Thursday, 8 October 2015

Return to Vanity House

For those of you who don't know, last Saturday was the five year anniversary of my first adventure. That is, five years since I climbed the back of a derelict Burger King, and found my way mto the entire place through a trap door on the roof and became addicted to the possibilities. Since then my addiction has taken me rooftopping, scurrying around abandoned buildings, construction sites, and underground tunnels, as well as the much cheekier game of infiltrating active sites. It's also led to me writing this blog.

A lot of "meaning of life" pondering went on in those days. Or rather, ponderings of profound bafflement about why people were wondering the meaning of life on a large multi-species scale. A universal meaning of life, that is. Often this sort of pondering leads to the belief in something after. And I get asked about my knowledge in ghosts a lot, because haunted places walk hand in hand with abandoned places. I do have a rant for that, but it's an unpopular one among ghost believers and sceptics alike. Luckily it's all speculation anyway!

Back to the meaning of life though- Personal beliefs aside, all we really know of our destinies is that we die. And I don't mean to sound morbid, because I'm not thinking morbidly. (I've spoken before on mortality, and that awareness of it is liberating because the acceptance that I will die someday is what encourages me to do all that I can with my healthy bipedal primate body now while it's young and fresh, non-arthritic and physically capable, and with my human mind before I lose it completely, unless that's already happened in which case who cares?)
Why are ponderings of a universal meaning of life baffling to me? Because according to nature we're just here to make babies! Nature doesn't care about the individual or their personal priorities. Nature only cares about the progression of the species. The dilema of course is that we are a species of individuals. I think the question of the meaning and purpose of individuality is infinitely more perplexing than the meaning of life.
So I think it's up to the individual to say to themselves "What can I do to give my life meaning? What will I be able to look back on when I'm dying that will make me think that it was all worth it?"

You see what I mean? We each have the power to make something from nothing, and that makes us like God. Go out and enjoy yourselves.

But uh... read the rest of this blog first please.

So with the exploring anniversary, a plethora of birthdays and a leaving extravaganza, it's been a pretty fun few days. One of my friends was even taken and replaced by an Illuminati shapeshifting reptile. Great times! Happy Birthday to everyone! On a somewhat related note that has sprung to mind (it was her birthday too) if anyone reads the blog of Chelsea The Adventurer, you would have seen me in a wetsuit and safety jacket taking part in an epic Gorge Walk out at Betws-Y-Coed which involved a lot of scrambling up rocky walls, jumping into pools of water and squeezing between rocks. It was loads of fun. 

Meanwhile, to celebrate the five year anniversary of my exploring, I grabbed the nearest palindrome to be my accomplice for the day and headed back to Vanity House, finding that the car graveyard outside the house had evolved into a vast jungle.

I've written about this place before, but I only had a phone and not the lovely camera you readers donated the money for. I'm overflowing with gratitude still. For a little exposition, Vanity House is a house in Shropshire that was left empty after the owners wife passed away, and he allegedly couldn't bear to live there anymore. Some say this is false and that the owners are now in residential care, leaving the house abandoned. When I first explored this place in April, I was relieved to find that it had not yet gone the way of Calcott Hall. That is, idiots hadn't planted some gimmick artefact, and the media had yet to snatch it up, expose it, and draw every thief and vandal to check the place out.

And it is for that reason that the usual disclaimer is all the more important- I do NOT disclose locations. I do not force entry, vandalize, or steal.
Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. Blah blah blah.

Starting with the lounge. I probably mentioned on the original article, it happens to have a massive sinkhole. The house itself doesn't have a cellar, but everything in the lounge, including my Palindrome accomplice, gravitated towards the hole, and some of the furniture was possibly even plugging it. We had to step very carefully around the edges of this room.

 Something had definitely changed. I realised that the place was a lot less messier than it had been on my earlier visit, if such a thing seems possible. But that was not all I'd notice.

The card containing the name Osbaston House was particularly intriguing. It's near Oswestry. I've heard that this house has been demolished, but prior to that, it was yet another abandoned house on my to-do list, left abandoned after a gruesome incident in 2008 where a man killed his wife and daughter. Given the distance, it was unusual to find this card in Vanity House, but hardly surprising. Other explorers must have left this, during a multi-abandoned house adventure.

The hallway was a lot sturdier than the lounge. The sewing machine was long gone, probably stolen.

On my last visit, this wedding picture was on top of the piano. Why it was moved is anyones guess. The jam is the real mystery though.

It's labeled and dated 2004, which actually makes it the most recent dated object in the entire house unless I'm waaay off and it's actually from 1904 or something, in which case we have antique jam! All the wall calendars are dated for the 1980s, which is a much clearer indication of when this place was initially abandoned. Finding food in here with a later date is more an indication of squatting than anything else.

This room on my previous visit was full of records, now gone.

The piano remained though! Good luck lugging that out across the car graveyuard jungle!

The piano still works! It's such a delight to find something like this is an abandoned house.

The calendar on the wall is dated 1980. Has this house really been abandoned for that long?

Another calendar, clearly made by children, shows that the owners did have children or even grandchildren. Of course, the pictures reveal that too. All of this just further raises the question- why is so much left behind? Even if the house owner died, surely there are people who can inherit all of this.

This small calendar is dated 1997 which is almost 20 years later than the wall calendar and really adds to the mystery. If this place was lived in up until 1997 why was the calendar on the wall never changed?

Also among the clutter was an unopened bag of Werthers Original. The sell by date on this pot was 2002, so I wouldn't recommend eating any of them. But how long do they last anyway? 

Here's a bottle of Lactulose. Lactulose is used mainly to help with constipation.

Well this sure is a pretty kitchen. 

This is a pretty impressive cobweb. The resident spider wasn't visible though.

When looking through the old phone photos of this place, I was quite intrigued to see that there was a dish rack on the draining board on my last visit. Who would take something like that?

Nobody stole the towels. Now there's a surprise.

We went upstairs, and I was quitely hoping that the objects up there were still left as they were.

The bathroom was the biggest surprise. On my last adventure here I actually couldn't enter this room, as the stench of mold was far too overwhelming. Now the door was open and the smell had dissipated. 

I am loving those spider webs in the window.

There was a sewing machine on this table on my last visit, but it seems to have been taken away.

And above this fireplace was, on my first adventure, a small collection of clocks and a picture. I seem to remember laughing off a story about this place that the owner was obsessed with the concept of time, and that this explained all of the clocks. However I've seen a lot of this sort of thing, where reporters or other explorers will rearrange things to suit whatever story they need to sensationalise a house and make a good article, as if the adventure itself just wasn't enough. Calcott Hall is a great example, and I'm still of the opinion that the famous red dress of "red dress manor" was planted in there for a gimmick. Vanity House requires no sensationalisation. Sometimes an abandoned house is just an abandoned house.

I found the picture that had hung above the fireplace. It was now hanging in the bedroom. 

 And curiously enough, the bed itself was no longer as covered in clutter as I remember. It was as if someone had tried to tidy up.

 I realised when I saw the dressing table that it was just more of that same old sensationalisation though. The dresser was originally empty, but someone had gone to the trouble of arranging things on it, as if they wanted it to be on display for an explorer. It would have been eerie had I not known the truth.

Somewhat stranger was the fact that the second bedroom was pretty much as I'd last seen it.

And the third? Truly peculiar. Someone had pulled the dressing table away from the corner, which was now taken up by a toilet chair. The dressing table itself was placed in the middle of the room, and decorated with a bunch of clocks, no doubt to sensationalise it all further.

Beyond that was the bed. Now, on my earlier adventure this room smelled like death and body fluids. I had the horrifying thought that the owner had died in this room. The bed at that time was stripped. So who then has come along and made it all up again? Who would take the time to make a bed in an abandoned house when there was a big deathly stench emanating from the mattress? Squatters?

On my earlier visit, a pink corset had been on top of the wardrobe, but that too had been taken away.

Onto the final room, the only disapointing quality was the theft of a clock that once sat on the dressing table in the corner. It was part of what made it so photogenic last time.

And you see, this is why I am so reluctant to disclose locations to people. I say every time that I don't do it, and every time I still get a wave of messages asking me for locations. But I'm firmly against stealing from these places, and rearranging them to suit some story, and so I won't play a part in facilitating those actions. This is all that remains of someones life, and I'm not comfortable with taking that and twisting it. And that is why I prefer to keep the location of places like this to myself.

Onto the barn... As far as barns go, it's pretty generic.

Upstairs was surprisingly sturdy, although there was a gaping hole in the wall.

But interestingly there was a pile of toys, games and books. It was as if someones childhood had just been bundled up and hidden up here where nobody but explorers would ever see it.

And we'll close on this lovely naked Ken doll.

And that's Vanity House. It's only a matter of time before it does become further trashed and pillaged, so I'm glad I've gotten in and out twice now to photograph it. No doubt there was a time when it was even nicer. In the bedroom above the lounge was obvious damage to the walls, no doubt the cause of the hole in the lounge pulling that entire side of the house down, so it was great to check this place out while it lasted. In the past I've described abandoned places as though they were sandcastles, albeit a lot more complex, but equally as temporary, although longer lasting. So it's really good to see these places while they are here, regardless of what condition they are in, because someday Nature will just swallow it all up.
In spite of the changes and alterations made by less respectful visitors, it is still eerie to see the remnants of an entire life just left here for nature to slowly consume. The photos of children add to the mystery. Where are the owners family members now, and why is all this still here?

If anyone does have any information about Vanity House or any other place I've mentioned, feel free to get in touch. I'm on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Find me, Add me, we'll be buddies!

In the meantime, thank you for reading. I hope you all had an awesome weekend!


  1. A good adventure Chris. However I found myself feeling sad for what someone has lost.

    1. I know what you mean. Abandoned houses always have that sad aspect about them.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes. So very sad. The original inhabitants must have spent many years making a home for themselves only to die or be put in a home and their hard work and memories left to rot away. I too wonder where they family is. There must be kids and grandkids given the postcards and photographs. I love these adventures that you take. Makes me so very homesick.

    1. There are a shocking number of these sort of places out there. It is very sad.

  3. People dot care about people this is why this happens