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Photos of a Road Trip Home, With Pit Stops in the Abandoned Past

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An abandoned turnpike in Pennsylvania. During his visit, Seelie discovered that the abandoned roadway goes on for many miles, and becomes a strangely serene nature walk. (All Photos: Tod Seelie)

This photo essay is one of a five-part series with Atlas Obscura and Olympus. We asked some of our favorite photographers to take a quest with an Olympus E-M5 Mark II camera, and these are the results of their adventures. All photographs in this story were taken with an Olympus E-M5 Mark II with a 12-40mm Pro lens. To see the full series, go here.

New York-based photographer Tod Seelie grew up in the suburban environs of Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, he’d visit the Geauga Lake waterpark, a once-popular attraction that has since been abandoned. The mall he’d hang out in has already been torn down, but the Randall Park mall still exists in a state of derelict disrepair. So when Atlas Obscura approached Seelie to take a quest, his vision was clear: a road trip back to Cleveland, to visit some of his old childhood haunts.

En route, he photographed other sites of urban decay that dot the journey between New York and Ohio: an abandoned turnpike and a trolley graveyard in Pennsylvania; an observatory that had closed in 1983, with rusted domed roof; a disused church; and Concrete City, company housing built for mining employees in 1911 that still stands, grown over with weeds.  The trip down memory lane was not without its ghosts. “It was pretty bizarre to explore a place you could barely recognize from your childhood,” he says. Here, the results of Seelie’s road trip among the ruins.    

The abandoned turnpike has several long tunnels carving through the mountains. When you are in the middle of one, surrounded by darkness without seeing another human for hours, it can be hard not to think about The Walking Dead, even if just fleetingly.

A trolley graveyard in Pennsylvania. This is not Seelie’s first visit; over the past summer graffiti started to appear on the cars, suggesting that they may soon lose their time-earned decrepit beauty to layers of fresh spray paint. 

The interior of one of the trolleys that had started to lean heavily as the floor collapsed. 

The dome of an old observatory in Cleveland, Ohio. It housed various telescopes until 1983, when it was abandoned.

The view upward on the tracks of a remaining roller coaster at a now-abandoned waterpark. It’s a place that Seelie used to go to as a kid. On this trip, he barely recognized it.

The rollercoaster in all its abandoned glory. 

The view of the interior of an abandoned Catholic church in Cleveland, Ohio. “I attended Catholic school while growing up in Cleveland, and was even an altar boy for a couple years,” he writes, “It is striking to revisit my hometown and see places like this, compared with how I recall the city I grew up in.” 

 The view from the altar inside the church.

An abandoned parking lot. Says Seelie:”When I was growing up in Cleveland I would often hang out in empty parking lots, so I’ve always had an affinity for them. This abandoned mall’s parking lot was especially interesting to me, with the barren open space punctuated by weathered letters on poles. Ancient sentries left to guard a kingdom that has long fallen.”

An escalator is about all that remains inside the remnants of an abandoned mall in Cleveland, Ohio.

A series of long-abandoned concrete buildings languishing in the middle of Pennsylvania. According to Seelie, they were originally built as housing for the workers of a nearby mine. 

The view through several of the concrete buildings.