behind the scenes in Paterson, New Jersey

When Cal Flyn contacted me in 2018 asking for a guided tour of the Passaic River and the abandoned mills of Paterson, I was a little skeptical at first. Why would a writer from Scotland fly all the way to America with the sole intention of injecting herself into the sketchiest spots in North Jersey? It wasn't until I checked out Cal's credentials and read some of her excellent travel writing and journalism, that I began to see how uniquely qualified she actually was for an expedition along the Passaic River.

Cal was working on a book called Islands of Abandonment, which is a phenomenon I have been documenting for decades. Her concept that abandoned buildings have the potential to become islands unto themselves was directly in line with my own observations at the Essex Mountain Sanatorium, Overbrook Asylum, and along the Passaic River. When speaking about the forsaken hospitals near my childhood home, I would often refer to the surrounding area as an "island of abandonment" and I found it interesting that Cal landed on this term as well.

We planned an expedition through email and met in person on October 29, 2018. She traveled from the UK to New York City and then to Montclair, where I picked her up in my old truck and drove us into Paterson for a Colt Mill mission. Before entering the buildings, we walked the cliffs to get an eagle's-eye view of the abandoned factories and the city below. Along the way we stopped at Hinchliffe Stadium and explored the abandoned Trubilt factory as a warmup. The ruins of Paterson can be intimidating, but Cal proceeded without hesitation and never betrayed the slightest hint of fear.

Across the river, while we were wandering around the Allied Mill, we saw a dude walking through the wreckage and later ended up getting into a conversation with him. Cal got some disturbing material for her book when he told us a story about an overdose he witnessed on a prior visit. While he was showing us the spot where it happened, he pointed to a nearby bush. Underneath was a bag of bloody gauze and an oxygen mask left by the EMTs. They did everything they could to resuscitate the man, but unfortunately it was too late. He died in the exact spot where we were now standing.

After our journey through Paterson in 2018, Cal and I kept in touch. She contacted me recently to let me know that her book is now available in the UK and will be out this summer (June 2021) in America. I managed to find a good Amazon link for the UK edition, and although it took a week or two to arrive, I was able to get my hands on a copy. Of course when the book landed in my mailbox, the first thing I did was devour the section about Paterson. To my delight, the title for the chapter is: DAYS OF ANARCHY - Paterson, New Jersey, United States. I read my part with a huge smile and then went back and read it again. After I had my fill, I turned the book to the first page and set about consuming the entire text from cover to cover.

I don't know if it is Cal's Scottish way of speaking, or if she's just an incredibly gifted writer, but her method of expressing herself borders on exquisite. The book jacket describes the text as lyrical, which is really the only way to accurately describe Cal's writing style. She has excellent flow and her thoughtful perspectives often surprise and inform. I knew from our Paterson mission that Cal was fearless, but when I read about her visits to active volcanoes, deadly toxic waste sites and Chernobyl of all places, I was truly impressed by her bold travels and commitment to her subject.

I'm thrilled that I was able to play a small role in this exceptional book and happy that I can recommend Islands of Abandonment - Life in the Post-Human Landscape by Cal Flyn. This is a must read if you are interested in the study and philosophy of abandoned spaces. Below are some pictures of the book and a photoset from our adventure in Paterson. I hope you enjoy!


Islands of Abandonment
Chapter 6
Paterson, New Jersey, United States


A small excerpt from the book


The quote Cal used in her book was from
Nightshade on the Passaic - Chapter 2 - The Great Piece Meadows
It was also used as a blurb on the back cover of the special issue


The first thing I saw when I cracked the book


Don't ask me for a tour unless your credentials look like this


I'm excited to have played a small part in this book


The perfect addition to my ever expanding library


I sent Cal this map to help clarify the exact route we took
You can click this image for a closer view


The view from the cliffs
Looking out on the Sandy Hill section of Paterson
New York City in the background


Cal Flyn standing on the very edge of the cliff
to get a photo of the abandoned mills below


Ruins of the Allied Mill


This green spot on the map is an island of abandonment


Hinchliffe Stadium freshly painted


Defaced scoreboard of Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, NJ


Freshly painted and already the graff is coming back
Thanks for the perfect blank canvas!


Wheeler Antabanez in the ruins of the Trubilt factory
Photo by Cal Flyn


Author Cal Flyn surveying her subject matter in Paterson


Cal Flyn strides through the abandonment in Paterson, NJ


NJ graff icon 5iver


NARK in the wreckage


The Riverview Towers apartment blocks in Paterson, NJ
as seen from the ruins of the Trubilt factory


An interesting street scene painted on the side of the building


On our way across the river to the Colt Mill
we found this severed head in the raceway
next to the Salvation Army in Paterson



One More Hit on the way into the Colt Mill
I see this sticker all the time along my travels


Into the abandoned mills of Paterson, New Jersey


Looking down into the ruins of the historic Samuel Colt Gun Mill


Spelling doesn't matress down here in the Colt Mill


Cal describes the graff down here as "increasingly hallucinatory"


The rest of the pics are going to be heavy on ZIREN and BENK


ZIREN - snake head on brownstone block - Allied Mill - Paterson








Wheeler Antabanez with the Passaic River in the background
Photo by Cal Flyn



ZIREN - Fetty Wap tribute - Paterson, NJ


Cal Flyn researching for her book
Islands of Abandonment
Life in the Post-Human Landscape

UK version - January 2021 - William Collins, Glasgow, Scotland
USA version - June 2021 - Viking, New York


Wheeler Antabanez - Allied Mill - Passaic River
Paterson, New Jersey
Photo by Cal Flyn



The man in the NJ hat


The base of a very tall stack


BENK in the shadows
Master of disturbing imagery





Author Cal Flyn
performing field research in America for her book
Islands of Abandonment
Allied Mill - Paterson, New Jersey


Homeless sprawl among the wreckage


In case you were wondering... It smelled like piss


The DIY skate spot in 2018 before it was expanded


This low wall is now a quarter pipe
with a seriously gnarly drop on the other side



Allied Mill gallery with some heavy hitters on display


DIY skate spot origins


Allied Mill, Paterson, New Jersey


If you think the hole in the floor is big
you should see the hole in the ceiling below


Wheeler Antabanez, Allied Mill, Paterson, NJ
Photo by Cal Flyn



GOOMBA is everywhere!



Entropy - Chaos - Beauty


NARK - Always tight

AIDS kills!




An old TACO on this ancient metal pipe


This dude we met was really cool
He shared his blunt with me and told us some crazy stories


It was in this spot where he witnessed the guy die from an overdose


After the overdose story, I think Cal and I were both a little shaken. We headed out toward civilization and stood quietly taking in the majesty of the Great Falls. Naturally, it was going to take a while for Cal to turn this material into a book and I spent the next three years looking forward to reading about our adventure in print.

Now that her book is available, and I have a copy in my hands, I am happy to report that it is indeed a triumph and was well worth the wait. You can order the UK version of Islands of Abandonment - Life in the Post-Human Landscape by clicking here.