Urban explorers get haunted this Halloween

Kallmekris sits in the dark in Trans-Allegheny Asylum, one of the most “haunted” sites in the U.S., waiting for spiritual encounters. // Photo courtesy of Kallmekris via YouTube

Many people have a fascination with forgotten parts of humanity.While the more standard route to satisfying this interest is reading history textbooks, visiting museums and watching documentaries, some find more unconventional — and sometimes illegal — ways to rediscover the past. 

Urban exploration, sometimes referred to as “urbex,” is a practice that gained popularity in the mid-90s and describes venturing into man-made structures that have been abandoned or hidden and, as the name states, exploring. It is very often driven by photography-related desires, though historical documentation and thrill-seeking are also known to be motivators. With the rise of the internet and social media, viewership has brought even more people into the hobby. 

There are rules to urbex that its practitioners use as a way of respecting the spaces they explore. These rules include things like “don’t go anywhere alone,” “don’t break anything to enter a structure” and the most well-known one, “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” These rules ensure as much safety as possible, distinguishing explorers from vandals who cover the walls with graffiti and the floors with trash. Dedicated explorers see themselves as being there to study and document the stages of Earth’s reclamation of man-made structures and the way urban fixtures decay over time. Because of that perspective, they know to do their research beforehand, bring necessary equipment and emergency supplies and not enter a space that doesn’t have an already-existing entrance. 

While an incredibly cool hobby, urbex is definitely not something to be classified as fully “safe” or “legal.” A number of people have died during urbex excursions due to structural unsoundness or becoming trapped, and many have been arrested for offenses of trespassing. 

Though most urbex is meant strictly for observing the reintegration of nature into unnatural structures, some tend to combine the thrill of exploration with the chill of the supernatural and find places that are rumored
to be “haunted.” 

“Haunted” urbex is especially popular among exploration YouTube channels, with photoshop-collaged thumbnails and exaggerated titles. With such videos, though, a lot of the creators get permission to be there beforehand so as not to get in any legal trouble while there and after the video is released. Creators will travel to different places with dark and disturbing backgrounds and spend extended periods of time there in hopes of capturing ghosts and other spirits on tape. Such is the case of creators Kallmekris and CelinaSpookyBoo’s overnight stay inside the Trans-Allegheny Asylum, posted to YouTube in several parts less than two weeks ago. 

The two women and their team start with an introduction to a few staff members of the asylum — whose grisly history attracts groups of tourists — and a quick tour outlining the different wings of the hospital. From there, the group is locked in for the night to conduct their paranormal investigations. Throughout their stay, the creators provide viewers with facts about the history of the asylum and mental health practices during the hospital’s years of operation, all of which are questionable. 

One thing that was especially enjoyable about Kallmekris and CelinaSpookyBoo’s video series was that, unlike some creators, they were very respectful of the space they were in, a trademark of dedicated urban explorers. Especially with people who engage in urbex for views, there is a tendency to make jokes and comments about any “spirits” that may or may not be present. Whether or not someone believes in the supernatural, it is still important to be considerate of the space being explored, especially if people died there (which is usually on the criteria list for a “haunted” location).

Throughout the multi-part exploration, the creators attempted to contact spirits through an assortment of several paranormal practices. With each one, they explained what they were using and what the purpose was. Their main goal was to learn more about the asylum and its forgotten victims.

These kinds of paranormal exploration videos are all over YouTube; they seem to be quite a popular genre of content, though they tend to spike during Halloween when everyone is looking for new spooky videos and fun facts to delve into during the season of scares. People explore hospitals, castles, hotels, bars, theaters and pretty much any structure one can think of. Though they often differ in tone and approach — not all take the same approach as Kallmekris and CelinaSpookyBoo — they make for entertaining seasonal watching. 

Whether audiences believe in ghosts and spirits is up for them to decide, but regardless, the spirit of Halloween is alive and well in the urbex community. Who knows? Some of the videos that turn up might even be located in Tech’s very own city of Atlanta.