myself promising to her. She came to me and kneeled, wrapping her arms around my waist. “This isn’t a false promise like the last time?” her voice broke up as she laid her cheek on my leg. ‘Last time?’ I questioned in thought.
“No, my dear I’m here to stay,” I spoke the words like some line from a film long ago.
“Oh please tell me, James. Say how you will always love your Celia, how I’m your one and only!”
I’d lost my grip on reality. I would tell her anything she wanted to hear. “Celia, you are my only love, I swear to you.”
She cooed, “Oh, that is so keen to hear!”
She climbed up on my lap and hugged me. I wrapped my arms around her, then I noticed tears starting to trickle on her cheeks. “No, don’t cry, my dear. I will be with you,” I pleaded.
She smiled, wiping a tear away and breathed heavy. “What about that floozy Rachel, I’m heartbroken when you go off gallivanting with her.”
I tried my best to explain to her that Rachel was only a friend. I came back to reality a little, I think…at this point I wondered if it really mattered.
“Oh James, you can’t just be friends. I know you’ve been personal with her. Please, just tell me she won’t ruin us again!” Her voice was strained with emotion.
“I assure you, Rachel and I are only friends and nothing else,” I say almost babbling.
Tears rolled from Celia’s eyes and she whimpered out loud, hiding her face on my shoulder. My mind was so whacked out that I couldn’t think right. I only needed her to stop crying. I told her, “I swear to you Celia, I won’t be around her if you think that I’d be tempted.”
I would do anything at this point to have her happy again. “You’d do that for me, do you mean it?” she asked. I stated, “Yes, whatever you want!”
She started to smile again. My heart was like a rat that escaped a sinking ship. She closed her eyes and kissed me with such passion that I felt my blood surge. She opened her eyes and followed mine not letting me look away.
“Oh, I’ll go to pieces if you’re fooling me!”
“No, I would not,” I told her.
“Then you better tell that hussy, because she’s coming for you,” Celia said. She hugged me tight and laid her head on my shoulder.
When I peered behind her to the doorway. There stood a stunned Rachel staring into the room at me.
“What in fuck’s sake is this?” Her face was pale. She muttered a few more expletives and backed slowly into the kitchen. She fumbled for her camera and it dropped to the floor. I called to her, “Rachel, please leave without me.”
It was then that the flickering light went dark, like a projector powering down. The warmth of Celia’s arms disappeared. Her loving face dissipated slowly like the clouds of my cold breath. I called for her “No, come back!” I felt shocked like I couldn’t go on without her. I nearly lost it! Rachel ran up to me. “Oh my god, I gotta get you outta here. C’mon James snap out of it! That wasn’t real… really,” She said, not believing it herself.
I must have blacked out for a time because the next thing I remembered was opening the car door to get out at my apartment in Holland.
After what I’d been through, Rachel asked me if I wanted her to stay the night. I lied when I told her I was okay and for her to go on home. I felt like a cheat even being near her.
I have not felt right and it’s been a month since the incident.
Rachel later related to me a story she heard from her grandmother long ago. It was about a girl on a farm who finds a snake behind the tool shed and starts feeding it. She feeds it more and more as the days go on, sneaking out scraps of food after every meal. The girl’s suspicious father follows her one evening and discovers what she’s been doing. After she goes back in the house, he kills the snake with a shovel. When the girl finds the snake dead, she becomes despondent and eventually dies herself. It was thought that the snake had charmed her into duty and had such a hold on her that she couldn’t live without it.
Rachel surmised, “Whatever the thing was in that house, it had you charmed like that snake,” but I’d say, I finally got what I wanted.
As you’ll see In this video, there In the background is my true home.
Here, the promise of a great tomorrow was never lost, it’s only waiting to be…It has been waiting for me!
To Celia, I have returned.
Attention Jcaz_Urbex followers:
This is Rachel. I’ll be operating this channel while the search goes on for my friend and host, James.
He disappeared shortly after the above video was posted. Please, if you have any information on his whereabouts, contact the area Crimestoppers hotline. I will post any updates when I get them.
-Artist and Writer from Los Angeles currently living in Indiana- the bulk of my writings are short stories and poems that deal with a range of subjects including: emotional distress, strange happenings, thrillers and suspensestories.