Urban Legends

When the plans for entering a location include Batman/Batgirl costumes, a grappling hook, a kosh and Jelly Babies in case we get hungry, we knew we were in for a fun episode. Episode two, season two of Calamityville Horror was an episode with a difference. Forget the stunning castles, creepy jails and spooky haunted caves. Yesterday was an urban exploration episode. In Pontypridd. The place dubbed one of the worst places to live and is nicknamed ‘Chav Town’, where being mugged for 20p is a regular occurrence. Our guest Rich, recounted his 20p attempted mugging story in full hilarious detail. We started out in the Malster’s Arms, the scene of Ryan and Rich’s drunken youth and also a location we used in one of our novels. The cellar bar is apparently haunted by a maid who hanged herself. Unfortunately we discovered there is no longer public access to the cellar bar. We strongly suspect Ryan and Rich’s drunken youth might have contributed to this 😀 Then we moved on to the location that spawned the wild access ideas dressed as Batman. The abandoned 1880’s theatre above the indoor market.

If you’re imagining a grand Victorian theatre, think again. The outside is a big, ugly concrete block. With no windows. Surrounded by a 12 ft wall. Attempts to squeeze through the padlocked gate failed so we headed into the market hoping to find a disused staircase. No such luck. We’d found photos on an urban exploration forum. Someone had managed to get inside and tantalised us with images of old seating and screens, projection equipment and the derelict beauty of a long forgotten theatre. Inside this hideous concrete slab was a stunning, crumbling timecapsule of Ponty’s history, locked away like a fading film star.

Cat tried to squeeze through the main gates but failed. Lynx tried to slither under another set of gates, but again failed. A couple of passing chavs helpfully told us to try using boltcutters. KNEW we were missing something from our ghost hunting kit. A new plan was needed so we we entered the market, hoping to find a hidden staircase that would lead us to our golden chalice.

We cased the outside, lurking suspiciously by some large metal gates at the back of the theatre. Someone called Rich’s name – an ex colleague of his, Kae. We explained why we were acting like loitering bank robbers and she was really interested in the show, so we invited her to join the episode after she finished work. We then snuck up the fire escape to see if we could slip in to the theatre that way. The stench was gut wrenching. We were in the area with all the bins, including a large vat of chip fat, slowly cooking in the sun. Covering our noses, we fled the scene and headed into an army surplus store, to see if we could gather equipment for our dramatic entry. We pictured ourselves emerging from the store dressed in full camouflage gear with a bag full of weapons, equipment and steel toe cap boots. The owner told us we’d never get permission to get inside the theatre and said our best bet would be to go in ‘covertly.’ According to him, if a window was broken or open, it wouldn’t be classed as breaking and entering if we got inside. They even offered us props to use for filming and said if we were caught by the fire escape, to tell security he sent us round there to take his rubbish to the skips. Think we found ourselves an accomplice.

We went to the pub to eat and plot then returned to the theatre with a renewed determination to gain access to this concrete Tantalus. Rich easily scaled the 12ft wall and disappeared down the other side. And that’s as far as he got. So instead we decided to add some special effects and Ryan filmed us and Rich diving dramatically out the way and hitting the floor as a missile hit the padlocked gate. Then security moved us on, claiming ‘you boys look dodgy.’ Yes, he meant Ryan and Rich, not upstanding citizens such as ourselves. Apparently there was an attempted break in at the theatre the day before and he helpfully informed us there was CCTV everywhere and we should wave at the cameras as we pass. Think he was hinting at something, but we couldn’t figure out what. Maybe he was suggesting we looked so stylish, we should admire ourselves on the monitors, as they would be doing. We were more annoyed that someone may have got in where we failed than we were at being moved on.

So we headed to our next location – a demolished outdoor swimming pool in Ynysangharrad Park. Except the whole of Ponty seemed to be there. We were conspicuously overdressed. There was more flesh on display than at a swimsuit contest, without the toned bodies. Two police officers seemed to follow us around the park. Whether it was the filming equipment that attracted their attention or the lack of nudity on our part, we weren’t sure. We sat near a big hole in the boards surrounding the swimming pool but there were too many people for even our ninja skills. After watching the Ponty natives barbeque themselves, we headed for the River Taff to photograph the graffiti. The most shocking piece we read declared ‘Kieran likes Tesco.’ That must’ve been an awkward moment when his mum found a Club Card in his wallet. And to think, everyone thought he was devoted to ASDA!

After returning to Rich’s to regroup, we met up with Kae to rescue the episode with our last planned location. The demolished shopping precinct. We strolled along the pavement then one by one, slipped through a small gap in the big boards  blocking the area off from the peasants. We disappeared down a staircase in the ground and found ourselves in the basement of a gaming shop. Gingerly treading across the broken phone fronts and soggy packaging, the two of us crawled through a gap in the wall and found ourselves in an underground delivery car park. We explored the darkened openings, the rest of the crew mysteriously vanishing. After five minutes, we heard someone approaching. Wondering if Michael Jackson had risen from the dead with a gang of badass 80’s punks to enlist us in a dance off of Bad, we limbered up. Turned out it was our crew entering through a different way, so ducked into a doorway. When they were close, we jumped out on them. Rich said he knew we were hiding but there was nothing they could do about it. The car park was wonderfully dark and creepy, the smell of damp rank as we investigated the rubble strewn stairways in the shops basements. If ever there was a suitable location for a horror film, this was it.

At one point we heard footsteps above us and hid behind the open doorway into another area, praying we weren’t discovered. None of us wanted to end the day in jail, especially since we’d promised to front up our guests’ bail money should that terrible event occur. We decided not to tell them the money in our wallets could only stretch for a couple of rounds in the pub. That would be bad morale for the crew. All was quiet so we resumed our urban exploration. As we were setting up the camera for our group shot, Lynx heard one of the shutters moving, like someone on the other side had banged in to it. We found our way to a rubble free staircase and emerged above ground, hissing at the burning ball in the sky like the vampires of Gothic horror legend. We scuttled across the vast cement floor of what used to be the precinct to the hole in the boards, slipped through and strolled casually away through the traffic jam. So while we managed to avoid driving through pedestrian zones (mainly ‘cos Rich lives within walking distance of everything), we’ve probably been caught on CCTV loitering with intent outside the theatre and trespassing the demolished shopping precinct. We know how to show our guests a good time!