The Italian Job

Venice

the ferry port at Marco Polo airport

There must be a circle of Hell reserved for packing and constantly being a kilo overweight. It’s no wonder we start suffering from packing anxiety a week before we leave! Preparing for holidays is the meant to be the exciting part. Not for us. We get so anxious that we don’t have enough food, or money, so we take way more than we need. We also get anxious that we’ve forgotten something and that our luggage is too heavy. We have a scales so we can test it, but once we’d added our customary vegan shortbread, our suitcase gained weight faster than people at Christmas. Who knew shortbread would put so much weight on? Fortunately, sacrificing one carton of soya milk and an ice block helped the weight issues. But then that made us worry that we won’t find somewhere we can eat. We also worry about getting to and from the airport and finding our apartment.

VeniceWe got up at the ungodly hour of 2:30 a.m. to leave at 3:30 a.m. Junctions 25 – 26 of the M4 were closed, so they diverted us back on to the M4 in the opposite direction. Diversions signs said to get off at J27, so we did. And followed the diversion signs all the way back to J26. Maybe this was another circle of Hell we were trapped in. This time, when we got off at the slip road, we used our classic trick of following the car in front and hoping it knew where it was going. It did. We managed to find Broadfield farm with no problems and just had to wait for the farmer to finish milking the cows to get a lift to the airport. Travelling isn’t all glamour y’know.

VeniceOur suitcase was exactly the weight our scales said it was, so there were no embarrassing incidents in baggage area. Although us and Tom suffered the body scanner and a vigorous pat down from security. We assured the woman that the metal showing up on the image was in fact our underwire bras, but she had a good feel just to make sure. She even checked Cat’s hair. Nothing hiding in there, love, but we hope you like the feel of wax on your fingers. On the plane, Cat was sat beside a couple who hogged all the window space. Lynx felt horrendously sick all plane ride and just about refrained from vomiting into the doggy bag in her pocket.

Venice

finally at our apartment

We managed to book tickets and find our way to the Alilaguna ferry with no problem. Are we…becoming responsible? Will we finally battle our travel anxiety by proving to ourselves that we’re competent? You know what pride comes before. And our fall was about to be more epic than Lucifer’s. Though we were sadly not given a kingdom to rule.

VeniceThe ferry ride in was lovely. The ferry stopped at Murano, which is famous for its beautiful glassmaking. It was our first visit to Venice. We had to do it in style. It would be the first of many boat rides. There was a boy on the ferry we could have cheerfully thrown over the side to swim with the fishes. He spent the entire ride reciting numbers and working out Maths problems to show off to his mother what he’d learned. Why don’t children come with off buttons? Come on evolution, this would be valuable to the survival of our species.

Venice

Rialto Bridge

Then it all went to shit. We were supposed to meet someone to take us to our apartment. In hindsight, we should have waited longer. Although further hindsight revealed that wouldn’t have made a difference. Nobody could get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us and we couldn’t get hold of our host. We decided to find our apartment ourselves using an online map. The online map is a dishonest charlatan. We ended up walking for over two hours, to the middle of Venice, lugging our 20kg suitcase, 8 kg hand luggage and 7kg rucksack up and down hundreds of steps over the many bridges. If we don’t have muscles by the end of this holiday, we will be pissed.

VeniceWe ended up by some sort of school, judging by the amount of screaming kids in the courtyard. That noise was really not helping our stress levels – noise stresses us out at the best of times. We managed to get in to what we thought was our apartment building. A resident informed us we were in completely the wrong part of Venice. And seemed more concerned about who let us in and getting us out as quickly as possible.

Venice

this is where we ate lunch most days – by the Grand Canal

We returned to the Rialto Bridge and decided to ask for help in a handbag shop. We met a lovely guy who not only got out a map to try to find it, but also found a street address book and tried to phone our host for us. When we told him we were from Wales, he said “Swansea or Cardiff?” His mum was helping him, though she didn’t speak English, so he was translating for her. You sir, are a hero.

VeniceWe eventually found the right apartment and waited for an hour in the entrance hall. Still no sign of our host. Luckily there was a settee in the corner, which we named the settee of despair. We returned to the ferry port. Turns out, we were about 5 minutes from our apartment. We were about as happy as someone sitting comfortably on an Inquisitor’s chair. We texted our mum to tell her what was going on, so she suggested phoning Airbnb and got us the number for the Italian one.

Venice

it’s carnivale time in Venice

We spoke to a lovely guy called Luca. He managed to get in touch with our host and she rang us back. She was currently in Brazil. She and her husband continuously tried to get hold of the person who was supposed to meet us but she wasn’t answering her phone. So they arranged for someone else to meet us. Someone who couldn’t speak English. Meanwhile, Tom and Amy managed to salvage some of the day by finding a chip shop that did vegan chips. Luca rang back to see if we were ok and told us to get some food and drinks, photograph the receipt and email it to him. He’d then reimburse us up to €50. He was so nice and phoned us several times to see if we were ok and whether we’d got in to the apartment. That’s customer service for you. A couple entered the apartment building, saw Cat and stopped dead. The woman looked genuinely  terrified and refused to walk past her for a minute. When she did, she passed by as far away as she could then hurried on. Was it the blue hair? The piercings? Or the murderous look due to the shitty day we’d had? It was the blue hair, wasn’t it?

VeniceOur host arranged for someone to meet us at 6 outside MacDonalds. Luckily there was only one MacDonalds nearby so while Tom guarded our bags, us and Amy headed out to meet our new greeter. We had fifty minutes to kill so wandered into Lush. A smiley man greeted us and insisted on rubbing pink heart soap on our hands then giving us a hand massage. It was a Valentine’s offer, apparently. Rub away, sir! Another man tried to persuade a couple to accept the soap and massage, but they refused, so Lynx volunteered again. We were then dragged over to crumble some powder into our hands then wash them off in this soft foam. A lady then gave us the same soap and massage treatment. So while Tom sat alone with our bags, we were getting hand massages. We’re not sorry, we deserved it.

Venice

looking towards the Bridge of Sighs

The lady arrived on time and took us to the apartment. Luckily we were in the right place. She walked at a blistering pace and didn’t slow as she climbed the many, many stairs to our apartment. By the time we were halfway, our thighs were burning like Hell’s fiery lakes and we were tempted to tell her to go on ahead and leave us to die on the stairs. We had to lug our 20kg bag up the stairs. Our apartment is on the fourth floor and the stpes get steeper the higher you climb. There is no lift.

VeniceBut we were finally at our apartment and it was lovely. We unpacked, did our 130 squats (we’re doing the 30 day squat challenge) and marked off the haunted places on our map then decided to head out and explore while we waited for Lesley to arrive. Venice is so much nicer when you’re not dragging nearly half your body weight up countless steps and glaring like gorgons. We made our way down to San Marco but somehow managed to miss St Mark’s Square. We blame it on being dark. And on us not looking left. And poor map reading. Venice is lovely to walk around at night. There’s not much nightlife, so there are no drunken louts and the streets aren’t crowded. It feels safe to walk around, even down the narrow alleys. Luckily there were no little girls in red coats leading us astray.

16819074_1450718771637061_4416583587394694314_oLesley arrived at 10:45 so we went to meet her, took her back to the apartment so she could drop her bag off then went to find the nearest pub. Which wasn’t very near at all. In fact, we wandered across half of Venice until we found a tiny bar and had lovely vodka and lemonades. We have tried to find this bar again since and have failed dismally. Maybe it never existed. We got back to the apartment at gone midnight. Our aching bodies had now given up.

VeniceThere’s one thing we’ve noticed about Venice – there are a lot of lovely looking men around. The level of attractiveness just seems to be generally higher than we’re used to. We might need to make Italy a regular holiday destination.

Installing Updates

Sorry, it’s been two months since our last blog post. There just hasn’t been any news to report, apart from countless rejections and we save those for Twitter. Though we have had an acceptance – To Sleep, Perchance to Scream, a story we wrote back in 2008 and have recently reworked will be appearing in Thirteen Vol 3: The Neverending Nightmare. We tend to hibernate from ghost hunting/urbex in the winter ‘cos it’s bloody cold and we’d rather not freeze to death and become ghosts ourselves. Though that would mean we’d finally get some on the show. We’ve been busy working on a new project which we’re very excited about – our first comic! The fantastic guys at Hellbound Media asked us to write a short comic for them based on monsters from the silver screen and naturally, we said yes. We’ve been wanting to move into comics for a while but had no idea how to write one, as it’s a very different format to short stories and novels. But with their help, we’re learning and are now working on adapting another story into a comic.

Silent DawnIn December, we released Silent Dawn, our first YA book. We decided not to tone down the horror for a younger audience. We were reading adult horror at 12 and we turned out…anyhoo, it is available on Amazon in ebook and print. We’re currently editing The Devil’s Servants, set during in 1649 during Edinburgh’s witch trials. It’s sort of a sequel to The Malignant Dead. This will be our next release this year.

Birmingham Horror ConNow it’s February, con season is starting. On Saturday we were at Birmingham Horror Con and had a great time. People who met us at Horror Con UK in Sheffield came to see us again and some online friends showed up as well. We spent a long time cuddling snakes and faced our lifelong fear of spiders by holding a tarantula, Pandora. It’s something we’d never thought we’d do and we’re pleased we summoned the courage to hold her. We’ll probably still flee in terror the next time a garden spider scuttles towards us but for a few minutes, we were brave. And we have photos to prove it.

Birmingham Horror Con

Cat and Pandora

Birmingham Horror Con

Lynx and Texas

We’ve also been busy with our new obsession – polefit. We haven’t been this obsessive about an exercise since horse riding which we gave up when we were 16. Depression’s a bitch. Though we have an intense fear of being upside and falling, which doesn’t help when we have to do upside moves and let go with one hand. One day we hope to be able to do them without being scared, but that’s a long way off. Though it’s better to be scared and concentrate on doing the move right then throwing ourselves into it and fucking it up. It took us 11 years to get over our social phobia, so we’re hoping to conquer this fear much quicker.

Polefit

Lynx doing an Upside Galaxy

We’ve improved a lot since we started in September  – when we started, we couldn’t straighten our legs because of tight hamstrings. Due to doing flexibility stretches every day, we can now straighten them and thanks to a two hour flexibility/contortion class, we are now closer to doing the splits! We also have a pole in Casa Raven and spend a lot of time watching Polefit videos on Instagram and wishing we were those ladies! Now that our legs are finally on display, we need to tattoo them. At least we potentially have a new career when we run out of money. Twin Goth poledancers hasn’t been done before. As long as we can keep our clothes on. While we enjoy giving people nightmares, we prefer to do it through our writing, not through inflicting our nudity on people. Check out the video for our first three months of Polefit.

Cat doing a Reverse Layout

Cat doing a Reverse Layout

Next week, it’s our birthday and we shall be spending it in Venice! We’ll arrive on Valentine’s Day and while the Italians have only recently started celebrating it, Venice is meant to be one of the most romantic cities. So naturally, we’ve found all the haunted, gory locations and will be visiting them with Calamityville regular and fellow birthday girl, Lesley. Other Calamityville regulars Tom and Amy are also joining us but as it’s their anniversary, we shall leave them to their romantic slushyness and go off chasing ghosts and little girls in red coats. The carnivale will be on while we’re there. We also plan to visit Verona and recreate the famous Romeo & Juliet scene on the balcony. We’ve been practising important Italian we’ll need – chips, ice cream, vegan, bill please, hello, goodbye, thank you and please don’t arrest us.double-figurehead

So here’s a list of our upcoming cons for this year so far if you want to come and say hi.

February 25th & 26th Digicon – Doncaster.

March 4th and 5th Cardiff Film and Comic Con (we’ll be lowering the tone at Hellbound Media’s table)

March 11th Optimus: A touch of horror – Bristol

April 21st – 23rd Whitby Goth Weekend Bizarre Bazaar (we’ll be in the Pavillion theatre)

May 6th Oldham Comic Con we’ll be doing a reading, though haven’t decided which book we’re reading from.

July 1st & 2nd Swansea Horror Con (we’re guests! Well, we do have Swansea blood, so it’s only fair.)

July 15th Edgelit – Derby

October 14th Bristol Horror Con

October 28th & 29th Birmingham Horror Con Halloween Special.

12 Days

Eight Maids MilkingWe have exciting news – our short Christmas horror story, is out now! Eight Maids Milking is part of a charity Christmas horror anthology, edited by Matthew Bob, with all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Each of the 12 days stories are being released individually as ebooks (you can buy ours here for the UK and US) then they’ll be put together with Christmas carol inspired stories in the 12 Days anthology, which will be released in both ebook and paperback.

Blurb:

Everyone craves the perfect Christmas.
No-one’s prepared to make sacrifices for it.
Except eight sisters who work hard every year to give people the Christmas they see in TV adverts. The world doesn’t appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go in to making Father Christmas’s suit and sleigh every year. Of course, it’s not the sisters’ blood, sweat and tears, but their victims. One kiss under the mistletoe and their chosen men become unwilling sacrifices to the ancient festive god, who looks nothing like children’s books depict. At least, not until he uses his magic to transform himself from a nightmare into the fat, drink-driving present-giver children love.
And the typical jolly little elves are false advertising compared to the miserable, hideous, Christmas-hating elves employed in the workshop. Their faces are enough to curdle the eggnog. But secrets are what make this time of year special. And no-one can ever guess the special ingredient in Mother Christmas’s Secret Santa Pies. But it’s definitely not turkey.
This December, be careful who you kiss under the mistletoe. Or this Christmas, you may jingle your bells for the last time.

Also, Silent Dawn’s ebook is now available for pre-order! You can pre-order it in the UK and US.Silent Dawn

Silent Dawn cover reveal

Behold our beautiful cover for our next release, Silent Dawn! We’re hoping to release it 13th December, but these things never go to plan so that might change. Once again, we teamed up with the incredibly talented River Rose who has created a better version of Silent Dawn that we could ever imagine. Watch the book trailer.

silent-dawn-print-cover-copy

She’s coming…

Dark Gathering

Wow, it’s been a while since our last post. We’ve been quite busy so haven’t had a lot of time to blog, as we’ve been catching up on other stuff. Since we last blogged, we’ve done two ghost hunts – at RAF Rivenhall in Essex and the Savoy Theatre in Monmouth – and we’ve been selling our books at different horror cons – Bristol in October and Wales Comic Con at the start of November.

Tom Wlaschiha

us and the gorgeous Tom Wlaschiha

We got to meet one of our childhood favourites, Mr Motivator, and attempted to flirt with Tom Wlaschiha, who played Jaqen H’Ghar in Game of Thrones. We say ‘attempted’ because we may have given him a backhanded compliment. He told us we were going on his list. Considering he plays an assassin, this may not be a great list to be on. But as we say to our best mate, Neen, the day we stop embarrassing ourselves, the Fates will grow bored of us and cut our mortal coils. Our next con is Whitby Comic Con on 19th November. We’re staying in a youth hostel on Whitby Abbey grounds, so naturally we’ll be spending our night ghost hunting and looking for Dracula. We’ve also been commissioned to write short stories for a few anthologies, so they’ve been keeping us out of mischief.

Dark GatheringBut we have some good news. Our poem, Banquet of the Damned, was published in Swansea and District Writers Circle’s horror anthology, Dark Gathering. We wrote the poem back in 2009 and it’s about the damned and demons celebrating the end of days with a lavish feast of human flesh. We don’t often submit poetry – mostly because our rebellious natures don’t respond well to all those rules and restrictions. Plus we can never remember what the rules are.

14732139_887577514676349_6067987868793053303_nAlso, our short story, Death’s Cold Kiss was shortlisted in To Hull and Back‘s humorous story competition and published in the anthology. We wrote this story in 2007 – it was one of the first short stories we wrote and has always been one of our favourites. It’s set in the waiting room of the afterlife. The main character believes she’s being stalked by the man of her dreams, but he’s actually a grim reaper. And definitely not Mr Right. This would probably happen to us.

But wait, there’s more. We know, usually, as our mate, Andrew said, if we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. And we didn’t even have to sacrifice someone to ancient god to make this happen. Bit gutted about that. We’d bought the robes and everything. But our story, The Eden Project, won third place in the British Fantasy Society Award. The judge loved it and said it takes the knife to celebrity culture and society’s obsession with beauty in a witty way. It’s set in a futuristic world where natural beauty has diminished so retreats were set up to breed beautiful people, who then earn their keep by being film stars and models. The story follows twins Leah and Shania, who tour the human safari park and learn that beauty has an ugly truth. It was written in 2009 but has had several rewrites since then, including a new ending. We actually gave up on it for a couple of years, but needed a story for a competition, so worked on it, improved it, and submitted it. After a couple more rejections, it’s finally found a home and will be published in the BFS journal. We cannot wait.

And our short story, Penitence Ball, was accepted in an anthology, Welcome to the Dance, but we don’t have a release date yet. Again, it was written in 2009 and was inspired by My Chemical Romance’s ‘To the End’ where they mention a penitence ball. We originally wrote a poem, based on what we thought a penitence ball would be like, then turned that poem into a story. Every Halloween, those who died with regret, rise from the dead to dance at the penitence ball. If they accept what brought them there, they can leave the dance. If they can’t, they must return every year until they do.

Clearly, 2009 was a good year for ideas, but our writing wasn’t up to standard for them to be published. Perhaps in 7 years, the stories we wrote this year will be published.

Polefit

Cat doing the geisha

And in completely unrelated news, two months ago, we started doing PoleFit at KT Wild’s Vertical Fitness and we absolutely love it. We thought we’d be shit at it but we’re not too bad. Except for yesterday’s lesson, when Lynx was upside on the pole, fell and landed on her shoulders and head. Considering how much we fall over on Calamityville, we’re surprised we haven’t fallen off before. So if this writing malarky fails, at we now have a Plan B…

Polefit

Lynx doing the gemini into a handstand. She fell off in this position

Seeking Asylum

Talgarth AsylumHiding from vans, crawling under fences and getting covered in anti-vandal paint. Our urb ex adventure to Talgarth Asylum was…challenging.

Talgarth Asylum opened March 18th 1903 for 352 patients at a cost of £126,000. There was a public ceremony to celebrate its opening. It was built with a compact arrow design so two points could be reached quickly. Originally known as the Brecon and Radnor joint counties asylum, it became Mid Wales Hospital in 1932.Talgarth Asylum

During WWI, many soldiers were admitted after suffering shell shock, and prisoners of war were also patients. During WWII, 67 male patients and 48 female patients were transferred there from Cardiff City Mental Hospital (now known as Whitchurch Hospital, where we go for therapy), which had become a war hospital. In July 1940, they decided to make Talgarth a military hospital and civilian patients were transferred to other mental hospitals in Wales. It returned to being a civilian hospital in 1947.

Talgarth AsylumBy 1955, two extra wards were added and in 1965, a treatment ward was built. It started closing in the mid ’90s and finally closed in 1999. The grounds house the hospital buildings, five family homes, a tennis court, cricket pitch and a chapel. Like most asylums of the era, it was self-sufficient, with its own water, heating and sewerage system. Patients grew the hospital’s food on the farm. Inside there was a recreation hall, dining room, kitchens and workshops, such a tailor’s, baker’s, shoe-makers , printing shop and 8 market gardens. Patients worked there as part of their rehabilitation.Talgarth Asylum

In 1948, it became a NHS hospital, where they introduced art and occupational therapy and integrated the sexes. Some buildings were used for the Mid Wales College for Nursing and Midwifery and the Powys Drug and Alcohol Council. They also provided care for the elderly mentally ill, rehabilitation and continuing care, day care, reflexology, physiotherapy, ECT, chiropody and psychiatry. After its closure, patients were transferred to Bronllys hospital, which was previously known as the South Wales Sanitarium.

Talgarth AsylumIt was sold to the former chief medical officer for £227,000 and several buildings were sold off and converted to become Black Mountains Business Park. Due to the isolated location, this failed. In 2009, it was put up for sale. Most of the slate, which was worth £1 million, was stolen from the roofs and the gatehouse was sold.

Talgarth AsylumWe’ve wanted to explore Talgarth for years. After our failures at Denbigh Asylum, Talgarth became top of our list. But rumours of asbestos and tight security had always put us off. Then we started urb ex and became a bit more confident. We found people who had explored it recently and suddenly the cameras, security guard, guard dogs, fences and anti-vandal paint seemed a lot less challenging.Talgarth Asylum

The trip started badly when halfway there, Cat realised she’d left the action cam at home. The camera DESIGNED for urb ex. She was furious with herself. The hospital is easy to find, with big pillars stating Black Mountains Business Park. There’s no gate. We parked much further up the road in a nature reserve and walked. That way, if anyone saw our car, they’d think we were in the woods. We even cemented that deceit by venturing into the woods until the family parked by us left. James Bond could learn a thing or two from our techniques. MI5 if you’re reading this, we are available for casual spy work.

Talgarth AsylumWe headed up a driveway and found ourselves in someone’s farm surrounded by ponies. They watched us, like they knew why we were there. Big signs on the fence stated NO ACCESS TO HOSPITAL. We were convinced they were lying but turned around anyway. We didn’t fancy being shot in the arse by an irate farmer as we scaled his fence and made getaways on the tiny ponies. We continued down the road and discovered the pillars further down.Talgarth Asylum

Then we encountered our second obstacle: workmen RIGHT BY the goddamn pillars. We casually strolled past while a Range Rover drove through the pillars. We loitered, looking highly suspicious while we debated what to do: fetch the car and drive in or walk. Both ways meant walking past the workmen. And the Range Rover was yet to come out. We decided to use a tactic that has never failed: act like you’re supposed to be there and nobody stops you. It served us well in Las Vegas hotels, we were confident it would work well here.

Talgarth AsylumWe walked past the workmen and up the private road. This was daring. There were witnesses. We lamented our lack of chloroform and other knockout gasses. James Bond would’ve been prepared. The hospital greeted us like a stonework Tantalus as it stood smugly behind its palisade fencing topped with barbed wire. The Range Rover was parked beside the chapel, opposite the main entrance. It was empty. We doubted security or urb exers would have a Range Rover – they’re usually used for school runs. We walked past. The main entrance has no doors but does have palisade fencing. We continued on. Then heard a van. We darted behind a bush but Jack and Laura weren’t as quick and were convinced they’d been spotted. We hid until the van drove away. We’d barely begun and our nerves were getting shredded!Talgarth Asylum

We toured around the hospital. There was absolutely no way in. Every wall, roof and fence had coiled barbed wire. The main hospital was more secure than a bank vault. But we don’t give up. To quote Fallout Boy, we don’t know how to quit. Then another van drove in, with dogs in the back. Again, we darted behind another bush. Jack definitely got spotted. The van stopped. We stayed very still, hearts pounding. Was our adventure over before it had begun? Then Cat saw he was looking straight at us. He’d stopped just past the bush. We now looked very suspicious. We were trapped. He could see us standing behind the bush looking dodgy. Cat took photos of the building behind us. The longer we stayed, the worse this looked. We had no choice. We had to leave the bush. So we strolled out, taking photos and filming, acting like we hadn’t seen him and employing our ever faithful ‘act like you’re supposed to be there and no-one stops you’ rule.Talgarth Asylum

The van driver called out. “Excuse me, what are you doing?” Lynx “Just having a look around.” Cat “Our relative was a patient here many years ago so we wanted to see this place.” Lynx “We’re doing our family history and wanted to see where they were held.” We already have done our family history. Jack had come up with the relative story earlier. It was the perfect cover. The van driver drove off. Was that the security everyone was so worried about? It seemed too easy. Did he believe us or was he going to fetch the police? Maybe our D&D roleplay is proving useful in real life. Well, it went better than our D&D roleplay, which usually ends up with us being arrested.

Talgarth AsylumThen we found a way in to one of the outer buildings. This one was right by someone’s farm. We donned our asbestos masks and crawled through the base of the door. And were immediately hit by an eye-watering stench. Was that faeces or our hopes of access rotting? Jack thought people put the stink there deliberately to keep people out. It almost worked but if this was the only building we could get in, we had to brave it.

Turned out we were in one of the additional ward buildings, as we found a ward office upstairs. Every floor was coated in moss. This was one of the safest buildings, which says a lot about the dilapidated state of Talgarth. As is our rule, we explored upstairs first. A small Care Bear toy sat on the stairs. Didn’t think Care Bears were the urb ex type, as they’re against rule breaking.Talgarth Asylum

There wasn’t much to see in the ward building, just empty rooms with the carpets and curtains left behind. As we left, we realised were covered in black anti-vandal paint. Us and Jack had it all over our hands and it stained Jack’s grey hoody. We didn’t see the paint and there was no signs warning it was there. It’s around every window, board and doorway. Another van passed us. We didn’t even attempt to hide and he didn’t stop. The Range Rover woman returned to her car. She’d been walking her dog.

Talgarth AsylumWe wandered around looking for a way in to the main building. There was a wooden flap that said oil. Cat was doubtful and wondered if it was a way in. The flap was right. She was now standing in oil. Then she went down steps to what turned out to be a storage room and for the first time, we didn’t have torches. So she took photos using her camera flash to guide her way around and make sure she didn’t imitate Laura by falling through a hole in the floor.

Talgarth AsylumWe found another building and circled it. Rooms were filled with junk furniture. The base of the windows were open but smeared with anti vandal paint. And the gaps were roughly one foot high. We decided to use our skinniness to our advantage. Cat found a table in the undergrowth and put it below the window before climbing up. Anti-vandal paint was everywhere, but this is why we wear PVC for urb ex. She slipped through the gap easily. Lynx followed. We’re like tiny gothic ninjas. Jack and Laura didn’t want to attempt it so stayed outside while we explored.Talgarth Asylum

We found a social room and cartoons drawn on one of the walls. There were large laundry containers, unused syringes still in their packets and lots of furniture. All the doors at the back of this building were wide open. We found what looked like air raid hangars filled with junk. Toys, filing cabinets, a VHS player, cassette tapes and a child’s bike. We explored around the back of the building and found a fence to the main building. With a gap underneath. It’s what looks like an old stream bed or drainage channel. It had concrete slabs in but after a brief check, we realised if we could shift the slabs, we could crawl under. Never mind urb ex, this was more like a prison break. Step aside Schofield, there are new tattooed prison breakers in town.

Talgarth AsylumWe returned to Jack and Laura and relayed our plan. But we needed to find another way around, rather than through the windows. We climbed out and headed for the main entrance to see if we could squeeze under the fence. Bear in mind, we were standing in full view of the hospital, discussing how to break in. Yet nobody threw us out or called the police. Cat got her head and shoulders under the fence in the main entrance but there is one major issue with being female urb exers – boobs. They get in the way of crawling under low fences. She squiggled out and stood up. She was filthy. Again, this is why PVC is perfect for urb ex as it wipes clean.

We tried the church. No way in. We returned to the building with the narrow windows. This was our only hope. Then Cat discovered that the green metal fence that blocked off the building, went into a hedge. And there was a small gap. We battled the holly bushes and all squeezed through. We shifted the concrete blocks and by lying flat and belly crawling, managed to wriggle under the fence and into the gardens. We hoped there was no guard dog here as there was no way to make a swift exit and our pride would never recover from being dragged out of the hole by dogs as we’re wriggling free.Talgarth Asylum

Then we found a low open window. This was the easiest part of the whole adventure. We were in the main building! We’d gone to Talgarth expecting to be thrown out by security, chased by the guard dog or arrested. And yet we were standing inside the main building. As long as you get past the fences, there is no problem accessing the main buildings.

And then we saw why they’ve gone to such lengths to keep people out. It’s dangerous. We kept our masks on the whole time we were inside the buildings due to the asbestos risks. There are signs warning of it all around the hospital. We’ve seen people online who’ve gone in without masks. It’s not worth it. We bought a bulk box so they worked out at less than £1 each. We’d rather look a little ridiculous than get cancer.

Talgarth AsylumDownstairs the buildings aren’t so bad except for a few holes in the floor and some side walls missing. But upstairs, every single room has fallen through to the one below. At one point we walked along a corridor and every room either side of us no longer existed. We left that bit. We explored another corridor that had half collapsed and the moment we felt the floor sink, we bid a hasty retreat.

In one building we couldn’t even get upstairs as the roofs had collapsed on every stairway. For some reason, we felt really uneasy in the main buildings. Normally once we’re inside, we feel safe, knowing no-one can see us. Outside is where you’re in danger of being caught. And there was no way anyone could see us in here. But we didn’t particularly like being in there. We felt really nervous. Heart poundingly nervous. We’ve never experienced this in any location we’ve been in, not even when we’re ghost hunting. And we’ve slept in haunted jails!

Talgarth Asylum

chapel

We explored a bit more and found the enormous dining hall with the stage! This is what we mostly wanted to see. The stage is pretty much intact and the skeletons of chandeliers hang from the ceilings like gibbet cages. Weirdly, there’s hardly any graffiti in Talgarth. Probably due to the difficulty of getting inside.

We didn’t explore all of the main buildings. We’d been at Talgarth for three hours and seen maybe half of it. But we were felt we were starting to push our luck. We’d already been seen a few times and questioned once. While we wanted to explore the rest of it, we felt it was best to leave before we were thrown out. And now we know how to get in, we can always make a return trip. Providing the security people don’t read this and block up our bolt holes.

Talgarth AsylumWe left without encountering anyone. Which is just as well considering how dirty and paint covered we were, there was no way we could hide what we’d been doing. We strolled casually back past the workmen and returned to our car. We’d heard that locals deflate urb exers’ tyres at Talgarth so we took a foot pump with us but our tyres were left alone. Probably because we were parked nowhere near the hospital. We left victorious. Talgarth was one of the toughest locations in urb ex and we conquered it. Now we’re unstoppable…

Oh and anti-vandal paint comes off in the bath.Talgarth Asylum

Urban Foxes

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.

Mountain Ash HospitalAfter 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalThis 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalOriginally 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalLaura 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalOur 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalAfter 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalAll 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe’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.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalMore 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.)

Mountain Ash HospitalThe 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.

Mountain Ash HospitalBut 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.

The morgue.

Mountain Ash HospitalIt 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. Mountain Ash HospitalSadly, 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.”

Mountain Ash HospitalWe 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. Mountain Ash HospitalWe’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.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe 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…Mountain Ash Hospital