Why Are We so Attracted to Abandoned Places?

Why are people so attracted to abandoned places? How do you find them?
Christopher McFadden
Abandoned buildingshaunl/iStock

What is it about abandoned places that fascinate us so much? Of course, you may not give them a second thought, but many others are drawn to them like a magnet?

But why? And how do you find them?


What is so attractive about abandoned places?

Like anything in life, why someone likes something is usually very subjective and personal. While you might have absolutely no interest in visiting a ruin, you can bet there is someone else who 'lives and breaths' visiting these places. 

It's all a personal choice. 

From interviews with people who regularly visit these places, their reasons for being so attracted to them tend to fall into the following categories:

Each one is different: They love to see the unexpected in places that have long been devoid of human occupation. From trees growing out of bookshelves to old newspapers from the 1930s, you can never quite predict what you'll find. 

Pure curiosity: Many people who love to visit these places do so out of sheer curiosity. Who lived there? Why did they leave?

They are eerily beautiful - For many, there is a strange beauty to seeing something made by a man slowly, but inexorably destroyed by the ravages of time. Notably, during the Romantic period of art history, old medieval castles would be left to ruin, or ruined, only for their perceived aesthetics. 

Biochemistry and the unknown - As all of the above, they can't predict what they will find. "Ruin Porn" lovers may even find the experience exhilarating - especially in so-called "Haunted Houses."

What are some abandoned places

The world is littered with abandoned buildings, towns, and cities. The reasons behind their abandonment vary, and in most cases, they were never re-occupied. 

Why Are We so Attracted to Abandoned Places?
Source: Tama66/Pixabay

In most cases the main reasons for abandonment include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Economic collapse
  • Natural disaster
  • Drought and famine
  • Disease and/or contamination
  • Natural resource depletion
  • War/capture and sacking and/or massacres
  • A manmade disaster (like Chernobyl)

Whether they were abandoned thousands of years ago, or within the last few decades, chances are there is a deserted place near you right now. Without someone around to maintain the buildings, these places are often degraded by nature, time, and people, leaving a ghostly shell of its former glory. 

Around the world, there are many abandoned places from medieval castles to almost perfectly preserved log cabins in the wilderness. Many of them are absolutely stunning to visit and provide a useful reminder that nothing built by man can ever stand the test of time on its own.

Some notable examples around the world include:

  • Pripyat near Chernobyl - In the wake of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster the inhabitants of the city were permanently relocated for their safety. It remains mostly empty to this day. 
  • Oradour-sur-Glane, France - This town and its entire population were ravaged by German Armed Forces at the end of WW2 in the act of retribution for French Resistance activities. 
  • Hashima Island, Japan - Once a thriving mining city, Hashima Island was abandoned after mining operations ceased in the 1970s.
  • Merv, Turkmenistan - This was once thought to have been one of the largest cities in the world in its day. It was captured and sacked by the Mongols in the 13th Century AD and was never repopulated.
  • Picher, Oklahoma - Located near one of the biggest zinc mines in the world, the town was abandoned in 1970. Rising toxicity and exhaustion of the zinc ore lode forced residents to leave behind their former lives in the town. 

Of course, these are but a few hand-selected examples. There are many, many more around the world

How do you visit abandoned places?

Visiting abandoned places is much the same as visiting anywhere else in the world. But, in some instances, you may need to take some extra precautions before attempting a trip.

For example, Allianz Travel offers the following advice before setting on your quest to find that 'spooky' abandoned-place of your dreams. 

1. Get permission

Always assume that an abandoned place still owns it, or the land it is built upon. Do some research before you go, find the owner (if any) and ask their permission first. 

2. Research and mitigate the dangers

"Failing to plan is planning to fail," as the saying goes. Many old buildings have been derelict for a long time and might be structurally unsound.

Also, there is a reason that building, town or city was abandoned. From nuclear fallout at Pripyat to dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in the ground, don't put yourself at risk. 

3. Make sure they are open to the public

You can avoid a lot of issues by sating you desire to visit abandoned places at those sites that are freely open to the public. But just because they are public access, it doesn't necessarily mean they are not without their own risks. 

4. DO NOT Steal Things!

Do not, we repeat, do not take any stuff away from abandoned sites. 

"You may see magazines left on nightstands or children's toys scattered on the floor. Resist the temptation to grab an artifact on your way out. At best, you're diluting the experience for other urban explorers; at worst, you're desecrating a historic site," according to allianzetravelinsurance.com

abandoned places turkey
Varosha, Cyprus in 2006. Source: TomasNY/Wikimedia Commons

5. Don't go alone!

Apart from the obvious reasons for this, you can also get unprecedented access to some places by joining an official group. They may even have keys, or the right contacts, to get you into places not normally visible to the public. 

6. Don't wait too long

As time goes by, many abandoned places deteriorate in condition - like Angkor Wat, for example. Some through the natural ravages of time, others by their popularity to tourists.

One interesting example is the abandoned Star Wars film set of Mos Espa in the Tunisian desert. It is slowly being consumed by a sand dune and will be lost one day forever. 

7. Be prepared for the possibility it might be off-limits

Some abandoned places are just off-limits. One example is the former beach resort of Varosha in Cyprus. It has been fenced off and is guarded by Turkish armed guards. 

You run the risk of being arrested, or worse, if you try to visit there without permission. 

How do you find abandoned houses?

You can find abandoned houses much like you can find anything in life - research! Here are a few methods you could employ:

  • Google it! - The internet is a powerful tool and will probably be your first port of call. You can look for listings on estate agents websites or even try to find an online forum - chances are someone else has already been there.
  • Get out there! - Another method is just to drive around somewhere. You should easily be able to see signs of abandonment like overgrown gardens to boarded-up windows etc. 
  • Ask around - Another incredible resource is the local residents. Just ask around, and you are bound to pick up clues to find some abandoned houses. 

Obviously, before you actually visit those buildings, make sure you get permission and take the appropriate safety precautions. 

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board