learned of the Lost City while doing a Web search
for ghost towns in Virginia. One Web site gave pretty
good instructions on where to find the Lost City,
so a friend and I drove up from the Peninsula looking
for the area. This being unfamiliar turf, we were
unable to find the Lost City.
Almost a year
later, I decided to do some more online research
about the place. I perused several Web sites, one
of which was WAG.
If I remember correctly, it was Charlie
Onion’s article that first brought
the water tower to my attention. Soon, I found myself
back up near Sandston, driving along Technology
Boulevard. Before long, I spotted the top of a water
tower off in the distance. I managed to drive nearer
to the water tower and noticed several trails going
into the woods near the tower.
I returned with
a friend, who dropped me off at the beginning of
a trail. He agreed to loop around the end of Technology
Boulevard and pick me up later. It was supposed
to be a short, cursory examination of a trail. It
was the middle of the day, and I was nervous as
a cat. I hopped over the Jersey Wall at the entrance
of the trail and began running down the wide swathe
the trail cuts through the woods of Elko Tract.
I ducked under a tree trunk that looked as if it’s
been purposely placed across the trail. I kept running
until I came to a point where the trail intersected
with another trail. I turned back and met my friend.
It was the first
of many forays into this strange, orange-soiled
land, and all things considered, it was a success.
We checked out another trail on the opposite side
of Technology Boulevard, but we didn’t make
it too far down. The whole operation seemed forbidden,
and it was making us nervous.
I got home and
contacted another friend with the news. He checked
out the second trail we visited and said he didn’t
see much. My friend worked with somebody who used
to hang out at the Lost City, though, and his coworker
told him that security had gotten more intense after
stolen cars began getting left back there.
On my next few
visits to the area, I returned alone. I concentrated
on the area near the first trail that I went down.
Eventually, I got back to the opposite side of Technology
Boulevard and began investigating there too. But
it was on a trip into the woods on the water tower
side that I realized I’d found the Lost City.
The water tower
is really the anchor of the whole Lost City area,
and it provides an invaluable landmark for locating
things. In fact, it was near this tower that I made
several interesting finds, many of which match up
to things mentioned in WAG’s
If one keeps walking
, the trails eventually become lined with curbs
on both sides. But it’s not just curbs—there
are rain gutters, storm drains and manholes. Most
interesting are the fire hydrants. I took a picture
of one. It has the year “1953” embossed
on it. This fits perfectly with what Onion uncovered
about the history of the place.
At the edge of
the woods near the Infineon complex, I found a strange
three-sided wooden box. Looking in, I saw only a
mound of dirt. Strange. There was a Danger High
Voltage sign nearby. Perhaps the mound was some
buried power line? Another sign in that area said
“Sector 2” or “Zone 2.”
Strangely enough, the number “2” was
painted on a pine tree at the entrance of a trail
about a half-mile away.
article also mentioned some partially buried structures.
I had yet to uncover anything resembling that description
until one visit where a friend and I were walking
a trail not far from Portugee Road. Just off of
the trail were the cinderblock foundations of a
building. One level went a few feet below ground
and had standing water in it.
On the opposite
side of Technology Boulevard near Technology Court,
more of these structures were found. Were they remnants
of the “fake airfield” or were they
perhaps something else? WAG mentions that “cottage”
buildings were slated to be built for the hospital
/ asylum. Perhaps they went ahead and laid the foundations
for them? Small steel rods protruded from the foundations,
possibly to anchor the rest of the building.
This side of the
woods had its own unique brand of weirdness. I came
across what looked like a giant dried-out lakebed,
for instance. Its orange dirt bottom had been cracked
and peeled by the sun. Little salamanders would
dart in front of you, seemingly on their hind legs.
After sprinting across your line of sight, they’d
typically scurry up a tree.
At one point,
I noticed that the woods were pockmarked with small
holes, three to six feet in diameter. The holes
were no more than three feet deep. In the woods
behind the water treatment plant, I came across
a giant hole in the ground. It was approximately
ten feet deep, over ten feet wide and over twenty
feet long, with one side open. This may have been
natural, but something about it seemed man-made.
I came across something else strange in the woods
near the water treatment plant: a wood and wire
fence, like you’d see on sand dunes. Much
of this fence had been trampled down, perhaps by
the deer in the area.
The strange thing
about it was that the fence formed a giant,
funny thing about the Lost City area is that so
many qualities are just slightly off compared to
the woods behind your house. The orange dirt, the
labyrinthine trails, the weird building foundations,
the gate, the water tower, the funny little lizards
and the “off limits” vibe all add up
to produce a very big sensation of strangeness.
Perhaps an art
student from VCU who’s doing a film project
could utilize this area. What better setting for
a science fiction movie? A new version of H.G. Wells’s
The Time Machine could be filmed here.
The locale is less exotic than the sets of the previous
movie versions, but this is not a bad thing. The
Lost City’s mid-twentieth-century suburban
wilderness vibe would simply make the movie hit
closer to home. It could be set hundreds, instead
of hundreds of thousands of years in to the future.
near a storm drain, placing flowers in the hole
atop an old fire hydrant. Suddenly a Morlock’s
hand reaches out from the darkness of the storm
drain, grabbing Weena by the ankle and pulling
her into the bowels of Elko Tract.
Of course, picking
out the proper soundtrack would take some time.
One would need songs that evoke the strangeness
of the Lost City. I can think of no song more suited
to this than the Barracudas’ instrumental
version of their 1969 song “Days Of A Quiet
Sun.” The song has a spaced out spookiness
much suited to the post – nuclear –
war feel of the Lost City. (Besides, the Barracudas
were from Sandston.)
be wise to get permission to go on the property,
though. Otherwise, the cast and crew might encounter
the same fate that eventually befell me.
Eye In The Sky
finally got caught one late spring day. I had exited
the woods along the side of the Infineon building,
and as I reached Technology Boulevard, a man with
a walkie–talkie appeared and started walking
in my direction.
I thought, it’s finally happened.
The security guard
told me I’d set off some silent alarms, and
he had a few questions. I told him the truth about
why I was there.
he said, “somewhere back in those woods is
a dummy airfield.”
He took a look
at my driver’s license and called it in, spelling
my name out with the militaristic “Alpha,
Bravo, Charlie” alphabet. He actually seemed
pretty understanding, but whoever was on the other
end of the walkie-talkie was not amused.
The guard I was
talking to told me they’d had problems with
industrial espionage. “You can actually tell
a lot about a microchip factory just by looking
at the back of it,” he said.
As we walked across
the parking lot to my car, he kept talking with
another guard via walkie-talkie.
the guy on the other end of the walkie-talkies said.
“I got a visual read on you guys.”
My license plate
was then called in to the other guard. Apparently,
the guard on the other end of the line still had
some reservations about me, and he requested that
I walk over to a nearby lamppost and look up at
the camera. Obligingly, I looked up at the black
ball holding the video camera. Whether or not a
video image was really grabbed, I do not know. They
could have just been trying to worry me, but they
seemed rather worried themselves. Perhaps an image
All of this seemed
excessive, but I was choosing my battles wisely.
If I didn’t cooperate, they could probably
work up a trespassing charge against me, even if
the woods were not their property(as they claimed.)
I’d parked in their parking lot and walked
across it, after all.
to think I hadn’t been caught sooner. I’d
always gone to Lost City in broad daylight, and
most often I had parked in Infineon’s parking
lot. I’d no more go to Lost City after dark
than I’d fly.
It’s a strange
place, Lost City. Anyone who’s ever been on
a closed-down military base or abandoned Nike missile
site has probably had a similar feeling. The abandoned
structures and layout are haunting, and one feels
like the lone survivor of a nuclear war.
home one day, I was looking at a Web site about
an abandoned BoMarc missile site in New Jersey.
According to the web page, in 1960 there was some
sort of nuclear spill due to a fire in the missile
storage area. The spill was contained, but the base
was closed down right after that. The guy(s) behind
the Web site had snuck onto the location and taken
One photo in particular
caught my eye. It was a photo of three pipes sticking
out of the ground, one of which had a metal lid
padlocked to the top of it. The photo caption referred
to this apparatus as a “test well.”
I got the impression it was used to test for harmful
substances in the vicinity. I had seen at least
one set of pipes like this at the Lost City, not
far from the water tower.
A retired Air
Force Civil Engineer informed me that these “test
wells” aren’t used solely to test for
radiation. An active sewage line runs in the vicinity
of where I saw the pipes. Perhaps if what I saw
was a test well, it’s to test for something
like a sewage leak?
know, but at least I don’t glow.