I’ve been in full on research mode the past few weeks. My characters (according to the first draft, which, as you may know, is very malleable and not at all set in stone) are going on a road trip, and I want to make it as realistic as possible. I’ve been looking into driving times, which highways they’d take, what sights they’d pass, and abandoned/haunted places they could explore along the way.
Now, if that last part confuses you, then read this post about what my book is about.
In the spirit of research and gaining knowledge, I thought I’d share a few of the places I found!
1) Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace - 3695 Overture Drive, Houston, TX
This five-story building topped with a 40-foot golden sphere was built by members of the Wu-Wei Tien Tao Association in the mid- to late-nineties. Apparently the three-story dome was meant to serve as “the palace of the God.” However, the sect’s leader, Kawi Fun Wong, travelled back to Hong Kong to arrange the funeral of her predecessor and was refused entry back to the United States. This left the Houston sect without a local leader and halted all construction on the site, which was meant to be 11 acres large and contain daycare, retail, and residential facilities for the religious organization.
The exterior remains intact, while the inside is unfinished and completely empty. There is a fence around the site—many people site it as broken and claim to have crossed it easily—and the doors and windows are tightly locked or blacked out, not allowing anyone to explore the empty shell of this would-be religious site. So, sitting among suburban apartment complexes and strip malls, the Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace stands out as a reminder to all religious leaders in the United States that they shouldn’t travel abroad with a residency status that is anything less than totally legal.
2) Central Unit Prison – One Circle Drive, Sugar Land, TX
The 325 acre site lies 2 miles from central Sugar Land along US Highway 90A. The prison first opened in 1901 with 950 beds and was one of the first penal institutions owned by the State of Texas. The doors closed for good in August 2011 and officially became the first prison in Texas to close down and not be replaced. White art deco style buildings pepper the lush green landscape like scattered bones, making it easy to believe the rumors of ghosts wandering the empty halls. The prison’s history is plagued with violent riots and deaths, leading many of those who have walked the grounds to believe the men who died there never left.
If you’re hoping to take a peek inside, I’m afraid I must deliver some bad news. As the area was previously a prison, the fences around the site are not easy to scale. Plus, as of two years ago, the prison grounds were still being used for farming and various other non-inmate related services, meaning the site may not be completely abandoned (though the main prison buildings are). However, the show Ghost Adventures from the Travel Channel filmed an episode at the prison that you can watch online. I haven’t seen the episode, so I can’t vouch for the authenticity of their discoveries, but there is a lot of footage of the inside of the prison for those of you interested.
3) LeHunt, KS – east of Elk City Lake and northwest of Independence
There are few buildings still standing in this small town, but upon digging through some underbrush you may discover the remnants of what was once a concrete factory. Once a flourishing business, the factory was forced to close its doors forever during the Great Depression. The walls, ovens, and giant smokestack of the factory are still intact, and if you dig back far enough you may come across a pick ax set into one of the concrete walls. This stands as a monument for a factory worker who fell into a vat of concrete and was never recovered. Rumors abound of orbs and cold spots—possible signs from the deceased factory worker that he never left? Or maybe a wandering spirit from the graveyard that lies a half mile away from the factory? The graveyard is quite old, with some graves dating back to the 1860s, so there’s no saying how many spirits could be roaming around. (There are whisperings online that the site is now blocked off by a fence, but there is no way to verify that for sure.)
What do you think? Would you visit any of these places? Do you believe in ghosts? Let me know in the comments! Also, let me know if you know of any other cool abandoned/haunted places!