A week has passed since this little episode, so I think The Fuzz is off my trail. Do people still say that? “Off my trail?” You thought I was gonna say “The Fuzz”, didn’t ya? That’s humor for ya, folks! So, last week, I accidentally found myself in the role of “trespasser”. In the beginning, I didn’t know I was trespassing. No, I just thought I was exploring a dead mall. For those not in the know, a “dead mall” is basically a shopping mall that has fallen into disrepair. I used to work in commercial real estate, and the final word on shopping malls is that they’re all on their last legs (some just don’t know it yet). For a few, all tenants have long since vacated, yet the structure still stands, waiting to be “demalled” (*sigh* “Demalling” is another CRE term, where shopping malls are gutted and redesigned as town centers, where you can add residential and office space to the preexisting retail. Strong anchors, like Sears, remain but as standalone stores). Anyway, dead malls have quite the following, kinda like those kids who explore old mental institutions and anywhere else the public isn’t generally supposed to go. There’s a website and everything! Well, we have a dead mall in the region, known as the Frederick Towne Mall. I’ve wanted to see the inside of that place for years, but I’m a coward. Seriously, I learned about it during a stint of unemployment 2 years ago, while Lindsay lived in Frederick, and I still didn’t go. I had NOTHING ELSE to do. Coward. Well, that all changed last week.
It all started with Boscov’s. Ya see, a few days prior, I’d been having a twitter discussion with @Jordamus_Prime, and he mentioned how he used to find all sorts of awesome stuff in the Boscov’s toy department. My first question: “What the Hell is Boscov’s?” Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been going up to Frederick on comic/toy runs for years, but it’s entirely a different world up there. It’s north, but feels like the south. They have stores we just don’t have in these parts, like Giant Eagle, Weis, Waffle House, etc. I’d always seen Boscov’s, but I didn’t know if it was a grocery store, or a poor man’s Kohls (which would be a SAD establishment) or what. Well, it’s a department store. I was in the area…looking for stuff, and I noticed the Boscov’s and decided to check it out. It felt like a shitty Woodies. For those of you NOT from the MD/DC/VA area, Woodward & Lothrop was a high-end mall anchor, colloquially known as “Woodies” that went out of business about 20 yrs ago. Boscov’s is like Woodies, as it stood the day it went out of business, with no modern upgrades whatsoever. That alone should’ve made me run away screaming. No, I’ve never understood things like “common sense”.
As I was leaving the store, I noticed an old man doing one of those “Old Folks Exercise Loop Walks” out in the mall area. I thought to myself “Self, here’s your chance to finally see that dead mall.” Oddly enough, the mall entrance in the Boscov’s was blocked. He had to have gotten in there somehow, right? I went outside, and noticed a mall entrance just to the side of Boscov’s. Out of three doors, two were locked with caution tape through the handles. Door #1, however, was the door to choose. The first thing I saw was the view that opened this post. Foot after foot of vacant retail. The thing that really struck me, though, was the silence. For a place so large, with those acoustics, I was expecting to hear something. HVAC system, janitor loudly cleaning. SOMETHING. No, there was nothing. It was the eeriest quiet I’ve ever heard. No, strike that – when I was in Russia (for you newcomers, I was an exchange student at 13), we got lost near the Estonian border, in the snow, and that was the eeriest silence I’d experienced. So, this was a tie. Immediately to my right was the former site of The Ground Round. I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at The Ground Round, but I hear it was THE place to hold an ’80s birthday party. A great match for the 80s department store adjacent to it. Unlike the other stores in the place, The Ground Round looked like it could still be operational, but was just closed at the moment. The other stores wouldn’t look so fresh.
This fucking store right here! If you’ve ever played a horror -themed video game, you’ve seen this kind of location. The lights kinda flicker, and your first thought is “Why the Hell are the lights on anyway?! What a waste of money!” If you just scroll past quickly, it won’t affect you. But I implore you to stay on this pic, and just look for a few seconds. Notice the vacant cash wrap, and the empty fitting rooms. Now, start to wonder if anything is hiding in them…
Apparently, you can take it with you, as this Bath & Body Works looks like everyone was Raptured after filling their arms with all the scrub they could carry on to the Great Beyond. Who’s gonna return the furniture to Pier 1 Imports? I couldn’t get the right angle, but I wanted to capture how the name had been scraped from the window. It was done in such as sloppy manner that the remaining imprint has a ghostly slime quality to it. This was, like, the 3rd store I saw. I was getting more and more scared, yet was dumb enough to keep going.
So…um…was the Frederick County School System using this space for finals week? This one really perplexed me.
The deeper I got into the mall, the crazier shit got. Now, I just passed the “testing room”, and then I found this. Apparently, this was the site of a discount store called Joey’s Bargain Outlet. I don’t get the pallets, though. I’ve never seen pallets in a mall. Walmart, Ollie’s, Home Depot – all of those make sense; large stores use pallets to move/display larger items. Unless you’re an anchor store, retail space in a mall is somewhat confined, so pallets just aren’t a smart use of space. Maybe it’s just the retail in me, but this was such an odd sight to me.
OK, are you ready for shit to get really weird? Let’s do this. This is as far as you’re allowed to go in the mall. On the left is a shut down FYE, while I don’t even know what’s on the right. The point is that you can’t go past this point. This is when I started taking in my surroundings. Look past the rope, to the right. Need a closer look?
Here ya go. OK, so why the Hell are those seats arranged like that? It’s like some kind of supernatural AA meeting. It also bothered me that I couldn’t see why they were pointed that way. Was there a stage behind that shrub? While we have established that a lot of the stores were vacant, some, like Hallmark, looked like people had just left in a hurry. Like this was the site of something really bad. Is there where the survivors meet to discuss their strategies? Is this where they choose the leader of their cannibal biker tribe?!! WHAT?!!!
Can we talk about something for a minute. In case you haven’t noticed, I was WAY into the process of freaking myself out. I mean, I had already been scared to go inside, and now that I was there, I was just getting more freaked out. Now, I fleshed more of this out later when I told my mother about this, but stay with me here. I told her everything I’ve told you up to this point, and she said “What were you doing there?! You could’ve gotten killed!” That’s when I reminded her, “Don’t worry. There were those old people in there walking.” And that’s when it hit me. The old people. I didn’t mention this earlier, but along with the old man I had seen, there was also an old lady walking. They were not together. They also continued along the same circuit, at the same pace, without looking up. I only came closest to the man, and he never acknowledged me. When I say that, I don’t mean he didn’t say “hi”. I mean, he never lifted his head to even confirm we were on the same plane of existence. They also made NO noise. No scuffing of Rockports on the hard floor, no old person phlegm-clearing cough, nothing. WERE THOSE OLD PEOPLE GHOSTS?!!! All this was going on in my head, and if I were a mid-budget sci fi show, this is when you’d see the Stargate wormhole effect from inside my brain out my eye, where my gaze would fall upon the kiosk above. I hadn’t really noticed it before, even though it had been just to the left of me. I walked over, and that’s when I saw this:
SHIT! I was in danger of being trespassed! Then I thought, “Wait, that’s not how English works.” I didn’t have time to be Ivy League Asshole, as I then noticed in bold “THE POLICE”, and there was no mention of Sting. Let me see…black male, in abandoned structure, clearly taking pictures of things he shouldn’t be taking pictures of. SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! Then, in my best Michael Westen, I try to figure out how long I’d been in the mall compared to my perceived response time of the Frederick Police Department. Then I remembered that I’m not Michael Westen, and I should probably get the fuck out of there!
Well, the damage had been done by that point, so I figured “One for the road?”
Then one turned to two, ’cause how often do you see a shut down Cinnabon? Or Fannie May? I haven’t really decided what I think this was. But it was GONE and it was CREEPY. On the way out, I almost ran into the old man, as I crossed over his circuit. Still, no response from him whatsoever. Yup, definitely a ghost. I made for the door, looking both ways for cops. I made it to my car, and got the Hell out of there. They weren’t gonna trespass ME!