The infamous Buttram Manfist
Location: Dallas, Tx
Obviously capable of mediocre things.
|How to: Deal with hobos, crackheads, and meth labs.|
< on 2/23/2011 5:04 PM >
|So, you want to be an Urban Explorer, eh? Congratulations! There are many risks and perils to consider with this sport. One of the biggest things that people seem to fear are other people they may come across in abandonments and snakes. I don't know shit about snakes, but I've met many, many homeless folks, vagabonds, and I believe they get a bad rap. They're easy to deal with and often quite nice. So, I'm going to write up my methods of deal with other folks you may meet. Feel free to talk what you will from this guide, but please, remember, be careful. Nothing beats common sense in a pinch. Remember too that these are just MY methods and MY opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the views of uer.ca or anyone else on this website.|
Face it. You're going to meet a hobo or a crackhead eventually. Even in the most mundane towns, you WILL run across a hobo. Come to terms with this now, so you don't act like you're looking at a ghost or a freak when you do. If you do, it ostracizes whomever you come across, makes them feel uncomfortable and won't motivate them to help you or let you be. Always carry a pack of cigarettes with you. Don't buy anything fancy, just a pack of filtered Camels will do. Bring them on every single exploration. Just trust me, do it. I'll explain later. They only cost about $6 a pack and no, you won't get cancer just from having them in a backpack in your closet.
I doubt anyone has ever lead a successful UE career without ever running into a hobo. They're also the easiest to deal with, and most are pretty cool people to talk to with interesting stories. Most of them can be goldmines of information on other locations if you can get it out of them. Most of the time you'll know if a hobo is in instantly, they usually hang out outside or will come out and talk to you as soon as they see you.
What to look for: Keep an eye out on the way in for 'new' trash. Chip bags with no dust on them, clean looking soda cans, anything that is substantially newer than the rest of the place. If you see lots of new trash, odds are someone frequents the place and may be inside. You'll know a hobo camp the second you see it. Old mattress or sleeping bag, maybe a futon cushion, surrounded by odds and ends like canned food, maybe a few books, toiletries and spare clothes. To figure out if it's an active camp and a hobo might be coming back, just look at his food- is it new? Is it fresh? Most hobos keep a small supply of perishables like bread or fruit, if you find some and it's still fresh, 99% of the time it's still active.
What to do if you meet: DO NOT freak out, act like you are grossed out by him or his stench, or treat him like he's a second class citizen. If you do you're just ostracizing them and they will be less inclined to have a friendly meeting. DO remember, YOU are in HIS home. ACT THAT WAY. If you see him, go greet him, don't ignore him. Introduce yourself. Be respectful, be courteous. Tell him you are not police, just freelance photographers out looking at buildings. Ask him if it's OK if you take some shots of the building. If he seems agitated or hostile, just tell him you're leaving and GTFO. It's not worth risking pissing off the guy, just leave and come back in a week. If he's outright irritated or angry, or otherwise obviously wants you to leave, give him your pack of cigarettes you should be carrying with you at all times, make no bones about it and tell him he can have them as an apology for invading his home. If the guy seems friendly, sit down and offer him a cigarette, smoke one with him if you're a smoker. Find out his story, they're usually fascinating. Tell him you like abandoned buildings and he'll usually tell you where more are. Once you know he's cool with you, proceed to explore to your heart's content and add a new chapter to your book of UE knowledge and experience.
Junkies are a little bit harder to find. Whereas you'll find hobos anywhere there is shelter, I doubt you'll ever run into junkies anywhere besides in town or in the cities. The reasoning is simple. Junkies can't buy drugs in the countryside, the drugs come from the cities. Add in that very, very few junkies have transportation besides their feet, they simply have no way to make it outside of town limits. And, if they can afford a car, they probably have enough money to afford to stay somewhere besides an abandoned building. Junkies are tougher to deal with than hobos, but they still don't pose an overly large threat.
What to look for: If you see lots of gang-related graffiti, keep your eyes peeled. Look for drug paraphernalia, needles, pipes, roaches, ect. Look for bloody clothes, torn clothes, or piles of objects that could be used as tourniquets, like phone cords, rubber bands or belts. If you see anything, stay on high alert. Immediately note anything that smells out of the ordinary. Most drugs have a very potent smell when you smoke them, so if you smell any kind of strange burning smell, beat it and come back later. Listen for voices, music, or footsteps. Look for lights in rooms that should be dark, like a lit room in a darker building that has no windows. See or hear anything, beat it, come back later. If you are exploring alone and you run into junkies, leave. Come back later, it's not worth the risk.
What to do if you meet: STAY CALM. DON'T RUN. Remember that if you come across a junkie, they're most likely high as balls. If you see them and then run, they're going to immediately assume you're either making off with their stash or running to get the police and chase you down, and damn, crackheads are fast. If you see one, and he saw you, try to gauge by his body language what he's thinking. Don't try to guess what he's about to do, remember that junkies are the most unpredictable people on earth. Don't get close to him but wave and say hi or something, try to immediately establish that you are not the police or a rival junkie looking to steal his stash. Keep your distance. Most junkies will quickly devolve into basic fight or flight reflexes when caught, if he gets up and leaves, let him go and hoof it, come back in a week. The last thing you want is to stay in the building when he leaves and find out hours later he just stole your car. DO NOT run after him. Let him get a few rooms ahead of you then calmly leave. If he doesn't seem like he's going to fight and he's not overly scared, just ignore him and calmly leave. Again, junkies are unpredictable as shit and probably smart enough to figure out that your car or something valuable that he can pawn for more drugs is waiting outside. If he approaches you, remain calm but be ready to run like hell. Offer him a smoke from your handy dandy pack, but do not let him see what is inside your pack or get too close of a look at your fancy, pricey camera. Briefly explain that you are a freelance photographer documenting the building, you got the shots you need and you're on your way out. Calmly leave, but never turn your back on him, ESPECIALLY if you are alone.
The notion that every junkie is just laying in wait to kill the next explorer that passes through is a myth. Think about it. The junkie knows he's not supposed to be there, and he knows he's not supposed to have those drugs. If he attacks you, especially if he kills you, it's going to draw huge amounts of police attention onto him, the building, and his drug scene. He'll be smart enough to realize that if he threatens/attacks you, he'll probably wind up in jail, or at least, his favorite haunt will be boarded up tight and his dealer put under more scrutiny. That's not to say it won't happen though, because again, junkies are unpredictable. Keep your guard up.
Ahhh, smells like teen spirit. Probably the next most likely people besides hobos that you will run into are the vagabond youth. Hipsters love to drop acid and paint or graffiti in abandoned buildings, teenagers love to use the abandoned house near the high school to skip class and smoke pot, and hitchhikers or backpackers will spend the night in abandonments. They're easy to spot from a mile away, passive, and hardly a threat.
What to look for: Crappy "art" like poor quality murals, canvas paintings, or 'deep' thoughts painted on walls. ("Urbart"... ugh.) Keep your nose peeled for the smell of pot, listen for laughter, music, conversation, or shitty simple 4 chord guitar songs about love and rejection.
What to do if you meet:
Point and laugh. No, not really. Hipsters and travelers understand exactly what you're doing and 99 time out of 100, if you're cool with them they'll be cool with you. Offer up some smokes from your handy-dandy pack to quell the waters if things seem tense, often they'll invite you to join in their festivities. Join if you wish, otherwise just keep poking about and enjoy the abandonment. Teenagers out to smoke pot are there because they are terrified of being caught, so if you run into them they'll most likely bolt and run, just laugh and enjoy having a good story to tell about the teenage stoners you ran off.
4. Drug cooks / meth lab.
Every explorer's nightmare come to life. In ANY abandonment, you ALWAYS run the risk of bumping into a meth lab or drug cooks of some kind, in which case, you need to be ready to RUN and you need to RUN fast. Drug cooks WILL kill you to keep their lab a secret and your body won't be found for a long, long time.
What to look for:
The lab itself will always be in the most secluded, hidden part of the abandonment, like an attic or basement, and it will always be guarded in some way. Tough looking guys peering out of windows or hanging out on stoops is NEVER a good sign, don't even try. Outside there may be unusually fresh piles of garbage like cough syrup bottles, household chemicals, or the like. Inside, keep an eagle eye out for homebrew alarm systems. Broken glass on stairs is a very common one, the crunching of glass will echo through the building and you can't run on it. Tin cans filled with pebbles attached to a trip line is another. The second you see ANY form of homebrew alarm system, turn and run, just get the hell out. Drug labs need good ventilation, so if you run into a hallway with every door propped open by cinderblocks or whatever, be very cautious. Also, your best hint at a drug lab is the smell. They are usually quite potent. Cooking meth lets off a sickly, burned sugar or caramel smell. Other drug labs may stink of ammonia, bleach, or petrol. Smell anything even close to that in significant amounts and beat it, something bad is going on.
What to do if you meet:
If there is ANY sign of a drug lab, run like hell. Drop everything and beat it as fast as you can. Again, drug cooks WILL kill you to keep their lab a secret and your body won't be found for a long, long time.
Worst case scenarios
1. Someone is physically attacking you.
Ethics be damned. If someone is attacking you or fixing to attack you, use ANY resource you have to defend yourself. DO NOT try to finish the fight, try to incapacitate your attacker for long enough for you to run like mad. Kicking him in the balls, use your thumbs to gouge his eyes, twist his nipples, or get ahold of his hand and pull his fingers in opposite directions as hard as you can. All these are great ways to stop someone, even if they are much larger than you, and it's all fair game. Camera tripods make GREAT clubs, steel toes boots dish out a LOT of damage in a fight. Get him off you, then refer to 2, being chased.
2. Someone is chasing after you.
Run, run like the wind. Don't leave any friends behind, strength is in numbers. DO NOT just run blindly hoping to find an exit, run for the NEAREST EXIT YOU KNOW YOU CAN GET OUT OF IMMEDIATELY. Don't think you can really quickly run to the back door and kick it in, you won't have time. Instead, run for the nearest door or window you know is open. Don't look behind you to see how close your pursuer is, that will only distract you from what's ahead and probably lead to you tripping and falling. Throw ANYTHING you can find on the ground behind you to try and make your pursuer trip instead, your backpack, your tripod, knock over tables and chairs on your way by, shut doors as you run through if you can, but don't slow down. Get out, but be ready to fight if they catch you. See the above paragraph.