Climbing in morgue fridges, falling down holes and getting spotted by a suspicious man with a garden strimmer. We went urb exing again. And it went well.
After our successful Red Dress Manor adventure, the urb ex bug had bitten us hard and we wanted to go out again. We haven’t been ghost hunting since April and are having trouble finding places we can afford or places that don’t require Public Liability Insurance. Most places don’t even bother replying to our emails, so our planned summer of ghost hunting has turned into our summer of urb exing. We’d heard about Mountain Ash Hospital a few months ago and now we were going to explore it.
This time, we were prepared. As usual, we check with urb exing forums to see how recently people got in and if they had difficulty. We then scoped out the hospital on Google Earth, (which we didn’t do with Red Dress Manor) looking for places to park. Unfortunately, Goggle Earth was from 2009 – when the hospital was still open – but there was an orange Mini Cooper convertible in the car park. It’s like the hospital was expecting us. An urb exer had taken photos showing the road to the hospital was blocked, but Google Earth showed us what looked like a path from the roadside through some trees.
Originally built in 1910 as Mountain Ash Cottage Hospital, it opened as a General Hospital in 1924, with a grand opening ceremony that saw marching bands and hundreds of people. It seemed everyone from Mountain Ash had attended. It closed in 2011 when Ysbyty Cwm Cynon opened. Five years later, Mountain Ash General Hospital lies ruined. Ease of access has meant people have completely trashed the place. Windows are smashed, graffiti covers the peeling walls and not a single room is intact. There’s no indication of it being a hospital – no equipment, no wall signs, no rusting stretchers, no paperwork. Nothing that is usually found in abandoned hospitals. Even the copper pipes from inside the walls and the roofing tiles have been stolen. It’s a shame because half the fun is seeing the history of a place. Red Dress Manor wouldn’t have been the same without the insurance documents and exercise books. Plus places look creepier if they’re left intact. The Marie Celeste wouldn’t have been as famous had it been trashed.
Laura saw on Twitter that in July, police mentioned there were neighbourhood patrols of the hospital. Considering how easy Red Dress Manor was, this worried us. We don’t exactly blend in. We wouldn’t have it so easy twice in a row. Whenever we have good luck, several bouts of bad luck always follow. Fate doesn’t like us having nice things. But we had a plan – pretend one of us was injured and we were looking for a hospital. Considering the regularity with which we’re injured, this was plausible. Or we could dress as doctors/nurses/patients and act natural. We considered dressing as Silent Hill nurses but we’d have trouble seeing and would probably get hurt. Plus, the way they move (awkwardly and only when hearing noises) would hinder our exploring.
Our SatNav, Helen, directed us the wrong way. She said “turn right” as we approached a right turn. So we did. Only to end up on the A470 heading back to Cardiff. It turned out, she meant a right turn further down the road. Listen Helen, we take things literally. You tell us to turn right, we’ll turn right. Don’t tell us to turn right, if you don’t mean it. This is where misunderstandings and falling outs happen. Our brains weren’t wired for subtext and mind reading.
We turned around in Pontypridd and headed back up the A470. She’d cost us three miles then randomly spoke to us, saying “did you say something? I didn’t catch that,” indicating she may now be sentient. She sounded a little sarcastic, like we’d insulted her under our breaths so she was doing the whole ‘I’ll pretend I didn’t hear it, see if you say something different’ thing. After the tempestuous relationship we had with AA route planner, Helen seemed so different. Perfect, almost. Now we seem to be arguing all the time. She’s stroppy, she sulks, she blames us if we take her directions literally, if we go a different route to the one she suggests, or if we stop off for the toilet, she refuses to speak to us. We’re not sure these relationships are worth the hassle.
After the slight mishap, we reached Mountain Ash Hospital no problem. We parked in a bay on the side of the road then continued on foot, heading up through the gap in the trees we’d seen on Google Earth. Though dressed in PVC (it wipes clean so is perfect for urb ex) and armed with cameras, it was clear we weren’t in the area for a casual stroll. The original road up to the hospital has corrugated steel gates with ‘private property, keep out’ graffitied on them. We knew we were in the right place. There was no-one around. We reached the top of the wooded slope and there it was.
All the doors and windows are open or smashed. There’s no climbing, no fences, no barbed wire, you just walk in. So we did. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were finally inside an abandoned hospital. Then Laura fell down a hole in the floor. Lynx had called a warning as she went on ahead. A door partially covered the hole and as Cat was saying the warning, Laura plummeted, like a hanging victim through a trapdoor. It was hilarious. Only one leg went down luckily as the door covered the rest of the hole. She didn’t even cry out or swear during her descent. Jack was helpless with laughter, Lynx missed it as she was ahead but the moment Laura fell, Cat’s hero instinct kicked in and she dashed to save her, pulling her out of the hole and brushing her down. Laura had somehow managed to keep hold of her phone, which was impressive. And the whole thing was caught on camera.
We’d only been inside about two minutes. It was one of the funniest things that has ever happened on our adventures. And we’d left our first aid kit in the car. Tom had owned the crown of ‘worst accident on Calamityville’ after receiving a blood injury in Monmouth Shire Hall, (and is the reason we now carry a first aid kit) but Laura is the new wearer of that crown. We then covered the hole completely with the door to stop other explorers coming to any harm. We’re becoming responsible in our old age.
We headed upstairs, thinking if someone came, at least we’d explored up there. The roof has completely gone and most of the walls are missing. People had sprayed ‘Trump for Prez’, which shows the mentality of the taggers. There was also UKIP graffiti, which again, shows that the people who trashed the place operate on a subhuman level. One lot of graffiti read ‘I’ll be a better man today’. Not entirely sure graffitiing a hospital counts as an act of self-improvement but at least he seems willing to change.
More stairs led up to an attic area and we actually accessed the roof. We didn’t stay up there too long because we’d easily be spotted parading around on the roof of an old hospital and we didn’t want people with air rifles taking pop shots at us. It’s not a working hospital so being shot in the arse with a pellet would really sour the adventure. Our first aid kit doesn’t contain tweezers. (Note to selves – add tweezers.)
The main building wasn’t as big as we expected. There weren’t any large wards that you’d expect from an old hospital. As Cat and Jack were in a small room, a man walked past with a strimmer slung over his shoulder. He stared at them almost in acknowledgement of fellow rule breakers. Cat quickly turned away, applying the ‘if I can’t see him, he can’t see me’ method of hiding used by small children and kittens. Jack didn’t see him. Lynx had spotted the small boy with him but not the man. We thought he might have been part of the neighbourhood patrol we’d heard about, but he didn’t call out or tell us to leave so he was obviously exploring the place like us.
But we kept a closer eye on the windows after that. We left the main building and headed to the other buildings. We always feel exposed outside. We can be seen much easier and have nowhere to hide. And with our cameras, excitement and fabulous dress sense, there’s no way we can pretend we’re there to act as security to keep out pesky kids. There was no hint of what the other buildings were, as again, they’d been stripped bare. One housed the rusting generator. Then the final building was the one we’d most been looking forward to.
It looked nothing like a morgue. Only the fridge was still there, though the door had gone. Who would steal a morgue fridge door? How would you get that home? There’s no way to nonchalantly walk down the street lugging a fridge door. Graffiti on the side of the fridge read ‘dead as fuck’, which is at least true. Well, you’d hope people put in the fridge were dead. We took a photo then in true goth style, took turns to get inside and lie on the rollers. Sadly, unlike in Newsham Park hospital, there are no slabs to lie comfortably on. And the rollers made manoeuvring around inside a tad tricky. But if we see a morgue fridge, we have to get inside it. The way we have to pat every cute animal we see. As Oscar Wilde said “I can resist everything except temptation.”
We wandered around the outside of the hospital and luckily, the man with the kid had vanished. Maybe it wasn’t a strimmer he was carrying. Maybe it was a chainsaw, and a group of horny youths were about to meet a grisly end. Though we’re not sure Mountain Ash Chainsaw Massacre would be a hit. Hoping he wouldn’t return with the police and some angry neighbours, we headed back inside the main building to find our way out. We’d taken some ghost hunting equipment with us but our K2 battery died and we’re always so paranoid we’ll get caught that we don’t like staying longer than necessary. We like to explore every single part in case we’re asked to leave, whereas when ghost hunting, you need to stay in one place for EVP sessions and calling out. Though we did ask for any doctors to come and take a look at Laura’s leg. None responded so maybe any ghost doctors don’t work weekends.
We still can’t believe it was so easy. We half expected the police to be waiting for us when we reached the road. You’d think that two successful urb exing attempts would give us confidence. But it makes us suspicious. Fate must have something nasty planned for the next adventure. Maybe we’ll be eaten by a guard dog, or worse – the Wrong Turn cannibalistic hillbillies. Maybe we’ll be thrown in jail and be Big Nora’s bitches before lights out. The possibilities are endless.
Cat and Jack reached the road first and hid behind trees when cars came. We waited for all cars to go then casually strolled out and returned to the Mini. There was no letter on our windscreen and no angry man with a mallet threatening us. Now for our next adventure. If you don’t hear from us again, we were mistaken for horny youths…