Trespassing: A Lesson Learned the Hard Way
“Its principal feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity. The discoloration of ages had been great.” -Edgar Allan Poe (The Fall of the House of Usher)
Note: I apologize for the lack of photos in this article. Due to its sensitive nature, it is in my best interest if I don’t include the original photos in this article.
It started with innocent exploring.
It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in Portage la Prairie, MB, and I was anxious to find some old, abandoned properties that I had been recently informed of. Of course, these sorts of properties would make great content for blog articles considering the content of Wander Until Lost. Old architecture, antique designs, mementos from the past, and slow decay are all things that I find interesting and could include in a post.
Accompanied by several friends, I drove down several of the gravel roads around the perimeter of town, looking for one property in particular. We had the music cranked, the windows down, and cameras ready for our little adventure.
Eventually, we came upon a long driveway with weeds and long grass growing over it. The old fence was falling down, and the main building structure’s foundation was caved in and filled with dirt and rubble. Perfect! This was the place we were looking for.
We slowly drove down the driveway as the overgrown foliage scratched at the bottom of the vehicle. Surely this place was deserted.
We parked and walked up to the house. It was beautifully haunting, and time had definitely taken its tole on the property. We entered and walked through each of the rooms (they were still full with everything from tools to clothes to books) and searched through all of them. We took many pictures, and even found an old doll that was torn and had most of the classic paint peeled off.
After the house, we casually made our way through a couple of the barns and photographed them as well.
After we were satisfied with our exploration, we loaded up into the vehicle and took off for home.
Things were great!
It was the best article I had ever written.
The following few days were filled with picture editing, writing about the property, and other general preparation for an article I was putting together. I aptly titled it “Exploring Abandoned Portage la Prairie Rural Properties”.
When all was prepared, I had a blog post that was mysterious, entertaining, as well as informative. I made sure it included all the great photos we took. It stood out among my other articles and was without a doubt one of the best I had ever written, and I knew it.
So, I posted it.
The response I got was incredible. My statistics in relation to previous articles were TRIPLED, and the community shared the article all over Facebook. Everything seemed great, and I was beyond excited.
That is, until I started receiving very negative comments on the article.
I received two messages that specifically bothered me. Both were from neighbors of the property we visited, and their comments accused me of trespassing, destruction of property, and breaking and entering. They made sure to also inform me that they had passed along all my information to the owner.
Of course, I was quite troubled by this as I assumed that the property was abandoned and was fair game for anyone to be on. I would never purposefully be trespassing on someone’s property.
I quickly contacted both of the persons that commented, and gave them my information and a request to get the owner’s information so I could speak to him directly and apologize.
Shortly, one of them replied and told me my information would be passed on.
I decided it would be best in the blogs best interest if I deleted the article along with all the pictures, so I wouldn’t incriminate myself further or promote a bad reputation. It was hard to do considering all the work I had put into it, but sometimes the right thing is the hard thing.
Two weeks passed and I decided that things might end up alright. But things got worse before they got better.
I received an ominous phone call.
I listened as an angry voice spoke to me.
“You don’t need to know who I am, or who I roll with. You just need to know I am coming for you, and that your life will never be the same from this point on”
“You went onto MY property and smashed stuff, you stole the rad out of my truck, and all you need to know is that I am coming for you. I should get a couple of big guys to come with me and break your legs. That place is my inheritance, and you are destroying it. I am coming for you.”
To say the least, I was slightly shook after the one-sided conversation ended. He must have been a relative of the owner.
I shrugged it off at first, but I soon received multiple texts from the same number stating he was finding out where all my family lived and what he was going to do to me and them.
Was it just an idle threat, or something I should be concerned about?
Regardless of the sincerity of the caller, when he brought my family into the picture, I responded and asked him how we could work out the problem. I told him we never vandalized anything and that we never stole anything, but we did go in and take a lot of pictures and may have kicked open a few doors because we thought it was abandoned.
He never believed me at all, but he did say he would “take it easy on me” if I went to the police detachment and told them exactly what happened and got them to call him.
I knew there could have been worse things, and I was honestly sick of dealing with the repercussions of writing the article. I drove down to the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) later that day and told an officer my story, leaving out no details.
He found out that the caller was indeed a relative of the owner, and agreed to call him. He also agreed that we would set up a meeting with the owner of the property and have a mediated discussion so I could avoid being convicted of multiple charges.
So, a few weeks went by…
I walked into the RCMP station for a second time and met with the property owner (finally!) to discover that he was a very reasonable, elderly man. He was kind considering the circumstances, and I sincerely apologized for illegally trespassing and for possibly inspiring vandals and treasure hunters to go there themselves.
I explained to him that I had no idea he still used the property, and we came to the agreement that I would help him fix up some windows that had been vandalized recently as well as share this story on my blog to help prevent any future trespassing. I feel like this was much better than spending time in court and possibly being convicted of crime.
In the end, we were able to shake hands and move past what happened.
I learned a lot from this unfortunate experience.
The biggest thing I learned in all this is that respecting people, their property, and their history should be one of the biggest priorities of a travel blogger (or any person for that matter).
I also learned that it is a very good idea to know all the legalities of wherever I am, and to make sure any exploring I do is within them. I want to be the best travel blogger I can be, and sometimes that means doing a lot more research before exploring.
Here are a few tips that I learned lately that will help you in exploring!
- Town or city halls will have (or know how to get) information on specific properties that you might want to explore. Usually they can find information such as the landowners name, phone number, etc. Acquiring such information is important before stepping foot on someone else’s property
- Every province or state has different laws concerning property, some much stricter than others. Be sure to look into those to know your rights as an explorer. The laws or acts can usually be found quite easily online.
- Always be respectful of others property. A general rule I now hold for myself is “leave the place better than how you found it”
Happy exploring everyone. Be safe and smart! NO TRESPASSING!