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Report - Horace Mann High School, USA September 2015

mookster

grumpy sod
Regular User
#1
I recently posted up a thread of my exploits from a visit to Detroit last year and in it I mentioned that I had already been to Gary, Indiana twice. Gary is kind of like the lesser-known, slightly smaller Detroit which suffered from similar problems in the 1970s onwards and now is literally a shadow of it's former self.

The city is a short hour or so from the centre of Chicago, situated close to the Illinois/Indiana border at the southern end of Lake Michigan. During the mid-20th Century a combination of 'white flight' and the loss of much of the industry surrounding the city saw the population plummet by 80% and it has never recovered. It's as close to a true 'ghost town' as I've ever seen.

In recent years Gary was bestowed the unwelcome title of 'murder capital of America', and it's believed at least one serial killer took to dumping his victims bodies in the countless abandoned houses across the city. Not long before this visit the body of a young woman was found dumped in an abandoned school. However despite this bad press, I have never felt unsafe or unwelcome. The local residents are so accustomed to seeing 'white people with cameras' that they are almost all - in my experiences at least - friendly.

During the start of this particular trip I was staying with a friend in Chicago, so I thought it'd be rude to not go to Gary for the second time. Between me and my friends in Buffalo NY we had organised a daytrip encompassing explorers from three countries and three states - The UK, Canada and USA, and explorers from Buffalo, Chicago and somewhere in Indiana (not sure where...). It started out with a group of seven headed to Gary and eventually swelled, at it's height, to a group of a ten or so - in Gary where you do have to be on your guard a bit the numbers game certainly helps at times. We hit stuff off the main drag that doesn't usually appear in online listicles and generally had a brilliant laugh on a beautiful late summers day.

Our first spot and the main one for me was somewhere I had wanted to see for ages, the former Horace Mann High School. Opened in 1928 and closed in 2004, it is one of a short list of American high schools to graduate more than 75 classes in it's lifetime. It was huge, containing three gymnasiums, two swimming pools and two libraries - one each for when boys and girls were put in separate classes, and a huge newer gymnasium built when they weren't.

On arrival we noticed a bit of activity on the former school playing fields but dismissed it as the way in wasn't anywhere near that. So we carried on and once we got to the rear of the school looked outside to see even more stuff on the field. As we made our way to the newer gymnasium located right at the back on the field side a large generator started up, and we looked outside to see even more people and alarmingly a couple of police officers standing around. But we kept our heads down and carried on and got out without a hitch later on. As we walked back to the car we saw loads of people heading onto the field so asked them what was going on, and we were stunned to hear that there was a Horace Mann High School reunion taking place that very morning. It was a pretty awesome coincidence that's for sure.

The building still stands vacant to this day, and a year or so ago the interior of the auditorium was destroyed in an arson attack.















































Thanks for looking :)​