Wadley, AL

August 5, 2011

I'd been through this tiny town once before on business, but this was the first time I'd had a chance poke around with my camera. My photographer friend, Shanna, was raised in Wadley, so she gave me the tour. We started out in an abandoned train depot, but ended up in the coolest, abandoned, Victorian style house. This was the house haunted dreams are made of.

The first thing I do when I photograph an abandoned house is find out how long it's been deserted. The easiest way to do this is to see if anything in the fridge has an expiration date, but we'd already found gas and grocery receipts from '59 and '74.

This was my first really old house.

The house was full of stuff. I imagine the majority of it came from the Sears catalog we found in the living room. The kitchen was the strangest: There was 30 year old food everywhere: rusty cans of ravioli on the table, half-eaten pot pies in the oven, pickled something on the counter, pickled something else in the cubbard, pickled something furry next to the sink.

My most vivid memory of this house came from one of the bedroom closets. All of the clothes hung neatly on the rack. The fabrics felt raw, natural. The colors were earthy. One shirt stuck out: a white, blouse with black polka dots. I pulled it out of the closet and held it up. The white satin was in amazing condition.

Now in retrospect this makes me feel like a creep, but my first instinct was to smell the shirt. It's just what I do with my clothes. I inhaled. It smelled like someone had just taken it off. It didn't smell like terrible sweat, just like someone wore it for an hour or so on a summer day, maybe to church on Sunday, then, took it off, and hung it up. 

And for 40 years it sat there locked up in that closet until I came by to let it out.

Of all the abandoned places I've explored, this one was the coolest. It was a true time capsule; a look into the lives of people long, long gone.