A group of teens exploration into a local abandoned building and old movie set

By Henry Carson

Not many people spent their quarantine in office buildings, even less spent time in ones that were abandoned. Left to sit several years ago, the building once stood out with bright red bricks and tall towers. Now the structure stands as a darkened, water-stained reminder of the company’s past success. While the outside vaguely resembles a medieval fortress, the inside is much more dank and reminiscent of a horror movie, with crumbling, wet ceiling tiles and broken windows covered in graffiti.

Quarantine was many things but the most overarching experience for everyone was extreme boredom. I was only allowed to see my friends outside, so a group of sometimes ten people went skateboarding almost every day in parking lots by our neighborhood. Across from these parking lots was a dark building almost completely covered by foliage with windows covered by rotting plywood. I had heard about the building before, rumors about scenes and remaining set pieces from the Red Dawn movie being filmed inside, and the possibility of entering. The view of the building was somewhat mystical, being the only structure in such a run-down state anywhere near me, it called out to my friends and me as an adventure to be had in a time where we had almost nothing else to do. Somehow one of my friends had heard of or discovered a boarded window that hadn’t been secured properly, allowing people to slip in.


Photo by Henry Carson

On the first level of the building’s parking garage you see large yellow curbs that some people consider to be desirable to skateboard on. One day my friends and I arrived to see a couple of skaters smoothing out wet concrete into a mini ramp. Shielded from the spring sun on March 17, 2020, my friends and I skated here.


One day my friends Drake, Brendan, and I prepared by bringing a flashlight and our skateboards and we peeled the wet plywood away from the window frame. The three of us found ourselves in a long, dark hallway with red granite and floor-to-ceiling tinted windows. We started by walking towards where we knew the center of the building was, based on what we could see from the outside.

Stepping over puddles of muddy water we eventually met a ceiling extending four floors above us and a large room with walls of windows peering into what were once the cubicles of K-Mart employees. The word Detroit painted in red from an office two stories up told us that we could get to the higher floors.


Under us was a damp lower area into which we could walk down staircases. The staircases were made of the same granite and red bricks that we found throughout the building. Drake was busy skating around in the lobby area, Brendan and I called him over and we told him to get his flashlight and follow us down the stairs. Stumbling through long hallways that reeked of fourteen years of mildew and settling dust, we found windows around a space that probably served as a reception area in 2006. Our group stumbled down a long hallway that was so dark it seemed to swallow the light from our phones. Lengthy hallways led us past several storage rooms and large bathrooms that hadn’t been used in years. At the end of the hallway, we walked up spiral steps encased in a brick cylinder that led to the cubicles we had seen from below. The old office space was a never-ending maze of graffiti-ridden walls with light fixtures hanging from wires. Big numbers titled the entrances to every office space, something that we noted to remember in case we got lost. Also on the wall were messages written by people who had come before us, some were harmless, such as references to The Walking Dead, poorly drawn phallic images, and names or art. Some others, however, were more foreboding, including satanic symbols and threats written out in predominantly red paint. We were unfazed, or maybe just bored, so we decided to continue despite this.


Photo by Henry Carson

Revisiting the loading dock on May 10. This place was one of the first areas my friends and I explored before we entered the building. We looked around this area for a door that hadn’t been bolted shut but failed. Regardless it still was a place we would skate and sit to escape the sun under the roof held up by large concrete pillars.



Oftentimes we would be separated and it would take a long time to locate each other, blocked by the occasional locked door and the never-ending repeating pattern of rooms. The building had many common themes like rotting ceiling tiles or old lightbulbs making every room seem eerily familiar. My friends and I used these random objects from the 2006 office building to take out our anger, destroying any small glass or fragile object we could find. Throwing metal poles like spears, breaking the windows separating office spaces which shattered into cubes instead of sharp edges. Any remaining chairs or desks weren’t safe either, being used to ride around on or pushed down staircases.


When I picked up what I thought was a white metal pole and attempted to break a piece of drywall I was surprised to see a flash of dust as it shattered in my hands. The pole was not as hard as I once thought and now covered my hand with tiny shards of powder-covered white glass that stuck in my fingers like small shiny thorns. Breaking random things and adding to the mess we had ventured into was probably the most fun I had the whole lockdown.


We found an auditorium with locked doors labeled ‘DON’T OPEN, DEAD INSIDE,’ other messages, and massive Halloween decorations that looked like they were from a school play with an unlimited budget. The twenty-foot-tall paper mache trees and pumpkins proved to be fun to knock over. The auditorium area had two or three stages with seating for about a hundred people each. Strewn about were greenscreens and other props that were for some sort of production, although we never put together what the few giant set pieces left behind were really for. This was a good area to skateboard because it was a rare space without puddles and floors without carpet. We dropped off the end of the stage and rode down the handicapped ramps, making use of anything we found that we could skate on including using old shelves as ramps.


There were also many outdoor areas enclosed by the building's walls that are perhaps more beautiful than they were fourteen years before. Ivy growing up to the roof and plants that hadn’t been maintained for years hung above us as we walked out into the area that was meant to be a space for people to take time off, it’s funny because that’s exactly what we were doing, taking time away from our online school and rooms that we sat in all day. We would relax in these areas and mess around as they were a good escape from the consistently awful smells we encountered inside the building.


One day I chose to stay home and got a call from my friends that had tried to get in saying that our entrance had been bolted shut that night, little did we know this was the beginning of the end. The next day we walked around the exterior of the building that couldn’t be seen by onlookers searching for a new way in, we couldn’t find one. This was frustrating, we searched for a day or two, and once we decided we couldn’t pry the one loose board apart from the wall after it had been excessively nailed we knew we had to find another way in. We came prepared, we brought a hammer and gloves along with our usual flashlight and skateboards. We tried for an embarrassingly long time to smash the window open with the comically small hammer until the tool broke and the head fell to the ground, defeated, we went back to attempting to remove the board. About four or five others and I pulled as hard as we could but still couldn’t break the large nails. Stuck once again, we began throwing things at the nearby window in another fruitless attempt to break our way in, this went on for some time until I noticed the metal remnant of the hammer under some leaves. I grabbed the broken tool and hurled it at the window as hard as I could. What we were left with was laughable, a small hammer-head-sized hole was left in the now somewhat cracked window. Still determined I put on the gloves to protect my hands, went up to the window and slapped it right above the hole I had just made. This sent a wave of glass cascading down in front of me causing me to slip off the railing I had to stand on to access the window. Shaken but excited, I saw the perfect new entrance, aside from some residual window left standing. I cleared the sill of remaining glass, crawled in, and hopped down into the dark hallway. The tinted glass we had just removed allowed sunlight into the room, illuminating the swirling dust and reflecting off the dark moldy water. The others followed just behind me. By this time we knew the building well enough to go to the places we wanted to while being cautious of becoming lost in the workspaces upstairs, as we still could get mixed up in the geese-infested hallways. We spent the day messing around inside as we had for the past two or three weeks. We left feeling accomplished and unstoppable.


Photo by Henry Carson

Trees cover the windows blocking most light from entering the building, adding to the ghostly feeling inside the abandoned building. The foliage overrunning every outside wall and the ground made certain areas difficult to walk through but even after many visits on May 10 the tangled net of vines and leaves still caught my eye.


The next day we arrived at the same entrance we had made the day before, I would say I had an underlying feeling of what could come but as we were breaking into private property day after day I can’t say there was a day any of us didn’t. This day I was the last to enter, my friends walked down the hallway into the once decadent entrance while I walked the opposite way to use the ‘bathroom’. I saw a figure outside walking towards where we had just entered. When I saw the glint of silvery gold on his dark blue hat I immediately ran towards my friends and told them we needed to find a way to leave as soon as we could.


One day my friends Drake, Brendan, and I prepared by bringing a flashlight and our skateboards and we peeled the wet plywood away from the window frame. The three of us found ourselves in a long, dark hallway with red granite and floor-to-ceiling tinted windows. We started by walking towards where we knew the center of the building was, based on what we could see from the outside.


Stepping over puddles of muddy water we eventually met a ceiling extending four floors above us and a large room with walls of windows peering into what were once the cubicles of K-Mart employees. The word Detroit painted in red from an office two stories up told us that we could get to the higher floors.


Under us was a damp lower area into which we could walk down staircases. The staircases were made of the same granite and red bricks that we found throughout the building. Drake was busy skating around in the lobby area, Brendan and I called him over and we told him to get his flashlight and follow us down the stairs. Stumbling through long hallways that reeked of fourteen years of mildew and settling dust, we found windows around a space that probably served as a reception area in 2006. Our group stumbled down a long hallway that was so dark it seemed to swallow the light from our phones. Lengthy hallways led us past several storage rooms and large bathrooms that hadn’t been used in years. At the end of the hallway, we walked up spiral steps encased in a brick cylinder that led to the cubicles we had seen from below. The old office space was a never-ending maze of graffiti-ridden walls with light fixtures hanging from wires. Big numbers titled the entrances to every office space, something that we noted to remember in case we got lost. Also on the wall were messages written by people who had come before us, some were harmless, such as references to The Walking Dead, poorly drawn phallic images, and names or art. Some others, however, were more foreboding, including satanic symbols and threats written out in predominantly red paint. We were unfazed, or maybe just bored, so we decided to continue despite this.


Photo by Henry Carson

Excited to reminisce on the many interesting building elements on May 10, I remembered this stairwell suspended mostly by itself. Much of the architecture in and around the building was seemingly ahead of its time in aesthetic, such as this staircase that’s built like it’s floating. Barely being held up by anything, and with large chunks missing my friend Ryan joked about jumping up and down on it until it broke.


Oftentimes we would be separated and it would take a long time to locate each other, blocked by the occasional locked door and the never-ending repeating pattern of rooms. The building had many common themes like rotting ceiling tiles or old lightbulbs making every room seem eerily familiar. My friends and I used these random objects from the 2006 office building to take out our anger, destroying any small glass or fragile object we could find. Throwing metal poles like spears, breaking the windows separating office spaces which shattered into cubes instead of sharp edges. Any remaining chairs or desks weren’t safe either, being used to ride around on or pushed down staircases.


When I picked up what I thought was a white metal pole and attempted to break a piece of drywall I was surprised to see a flash of dust as it shattered in my hands. The pole was not as hard as I once thought and now covered my hand with tiny shards of powder-covered white glass that stuck in my fingers like small shiny thorns. Breaking random things and adding to the mess we had ventured into was probably the most fun I had the whole lockdown.


We found an auditorium with locked doors labeled ‘DON’T OPEN, DEAD INSIDE,’ other messages, and massive Halloween decorations that looked like they were from a school play with an unlimited budget. The twenty-foot-tall paper mache trees and pumpkins proved to be fun to knock over. The auditorium area had two or three stages with seating for about a hundred people each. Strewn about were greenscreens and other props that were for some sort of production, although we never put together what the few giant set pieces left behind were really for. This was a good area to skateboard because it was a rare space without puddles and floors without carpet. We dropped off the end of the stage and rode down the handicapped ramps, making use of anything we found that we could skate on including using old shelves as ramps.


There were also many outdoor areas enclosed by the building's walls that are perhaps more beautiful than they were fourteen years before. Ivy growing up to the roof and plants that hadn’t been maintained for years hung above us as we walked out into the area that was meant to be a space for people to take time off, it’s funny because that’s exactly what we were doing, taking time away from our online school and rooms that we sat in all day. We would relax in these areas and mess around as they were a good escape from the consistently awful smells we encountered inside the building.


One day I chose to stay home and got a call from my friends that had tried to get in saying that our entrance had been bolted shut that night, little did we know this was the beginning of the end. The next day we walked around the exterior of the building that couldn’t be seen by onlookers searching for a new way in, we couldn’t find one. This was frustrating, we searched for a day or two, and once we decided we couldn’t pry the one loose board apart from the wall after it had been excessively nailed we knew we had to find another way in. We came prepared, we brought a hammer and gloves along with our usual flashlight and skateboards. We tried for an embarrassingly long time to smash the window open with the comically small hammer until the tool broke and the head fell to the ground, defeated, we went back to attempting to remove the board. About four or five others and I pulled as hard as we could but still couldn’t break the large nails. Stuck once again, we began throwing things at the nearby window in another fruitless attempt to break our way in, this went on for some time until I noticed the metal remnant of the hammer under some leaves. I grabbed the broken tool and hurled it at the window as hard as I could. What we were left with was laughable, a small hammer-head-sized hole was left in the now somewhat cracked window. Still determined I put on the gloves to protect my hands, went up to the window and slapped it right above the hole I had just made. This sent a wave of glass cascading down in front of me causing me to slip off the railing I had to stand on to access the window. Shaken but excited, I saw the perfect new entrance, aside from some residual window left standing. I cleared the sill of remaining glass, crawled in, and hopped down into the dark hallway. The tinted glass we had just removed allowed sunlight into the room, illuminating the swirling dust and reflecting off the dark moldy water. The others followed just behind me. By this time we knew the building well enough to go to the places we wanted to while being cautious of becoming lost in the workspaces upstairs, as we still could get mixed up in the geese-infested hallways. We spent the day messing around inside as we had for the past two or three weeks. We left feeling accomplished and unstoppable.


Photo by Henry Carson

This was where I was caught, there was no other exit that wasn’t being watched by police besides the front door of the building which had a plywood board that hadn’t been secured with anything. I made it about a hundred feet on foot before a police car pulled up next to me ending our journey. On May 10, more than a year after first setting foot inside the building it was sort of surreal to see the place where it all ended.


The next day we arrived at the same entrance we had made the day before, I would say I had an underlying feeling of what could come but as we were breaking into private property day after day I can’t say there was a day any of us didn’t. This day I was the last to enter, my friends walked down the hallway into the once decadent entrance while I walked the opposite way to use the ‘bathroom’. I saw a figure outside walking towards where we had just entered. When I saw the glint of silvery gold on his dark blue hat I immediately ran towards my friends and told them we needed to find a way to leave as soon as we could.


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