The Tourist Trap

After being derailed from our initial adventure, the elusive third floor ballroom frozen in time, my fellow photog Andy and myself decided to venture into a local watering hole that once served as a turn of the century hotel for the railroad. There, we were greeted by an affectionately old barkeep simply named Frank. He was standing alone behind a completely empty bar at around one ‘o clock in the afternoon and told us several stories of yore that almost seemed to take us back to the 1940’s while we stood there in that smoke flavored place. After we shared with Frank about our ill fated photo trip he share he had some things for us to “take pictures of if we wanted” and of course we both said. “sure”! The gray haired barkeep pointed to a pair of old saloon style swinging doors and said “through there and around the corner is an old set of stairs. Upstairs you should find some neat things to photograph”. So Andy and I grab our packs and head through the pitch black darkness until we find the light switch that illuminated the narrow stairway that was strewn with old mattresses and clothes. We could barely squeeze up the steps.

 

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After our narrow flight up to the first floor we seemed to step through into another dimension, the Twilight Zone. Old art books, frames, paintings, paints, brushes, easels…It was pretty cool to think this had been an artists “squat-house” for a good part of at least 50 years as we could tell by old 1950’s and 1960’s newsprint left with dried oils and pastels. Things started to get a little nostalgic but eventually just plain creepy.

 

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Upon entering our first room we noticed that  all that was left of most of the walls and ceiling were the ancient plaster and lathe completely covered by handmade frames, art lamps and other forgotten artist tools. You could almost smell the aroma left over from 1950 from the dusty and rusty old “Magic-Chef” and “Frigidaire” appliances still waiting for a “TV Dinner” and a “Cola”

 

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We soon realized that this place was a little more creepy and strange as we made our way through hallways and rooms filled with old bed frames, 100 year old dressers, clothes and strange doll parts and plaster faces. This reminded me of the old Chuck Connors B-Rated horror flick “Tourist Trap”. I was feeling a little uneasy with the thought not to mention I have a childhood phobia of dolls.

 

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A mannequin bust and a strange bottle of rum on a vintage radiator..Odd. I suppose. OK. So further down the hallway we go. “There is more light down at the front of the hall. Maybe better light” lets check it out I think as I pass several darker rooms. At the opposite end of the hall way things seem a little more cheerful. I was thrilled to find some antique bottles from the “Valley’s” heyday. Colorful and sunny. Nice.

 

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Down the hall and heading toward the light we find vintage and forgotten items, colorful art supplies and   books. Oh joy !!

 

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I spied a wonderful vintage collection of photography books on a shelf along with numerous other books ranging from architecture, archaeology, religion, psychology and philosophy. This I though was the sign of a very well read and educated artist..Then…..another face. I must have been too busy marveling at the set of vintage photography books until I set up for my shot…and there it was, all weird and tourist trap looking.

 

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I grabbed my shot and yelled down the hallway to see if Andy was having luck and to check where he was located so I didn’t walk into his frame again, as I have a habit of. He yelled back all was good and that he was also a little creeped out by the faces and doll parts. Having worked up some courage to go into some of the darker rooms and take a risk for the sake of the shot, I grabbed my tripod and camera and proceeded to the next room where I was reminded of something. Not sure what. something from “Oscar Madison gets drunk and enters the Twilight Zone”

 

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When I opened the door to the next room I saw an old hospital bed with old waiting room chairs and immediately thought of someone waiting and waiting for their loved one to “snap out of it while they drank their time away”  Having been an old railroad town and then a hospital town, it did not surprise me to find remnants such as photographs of people in wheelchairs, old beds and lab specimen collection jars from the old institution up here in this strange building.

 

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Just when I thought things in here couldn’t get any creepier, I stumbled through a doorway to face my phobia head on, or rather heads off. A room with doll parts, creepy old toys and crucifix’s sitting atop a dusty antique  nightstand. There in the room, on the floor and on the old bed were dozens of articles of clothing strewn here and there for the moths to feed upon. I however was eerily transfixed to the strange but eclectic scene before me. I am glad these were not the antique Victorian porcelain dolls however as I would have left this old hotel dead on the spot. I took a deep breath and set up the shot.

 

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Andy and I hung around for about two hours feeling emotions that ranged from nostalgia to excited to just plain creeped out. We decided that even though we missed out on our intended shoot of the day, the forgotten ballroom, today’s adventure turned out to be rather cool and exciting. We both were able to grab some really cool shots that told the story of the artist who once squatted in this outdated hotel and see some pretty cool and weird props. Andy, being the “I have more up my sleeve” kinda photographer and artist that he is, decided to have a little more fun with the creepy stuff. I chose to limit the number of dolls and heads that I shot today because I, well, am just too freaked out by them. This shot that Andy set up however, I could not resist.

 

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The “cooked” head..enough said. Time to leave.

We dusted off and packed up our gear and headed back down the dark narrow staircase, through the store room and back out the the tavern. Frank was still there…alone. No patrons visited while we were there, yet at times I could have sworn I heard what sounded like a party going on downstairs. Strange. While we bid farewell to old Frank, Andy took one last shot of the old hotel sign that hung in the back of the bar as a decoration now. And although I should have probably grabbed a shot too, I was thinking of a nice cold glass of Schmidt’s at this point but it was getting late. As we walked out and waved goodbye, we had noticed that none of the familiar and welcoming neon signs were burning and the closed sign was still up. Our adventure to the “Twilight Zone/Tourist Trap/Valley of the Dolls House” was over for now.

See the rest of the shots at this link.