Exploration Stories with Abandoned Southeast


Welcome to the No Tracers podcast, all about urban exploration. This week I am so stoked to share with you my very second No Tracers guest episode with Leland of Abandoned Southeast! You may have seen some of his content on Instagram under @Abandoned_Southeast




0 (1s):

Welcome back to the No Tracers podcast. What's up guys. I hope you're doing well. My name is Kay. If we have not met before. Well, welcome to my podcast. This podcast is all about urban exploration, tips, tricks stories, all about exploring abandoned places. So if you miss the first couple of episodes, that is basically my rundown on how to get into urban exploration. I talk about gear that you need to talk about dealing with security guards. I talk about all kinds of different stuff that I think you need to know when it comes to exploring abandoned places. So if you guys are interested, please go back and listen to those episodes and then come back and listen to this one or to listen to it after whatever. So this week on the podcast, I am speaking with abandoned Southeast, and I'm super excited to have him on the podcast to share some of his crazy Exploration Stories.


0 (52s):

And man, can I just tell you that I have loved having guests on this podcast. We're only three guests in, and I'm already having so much fun getting to talk to other explorers. So I hope you guys enjoy these episodes. I hope you enjoy the future of this podcast at any point, if you like what you're hearing, please leave a rating and some feedback. And if you do leave feedback on the podcast, especially on apple podcasts, take a screenshot of your feedback and send it to me at No Tracers on Instagram. And I will actually send you a signed photo print from an abandoned place that I have explored. I would love to get some of my artwork to you. So that is my way of doing that. So all you got to do is take 30 seconds to leave some feedback and a rating on the podcast.


0 (1m 32s):

And I'll get that out to you. Pronto. Also, I have to let you know that I have a book out called No Tracers, an urban explorers diary. It is full of my personal stories and photographs from abandoned places all over the United States. A couple of places in Canada, a place in Portugal, just all kinds of really cool stuff in this book. So if you guys are interested in picking up a copy of it, you can go to just the letter k.com/ No Tracers. There will be a link in the description. And there's also a couple of affiliate links down in the description to Amazon products that I think would help you in your exploration journey. Things like respirators, lights, backpacks, solar charters, all kinds of stuff in the description. So if you guys need gear, definitely check that stuff out.


0 (2m 14s):

I do get a little bit of kickback every time you use one of my links and you purchase something. So thank you in advance for doing that, but without further ado, let's jump into this podcast with a band and Southeast and see what he's got to say. So abandoned Southeast, can you please introduce yourself and how long you've been exploring for


1 (2m 30s):

Hello? My name is Leland. Run a band in southeast.com and I've been exploring since around 2014. Amazing.


0 (2m 37s):

So let's talk about what got you into exploring in the first place. What made you catch that bug?


1 (2m 44s):

I really got interested in it after seeing the photos of hurricane Katrina in new Orleans, back around 2005. When that happened, I was always fascinated with six flags after that. And I met up some people in Atlanta just to brands through a UVR back in the day when I was like a big exploring thing. And we would just go out on the weekends and me and my wife would go there. I lived in Birmingham at the time, so I only lived about two hours from Atlanta and moved to Atlanta. I have one it's made up of some brands and explore for the afternoon and come back home. And it really just started as a hobby and just kind of grew from there.


0 (3m 25s):

So it's kind of interesting that you bring up the, the six flags that's in new Orleans. I have not gotten to explore that place, but it's definitely on my list. Have you been there? I


1 (3m 35s):

Went to a couple of years ago and actually went during the summertime, which was a huge mistake. It was like a flying insect hill, just walking through there, a dragon flies and mosquitoes and just everything in the world is like attacking you. But you know, this it's a lot different now. It's been, it's been so beat up all over the years, but it's still really cool to see. I would, if you've never been, I would always suggest I want to check it out before they knock it down.


0 (4m 2s):

And it's been, it's been talked about, they're trying to like get somebody to buy it. And they've been trying to do that for years. I mean, since basically since Katrina and I don't think it's ever going to happen, I don't think anybody really wants it. Well,


1 (4m 14s):

Hey, I mean, you know, it's built on swamp land, so, you know, it's just this, it's going to cost a lot of money to do something with it. And I just don't think it would ever really be a profitable it's so far away from the French quarter. You know what I mean? Nobody wants to drive 20 to 30 minutes outside of on where they're staying on the go visit a waterpark. Yeah,


0 (4m 30s):

Absolutely. So what was your first Exploration? Take me way back to the first one.


1 (4m 37s):

Okay. My first probably I guess, well, I've been exploring as a kid with my dad and stuff for a long time, so I can go like way back, but really let's go to like one of my first explorations around Birmingham, where I was actually like going out, like doing smarter bags would be a way to possess department store. And it was in downtown Birmingham. It was a seven story department store. It was owned by a private family and it was in business for decades and they closed it up in 1986 and it just sat there ever since. So when I first got into exploring, I was looking around, you know, it's all this stuff online about six flags and I was really more interested in stuff around my area.


1 (5m 23s):

And so having grown up in Birmingham, I knew it was a big steel industry and a lot of that had declined in the seventies. And pretty much there was just a lot of just basically afterthoughts leftover a lot of these old buildings, just sitting and not doing anything with they're just, they're just dormant. And it was kinda fascinating to me. So I started looking at history around Birmingham and I found a blog called what's up to Birmingham and it was run by this guy who uses the name of named Fletcher is actually became a really good friend of mine, but I was just fascinated with this blog and just all of the really cool stuff to do with the steel males, the mines and just everything else in between.


1 (6m 3s):

And so there was a shopping, there was a shopping department store, like I said, that I first went to and I was just real fascinated about it. It had a parking garage that was attached to it and we would sneak into the basement of the parking garage and go up to like the SkyBridge and then take the SkyBridge over into the actual department store. And at that time they had like a basement of the parking deck, where they were basically the family when, when they closed up the shop, somebody somehow moved to all this stuff into the basement of the parking deck. And it was all on the family's personal belongings, just like old photo albums furniture from this store, all kinds of like really cool stuff.


1 (6m 46s):

I mean, it was just so that you would just wouldn't expect to see there, you know, and all this stuff, it kind of fascinated me and not to mention that the department store itself was really unique. It had this really cool escalators that ran through like the, the center of it. And it was hard to believe that these people would take these escalators. There were so tiny and so small, like the average person, I don't think it would really stood out on him today. And it was just kind of a fascinating to see how his office had a bunch of old paperwork. You would see a signature signed, all, I'd get insurance papers on cancelled checks. And the position on the department store was kind of iconic in Birmingham.


1 (7m 26s):

So really seeing that stuff just really kind of fueled my passion, that to one, to find out what else was out there, you know, and what else I could find.


0 (7m 37s):

Yeah. I, here in California, we've got a big abandoned shopping mall and it's similar, you know, it's got the parking deck and it's got the SkyBridge over and then you have to like climb through our roof. Like it's super sketchy, all that kind of stuff. So it's so fascinating to hear about these like shopping centers that have been decaying over the years across the United States. I'm sure you know who Seth lawless is. He's got a whole book out about abandoned shopping malls in the U S and I, I love hearing these kinds of stories about especially shopping malls. They're one of my favorite places to explore. So when did photography comes into play for you? When did you start capturing and documenting your explorations?


1 (8m 14s):

Well, bell started like right around 20 13, 20 14 is when I started taking photos. And that came about really from seeing the people that I was hanging out with, do it, you know, I was, I was just really going to explore and I saw everybody else had these like big fancy cameras and I it's kind of piqued my interest. And when I saw some of the images they were creating, I was fascinated by it. And I just thought, heck if they can do it, I can do it. And you know, so one thing to another and I just started picking, my buddy gave me a camera and it just went from there. It was just this little cheap Fuji clean shoot.


1 (8m 54s):

And it's just really how it started. And from there I bought a, a cannon crop sensor rebel, and that's what I shot with for years. And now I'm graduated to the full frame and I'm looking for mirrorless these days, you know, but, but yeah, it's just kinda been a progression, like everything, you know, they just take this, just one of those things. They just kind of starts out as a hobby and my major interests grows. It just snowballs from there. And so they it's basically my career.


0 (9m 28s):

Wow. That's absolutely incredible, man. Like, I love hearing that people have taken this passion for decay and the beauty of abandoned things, and they've turned it into a viable form of even income. I have another podcast called Project Freelance, which is about freelancing and I have guests on to talk about how they built their careers. So it's super cool that you've stepped into another level of exploring and you're, you know, making, making a living on it. I think that's amazing. Speaking of photography, camera, equipment, things like that. What other gear do you recommend for new explorers? Like for example, respirators lights, things like that. Do you have anything you would recommend for new explorers?


1 (10m 9s):

I would say the best piece of equipment to have is a good pair of waterproof steel-toed boots because, you know, you're always like stepping through mud, stepping on glass, stepping on nails, you know, you'll never know where to end up sometimes and there's nothing worse than having on a pair of Saudi tennis shoes on. So for me, at least it's a, it's a good pair of boots.


0 (10m 36s):

Perfect. Yeah. I agree. You know, I'm, I'm in the market for a good pair of boots right now. Actually, I, I was in Rhode Island exploring a, an abandoned theme park and almost had two nails go through my foot. You know, they went literally right between my toes. And so I was like, okay, it's time for me to upgrade from these sneakers to some steel-toed boots or hiking boots, something that's a little bit more protective if you will.


1 (11m 2s):

I've been there. I've, I've walked around the house and not realize, you know, like the yard is like sunken in mud, put one foot straight, like ankle deep into mud. So, you know, I'm like, all right, this time for some boots now. Absolutely.


0 (11m 15s):

So are you, or have you been exploring during this quarantine time? We just spoke to a band to Nashville on the podcast, as well as ginger snaps. And they both have been going out because I mean, abandoned places, there's not really a whole lot of people in there. You're self isolated essentially. So have you been exploring as well during this time?


1 (11m 35s):

I get that, but personally I haven't been out. I've been at home for the last two months. I just, you know, I've got a lot of content and I figured out now it's probably a good time to go through it. And so I've just spent the last couple of weeks going through photos, working on blogs, trying to get some content set up to my website. But, but yeah, I mean, I don't, I don't see anything wrong with it. You know, social distancing in the band and places is pretty common


0 (12m 5s):

For sure.


1 (12m 7s):

It's like this, I'm sorry,


0 (12m 9s):

The blog. When did you start the blog? Like when did that become a part of this whole thing?


1 (12m 15s):

You know, the blog started. I had to look because I'm not really quite sure it started in March of 2016 is when I started the blog


0 (12m 25s):

And I love how you've set it up. I'm looking at it right now. Like it's literally so simple to navigate and you've got like, you have it set up so well, like what, where did you build your website? Like, what did you use where you are? Are you on, are you on like Squarespace or Wix? Like, I'm just curious. Oh yeah,


1 (12m 42s):

No problem. It's on WordPress actually. And I started with just the free symbol, WordPress, WordPress website. Anybody can make one, I'm not a big computer person. And so this is, it's always been kind of a challenge for me and I've enjoyed it and let's see, I'm, I'm probably up to over 115 posts now on there. So you're looking at like thousands of photos and all kinds of stories just from everywhere. And it's been doing pretty well. So we're here, I'm in like the fourth year now and it's averaging about a hundred thousand views a month. And so as soon as, as soon as this that's


0 (13m 21s):

Amazing, man, like that's wow. A hundred thousand views a month on a blog. That's awesome. Congratulations. That's so huge. Can you bring me to your scariest exploration that you've been on


1 (13m 36s):

Scariest? Well, no, I don't know if I got like a scariest I've ran into people. I had, there was one time in Birmingham where I was exploring this old warehouse. It's, it's been demolished since, but I calmed in through this window and I entered into the small room. And when I exited out of a small room, it was into a bigger room. And in that room was like a group of people shooting heroin or something. And so it was kind of just really like awkward to walk in there and see all these people who just kind of like laid out and scattered around. And they're all staring at me and I'm staring at them, you know?


1 (14m 16s):

And so running into people, I guess it's probably like one of this, one of the scariest things, but oftentimes it's just a, Hey, how are you? And keep going to type thing. I've never had an issue running into somebody also, I guess I'm in this scary category. You could maybe talk about finding a dead body. You went into Memorial mound back in Birmingham, right around 2014 or so. And that's when they had just discovered all the bodies in there. There was probably nine decomposing bodies inside at the time. And one of them was, had been opened and was just visible. And you can just let me to walk up to it and look over and see this bag of bones.


1 (14m 58s):

And just like this jelly mass. That was probably one of the craziest things I've seen, but you know, the occasional run in with like security or the police, I guess might be under the scary category to put all those for me of all this into pretty well. I've never really had any issues with police. Usually just explain that I'm just taking photos and he usually, they just let me go look up to me. Like I'm crazy. Or sometimes they're kind of interested in, you know, I want to see what it's about and it's talking about a website and hand them the card and go on about my day.


0 (15m 30s):

That's amazing. Yeah. I did a, one of the first episodes of the podcast I did was on dealing with security and slash to the police. So it's, it's cool to hear that you haven't had too much trouble with it. And in that podcast, I say like, most of the time you can just say you're a photographer and they'll let you go. Like you just said, because we're not there to vandalize. We're not there to like destroy or burn anything down. We're just there to capture, capture the beauty that's left behind, you know? So that's, that's awesome. And then what about history? You're you're you seem to be pretty big on the history of these places. Do you have a favorite place that has like your favorite history,


1 (16m 8s):

Man? There's a couple of them. I love like old historic homes. Houses are just unique to me because each one of them is unique. They're all different. And they're all 'em even though they're not me in the same style to the same architecture, each one is a little different. And so really the history of houses to me is probably one of the most fascinating stuff, because you can, there's all kinds of stuff out there. You know, I've got stories on my side about strip club owners. I've got stories just about mansions and historic homes, just all in all kinds of stuff. There's even one where the guys buried in the backyard. So, you know, this, this is all these houses to me are just fascinating.


1 (16m 50s):

And that's probably one of my favorite places to explore. But other than that, I really like the history side growing up in Birmingham. You know, I mentioned this steals, there's still history. It has, but also it's the civil rights movement was real big there and there's a big civil rights area downtown. And one of my favorite explorers is this guy was called the color of my Sonic temple. And it was just like a big gathering place for the African-American community on, during the civil rights movement. And there was a bunch of businesses inside I'm talking like dental offices, just all kinds of cool stuff, boating places, just stuff that you, you would never see anymore.


1 (17m 32s):

And everything in there on the doors, everything's all hand painted. And of course being a Masonic lodge, most of the building is like that really pretty blue on the inside. So it was, it was just probably one of my favorite explores and one of my favorite places to learn about.


0 (17m 48s):

I love that. Yeah. Temples are so beautiful. Like you said, inside, like, that's awesome that you got to explore a place like that. Abandoned Nashville talks about a Masonic temple as well. So it's cool that you guys are over in that area. There's so many more buildings like that on the east coast. I'm in California. So we don't really have too many abandoned Masonic temple is over here. So it's cool to hear that you guys have that kind of stuff over on the east coast. What about goal places? Do you have places that you haven't been yet that you really want to go for me, obviously Chernobyl and Fukushima are massive spots on my goal list, but what about you?


1 (18m 29s):

I would like to go, I would probably say like Europe, Italy and that area, and just see some of that architecture, some of those old villas and like this palaces and stuff that you see online a lot. I went to see some of that stuff out in person. We don't really have a lot of those like big grandiose churches down here on the south, you know? So I would also say like some of the stuff up in the Northeast kind of peaks my interest, some of those really ordinate old movie palaces and at the old charges and stuff like that, you know, just re ornate, decorative architecture as well. Like, so that's where I'm going to, so you've


0 (19m 6s):

Hit casinos, you've hit movie theaters, you've hit giant buildings, federal buildings. You've seen so many amazing and different kinds of places. It's not like you're just exploring houses. I mean, you've also done like airplane graveyards, things like that. Do you have a favorite type aside from houses? You S you mentioned that you love exploring houses. Do you have like a preference of what kind of place you you explore other than the houses?


1 (19m 36s):

You know, I really don't, it's kind of all like fascinating in its own way, houses, boats, like you said, to some other federal buildings, banks, banks to me are always like really cool because they have a, usually have a really cool vault. And I'm like, all the doors are one of those things that are like unique to each bank. So maybe you have this, it's like all kinds of stuff. I don't really look out for one particular thing. I just really to say, if something catches my eye, if I think this might be like an interesting story behind that, you know, something that other people would, might be interested in, you know, that's kind of this stuff that I look for so that people would want to know about, you know, but I wouldn't want them with that, but I would even want to know more about,


0 (20m 21s):

And then do you explore alone or with people, do you have a preference?


1 (20m 27s):

You know, I like to do it by myself, really. I don't mind explaining to people, and there's a lot of this, a lot of coolant stores out there that I've met over the years and that I've enjoyed at sport, but just as like a preference thing, I would, I would prefer to go by myself just because I can kind of shoot at my own pace. I'm a slow shooter sometimes. And I'm sometimes asked to white people to be in my way, you know what I mean? Nothing against just having people in to you, but sometimes there's more people, I don't know a way. So I mean, shoot how I want to, you know, get the shots out. I'm looking for this for me, it's just all about like an odd thing. Like I'm trying to capture what I see visually myself through my lens, if that makes sense.


0 (21m 13s):

Absolutely. So we have a lot of people that, you know, I'm sure you also do. I have a lot of people hit me up and say like, Hey, can you just send me some addresses? How do you feel about sharing locations? Things like that. Can you kind of give people a little bit of an insight onto why we don't necessarily give out address is to just anybody?


1 (21m 34s):

Well, the simple reason is that things get destroyed. I see it happening all the time, especially as like this, with this new wave of explorers that are, that are coming up now in their early twenties with the YouTube and stuff like that. I've had places like schools, for example, and I've visited four or five years ago that I went back and recently visited and they're, they're, they're tagging, tagging them up with like permanent markers and stuff like that. Now writing their Instagram handle and you know, nobody is going to see that stuff. It sounds other explorers. There's really no reason I'm doing it. And some of that stuff to just kind of like art to me and all of that, you know, that's why I don't want to give places out because I don't want them to be vandalized.


1 (22m 17s):

You know, people steal things, break into places and it's, I mean, I like to try to hold these places as much as I can just like they are for as long as possible. Yup.


0 (22m 29s):

I'm the exact same way. And I think you're right. The new wave, the, the YouTube kids, I mean, I'm technically one of the YouTubers, but yeah, I totally know exactly what you're talking about. And I hate that people vandalize these spots because we want to keep them as pristine as possible. Because when we take photos of these places, we want them to look how they looked when they were first abandoned with the decay. We don't want to see your stupid Instagram handle in a photo. Like, come on guys.


1 (22m 56s):

That's right. That's right. And then I will say this, there is a lot of good YouTube channels out there, but it seems like that's really where a lot of this stuff is going for, for cloud when they just try to, when they want to get all these places and put them on video and putting it on YouTube or to try to get some kind of cloud. And I know there's a lot of good YouTube as far as out there. So I'm not just bashing you too.


0 (23m 16s):

Oh, for sure. For sure. And then if you could live in one place that you've explored for a week, which place would it be?


1 (23m 24s):

That's funny, you asked that when I first started to explore it, me and my wife would pay this game. Like basically like, what'd you sleep here? And we hit any town here in a place of, you got to look at all the other person, but like, what would you sleep here? And oftentimes the answer would be like, yeah, no, stay in there for a week. I don't know about that. And that was going to be stuck somewhere for a week. It would probably be somewhere outside of the city or I don't know, I get like a decent night's sleep and don't have to worry about somebody like running up on you, you know? But, but yeah, hopefully, hopefully we're not going to have to come to that anytime soon.


0 (24m 1s):

Absolutely. And then my last question for you is what is something, you know, now that you wish you knew when you started exploring


1 (24m 11s):

People talk. So, you know, if there's somewhere that you really like and that you really enjoy exploring you probably shouldn't tell everybody where it's at all.


0 (24m 21s):

There you go. That's, that's a great piece of advice. Yeah. If you love the spot, don't tell people about it to keep it to yourself, man. Keep it a secret, keep it a secret. Cool. Well, if anybody has any questions for you or if they want to see more of your content, where can they go to find you?


1 (24m 38s):

All right. I'm all over social media. You can find me on Facebook, out abandoned Southeast. You're going to find me on Instagram. I'm under the same name. And of course she got on my blog at abandoned South-East dot com. You can always reach out to me on there. And I love to hear from people. I love to talk her back. So, you know, hit me up.


0 (24m 59s):

Perfect. Thank you, Leila. And I appreciate you coming on this podcast and chatting with me for a bit.


1 (25m 4s):

Thank you Kay for having me. I really appreciate it.


0 (25m 7s):

All right, guys, that was abandoned Southeast. I'm so excited that I got to talk to him. Thank you too. I've been in Nashville for actually bringing him up so that I could reach out. If you guys have any explorers that you would like me to talk to, please hit me up at No Tracers on Instagram with their tag. I would love to hear from them. I would love to know more about what they do as explorers. And I would love to ask them to these questions. So yeah, if you guys have any explorers you want me to interview, just hit me up on Instagram and let me know. Other than that, thank you guys for tuning into another episode of No Tracers, the podcast. I will talk to you with another guest next week. And man, I am loving, I'm loving this.


0 (25m 47s):

I'm loving doing this. I'm loving getting to talk to other explorers. I've always wanted to do something where I get to actually speak to them and pick their brains about exploration and hear some stories. And I mean, abandoned Southeast scene and dead body in an abandoned place. Like that's crazy. I have yet to experience that. I don't know what's going to happen when I do, but wow. What a crazy story. So yeah, if you guys have not heard of S abandoned Southeast, or if you haven't checked his stuff out, please do me a huge favor and go to Instagram, go to abandoned southeast.com. Find him out, Abandoned Southeast. All of his links will be down in the description. Be sure to hit them up. If you've got questions or if you just need some inspiration, go check out his content.


0 (26m 27s):

Cool. I'll talk to you guys next week on No Tracers. My name is Kay. Have fun exploring and remember leave no trace.

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