Written by: Storytrail
Each year, countless numbers of children dress up in costume and head outdoors on a quest for candy. While not observed as a statutory holiday, many consider the day to be of celebratory significance. Halloween is thought to have begun in the form of an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, which involved dressing in costume and setting large bonfires to ward off ghosts of the dead. Naturally, the Christian church did not approve of a day that invited thoughts and rituals surrounding the Devil and other frowned upon material. In an attempt to distract or ‘Christianize’ the Pagan day, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st ‘All Saints Day’ (which had previously been celebrated on May 13). November 2nd was declared ‘All Souls’ Day’, a Christian day to celebrate the dead. As centuries passed, traditions and holidays were melded together, and modern day Halloween arrived. The original declared days still exist and are celebrated by some, but Halloween and it’s attachment to consumerism has risen to the top in popularity.
Thinking about Christian traditions and the history of Halloween, I found myself standing with Bumblebee before a small and seemingly abandoned Catholic church and cemetery on a cloudy day in October. Our suspicions were confirmed when we noticed the lack of power metre and some boarded windows. While the property is small, it was clear that it had a rich past as I spotted a plaque placed outside. With our camera equipment in hand, we carefully walked the perimeter of the building, stopping briefly to read gravestones along the way. Almost reaching the place where we started, we spotted a particularly somber looking plot elaborately covered in toys and colourful objects. A quick glance at the engraved stone revealed why – a child had died, and the family kept the burial ground looking cheerful in memorarium. A sadness passed through us, unspoken as we continued towards the building to look for access.
The two of us had explored many abandoned churches before, but something about this one left us with an eerie feeling. As we stepped inside, we were immediately faced with layers of thick grey dust draped over rows of empty seats. Cold stale air permeated the space, and a deafening silence washed over us. We chose our steps carefully, almost afraid to disturb what spiritual forces may be lurking. The slots in pews where Bibles once sat proudly were now devoid of any religion, empty. (Side note: strangely enough, we were unable to find a single Bible in the entire building). A small piano stood at the back of the room, once a musical symbol of hope for those who attended mass. On the opposite side of the piano was a confessional, almost completely immersed in darkness. Statues of Jesus and another religious figure stood tall on separate walls, their only purpose now to oversee the state of decay that was beginning to set in. Water damage was evident on the ceiling tiles, but aside from these rust coloured ceiling stains and dust, the church did not look overly ‘abandoned’. Further investigation revealed dates on documents from 2011, but nothing more recent than that. Behind the altar, bins of religious artifacts and other belongings were still stored carefully. What had happened here? I wondered.
Research later revealed that the church was originally built in the mid 1800’s following the infamous Irish potato famine. As a result, many citizens left their homeland overseas in search of a new beginning. In an attempt to serve the population on a religious level, the one room building was constructed. Despite a fire that damaged a portion of the original property, the church became so successful that they decided to close their doors in 2011 and relocate to a brand new building for worship. It is unknown why the owners did not clear the old place out, but one thing is clear: they took the Bibles with them.
To all who celebrate Halloween, have a great one!
We believe in respecting and protecting all abandoned locations from destruction.