04/05/2002 Entry: "New Cane Hill Story - The Dresser

Finally, I am getting round to some of the newer adventures we have had at Cane Hill. These are after the old adventures, a couple of years back, and aren't in a chronological order. The pictures are mostly random (thanks Ed!) - we hardly ever used a camera, mainly due to poor results and being seen.

We were visiting the hospital regularly, now at night. Why we started going up there at night, I don't know. It is harder to be seen without torches, but you need them to navigate the treacherous corridors and rooms in pitch black. The camera flash becomes a beacon to anyone outside.

I both loved and hated being there at night. It was a lot more daunting at night, the blackness of the buildings and trees looming over you, contrasted against the glow of a London sky. Parts of the public footpath round the outside of the building are so dark it is impossible to see, no matter how well accustomed your eyes are to the dark. Inside was worse in places.

The fears you have are mixed - ghosts, police, rudeboys, nutters, dwellers, guards. You never know which one you are most at risk from. If anywhere was going to suffer a case of severe hauntings and paranormal activity, this would be it. It's also a great place for nutters to live in, hide bodies, and create scenes that scare the shit out of any normal person. Added to this now is the real risk of prosecution if caught, or worse still, being burnt alive in a fire.

Driving up to the hospital, knowing you were going to go in, headtorch and other tools to hand, started the adrenalin pumping. After leaving the vehicle, we would walk to the point where we would hop the fence. We always paused to make sure no one was watching. More adrenalin - after you are over the fence you are one step further from the safe, normal, real world. Ungracefully throwing ourselves over the 7 foot high chain link fence got easier and easier every time.

Once over, we would run to the building, to our entrance, always the same place. This felt like the point of no return, the decision to go on or stay out was made here. I often had "bad vibes" at this point - not just small amounts of fear or worry, but a real sense that if we went in, something bad was going to happen. Others felt the same feelings now and then. We never ignored this, even though it was completely irrational.

Once in, that was it. We wondered all over, but the place was so huge, we saw so little. This was compounded with the fact that we often got lost, found dead ends, got scared and left, went back to the same places, and took other on "tours". We came to know the place quite well, noticing the small changes in the objects left behind all over. The place really felt like "ours". No one else knew it like us, unless maybe there was something we couldn't see, touch, smell, or hear lurking in the buildings.All the floors are covered in a mixture of broken ceiling and floor tiles, plaster, wood, glass, pigeon shit, and any other products of almost 15 years of decay. Walking quietly is impossible, even standing still silently is difficult. Moving in the dark was equally hard, with the many twists and turns, broken doors, fallen ceilings and other obstructions. We assumed anyone else in the building would be making noise using torches. So every now and then we would stand dead still, turn off the torches, and listen. Silence was good, noise was bad.

Problem was, the wind, rain, random animals and decay caused the building to make noise. Half the time it was impossible to tell if it was human or not. The air conditioning units on the transmitter huts fooled us a few times, as did the plastic flapping doors found all over. After some incidents, it seems that it maybe wasn't the most effective method.

Nearly every trip, we got scared to a certain extent. We normally dealt with it or rationalised what was happening. At times we walked quickly to leave. Sometimes we ran. Once or twice we sprinted. Most of the time it was weird noises, sirens, barking dogs, shouting, or we thought we saw something or someone. Sometimes, you would just feel like the hospital was the last place you wanted to be in the world. This feeling could come on suddenly in somewhere which was fine before, or be an area which always felt bad. I think it's always best to trust these feelings.

So, that is a general exploration. Every single time we went in was slightly different though. There were discoveries of interesting and weird places, funny reasons to get scared, and just plain unexplainable events. I don't think any of us can remember it all, but we'll try as hard as possible. Now for the first tale. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

It was during the early days when we were exploring the lower floors of the concrete ward blocks near to our entrance. They are well preserved, with the doors, ceilings, carpets, windows, and lifts relatively intact. They are however almost completely empty. All you tend to see is a few lamps left above the beds and any furniture that is screwed to the wall (some of the smaller rooms have shelves). No beds, desks, tables, or anything. Remarkably little rubbish or dead pigeons either.

Down one side of the building, there are small rooms, the rest of the floor is open space, used for beds. The different coloured carpet running down the middle denotes the "corridor". There are recreation areas, or “dayrooms" where the building is slightly wider, where seats, tables and a TV would have been available to entertain the many patients.

We were just wondering, and had no idea where exactly we were. There was something on the predominantly empty floor. Someone had taken about 40 square section sticks of wood, and built a little cage around an old Sprite bottle. Two sticks are placed parallel to each other, then another two perpendicular to those on top, and so on. The builder had exacting standards, with almost perfect angles and no overhang on the end - all the sticks are exactly the same, carefully placed. Every time we went, it was still there, intact on the floor. It was strange that no one ever destroyed it, being so fragile an noticeable. We just ignored it as something a bored explorer had done.

Turning a corner just on from this, we see something large in the middle of one of the dayroom areas, lit by dimly by the weak beams of our head torches. As we near it, we see it is a cheap chipboard dresser. It has two cupboards at the bottom, with 3 shelves on the top. Standing right bang slap in the middle of an otherwise entirely furniture devoid area, aligned perfectly along the ward. I suppose it could have been left behind, but it doesn't look like hospital furniture.

What is more chilling is what is on the dresser. On the 3 shelves, and the top of the cupboards, are various greetings cards. About 15 on each shelf, all perfectly stood up, all facing the same way, precisely lined up. Each one is to a different person. Birthday cards, from the youngest to oldest person. Anniversary cards, Christmas cards, condolence cards, everything. Neatly ordered on the shelves. In the middle of an otherwise empty building. Other peoples cards.

Opening the cupboards, you are greeted with a gathering of shoes (of varying sizes), some clothes, and tupperware boxes. Not as carefully arranged, all quite dirty. But again, something that someone had to collect and place here.

I don't suppose we thought about it much whilst we were in there. It didn't seem that strange. In retrospect, I think this is the one thing that makes me realise how scary that place is. It send shivers through me when I think about it. Someone had to put in a lot of effort to do this.

We thought it may be a joke, but it is far too subtle. If I wanted to scare someone, I would have used something obvious like leaving animal bones about, or Blair Witch style figures. I don't think any normal person would think of something like this.

We went back to this area lots over time. The dresser remained, as it was when we first found it, the cards standing up, doors closed, untouched. We decided to lay each individual card down on the dresser, carefully, as not to damage anything.

Two weeks later we returned to the same area, and deep down we thought there was no way that the cards would be standing up again - who is going to care? Explorers wouldn't stand them up, and vandals would just trash it.

We were wrong. When we reached the dresser, it was exactly as we had found it months earlier. The cards, all perfectly stood up. Obviously, for whatever reason, there was someone out there who did care.

I haven't seen this area of the hospital in several years. It may now be gone due to fire, but hopefully not. One day we might get back in and get some photos.

© Andrew Tierney 1998-2002