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In which John visits an abandoned hospital, and the steam tunnels beneath it, with his friends Ransom Riggs (author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children) and Elyse Marshall. This is as close to a horror movie as a vlogbrothers video will ever be.


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A Bunny
( - -)
((') (')
Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. Quick disclaimer: do not try this at home.

So I woke up around 8:30 in downtown L.A. to meet publicist extraordinaire Elyse Marshall and bestselling author slash old pal Ransom Riggs who took us to the building where they filmed part of Blade Runner which featured a carbonite-encased Charlie Chaplin.

And then we went to an extremely creepy long-abandoned hospital, now sometimes used as a setting for horror movies. This is the kind of place Ransom takes his friends, which won't surprise you if you've read his novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. We visited the eerie chapel which reminded me of my chaplain days, a kitchen where patients' meals were cooked --

Ransom: Oh, god!
(Ransom picks up a cup of coffee on top of a cupboard)
Elyse: Don't-- don't.
John: Don't, don't, don't, don't, don't, don't.
Ransom: The oldest coffee in the world.
John: Don't tell me what's in there. Don't tell me what's in there.
Ransom: Just look.
John: No!
Ransom: Well it's amazing, it's kind of like Mr. Wizard, like Bill Nye.
John: Alright, I'm going to let the camera look, but I'm not gonna look myself.
(close up of the coffee cup)
Ransom: Get a little closer. Yeah, there you go.

And there was an endless string of hospital rooms, caked with mildew and bird dung. So many of the windows were blown out that it was hard to say for sure whether the place was inside or outside, and I could hear birds singing and rodents scurrying in the ceilings. Like many abandoned buildings, there was evidence of recent squatters; poorly spelled graffiti; nasty, nasty water fountains; but what struck me most were the skeletal remains of dozens of hospital beds.

And then we made our way down to the basement, finding the morgue. By this time even Ransom, who is hard to scare, was getting pretty creeped out.

(Ransom walks up to a door, which clicks loudly before he touches it.)
Ransom: Jesus!
(John laughs)

I, of course, am very easy to scare, Hank. In an operating room, much of the equipment still there, miraculously un-looted, I saw a figure in the mirror--

(John seeing the figure in the mirror)
John: Oh my god!

--and about peed myself before realizing it was me.

We then found our way to the records room, full of EKGs of hearts that had stopped beating decades ago. Finally, we made our way to the boiler room, the beautiful dead guts of the hospital. Hank, abandoned buildings scare the crap out of me, but I love tunnels. Steam tunnels, storm drains, sewers, whatever. But the sewer entrance looked a smidge unappealing, so instead we fumbled around until we found a steam tunnel.

(In the steam tunnels)
Ransom: It feels different, it's damper and colder.
John: Yeah we're, um, well underground now.

As we continued, it got colder; the walls narrowed.

(In the tunnels)
John: Can you give me the light?
Does that end?
Ransom: Uh, it's hard to tell. I should have brought my police flashlight.
John: Alright, I'm gonna go.
Ransom: Okay. That looks gross. Don't trip.

That tunnel led to a flooded room, and then to another tunnel, and then to a huge room, entirely empty -- EXCEPT FOR THIS BLOODY BATHTUB. Horror movie leftover. I hope.

By then I'd had enough, and as we made our way up and out of the hospital's bowels, I found myself wondering what the hell I was doing. It's true that such spaces remind us, in a scary but seductive way, of our own temporariness and the relatively short life of all that we build and do, and it's true that the abject darkness of the tunnels made the world outside impossibly bright and alive, but this is also true: It is nice, on a Thursday morning in April, to be a kid for a while, exploring with old friends, never knowing what wonder or terror may await around the corner. And isn't that why we explore and also why we read, and watch sports, and browse Tumblr and study astrophysics? Whether we're watching horror movies or accidentally visiting their sets, I think we're after the terrifying, awesome, otherworldly feeling, of not knowing what lies in wait.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.