In 1999, I’d never heard the words “urban exploration”, “selfie”, or “urbex”. All I knew was that there were old industry remnants across Ontario. These included ghost towns, roadways, mill towns, mines and lumber mills.
I began visiting these locations and posting the content for one reason : to give back memory to the people who built these places, that now lay forgotten. This involved using road maps, not GPS to find the places.
It’s open to debate when I actually began exploring. At the age of 5, I ventured inside an abandoned house next door. I was too afraid to ever go upstairs, but even at that very young age my mind was fascinated with what might be upstairs. I’m going by the first year date stamped on film photos that I have. It could have all started in 1998, 1997, but who knows.
Now everyone is an explorer and it seems exploring for the sake of history is no longer a thing. It’s about selfies, face masks, real estate exploring, curbex, selling merchandise, sponsorships and embellishing for the sake of views. If you can’t research real history, just call it a mafia boss mansion and hope the kiddies click on your video for revenue.
It’s much more difficult to keep places a secret now, there are too many lips to whisper addresses. On the same note, there are more people to discover new places so the hobby is thriving as strong as it was back in 1999.
In 1999 I knew just two other people who did what I did. Today I know hundreds of them.
My website was manually coded so for every trip that I took, I had to manually create a webpage for the content. Eventually I used MS Access to store the locations and made an uploader to add images. I could now add new content remotely. I later added membership ability, and soon the anonymous visitors I was seeing in the usage logs, had names.
And thus, Canada’s first urbex site was born… even before UER(*). In 2020, I retired from hosting the site because I’d reached the point where I could do no more to improve it, I was getting bored with it, and it was time to give it new life.
I can’t count the number of places I’ve been, nor do I care to. It’s about the passion not the count. I’m glad to have had you along for this journey. P.S. zero arrests, one trespass ticket in 25 years (Thanks Avril Lavigne)
Screenshots from 2004 to 2011…
(*) Ghosttowns.com existed prior to my website but it wasn’t hosted in Canada nor exclusively Canadian.