History: The West Lawn building opened on April 1, 1913, accommodating 300 patients, the first of six large buildings constructed on the Riverview site. Others slowly followed: Centre Lawn in 1924, East Lawn in 1930, Crease Unit in 1949, North Lawn in 1955 and Valleyview in 1959. The Pennington Hall Recreation Centre opened in 1950 and provided patients with a café, gymnasium and a bowling alley. In its early years, the Hospital was alone in the countryside with no development around it, not even a highway – just the railroad with a whistle-stop called “Essondale”.
The Hospital kept pace with a growing province and expanded from 450 patients in 1913 to a peak population of 4,306 patients in 1956. Since the early 1960s the Hospital’s population has declined to its present level of 800 patients. Since then, several buildings have been closed down, for various reasons (including asbestos). Security patrols drive the grounds very regularly ( and have amazingly BRIGHT search lights ~ Jester ).
Team: in numerous missions combinations of ; Jester, Pixie, Scarab, Merlin, and Stormshadow
After checking a lot of UE Sites on the web, we had an over-whelming desire to go into some tunnels. However, not living in Australia with their massive cavernous regions, we had limited choices. Pixie had heard of some at the psyche hospital, so after she got us some great info and we had done a walk-through, we decided we had to go on-site and get in. Of course, since most of it was still a functioning hospital with security patrols and staff and patients, we had to be extra careful. In total we have been to this target eight (8) times in various runs and aborted runs.
Our very first stop was a large manhole cover, which we were hoping led to a subterranean network and possibly connecting to the fabled tunnels which connected all the buildings. After Scarab struggled with the unexpectedly heavy manhole cover for a bit, it opened up, (our breath held for the big moment) to water. Yes water. Stinky water too. It was full and from the looks of it bolted down and welded shut. All of our manhole experiences were like this, and so we gave them up.
The only noteworthy event during our manhole phase was a night when Jester and Scarab were trying to lift one and out of the corner of our eyes, movement was detected. Lifting our heads we saw a shadowy figure, clutching his pack to his chest, darting from tree to tree across the semi-light landscape. Although funny as hell to see the darting figure, Merlin had our equipment. Trust him not to stay put when we asked him to. We had no idea where he was going, and didn’t want to risk shouting to him (stealth is a wraith’s ally). When suddenly Merlin appeared at our side wondering what the hold-up was. Turning our heads Jester wondered, “If you’re here, where the hell does Stormshadow think he’s going?” (A name was born).
Our next target became Crease Clinic, a building closed by hospital staff, but still very much in use. Built in 1949 and closed in 1992, it was the last of the building on hospital property to house 20-person dormitories. Unused by the hospital staff, it is now famous in secret as BC’s most filmed building. Everything from TV shows such as the very first episode of X-Files (as well as the last Vancouver-based one), Millenium, and Cold Squad to TV-movies like Serving in Silence and feature films like Stakeout and The Butterfly Effect have used the psychiatric hospital as a background. In fact, Cold Squad was filming during 2 of our forays and The Butterfly Effect during another (they have VERY good security once their equipment is on-site). It is also used by a local theatre for practices and auditions and actually was once used by Paula Abdul. Who did her thing in a room on the fourth floor popular with film crews for the easy way they can turn it into a dance studio. We were hoping to find a link in to the tunnels from this old building.
One night on the property that did not yield success into the tunnels, DID serve to teach us a valuable lesson: stay away from film crews. We made to Crease without any real mishaps that night (Pixie’s trip into the mud not withstanding), and up past the first line of movie set trailers. Quietly Scarab peeked around the building, straining his eyes to see if anyone was in that pickup truck ahead. Grabbing binoculars from Jester, he peered around again, maneuvering into a good spot while standing there, and just got them focused enough to see… the man sitting upright in his chair. After a few short seconds of watching, Scarab was able to make out the small handheld radio the man was also using.
Calling “no joy” we decided to leave quickly. Taking a step-by-step approach, we quickly went from tree to tree on our way back. Scarab noticed a woman leaving a trailer, using his radio to inform the group. Jester, staring through the bushes at the woman who was only a couple of feet away, didn’t need the tip off. Jester froze behind a tree, and waited for the woman to move down towards the building where we had been spotted. We ran quickly past the lawns, looking back to see the guards beginning a sweep of the trees. Coming with small flashlights to check one shadowed area after another. We managed to cross the property and find shelter under the boughs of a large Pine. Which happened to be near another manhole. One of the larger ones we knew about but had not visited yet.
Scarab slowly crawled across the lawn, lit up from above by the windows of the cafeteria. Lying as close to the ground as he could, he slipped the t-bar (made from his car jack) into the manhole and tried to lift. It was very heavy, but he did manage to lift it about ½ a foot, rewarded by the sound of water trickling by far below. He was about to look inside when he noticed the cop car cruising by along the road at the base of the hill.
Flattening himself as much as he could, painfully aware that his shadow was being cast all down the hill, watched as the cops braked. Thinking they saw him he announced on his radio, “Ok, that’s it. I’m done.” Luckily, they were only braking to make the turn towards the building we had just left from. Obviously security at the movie set was much greater than we had anticipated: they actually called in support. We decided not to go back while filming is going on.
Another night while on our way across the lawns and under the trees we discovered another useful tidbit of information. We had decided to try another building. This one was even more abandoned, not even being used by film crews. Jester, Merlin, and Scarab made their way across ½ the property, finally coming to the real tricky part. In order to get to the building, we would have to run down a lawn along a line of prickle bushes, down a roadway in plain view, and then behind the building into the safety of shadows. We sat at the edge of the bush and waited for the security van to drive by, confident our stealthy suits would keep us safely included in the generic shapes around us. Suddenly, coming from an unanticipated direction, the Security truck appeared. We flattened ourselves as much as possible and watched in sudden terror as the incredibly bright searchlights passed along the hillside and over us. Convinced he was seeing us, we were thrilled when he continued on his way down the hill. After laughing it off (“Man, those were really bright”), Jester who had studied the patrols patterns said “he’ll be back in about a minute, that’s the end of his circle”. Sure enough, he came back, and we crawled deeper into the bushes. Figuring he was done, but we should wait a few minutes for safe measure, we were shocked when he came back to the end of his run again, and then by us once more! Again, we waited, and nothing this time. So we got up and started along the hill. The security van takes about 30min to do his circuit, so we would have some time. Usually. Tonight, just as we reached the base of the hill and Jester was preparing to run the last leg, the security truck appeared at the edge of the building in from on him. Turning with a surge of adrenaline, he started whispering “Go, Go , GO!” and the three of us run up the hill as fast as we could, before throwing ourselves into the bushes. Once more the incredibly bright searchlights passed us. We were safe. After a few minutes we were about to try again when we heard a very loud siren whoop in the distance. Security it seemed was very vigilant that night. So we slowly crept off property to try again. However standard procedure now was to leap deep into the bushes to avoid security, not rely on shadows alone.
Finally, on our eighth trip, we successfully pierced the bowels of the building and entered the tunnels of the oldest parts of the psyche hospital. A few of the floors are in use for filming, and have some interesting features such as fake elevators and walls. there is also one area that made us shudder, filled with barred doors like a prison… prison bars made of wood as we discovered as we touched them. On the lower level, Jester discovered the entrance to the tunnel section. There was a pleasant warning of asbestos on the way down. Warning labels to the same effect were on pipes in some areas. Needless to say we were careful not to kick up dust or brush against anything. Rooms in the tunnels were barred for the most part. by the time we had gotten this far, shift change would be coming soon above ground, so we had to leave without finishing our explorations.
We will complete this…