An adventure to the Hamptons....
So many affiliate the Hamptons with ridiculous amounts of wealth, the gorgeous, expansive beaches and the Kardashians. To be honest, I did the same until I moved out to the southeastern end of Long Island at the mouth of the Hamptons. I can't deny that the beaches are breathtaking and the people are different from what I was used to coming from the North Shore, but what really surprised me was how truly historical the area was. I am sure you've heard of the Beale sisters who lived in a hoard and unkept Hamptons mansion until Jackie Onassis stepped in or that Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller spent a lot of time in their windmill farm house to get away from the hustle and bustle of celebrity life. But there is so much more to the Hamptons. Did you know it has the zip code of the most expensive place to purchase a home in the country? Did you know potato fields were the most popular crop in the Hamptons at one time? I bet you didn't! It's okay, neither did I.
What I do know is that a year ago I was lucky enough to have met someone who knew where approximately one hundred abandoned homes were located in the Hamptons. Yes, I said ONE HUNDRED!
From that point on I spent hours upon hours Google searching the addresses and Google mapping the surrounding location. And then one warm November day I jumped in my car with a friend and designated an entire day to checking about thirty of them out.
Just by sheer chance the very first house we hit was a beauty! A 19th century Queen Anne-style two story house with cross gables and a turret behind a white picket fence, it stood only a hundred feet from the main road. Neighbored by a mechanic, deli and train station was this outstanding and abandoned majestic mansion. The property was poorly landscaped and the driveway was gone. Everything was dirt and weeds. The front trees and bushes were removed so the house could clearly be seen from the street. My guess was to protect it from vandals and so the locals could keep a more close eye on it. I only say this because we were photographing the front of the property no more than five minutes when a noisy neighbor drove up the short dirt road and pulled up directly next to me. He asked what I was doing and I said I was taking pictures of the house because I just thought it was gorgeous and asked who owned it.
He told me the house was known as the "Castle" to the locals, or also known as "Cannibal Castle" when squatters in the 1990's started to take over the place. Rumors were that serious drugs were being done inside and that a homeless family and her baby were sleeping on the broken, busted and asbestos covered floor for awhile. After the town removed anyone living inside due to the unsafe conditions of the house, the windows and doors were securely boarded shut and the "Red X of Death"* was posted on the exterior. I listened to him intently but little did he know I was also busy "keeping watch" as my friend was exploring the inside.
The conversation lasted about ten minutes and then I cut it short to distract his attention from the house so my friend could get out safely. I was never able to get inside.
But here is what I know, thanks to the internet:
Today I was in the area and decided to take the ten minute drive to capture a photo of what it looks like a year later for my blog. I flew by the grounds twice before I realized it was gone and instead in its place was the beginnings of a 28 unit apartment complex. Construction was recently started only maybe this past summer and not a single piece of Cannibal Castle or its surroundings remained. I took a quick cell phone shot with my phone and left.
I will never forget Cannibal Castle as it was the first house that day we explored about thirty abandoned homes in the Hamptons. As beautiful as some of the houses were that we later on photographed that afternoon, none of them compared to the architecture of the "Castle." To this day, I am still yet to see a house like it in Long Island....
Cannibal Castle, photographed by me, November 2017
The property of Cannibal Castle today, November 2018.
Cannibal Castle, approximately 1915 (image taken from an internet resource)
The amazing technicolor dream church.....
There’s just so much that can be said about this beautiful church. Even though I’ve posted a few pictures of it, I’ve held back from posting them all because my entire Instagram feed would be full of images of this spectacular place. I was lucky enough to have gone inside successfully twice, but did venture to the property three times. And as they say “three times a charm”, because as of now I can never go back.
My first visit here was at approximately 6:30am on a Friday morning with my good friend who is also a model. Our intentions were that she’d model for me for about an hour and then we’d bounce out. She had only been in a handful of abandoned locations with me and this was actually my first explore into a church so it was going to be an exciting morning for us.
When we pulled up to the property I was super surprised as it was much smaller than I imagined it to be. I had seen only a few images of it on my Instagram feed from other photographers and from their posts I expected this location to be way more impressive than it was from the outside. Yet it stood there, just barely set back from a very busy street on an open, mowed plot of land in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
We circled it to see the power was on inside the building and the back parking lot was brightly lit up. We nonchalantly tried every door. We pulled them all pretty hard but not one budged. We circled again. Tried them again. And same result. There was zero access inside. Feeling defeated we walked back to our car and then fed our disappointment with omelettes and hot tea at the local diner.
A week later we both returned and tried again. Me, carrying my twenty pounds of camera equipment and my half awake friend lugging a bag with various dresses walked back up to the church, but this time about fifteen minutes earlier around 6:15am. We yanked on the same doors from the week prior and this time one opened and we got inside.
I wish I could say the first room was covered in the most beautiful furniture and abandoned paraphernalia but instead it was an industrial kitchen with a leaky ceiling and stinky refrigerator. My assumption was we were in the event side of the church where maybe wedding receptions were held as it wasn’t part of the main tower but a separate long rectangular room that jutted off the back of the church. Ahead of us was a dimly lit hallway and we followed it.
As most explorers do who are afraid of getting caught for trespassing, we scooted quickly past windows with open curtains and kept our voices at a whisper. That all changed though when we entered the rainbow tower. “Holy shit,” I said as soon as I stepped inside. And from that moment on my friend and I went to work. She modeled. I photographed. And the rest is history.
Well, maybe not.
As I said above I did go three times. I returned with explorer friends who lived out of town and who were dying to go inside. Our explore was all of fifteen minutes and they captured some of the best photos I have ever seen of the inside, including my debut in modeling as "creepy pink haired girl." (She will make more cameos in my Instagram feed so stay tuned!)
Many call this location the technicolor church or the disco church but I like to call it the rainbow church. I can personally say that based on all my past explores this location was the most peaceful and comforting and in a sense I felt very at home here. I even commented the minute I stepped inside that I felt calmer because of my surroundings. My friend thought I was freaking nuts though. From what I could tell based on my second visit, vandals and trespassers had broken a bunch of the beautiful colored windows and thrown a ton of stuff around, including two flags. As of a month ago the entire property has been fenced and contents of the inside including the pews have been removed. I am not sure of the final fate of this place but I do know what memories it holds for me and how the images tell my story and for that I am super grateful.
For my personal Instagram:
For my beautiful model friend's page:
www.instagram.com/helloserenityhart -Serenity Hart
For my fellow photographer/friend who joined me on my second venture:
www.instagram.com/forty_whacks -Bianca Razza
The following images were photographed by me with model: Serenity Hart.
The following image was photographed by me with model: Bianca Razza.
The following images were photographed by Bianca Razza with model: myself.