Exploring Obscure Places – Part 4 of 5

    IV. Why Explore?

There was never a point when I asked Pete the question of ‘why’ he participated in urban exploring. Instead, he answered the question himself when I asked him about documenting his explorations. Pete trails into asking his own questions and answering them: “…Whenever I tell someone I’m going off to one of these places they are always like, well are you gunna go, what are you doing there? …Why do you want to go to some old burnout building where you gottta wear a mask and gloves and everything’s grimy and dirty and you come back smelling like bonfire. …You kinda gotta show these people what it is that appeals to you about doing it… and to raise and awareness, just, create an understanding of – I don’t know if you can even create that understanding but – to give people an idea of what you went into these places for” (2010).

Pete also talked a little of his childhood and how he had a large property he liked to explore. He also mentioned that it was forested, and so this way he could imagine things. With this in mind, the next question I had was if he felt the ‘exploring fever’ stuck with you for life or not. He responded, “I think you either want to do it, or you don’t. Some people are just like content sitting in their house and playing video games, or like watching t.v. or something, but… I personally get extremely bored if I’m not constantly seeing something new to me. Any time I go exploring, I feel like it gives my – it just like fuels my brain [and] it’s like fuel for ideas, or something, to just be having this new, constant, I dunno, input. I guess that stems from when I was a little kid” (2010).

What was interesting about this section of questioning was Pete learning and discovering himself, questioning his identity, and choosing to make and answer his own questions.

A particularly ransacked home. Looters attacked a few weeks prior.

A particularly ransacked home. Looters attacked a few weeks prior.

V. Ethics, Values and Illegalities

“The broader urban exploration community has wisely adopted the Sierra Club’s motto of “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints” (Chapman 2005, 20). During my interview with Pete he did cite these lines, but it was not until I actually asked him for a code of ethics he prescribed to. “The central kind of theme I have always been explained is the ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints, break only silence’ – kind of cheesy slogan. …Look, I don’t want to break anything and I don’t want to, like, remove anything as temping as it is sometimes [laughter]. …You want people, anyone else, to be able to see the same thing you did… you try and leave the environment as undisturbed as you can” (Pete 2010).

What about damage to the building, graffiti, and leaving and taking objects was my next question. “I don’t like that… I mean, I don’t know. Sometimes maybe that’s what adds to the character of a place that you’re exploring. Like, you know, you go into some building and there will be like – it’s all dark and kinda scary and there is like weird graffiti on the walls and stuff… I don’t create that but I find it interesting. That’s not part of the process for me. I just want to go in and look at stuff; I don’t want to damage it further.

After documenting a trip, many explorers share their photos; some are careful to divulge any information at all, while others broadcast publicly. I was curious how Pete felt about this, especially since he sometimes uses geo-tagging, which is an Internet GPS system giving exact locations.  “It’s interesting for people to have to have access to this information, but yeah, it could in the end cause a lot of issues for people who want to go into these places and just like, look around instead of going somewhere and everything has been, you know, swiped from the place….” (Pete 2010).

VI. Identity and Aliases

One of the most common means of communication for urban explorers to connect and share their findings is the Internet. Given this, combined with the possible illegal actions of the hobby, most explorers take an alias or identity. For instance, Pete often posts under the name ‘ffresh’ on the Internet. I asked him where this came from and to explain it a little. “I have all these nicknames on the internet that are just like evolutions, like, permutations of things that I used when I was a little kid to identify myself. …I don’t know, I think that for me it’s just mostly because it’s a name that I can use on the Internet that I know for some reason is never taken on any website” (Pete 2010).

Some of the problems with an alias then, are the issues of credibility. It seems that explorers are usually happy with just their alter ego names, wanting to give back to the community or content with self-fulfillment. Pete was rather clear, “I don’t really care, cause I’m never – like, I don’t see myself ever getting famous from it. …As long as my friends and the people I’m showing it to know it was me” (Pete 2010). Clearly for Pete, he is not concerned with attaining fame or gaining status in the urban exploring world.


The outside of a local Rubber Factory. Now abandoned.
The outside of a local Rubber Factory. Now abandoned.

That’s all for now!

– Matt


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