A neighborhood of abandoned homes has captured the imagination of paranormal theorists and urban explorers who wonder what’s lurking beyond broken doors and shattered windows.
The owners of 13 homes along Guernsey Trail near WakeMed Cary Hospital sold their homes last year to a developer who plans to build a senior care center, medical offices, and a hotel.
Since the last families moved out in December, the homes have fallen into disrepair, largely as a result of vandalism. Doors and windows swing on their hinges, and gutters are packed with leaves. Broken glass litters porches and front yards.
Some people on social media have called the neighborhood “certifiably terrifying” and “creepy” – a good spot to shoot a post-apocalyptic movie.
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Heather Leah, a writer and urban explorer who lives in Raleigh, learned about the neighborhood from a post on social media site Reddit. She went there to take photos and made a blog post that has been viewed more than 330,000 times.
“People see abandoned homes and they see what the world would be like if humans were gone,” Leah said. “This was particularly fascinating because I normally explore old places – at least 100-year-old houses, that kind of thing. But this was recently abandoned. And it was just a suburban neighborhood, something we can all relate to.”
The last time Leah went to check on the houses, she said, there were about 20 people walking around.
Police have responded to eight calls related to the homes since they were abandoned, including one report of a yard set on fire and several reports of vandalism, said spokeswoman Deanna Hawkes.
She said the Cary police and fire departments have also been using the neighborhood for training exercises.
“Police officers also patrol the area periodically, including walking the neighborhood, since it is unoccupied,” Hawkes said.
Kevin Mangum, who is developing Paraclete Park on the site, said he is worried someone will get hurt while exploring the neighborhood. He put up “no trespassing” signs and laid tree branches across Guernsey Trail as makeshift barricades.
“Someone’s going to fall or something,” Mangum said. “We had to do some asbestos remediation in the houses, pulling up some of the floors. And if someone gets hurt, the first person they look to is the landowners, even though we have the signs.”
Construction of Paraclete Park will begin this summer, with medical offices opening in the fall and the 370-unit senior care facility opening in early 2018.
Mangum said interest in the neighborhood has complicated his efforts to remove furnishings, doors and appliances from the homes and donate them to Habitat for Humanity.
Leah, who said she feels partly responsible for the hoopla, has started an online fundraiser on GoFundMe to benefit Habitat.
More “abandoned” neighborhoods are likely to begin cropping up as redevelopment becomes increasingly common in Cary, said Jason Barron, a land-use attorney who frequently does business in the area.
“Available land is running shorter than it has been,” Barron said. “Rather than go buy large tracts of farmland, developers are forced to get property owners to sell their homes as assemblages.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan