Passaic County Juvenile Detention Center
The air smelled so strongly of rain that you could almost taste it. The skies so grey that you almost felt like there would never be sunshine again. Overall, a perfect day for what I thought would be another routine trip to one of New Jersey's local abandoned hospital complexes.
We set out sometime around lunch if I recall correctly. Today was slightly different, as I had somehow found myself in the position where I had agreed to chaperone a handful of what I would like to refer to as 'youngins' to the remains of Preakness and the accompanying Detention Center. We parked our cars in a nearby neighborhood, explained some pleasantries and began our trek up the hill towards our target. By this point, the facility was merely a shell of its former self, with its innards ripped out and strewn upon the lawn as the machinery inched closer to demolition. This was one of the few times where I could say that this was a breath of fresh air, literally.
Preakness had garnered quite the reputation for toxic levels of mold. The first thing to go was the roof, and it quickly filled with water. However, I guess whatever the building was made out left it as an ideal biosphere for absolutely disgusting things to grow in it compared to just about any other place we've explored. Our one friend who visited acquired an eye infection so severe that his eye leaked blood for several weeks. As for myself, well, less than 48 hours after my initial visit to Preakness, I woke up disoriented and febrile. I sat up, and immediately blood began pouring out of my nose and mouth. My mother wasn't very thrilled on that ER trip.
We made our way through the soggy grass that hadn't been mowed in many, many years and hopped in whatever blasted out doorway or window presented itself. After doing a quick run-through of the now abated hospital portion, I lead our group to the Detention Center via the tunnels, as had been requested. As we exit the top of the stairwell into the heart of the facility, I turn to yell out to everyone "This is a jail. Don't let any doors shut!". The words have barely left my tongue before I hear a 'click'. I spin around to check to make sure all my charges are still in tow, and immediately am met with the exact scenario that had earlier played in my head. Three of them have managed to lock themselves into a control room, and are now looking at me behind the glass like pitiful puppies that know they've just really screwed up.
Okay, now what? We start jiggling the door, but find that it doesn't really have a handle, and must have been previously controlled by an electronic locking mechanism. The three on the inside are trying every knob, button and handle they can, but nothing will budge. The glass is shatterproof, we can't even kick it out. As they start to panic more and more, I see that it's starting to get hotter and muggier in there. After the first few moments, the 'oh shit' factor really starts to set in.
Then suddenly, the 'ah-ha!' moment. It feels like almost as quickly as we realized how absolutely screwed we were, we collectively realize how less than an hour earlier we picked up a sledgehammer over by the demolition and were carrying it around for no good reason. It was almost like a sign sent from Heaven, a token from the Gods. I tell one of the newbies to stand guard nearby and call 911 if anyone starts to really overheat in there, because death is kinda permanent, whereas getting arrested like this would make a pretty funny story in like 20 years. I grab my girl friend, and we bolt back down the stairs in search of the sledgehammer of freedom.
We find it in what feels like seconds, like a beacon of hope, and we scurry quickly back to the rest of the gang. I somehow found myself as the adult in the situation, barking orders at everyone. I shout at our prisoners to go duck and hide in the corner and cover their faces, I don't want to risk any shrapnel hitting them. I pick up the sledgehammer, and it nearly knocks me off balance. I muster all my strength, close my eyes, and swing with all of my might at the door. Somehow, on the fourth attempt, I heart a faint click, and the door swings open almost in a comical manner. I drop the sledgehammer at my feet as we all breathe a huge sigh of relief. Our friends quickly evacuate the tiny control room, as we swear not to repeat this story to anyone anytime soon.
You can read this story from another viewpoint over at justinscalera.com