Saying Goodbye to The Norfolk Regional Center

The Norfolk Regional Center, may she rest in peace, has officially been demolished. I have written about this place rich in dark Nebraska history two times, linked in this article (I suggest reading and checking out the history of the location.)

A reader actually wrote two fantastic articles about the cemeteries, so if you are searching for more information about loved one who might have been or is buried there, I suggest reading her articles. Part one, and Part 2.

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The Norfolk Regional Center is one of those places, whether abandoned or even demolished, it embeds itself into a part of you and never leaves. From the first second the copper bricks flashed a glimmer of color through the twisted, bare branches of the trees, I was completely enchanted. Visiting abandoned places is a strange hobby to some people, and not everyone understands this fascination I have with these discarded buildings. Some of them are easier to explain than others, just like people. Actually, I have spent hours comparing these broken down places to people; analyzing my obsession with decay.

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Like people, these forgotten places are more than the rust, mold, mildew, and rotting wood on the surface. Each of us at some point in our lives feel exposed,  alone, raw with emotion, forgotten, and misunderstood. At any moment, the same person has the capability to bring another to their knees in pain or in gratitude. Abandoned places are decaying puzzle pieces of our past.

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“Sometimes it’s a sort of indulgence to think the worst of ourselves. We say, ‘Now I have reached the bottom of the pit, now I can fall no further,’ and it is almost a pleasure to wallow in the darkness. The trouble is, it’s not true. There is no end to the evil in ourselves, just as there is no end to the good. It’s a matter of choice. We struggle to climb, or we struggle to fall. The thing is to discover which way we’re going.”-Daphne du Maurier

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The Norfolk Regional Center absorbed years of repressed feelings of pain, fear,  confusion, and loneliness.  Not to mention, the squatters and drug-users who took shelter between her walls safe from the elements. This facility had seen its share of human suffering, and it left evident scars. However, not everything experienced behind those walls were bad. As I explain in my first article, part of the facility had been used as a hospital at one time; so at one point babies were born, and lives were saved beneath the crumbling roof.

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This was the employee building, so many of these little rooms resembled mini apartments; complete with kitchens, bathrooms, and shelving units. Some still contained furniture, and others had peculiar items, making it a strange treasure hunt. I visited this time with one of my favorite friends, and she explored each room first (I am pretty slow as I photograph). Several of the toilets had been recently used, and there had been no running water or working plumbing in years. Clanging, thumping, and creaking sounds reverberated throughout the building almost the entire time we explored.

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“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” Stephen King

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One of the buildings had been converted to low income housing, according to a reader, the location was referred to as “Crown Point” or “Low Cost Dorms” as it still read in the photo above. Closing its doors in 2013, it failed to meet sewer codes.  My friend and I were curious about the satellite dish outside the building still wired into the front of the building long after they stopped renting to tenants. After watching the curtain slip to the side on the top floor, we were convinced someone lived in Crown Point up until they knocked it down.

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Per the reader who commented recently on my previous article regarding the facility being torn down and being haunted:

“I used to live at Crown Point, and I’m convinced that it was indeed haunted. The building had three stories, and the third story was perpetually closed off. Management cited the reason as being too difficult to air-condition and heat, but this was bullshit since there was neither heating nor air conditioning anywhere else in the building. The only way into the third floor was the inner stairwell, and that door was chained shut. The exterior fire escape door was boarded over.

A buddy and I took bolt cutters to the chain because we kept hearing noises up there at night, including what sounded like a woman crying. We got up there, and nobody was there. Just weird occult shit spray-painted on the walls and old furniture stacked up. No animals either. After we checked it out, things got really noisy up there for a while even though the door was re-chained the morning after we broke in. The place’s history is nothing but pain, suffering, and darkness, and now it’s been demolished. Still, I can’t help but feel a certain amount of sadness now that it’s gone. That place was a big part of my life for a while. A dark part to be sure, but still very much a real part.” -Opi

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I think I relate to broken, scarred buildings because I have been shattered on more than one occasion; as we each have our own personal battles to fight. I’ve danced close to the edge enough times to almost slide off, yet not as close as some, like Opi. I am humbled by individuals who not only survive difficult circumstances, but choose to learn from them and share them with others. The broken can be beautiful.

 

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The light streamed in through the window of the first room we entered on the second floor, a bright empty room. One of my cameras malfunctioned; completely drained of battery, when it had fresh batteries only moments before. The other camera could not focus manually or otherwise; every shot I took was blurry and out of focus. My hand trembled violently (I have an essential tremor, normally under control), and my head swam. Goosebumps bristled on my friend’s arms, and not long after she felt something touch her. The knot in the pit of my stomach tightened, and I felt like I could jump out of my skin.

“I just want to tell your story through pictures. That’s all we want to do here.” As soon as I said those words, the activity ceased.

Both cameras cooperated again.

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Later that night, I experienced some strange activity at home, and had to bless my home.

A month or two later, I received a tip from a nice reader with the link to the article with the story of the physician’s shooting. The article never referenced the building the shooting took place in. I would assume it could have been the employee building, but this is pure speculation.

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I underestimated how feeble the light would be in some of the first floor rooms, so some of the indoor photos are sub-par, in my opinion, but I still felt they were worth sharing.

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The knife above was stashed inside a hole and we wondered if it belonged to some squatters.

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The tiles below were at one point the skylights for the tunnels beneath the facility. The tunnels have been long sealed.

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“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”   -Daphne du Maurier

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The hallways in the basement were a tad creepy. I had a few put-the-lotion-in-the-basket flashbacks walking around in the musty, pitch black hallways, exploring the stall-like barn-doors. There were a couple of moments I could have jumped into my friend’s arms.

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The most interesting in the basement was a storage area for sanitation kits, emergency food supplies, and other random stuff. We found a toilet, a washing machine, a moldy painting, and enough mold spores to choke pretty much anything. I smelled must in my sinuses for days. I will be carrying masks from now on.

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“I think that we’re all mentally ill. Those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better – and maybe not all that much better after all.”   -Stephen King

 

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Trish Eklund is the owner and creator of Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed, and Family Fusion Community, an online resource for blended families of all types. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska and Pocket Abandoned. Check out the new Bonanza Store for AFD merchandise! Follow on Instagram and Facebook. Trish is regularly featured on The MightyHuffington Post Divorce, and Her View From Home.  She has also been featured on Making Midlife Matterand The Five Moms, and has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz.

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