Growing up in Brantford, Ont., there were lots of abandoned places to check out. There was one just a short bike ride away from my house, a crumbling house hidden in a forest and purportedly haunted. My friends and I stayed well away from the place—even during the day—more because it was tumbledown and disused than reports of ghosts. (That came years later, in an empty sanitarium next to the Trailer Park Boys set.)
In Abandoned, debuting Friday on Viceland, Vancouver skateboard legend Rick McCrank boogies right on into empty places to check them out. In the first episode of 10 of the Canadian original, “Ghost Mall,” McCrank enters what used to be Randall Park Mall in Cleveland. As McCrank explains, the area the mall was in used to enjoy strong economic times, but those are long gone.
McCrank doesn’t just shuffle through darkened hallways filled with dusty old benches and broken glass; he gives a nice history on the modern shopping mall, a creation born in 1950s America, gleaming, convenient spots where families could spend hours dropping money on clothes, electronics, housewares, food—the sky was the limit—all under one roof. Shopping malls hit their stride in the 80s, a ubiquitous sight in cities. But the good times ended when online shopping became more popular, and the sprawling complexes began to close.
Accompanied by photographer Seph Lawless, who captured images inside for his book Black Friday—The Collapse of the America Shopping Mall, McCrank wanders around Randall Park Mall, observing not only the decay but how quickly nature is reclaiming the land with life.
Two things struck me as I watched “Ghost Mall.” The first was how misty-eyed folks got remembering the time they spent in these now-shuttered behemoths. The second? How I totally related to what they felt. Growing up as a child of the 80s, I spent copious time in my local Lynden Park Mall, poking around Coles bookstore, Sunrise Records or sitting in the food court hanging out with friends. Lynden Park Mall is still there—it’s changed a lot on the inside—but I still get that pull in my heart when I drive by.
I guess that’s the point of a show like Abandoned. McCrank tours defunct properties around Canada and the U.S., showing how life rolls on while milestones of the past crumble. Upcoming episodes find McCrank in east coast fishing towns, empty schools in St. Louis and flooded missile silos in the Pacific Northwest.
Abandoned airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on Viceland.
Image courtesy of Rogers.