Www.illicitohio.com is a site I started back in early college during the down time we experienced at my college job. Sometimes we would have as many as four or five hours where we were stuck at work with no work to do and great internet access. I first made a 'me and my friends' type of site just to learn the basics of creating a website. Remember, this is back in 1995 -96, so html was new to me. I quickly realized that I didn't even want to read the garbage I had put on my site, so I looked for a topic that interested me and gave me room to expand. I had always been in to snooping around old empty buildings just to check them out, so I made that my topic.
This is where my site's link to forgottenoh comes in. The owner of that site was a co-worker and friend of mine. We both decided to start our sites one bored afternoon in the basement computer lab. I knew some html and taught what I could to Andy at forgottenoh. He then built on that, and I learned some things back from him. Somehow neither of us were overly competitive, so we just helped each other out and let each other know of some cool places to check out. Back then we visited quite a few places together. As the years went on and we moved on with differnt jobs, we sort of lost contact other than an occasional email. Andy has been able to expand his site vastly. The massive amount of effort he put in to research, travel, etc has resulted in one of the, if not the best resource for this sort of thing on the web. My site hasn't grown quite so well, but I have been able to keep updating it from time to time.
The site I originally started was just a geocities free website. At the time when we first made the websites, there were no limits on the amount of monthly usage and file size like there are now, so we basically had found a free hobby. My site took off pretty well considering. I couldn't believe I was getting emails from people that I'd never met about the site. I really only had a few things featured at the time. The direction of the site was basically anything I could find that was abandoned. That really hasn't changed, but I did branch off with one unique focus... the Amusement parks which eventually spawned sbno.illicitohio.com.
Due to growing up near Youngstown, I had always visited Idora park, first when it was open, and then once it was closed. That was the first unique location that I went after. At the time I had already covered the State Pen in Columbus, and the tunnels under OSU (that is a touchy area, hence the lack of photos). The Amusement park was noteable because it eventually led to me finding Chippewa Lake Park, and after I had two parks, I had a unique flavor to the site. I certainly wasn't the first to cover that stuff, but there really weren't any abandoned building sites that were doing parks that I knew of. It was more or less either Amusement park sites with a mention of an old run down park, or abandoned building sites with no mention of amusement parks.
Over the years, the rest has basically been history. Due to traffic usage caps and the large number of photos I feature, I had to leave the free geocities website and instead go with a geocities pay service. Their ploy of capping sites and then offering a pay alternative worked on me. I purchased a monthly service plan and moved everything over to www.illicitohio.com and sbno.illicitohio.com. To this day I've yet to update all links, email addresses, etc, so you may find a dead end... hopefully not.
There have been many significant gaps in progress here. I simply don't have the kind of time that I used to have to update the site. Lately I've tried to update and add a few things just to get my mind off of other things, but I'm alway way behind.
Over the years there have been some highlites and a few lows. I've only really recieved one nasty email as of this time. I've had a few talking about broken links, poor configuration, slow loading, etc, but they've mostly been friendly and helpful. The one nasty email was in relation to Americana park. At the time I made the page the park was to be closed for good. I commented that the entrance we used to photo the park would be an easy way to sneak in for free, thinking it would never reopen anyhow, and then when it later reopened, I was accused of telling people how to sneak in to the park, and screw the park out of money. I removed the reference only because it was a valid complaint once the park had reopened. The person was still quite an ass about the entire thing considering. If you're thinking of sending me an nasty email, just remember, you'll only be the 2nd jerk out of hundreds and hundres of people that email me. Nobody wants to be a jerk, right?
Some of the highlites of the site have having photos featured on the cover of a magazine, and band's album cover, and various other websites. I always really enjoy the idea that kids use photos in their school reports as well. I've actually recieved a few emails regarding that and often wondered what the teachers thought when the kids gave their reports. I was lucky enough to be asked to do a channel 10 news thing with Andy and later one with channel 4. Channel 10 never aired theirs. Channel 4 did air theirs and I couldn't help but laugh at myself. I believe I frustrated the crew as I tend to have a bit of mouth on me when it comes to cussing... which usually results in unusable footage. Regardless they did a good job and I really enjoyed the experience. Ultimately the best thing about the site is the email I receive from people who read it.
As I write this, I'm working on the new version that you are reading it from. Its pushing midnight and I'm dead tired, but I really just can't pull myself away from this adicting hobby once I get started. Its weird how something so simple can absorb a person, but enough about that... let's talk about a few things that come up often.
Is this trespassing?
Sort of, but don't intentions count? Probably not, but we tread lightly and leave no signs of our visit behind other than the pictures. These places have been left to rot away, so a quick walk though seems harmless. Ultimately I'm in the wrong I'm sure. Also note, with very rare exception, nothing is taken from these places. If its something completely worthless, like a used score card from a mini golf course or something, I might take it, but otherwise, nothing is ever taken regardless of how tempting it may be.
How did you get started?
Boredom. Actually my Father and I went to an abandoned hotel in Daytona Beach during a vacation. We were walking down A1A and came across a hotel, right in the mix with the nice places, with the front door standing open. We barely even entered the place, and found old 50s postcards all over the floor. I thought that was pretty amazing (I was a kid remember)but that was the first step in me being interested in this stuff.
Do you make any money from the site?
None. I lose about $15 per month on it.
Can I use some of your pictures?
Depends on the use. You can use them for just about anything other than making them look like pictures that you took. Email me to let me know and give credit please.
Its just a hobby like anything else.
Isn't this nerdy?
Yes. Its far from being a major part of my life. I'm a dork anyhow.
What is next?
Whatever comes along. I have nothing specific in mind right now.
What is your favorite place?
There are a few. Heritage USA was really cool, but I wish I had seen more. The oppritunity just wasn't there when I was in town. Chippewa Lake has always been really amazing. The Prison was top notch, but I never got interior pictures. The staduim in Miami Florida was really cool just because I didn't expect to find something like that. Really, they all have an interesting history when you are in them. The Seneca was really neat, but freaky due to the crack smoker that lived there.
Tell me more about the news, or magazine, books, etc.
Andy of ForgottenOh and I did channel 10 news back when we were in college. We did Channel 4 news in early 2005. The band that used my photo was a small rock outfit from down south by the name of Squint. Nice guys, good band, great music. The magazine cover was an industry magazine for the entertainment industry. I've lost track of the various news articles, but occasionally someone will put a blurb about the site in a news paper or something. Andy used a couple of our pictures in his book called forgotten columbus. That's all I can think of right now. Hopefully there will be more. The biggest hurdle seems to be me not getting back to reporters quickly enough because I slack on my email. Sorry!
What high tech camera do you use?
Nearly all of the pictures on the site that I've taken were taken by one of two wonderful cameras. The early pictures were mostly snapped with a free Marlboro Cigarettes Cannon Camera that was discarded by someone else. Eventually that died on me and I was too cheap to buy anything else, so the site lagged. I eventually sprung for a digital camera which really revolutionized the site. I used the Argus 2.1 megapixel digital camera for quite some time. It was quite a piece of work, but I don't have to worry about breaking it, so its actually perfect. As of 2006 or so, I upgraded to a Nikon CoolPix L4 which takes decent pictures, but sucks in low light and has the absolute slowest flash recharge time ever. It was also accidentally on the wrong setting for a few of the sections (the blue looking Cleveland Pics). As of December 2007 I purchased a $19 tripod that is looking like it may be the best investment in quite some time. No more crappy flash pictures in moderately low light. The Mike Tyson and Davids Restaurant are the first to benefit.
Do you really call this garbage photography?
No. They're just pictures. I'd like to someday try good photography though.
How do you find these places?
I find them by keeping my eyes open, and from getting tips from nice folks like you. Drop me a line if you know of something cool that I should go to check out.