Cody’s passion for Urban Exploration began through a love for architecture and Oklahoma history. In high school he became captivated by the Skirvin Hotel and Page Woodson School. Photographing and researching the stories behind the buildings. “There is nothing more interesting to me than the history of place. The lives people lived within these buildings creates a fabric of history. Woven through stories, images, artifacts and memories. It is our duty to preserve these buildings and their histories”
While in college, Cody and the team founded AbandonedOK. “It was something unique that Oklahoma was lacking. There weren’t any urban exploration groups specific to our state. I felt it was necessary to bring awareness to Oklahoma and at-risk buildings across the state in another avenue that the public had yet to see” The group quickly grew and the response was overwhelmingly positive. “The forums began buzzing. People came out of the woodwork! The most rewarding part of all was knowing that we were able provide a space for fellow explorers to share their work and content.”
Cody continues his exploring today. Whether down an unknown country road, or in an urban center, you’ll find him out and about exploring. “Many days I will just get in the car and go somewhere I haven’t ever been before. It is the ultimate freedom!”
Starting from a young age, I’ve always loved exploring. I can remember venturing off and scoping out the houses being built in the developing neighborhood right behind my house. As I got older, I found myself appreciating the work and love that went into architecture and just being excited to pass by the beautifully designed places in downtown. That’s why when I found out there were historic properties all over Oklahoma that were just sitting abandoned, I couldn’t help but wanting to do something about it. In high school, I discovered the website AbandonedOK.com and started exploring these places and taking pictures to contribute to their large online database.
Majestic Hotel fire, 2014
Upon graduating, I moved to Arkansas to attend college and started my own version, AbandonedAR.com. It wasn’t until I came across the Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs, AR that I started to fight for the preservation of buildings. Unfortunately, we lost the Majestic and in honor of what could have been, I am committed to continuing that fight to try and save these forgotten places before it is too late. If we can’t physically save them, I hope that their history and the memories created within their walls can live forever on the internet. Find out how you can help us fight, donate and/or volunteer here: AbandonedAR.com/support
Her first abandoned building was the Skedee High School, “I was shocked with the amount of stuff left in the building even though it had been abandoned for over 50 years.” When she used to drive by abandoned buildings it never crossed her mind about the things left inside, in fact, there wasn’t even much thought about the buildings themselves. “After seeing paper and books that had past students names written on them I was on a mission to find out more. Why and when did it close? Could I find anyone who used to go there? Were there any plans for the school?” That jump-started the hobby for her and instead of just going to cool places it became a sort of a historical conquest.
Emily was brought into the Abandoned OK Team in December of 2019. “I’m not gonna lie I fangirled a bit. My first published post I was ecstatic, I felt like I finally had the right audience for my work. The opportunities that came with it made me love the website even more. I remember my first interview with a couple at Waukomis Christian Church. They had bought and restored the 1897 church and insisted on keeping the original sanctuary despite being advised on moving it. We talked with them for at least a good 40 minutes about the church, the abandoned Waukomis Middle School beside it, and the towns other disappearing buildings. They even rang the bell for us that has sat in the bell-tower for the last 120 something years ago. We could tell they were just as passionate about preserving Oklahoma’s dwindling history as we were. When interviewing people and hearing the first-hand stories and recollections of a place and seeing how a person connects to a building, it forms a connection between not only you and that person but yourself and that building.”
Currently attending College in Tulsa, Emily spends most of her free time researching and exploring these magnificent pieces of Oklahoma history. She gets together groups to go out exploring when she can and travels up to Kansas for explorations occasionally.
Born and raised in Tulsa, David has developed a strong appreciation for old buildings over the years, especially around Tulsa. He knows the city very well, along with the surrounding towns, and has been avidly exploring since 2007.
His alias “Fiend” was a nickname middle school derived from a video game (Tiberian Sun), which ended up sticking with him. He has almost an obsession with the past, always looking at something and wondering how it came to be there or how it was built, who was here before him, what was it like in the past. To him (since he hasn’t mastered time travel), abandoned buildings and structures are a way of seeing into the past.
His first actual abandoned building experience was an old movie theater off of 71st and Memorial (now a Wal-Mart) in Tulsa. At the time he didn’t even own a camera, and just did it for the thrill. The experience was “life changing”. The dark, musty smell of the building was unforgettable, it was something he was instantly interested in.
Now, almost 6 years later, he has been all over the state documenting historical places. What started off as just a little hobby, has now started to grow into a way of life. He met some good friends through their common interests of old buildings and now share some incredible experiences with each other. He spends hours researching maps and old documents constantly looking for buildings, which have been lost and forgotten, and has become quite good at it. He has contacts with local historians and city employees that occasionally help him with his research and endeavors.
One of his other favorite past times is exploring the underground or “draining”. He has always had a fascination with the underground, walking around the streets wondering what was below his feet. He has explored countless tunnels under Tulsa, and has started to see what OKC has to offer as well. Finding something long forgotten underground is a constant desire of his.
As much as he likes the “awesome photo opportunities” of abandoned buildings, his ultimate goal is to see them saved and restored. He believes that if enough people see his pictures, the buildings can be saved, and hopefully invested in. His only wish is that he could have done something to save or even photograph the countless old buildings and schools in Tulsa that have been lost forever due to “city progress” or were damaged beyond repair because of neglect.”
If you have ever driven by a building and wondered what has happened within its walls, walked by catching a trace of that stagnant smell and thought about what lies inside still, you know what drives Billy Dixon. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Billy has spent countless hours researching, exploring, and combing through the walls of Oklahoma’s forgotten and neglected buildings.
“I first got introduced to this by hanging out with friends in Jr. High that were going to an old abandoned dairy factory.” said Billy, “Once we got there, everyone but myself got scared about going in. As soon I stepped out of the car, I knew this was for me. There were awesome old documents, labels, old bottles, and just so much stuff left inside. I immediately became curious of what happened and why all this was left behind.”
Since his first exploration Billy has been head first into discovering and exploring other unremembered and passed up places. “It’s a really awesome hobby, which I wish to turn into a career at some point. I would love to help restore or document the last moments of pieces of history that many have never seen or would not have access to otherwise.”
If you are driving or walking along that building you pass almost every day and your curiosity peaks, take a look around this site. You might just find out what is lurking inside its walls.
Johnny Fletcher ( psychosaw13) is the oldest member of the team. Born & raised in Bartlesville, Ok. He has lived on the same street his whole life. He began exploring in 2008 officially.
His explorer/screen name came from his early days on the internet. It is derived from his love of horror films” Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Friday The 13th.
He wanted something to describe what I loved the most. It had stuck with him & used this moniker ever since.
When he started out exploring it was only small homes left abandoned around his neighborhood. His first memories of exploration was an old two story home down the road from his neighborhood that had been converted in to a “Spook House” by a local organization.
“That was our playground” says psychosaw13. He & His buddies would go there at night & have a great time. The organization had left all of the spook house props & a huge slide on the inside. They would play hide & seek & just be kids inside that house.
Later in years a friend on Facebook mentioned a UE site to him. After viewing it & searching through the forums, he discovered that others enjoyed exploring too! After looking at some images of Dogpatch U.S.A. (an abandoned Arkansas amusement park) …He was hooked.
After 6 months or more of documenting his explorations he received a message from a local explorer in Tulsa (Fiend) . Looking to meet others with the same passion, he answered the request. Little did psychosaw13 know that this explorer would become one of his good friends.
Their first adventure was the Lincoln Beerblower Power plant in Ponca City.
“Fiend didn’t look anything like I thought he would. He was very clean cut guy”. They got along well. They had the same interests. “UE is what brings people together” it doesn’t matter what you look like or what kind of background you have. “Talking about rusted decaying structures can get any like minded individual talking for hours”.
Abandoned Oklahoma soon went live. The administrators asked if psychosaw13 would be onboard to help out & get the site rolling. “The site was fantastic!” it was the best site he had seen since he got into Urban Exploration
After a few more meet ups & working with AbandonedOK, Fiend had mentioned another member of the site “Billy!” Soon they had all met up for an exploration in the Ghost town of Picher.
Johnny states “These are some of the best friends I could ask for; they are all diverse individuals but yet they share the same interests.
After another big meet up with the guys from Abandoned Ok at the Chillocco Indian School, He says “there just isn’t any feeling like it. Once you step onto those empty streets you feel like you are the only man left on earth”
Psychosaw13 continues to work to preserve history with his pictures & stories. “It really has become a full time hobby” he says. There are lots of hours of editing photos & sometimes months of research just to find the story behind the discovery.
He continues, “I love it, I have already captured Images of things that are now gone & demolished. I have the history no one cared about, but in 30 or 40 years we can show the future generations what it used to be like, because I’m the one who did care.”
Growing up, Jennifer lived in a small Oklahoma town that is home to an Arts and Science University. Her mother worked for the University and on most days in the late 80’s, Jennifer could be found riding her bike down the expansive winding sidewalks and becoming more interested in the buildings on campus that sat unused. One in particular was the old fieldhouse. At the time, part of the building was still being used for classes but the majority of it was no longer needed. There was a pool on the bottom floor with locker rooms that still smelled like chlorine, a basketball court on the top floor and a boiler room in the basement. That pool was actually the pool Jennifer learned to swim in around 1982. By 1988, it and the basketball court became places that she loved to visit. The doors were never locked because, well, the 80’s, so access to unlimited exploring of this building was very attainable. The building itself was beautiful and so was the campus. Some of Jennifer’s best childhood memories came from the time spent exploring the University.
Later in life, Jennifer realized that wanting to know what was behind any old door she saw or boarded up building, started with the field house as a child. That curiosity has always been there. She has been very fortunate as an adult to be able to make the connections that she has made with other people with similar curiosities. She has been able to gain access over the years to some pretty incredible places and has made a few new friends along the way.
A few years ago, after some research, Jennifer was able to find the current owner of the abandoned hospital that she was born in. With permission, she and a few other Abandoned Oklahoma team members were able to enter what would become one of our most memorably gross explores. There was so much water damage and the place was at the time, being used as storage for more junk than any of the team had ever seen. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. If we looked hard enough, there were still reminders of the hospital. Surgery lights, drawer labels, a clinic in the back, X-ray machines and even a cafeteria. Jennifer could still see through the clutter what was once vitally there. Regardless of all the mess inside, because of the sentimental value, this is one of Jennifer’s favorite places to have ever been in. She was able to stand in the same long closed waiting room that her grandparents and great grandparents stood in awaiting her arrival in July of 1979.
Jennifer and her friend Leslie, also an Abandoned Oklahoma team member, have seen some interesting places and things over the years. There have been old schools, nursing homes, amusement parks, hospitals and hidden treasures along the way. Jennifer is always surprised by the amount of useable goods that always seem to be left behind. There is something appealing to her about what happens to these places when the doors close for the last time.
Her hope through Abandoned Oklahoma is that we are able as a team, to show accurate and historical content related to our state and its history. Every team member understands and respects that each of these places were special and unique. They hold special places in the hearts of so many and the memories made there are and were priceless. Some of the places that she had the pleasure of photographing are no longer standing making the mission of Abandoned Oklahoma that much more important.
Throughout my life, I have never passed an old house or building and not wondered what it looked like inside. Raised in the Mississippi Delta, where dilapidated and derelict buildings and homes are plentiful, I allowed my imagination to run wild; the call to explore always beckoned. Being an English major with a MFA in creative non-fiction, it is my nature to absorb and create stories based on real life. Studying the history and seeing the remains of structures that held that history is a gift that not many take the time to experience.
Since joining Abandoned Arkansas, I have been able to feed my lifetime obsession with what once filled the emptiness of these buildings. Capturing the essence of the structure, be it a loving home or a fancy hotel or a sad hospital, is an honor.
When I’m not out exploring, I teach high school alternative students, operate a private tattoo studio, read tarot cards, and watch too much YouTube. I have a fascination with dinosaurs, namely the T.rex, outer space, slow heavy metal music, and thrift store shopping. I’ve lived in Little Rock for over ten years now and love every minute of it. Visit me on instagram @highfiveg
Eddy Sisson joined Abandoned Arkansas in 2013 and was so moved by the locations that he has since volunteered tirelessly to help restore life to Dogpatch USA and other locations. He started the official Facebook fan page for the old park. Eddy later joined AAR in September 2013.His starting of AAR’s group “Arkansas History Rescue” adds life to forgotten and abandoned properties.
James “The Negotiator” Kirkendall is a Fort Smith resident and joined the Abandoned Arkansas team in 2014. He owns two dogs, a parrot, and lives with his wife Ashleigh. Though he struggles with a learning disability, his talents and persistence have led him to an array of different achievements. Some of the greatest feats have been receiving a black belt in traditional karate and performing overseas in the Fringe Theatre Festival in Edinburgh Scotland. His education includes several computer technology certifications and he has attended the New York Film Academy in LA. His interests include video games, roller skating, and martial arts.
Grant loves history of all forgotten places, but stresses his focus in the town “Hot Springs,” where he grew up. He started his own group called “Forgotten Arkansas” back before contributing to AAR.
Jared Holt began shooting in 2009 and has since won 17 Arkansas Scholastic Press awards, been featured in 3 galleries, and has since.