A few mornings ago I wasn’t where I said I’d be. Hee hee heee….! I just took off! With no real plans, no real goal other than to be aimless for a bit. There was a bit of danger, a bit of intrigue and a bit of too much coffee and a bit too few bathrooms (there goes my resolution to stop talking about my ass…).
Let me backtrack and tell you a few things you should know about me first:
1. I’m sort of an amateur ghost hunter. There, I admitted it. I like to go to scary places. Always have. I once even went to a ghost hunters convention. I regret that sentence. But I will leave it because I own the fact that I’m a big dork.
2. I don’t watch tons of TV, but what I do watch is nearly all bad. Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel is a guilty pleasure because the host, Zak Bagans, is hilarious in his steroid-pumped attempts to hunt down and confront the paranormal. He also often turns into a whiney little girl after something takes him up on his offer. Mama like.
3. I love just being aimless and driving around and finding out where all the sides roads and back roads lead to. I’m an instinctual driver. I don’t worry that I’ll ever get so irretrievably lost that I’ll have to revert to living in the woods if I can’t find my way home.
My BFF Zak just investigated the Pennhurst State School — huge complex of decaying buildings that used to be an insane asylum — which is in Spring City, PA. Which isn’t so far from where my munchkin goes to school. Naturally, I looked it up online but I couldn’t find directions. So the other day after I dropped her off I had some time. My GPS didn’t have a listing for Pennhurst so I went to Spring City and just started driving. But I just had a feeling I could find it. And then what did I come across but Pennhurst Road… out there in the middle of a bunch of fields. I followed it until it went into some woods and then past some military buildings. There was a sign that said “not a thru road” but my GPS said otherwise so I kept going — down a hill and into more woods and then VOILA! The whole Pennhurst complex just appeared like it was a mirage. Just as creepy and huge as it was on TV.
A fellow ghost geek friend and I have been looking for a new place to explore. We’ve been to a bunch of places where you can pay to get in (Fort Mifflin, Eastern State Penitentiary) with mixed results (look for my ghost stories in a later blog). We’ve been exploring the idea of going someplace free. i.e., probrably not open to the public and therefore possibly illegal. So I wanted to case out Pennhust and figure out our possibilities. Would we be able to park without being noticed? Would it be safe to try to get into buildings? Did I have the cajones to try? Someone wrote online that Pennhurst has security patrols at various times and that you could get fined $250 and arrested if you trespass…
Some rumination was in order.
I’m a mom. I pack lunches and give lectures about eating veggies. I apply cream to places that aren’t normally seen in public. Could I risk being arrested? Years ago, I would’ve hestitated for a moment but then I probably would’ve taken my chances. But I fear that the boldness of my youth was waned a bit.
As I was driving around thinking about this, I saw an old narrow road leading off into the woods. Very untraveled-looking. But it wasn’t out of the question…. so I took it. In my 2006 Prius. With the built-in navigation and CD player. Thinking that, wow, things have changed. My first car was a 1977 VW Rabbit — the car that sometimes lacked reverse. It was a junker but it was built like a tank. It was a car that wanted you to make bold choices. It was a car that could handle a pot-holey back road, that could take a few knocks and scratches and I could just laugh it off. Hell, if the car got stuck on the road and couldn’t even come out again, I could probably laugh that off, too (after I got over whining about the $500 I paid for it…). Then my ghost-geek friend and I would hike out of the woods and call parents to come and retrieve us. Ah, the magic time from what — 16 to 22-ish? — where you could still afford to take risks but mom and dad could almost always bail you out. There was danger but most of it later could be chalked up to a funny story to tell your friends.
But growing up means saying goodbye to some of the safety nets of the past. And when you’re a parent, you become the safety net. Can the safety net risk marooning the family car in the woods near an abandoned, haunted mental hospital? How far can the safety net take the scary old road that is much longer than she expected before she has to hang it up and turn around?
I could feel my paranoia amping up as I came to the end of the road, which was blockaded from the street that I drove in on. I had passed this place and hadn’t even noticed it. I turned around carefully and drove out very slowly, even though I wanted to gun it and get the hell out of there. It wasn’t that I scared that some long dead patient would pop out of the woods and yell, “BOOGITY BOOGITY BOO!” It wasn’t that the crumbling buildings gave me the creeps. I was scared that I was going to get a flat tire and be unable to direct Tom to where I was. I was scared that someone might call the cops on me. And I knew that I would never go into one of the abandoned buildings because I’d be afraid that I’d get tetanus from stumbling over an old metal bed rail in the dark. Also, asbestos. I’m scared of that, too.
So the safety net drove out of there, laughing at herself and a little disappointed that this was what now passed for high adventure. By the time I got to my safe, familiar coffee shop I had to pee so bad I could practically taste it. (Really, Trish? Must you be so vulgar???) Did I consider dropping trow at old Pennhurst and watering the plants there? Nope. Not for a minute.
Yes, I am a mom. But I still need my little adventures. I haven’t taken Pennhurst totally off the list, though. I have visions of my ghost-geek friend and I driving around over there and scaring the shit out of ourselves. It could happen. If security stopped us, I think I could talk our way out of a fine or a ticket… but if not, would you be willing to come and bail us out?