Global Urbex: 12 Haunting Abandoned Buildings and Places

(Image: Jelle Goossens, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

The world is full of mysterious abandoned buildings, from magnificent ancient ruins to the industrial and urban decay of more modern times.  From historians unearthing the past to urban explorers photographing the industrial and social fragments of the past two centuries, abandoned buildings and places speak to our curiosity and drive us to explore.  Ironically, many become more photographed after falling into dereliction than they ever were during their active lives.

Essex County Jail, New Jersey

(Images: Laser Burners (, cc-nc-nd-3.0; AbandonedButNotForgotten)

Located in the University Heights area of Newark, New Jersey, Essex County Jail was built between 1837 and 1890.  Housing 300 prison cells, it was the main jail for Essex County before closing in 1970.  Abandoned and later gutted by fire in 2001, a proposal to demolish the decaying structure to make way for a science park was rejected in 2010 due to its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire, Tombeek, Belgium

(Images: Paul-Henri S, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire in the village of Tombeek, Belgium, is an abandoned hospital designed by architect Maxime Brunfaut and opened in 1937.  The Art Deco sanatorium specialised in the treatment of male tuberculosis patients and was used by the Red Cross during World War Two.  Latterly a nursing home, Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire was finally abandoned in 1987.

Abandoned City, China

(Images: cindyt7070 (see website) cc-nc-sa-3.0)

If urban exploring abandoned buildings and other places isn’t enough, the modern ruins of entire abandoned cities are often not too far away.  This silent urban area is one of several abandoned cities along the Yangtze River, depopulated to make was for the massive Three Gorges Dam.  As of June 2008, an incredible 1.24 million residents were relocated from the now flooded area.  Explore more abandoned Chinese cities.

Abandoned Power Plant, Philadelphia

(Images by Murtaza Paghdiwala (website), all rights reserved)

Philadelphia may not find itself in America’s decaying rust belt, but as a large industrial city there is bound to be a wealth of historic abandonments on urban explorers‘ radars.  This defunct power plant is a good example, photographed by Murtaza Paghdiwala.  Despite languishing in the grip of urban decay, some impressive machinery can still be seen on site.

Starlite Music Theatre, Latham, New York

(Images: Sebastien B, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Located in the hamlet of Latham, New York, and fondly known as “the tent” due to its original incarnation, the Starlite Music Theatre hosted such impressive names as Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis Jr. and Bob Hope.  Ultimately seating 3,000 people around a central stage, productions declined during the 1970s and after a long struggle, the Starlite was abandoned in 1997.  (Explore more abandoned theatres and cinemas here.)

Halcyon Hall (Bennett College), New York

(Images: Sebastien B, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Built in 1893, Halcyon Hall was the main building of Bennett College, a women’s college in Millbrook, New York.  At its peak, Bennett College schooled 300 students, but the increasing popularity of coeducation during the 1970s led to the institution’s closure in 1978.  Halcyon Hall lies in ruins today.  Heavily water damaged with trees growing through its walls, the abandoned building is a popular draw for local urban explorers.

Kirby Hall, England

(Images: Robert Kilpin, cc-3.0; Keith Evans, cc-sa-3.0)

Here’s one abandoned building you don’t need to be an urban explorer to check out.  Built over the course of a decade from 1570, Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire survives in a semi-ruined state and is managed by English Heritage.  Due to astronomical maintenance bills, Kirby Hall is one of many abandoned stately homes in England.  But it still came in handy as a film location for Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and the 1999 adaptation of A Christmas Carol.  Visitors can also enjoy the expansive gardens.

Hartwood Hospital, Scotland

(Images: Raymond Okonski, cc-sa-3.0; Ian Wilson, cc-sa-3.0; Transient Places, all rights reserved)

Known ominously to urban explorers as Hartwood Hospital & Mortuary, this abandoned psychiatric hospital was actually rather progressive for a former Victorian insane asylum.  Entirely self-sustaining with a farm and reservoir, Hartwood Hospital contributed significantly to the development of modern psychiatric therapies and nursing education before closing in 1998.  The body fridge, however, is still a chilling sight.

Abandoned Soviet Railway Station

(Images: English Russia)

Environmental Graffiti reports that this stunningly ornate abandoned railway station dates back to the time of the Russian Empire.  Located in the much disputed and conflict-torn region of Abkhazia, the station was once a busy passenger hub but fell into abandonment in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union.  Many fine features incredibly survive today despite nature’s relentless struggle to reclaim the land.

Abandoned Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, United States

(Images: John McNab, cc-sa-3.0)

Opened in 1956 for minor league baseball team the Minneapolis Millers, Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington ultimately became home of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins.  Hosting The Beatles in 1965, the “Old Met” stood silent and abandoned after the last game was played there in 1981.  It was finally demolished in 1985 and the site is now home to Mall of America.

Croix Rouge Ghost Station, Paris

(Images: Vincent Dejardins, cc-3.0)

Croix Rouge is a subterranean ghost station on the Paris Métro located between Sèvres Babylone and Mabillon.  Built when the line opened in 1923, Croix Rouge station was active for only 15 years before the outbreak of World War Two forced its closure in 1939.  Its silent platforms are not alone on the network – explore more Paris ghost stations and abandoned subways around the world.

Abandoned Mine, United States

(Images: autowitch (see website), cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Abandoned mines are among the most extensive and often dangerous subterranean abandoned places in the world.  Both historically and visually intriguing, mines and former mining settlements paint an important picture of our past and – in many cases – the desire to strike gold in the numerous rushes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  In terms of urban exploring, it’s best to investigate from the safety of your home PC.

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About the author: Tom





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