Monday, November 5, 2012

The Atlantic Test Site

Every so often, my online family’s nightly communications manifest into an actual gathering, usually in our beloved New Jersey. Recently, our friends from Ocean County needed a whole group of extras (a Lovecraft-esque cult for those reading who are curious) and this more-or-less created our last de facto gathering.

Well, the video shoot goes off without a hitch, and after a few days of lounging and taking the out-of-towners around the local fare, we realize that a decent number of us had never seen a particular site in their town. And by “decent amount of us,” I mean Ryan (who hails from Maine) and myself. So, after we get the night’s bounty from a 7-11, we decide to walk over to this site, on foot, since it is only a neighborhood or so away. They affectionately had been referring to it as “the Atlantic Test Site” – a name which returns absolutely nothing sans the video publication in which they use the name in their fictional universe on Google.
I believe we were on the side of a park when we started our initial approach. There were no streetlamps on the paved road that jutted from the major one and the first buildings were a solid quarter mile in. I could see a large darkened building with a handful of other buildings, with accompanying streetlights a few hundred, feet beyond. But as I’ve said, the prominent building was completely dark. As we got closer, we could see a large, probably ten-or-so feet tall chain-linked fence around the perimeter of the building. The seasoned gang informed me that this was it: the Atlantic Test Site.
Adam and Alex remained outside, while Greg guided Ryan and I around the side touching the dense forest. We had small flashlights (and I used my cellphone’s flashlight application) so seeing where we were going wasn’t the problem. It was more so exactly what we were heading towards that provided dilemmas. Gigantic spider webs, with their respective hosts, knee-high weeds, and a small cut opening in the fence were just the beginning of our trials. We poked through the established entrance, blazed by the pioneers before us, and found ourselves in a small yard. There were wooden rafters and what appeared to be a porch above us, with plenty of old, rusting equipment on the ground around us. Of course, when such a building went off the grid, you know, stopped being used by the local government, the stairs were probably the first things to be removed. Either that, or nature had taken its course.
Regardless, the stairs were gone, and our only alternative (and according to Greg’s instant navigation, another previously established route) was a haphazardly stacked pile of wood and concrete bricks. But it gets better: the pile was realistically only a foot or two of boost. The remaining five feet of clearance was up to the plastic chair balancing precariously on top of the stack and your own upper-body strength. This configuration was under a square cut into the porch above us. The only way up was to grab ahold of the ledge and maneuver yourself up. Somehow, all three of us got up, and I took a look around. We could still see the main road from up here, so I had to keep shushing at Ryan and swatting away his flashlight which would have given us away from a mile. Greg had moved towards the opening in the wall and when Ryan motioned to follow him, we all stopped dead. The entire level of the wooden porch shifted and Greg braced himself against the wall and muttered, “No, no, look for the solid rafters.”
So long as we followed a strict path from the hole in the floor to the building, we would be fine. Otherwise, we risked shifting the entire structure down (just the old wooden entrance, not the actual brick and concrete building) or having one of our legs blow through the wood and falling through into the mess below. Oh, how terribly exciting it all was, you know, being that close to a trip to the ER along with trespassing fines. Regardless, we pressed on.
The interior of the structure was your typical abandoned industrial fare. Concrete floors, chipped generically-painted walls in shades of white, grey, and turpentine green. You could almost imagine the dull florescent lights that lit this places just decades before. Slowly making our way through the second floor, there were plenty of rooms that seemed to be play-rooms and day-rooms of either a summer camp or some sort of daycare. There were plenty of video game paintings and vague popular culture references, such as Pac Man and billiards. These weren’t bits of graffiti from modern day, these were very much here “on purpose,” inevitably painted by hourly camp counselors looking forward to autumns away at college.
As I said, it was your pretty standard abandoned building. Once we got beyond the whimsical second floor, most of it was clusters of office furniture and discarded paperwork. Much of this was old county maps and zoning ordinances and the files we found were mostly health code registrations and the like. The only thing that really stuck out was the distinct spine of some medium-sized animal at the top of the stairs leading into the darkened first floor. So, even though we were sifting through standard local government paperwork and absolutely nothing worth alarm, the finding of an organic vertebrae had us on edge. All the while, we were surrounded by a dim, distant buzz of something electric.
After sidling along a wall of stacked plastic buckets, we found a door that seemed to house this humming. Greg had warned us of a “part that still seemed to be functioning” when we were first approaching the building, but we did not really pursue further explanation probably due to excitement. We opened the door and stopped cold. We opened a door from within a dark, dilapidated building to find ourselves in a freshly painted hallway with emergency exit lighting and another, smaller room within. The humming was definitely coming from within this second set of doors. It was probably some sort of generator, as we couldn’t enter the locked door. Outside of this smaller compartment was another door that would not open. We decided that since this was very obviously a modern installation, that it was best to leave, now. The last thing we wanted was to be discovered by some chance worker clocking in for the night. So, we quickly double-dutched back and quickly glanced into the basement, of which was flooded and completely beyond our exploratory nature that night.
As we cleared back the way we came, I took a few glances back down the dark hallways. Because I was bringing up the rear, it was particularly horrifying to glance back, seeing no companions behind, and witnessing your petty flashlight (produced by my cellphone) barely illuminating fifteen feet back, beyond that, dark doorways seeming to reach for our retreating party.
After we escaped safely and descended the faltering porch once again, we met up with Alex and Adam once more and left the confines of the chain-lined fence. Alex briefly showed us another piece of local legend, a painting of a rabbit on the side wall of the facility. He was holding an umbrella and was dressed like a Disney character. Alex said that sometimes, randomly, this painting would be altered, and no one knows exactly who did it. Some days he’d be holding flowers, some days the umbrella we saw now, some days nothing. I thought that was adorable and did not put too much faith into the fable.
We quickly got back to the main road and I was satisfied that we lived another night of adventure without repercussion. The Atlantic Test Site was quite the experience and I do not believe a second visit will ever come to fruition. It is still, quite obviously, still in some sort of use by the local government, and we are lucky to have gotten out of there without penalty. But hey, at least we were a respectable group and did not, heaven forbid, burn down the structure or perform some other bit of primitive destruction and vandalism.
I have posted ten screenshots from a lengthy video clip that Ryan captured on his Flip. I do not know if posting the entire video would be wise, due to (honestly) the boring nature of many of the shots and the establishing clips that may provide some real-world direction to the building. I do not wish to bring any harm (indirectly or otherwise) to the property, so I will withhold the address, etc. Thank you for understanding. 


  1. This was a fantastic experience, I loved it.

  2. We're from Monmouth County, dumbass. Also, i wish i went with you guys that day :(