So there I am on arrival, both of my old fellow adventurers comfortably at home, having left their sense of wonder behind them. I should have known then what I discovered inside of that plant: You never go alone. But in all the summers we had spent exploring the places our society chooses to forget about, we never ran into anything that was truly scary. A drunk/high vagrant or squatter? Not really anything to worry about. Police or security? They are just as afraid of an abandoned building at night as nearly everyone else. This was my world, my hobby, and I thought I knew what I was doing.
Even so, the thought of potentially getting lost underground in abandoned tunnels did give me some pause, so I stopped in by a sporting goods store and a walmart. I bought some glowsticks, some chalk, some pepperspray, and just in case I got stuck underground for a few days, two canteens and some dehydrated food. I even called Mike to let him know when I was planning on going down. I gave him the number to the local police department, and told him that if I didn't contact him within 36 hours to report exactly where I had gone, and what I was doing. He thought it was a good idea, and wished me luck.
My first stop the day before the trip was to the city planner's office. I had called them while I was visiting Mike and put in a request for copies of the blueprints to the power station and canals. I had been informed that since the building was now publicly curated, there were no restrictions on access to the blueprints. I had faxed in a formal request, and they said I could come in to pick them up when I got to the area. They, of course, asked what my interest was. Naturally, I lied, stating that I was interested in the building as a part of a documentary I was putting together on renewable energy in the United States. They didn't seem suspicious. In fact, they were actually quite helpful.
After the city planner's office, I drove by the plant to get a feel for where my best point of entry would be. To my dismay, there were 14 foot fences with razor wire up all around the perimeter. I saw some fairly modern trucks on the premises, and decided that the site of the pump station wasn't going to be good for exploration. At this point, I had two options, the inflow or the outflow of the canal system. I decided that the inflow was the best option, as the journey to the outflow tunnel would take me through 20 miles of national park, while the inflow tunnel would be accessible if I walked down just ten miles of highway.
At this point, I was starting to get pretty confident that I wouldn't get lost in the canals. There were only a few places in the canals that got somewhat maze-like, and those areas would be easy to navigate because of my blueprint, I thought. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon combing through old newspaper articles at the local public library for information on the power plant. That's when my nerves started to turn against me.
first, in the early 1900s, there were reports of workers dying. At
first, I didn't find this overly suspicious, as workers die during
construction jobs all the time. Some died from machinery
malfunctions, and collapses in the tunnel, yes, but the cases just
kept getting stranger. As I read on, the way these workers were dying
became unbelievable. Some workers simply collapsed in the canals, not
a mark on their bodies. A few went mad and threw themselves into the
river to drown, or killed themselves on and off the job site. There
were multiple cases of fights breaking out amongst workers and
turning into serious injuries. More than one worker was said to have
been put into psychiatric care for “Mania”. They called it
“Tunnel Madness” in the papers at the time.
One case in particular stuck out above all the rest. It was especially well documented over a period of months in the archives. Instead of sidenotes, this story made the front page several times. Two workers had gotten into a scuffle in the canal. This scuffle resulted in one man cutting another's throat with a dull knife. The murderous worker hid in the tunnel for two days before the body was found, and the perpetrator apprehended. The body had been badly mutilated, and parts of his flesh were simply missing. The community accused the man of cannibalism and satanism. This worker, of course, denied it vehemently, but was not able to offer an explanation that convinced the courts. He was later hanged.
I kept going forward in the archive and discovered there were financial problems with the construction. It had gone way over budget, and the company responsible was having trouble justifying why. In the end, it took nearly three times as long to build as it was supposed to, and the commission changed hands three times over this period.
Throughout the 1920s to the 1960s, bodies kept washing out of the canals. An impossibly high number of bodies, almost thirty over the span of 40 years. Finally, the plant was fully shut down in the late 1960s, but the mysterious deaths didn't stop. Bodies were found at the bypass outflows despite the entries into the canals being sealed in the 1970. Some of these bodies were mutilated, some weren't. Cause of death for most of these cases was asphyxiation. The locals speculated that most of them were accidents or vagrants being washed out of the canals by floods, but there was a period in the 1980s where police were being asked to comment on the possibility of a serial killer using the place as a body dump. In just what I was able to find in one afternoon, this plant had cost the lives of almost 100 people over the course of 120 years.
I was officially creeped out, but I wasn't going home. It was on toward late afternoon, so I went to an Outback Steakhouse not too far from where I was staying, and had a large late lunch. I also ordered a dinner to go so I could eat right before I went into the canals.
After my meal, I set out to find a place to park my car. I found a motel parking lot just off the highway, parked, and gathered up my rucksack of supplies. I'm glad that I started hunting for the canal inflow early in the afternoon, because I wound up hiking through some really rough country. It was almost sunset by the time I managed to get to the area where the inflow should have been, and it took me another hour to actually find it. Once I found the inflow, I broke out my to-go box from outback, and had dinner right there on a rock by the river. It wasn't half bad, despite the fact that it had sat in that sack for almost four hours.
Losing light, I took my crowbar to the rusted padlock on the doorway leading to the maintenance causeway that ran alongside the inflow's blocked canal. I struggled with the deadbolt for some time, but eventually got the rust off of it enough to move. I propped the crowbar up against the brick threshold, leaving it behind, and stepped through into the canal. To this day, I wish that padlock hadn't been so easy to crack off, and I'd been forced to turn back.