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Father-Son YouTube Channel Explores Indiana's Abandoned Oddities

June 5, 2018
Thunder Island water park drone photo

If it’s abandoned, derelict or just plain fascinating, Mark and Adam Cymerman want to check it out.

The father-and-son duo has been exploring forgotten schools, parks, military sites and more since they launched their YouTube channel, Abandoned or Cool, back in May of 2017. Based in Northwest Indiana, the pair has traveled all over the Hoosier State as well as Illinois to scope out hidden gems.

[Just a heads-up: many of the abandoned locations in these videos have graffiti that some may find offensive or contain explicit language.]

While taking a walk through somewhere like Hotel Mudlavia or Thunder Island Water Park, Mark and Adam work to track down some of the history around the sites.

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“It’s cool to think about what was happening in these places years and years ago,” Mark said. “We had nuclear missiles in our backyards. Probably half the people don’t even know it was there, but the structures are still there.”

This venture started when Adam and a friend went out to explore his first abandoned locale. He got back home and told his dad all about it, and he was immediately hooked. Now, they regularly pack up their Canon EOS, GoPro and drone to trek through forgotten parts of the Midwest.

The bulk of their location scouting comes from hours of scouring YouTube, Instagram, Reddit and other parts of the web. Recently, they’ve been finding spots by browsing around on Google Earth. It’s like Where’s Waldo with overgrown hospitals.

Much of the time, they’ll set out on trips and head out specifically for the abandoned sites. But they’ll often be on their way somewhere else and stumble upon a location off the side of the road, like the deserted hotel they found this past weekend.

That’s also where the two had one of their more unusual encounters.

“We were behind the counter just looking through it,” Adam said, “and I turned the corner and there’s this 3-foot-tall bunny doll just standing there, just looking at me.”

He finds it funny now, but at the time his reaction was more, oh no, why is there a large stuffed rabbit looking at me with big, bulging eyes. He’s pretty sure the doll was originally left at the hotel, just not propped up in a doorway for unsuspecting explorers to find.

That being said, Mark says rumors of the locations being haunted just come with the territory. “They all have that eerie feeling, right?”

For one trip, the duo went to Manteno State Hospital, a dilapidated psychiatric hospital in Manteno, Illinois. While poking around on the second floor, Adam said he heard people humming downstairs. His first instinct was to check it out and see if it wasn’t just someone playing music on their phone. But when he got to the ground floor, he didn’t find anyone.

Apart from the possibility of malicious spirits, Mark and Adam’s biggest concern is that someone else is at a site and they don’t know it – especially if that other person might intend to harm them.

That’s why Mark and Adam put safety above all else when creating their videos. They don’t take any chances that would get them hurt or in trouble, or any that would damage the sites.

“We won’t climb a fence, we’re not breaking through, we’re not breaking anything to do anything. It’s gotta be open, and it’s gotta be easy access,” Mark said. “We never take anything out, we don’t move anything – we leave it for the next person.”

He hopes anyone else wanting to check out urban exploration will think the same way. And he says they always try to get permission before heading into an abandoned area, either from neighbors or others nearby.

Mark and Adam want people who see their videos and get inspired to try urban exploration to share what has made the hobby so enjoyable for them.

“We just hope people act like we do,” Mark said. “Go enjoy it, be safe, be smart, don’t trespass, don’t go where you’re clearly not supposed to go. If it looks dangerous, stay the hell away from it.”

Abandoned or Cool has over 40 videos available on YouTube. Mark and Adam are working to release a companion website with more content in the near future.

LISTEN: Hear about Hotel Mudlavia during better days with Moment of Indiana History (via WFIU).