13 Rules For Trespassing

When you trespass you wanna follow some rules. Not that I’m advocating trespassing. Trespassing is bad. Usually illegal. Illegal is bad and I cannot condone illegal behavior. No officer, not me. I don’t trespass. Not ever.

But, if you are the type of person who, in a moment of reckless abandon after watching too many episodes of Supernatural, decides hey, why not cross a few state lines and take a little jaunt around an abandoned, reportedly haunted nunnery in Logan, Utah, then these 13 Rules are for you.

As humans we’re all snoops. It’s in our DNA or something. Decedents of Indiana Jones and Veronica Mars. We all like to see what others rarely see. Or what they don’t want us to see.

“Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Snooping, understandably, sometimes requires looking around in places that aren’t exactly open to the public. I mean, who can resist the temptation to snoop around an old, rambling hotel when you’re a guest overnight. Boiler rooms, attics, and the hidden bowels of kitchens make any guy or gal a little giddy. Or is that just me?

And you can’t tell me that if you came across an entire abandon mining town in the mountains of Colorado, you wouldn’t be tempted to ignore the “Danger: EPA Warning. Hazardous Materials. Death. DO NOT ENTER YOU IDIOT!” signs and take a quick peak around. So what if it’s rumored that satanists gather in the village at night to conduct some spooky, voodooy rituals. You’re an explorer. You aren’t easily intimidated. You can’t be scared away by satanists or the EPA. Am I right? Right! Right?

If you, not me, you ever contemplate such acts, here is a list of guidelines.

13 Rules For Trespassing


1. Follow the Explorer’s Code.

Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, sums up the explorers code perfectly in a post at Mental Floss detailing his travels to Belgium in search of abandoned houses:

“The door was open!’ sounds a lot better than “Yeah, I broke that window.” Even when it comes to trespassing, there are rules, and courtesies. Never break in. Don’t take anything. Don’t break anything. Be quiet, for God’s sake. And don’t act guilty while you’re making your approach or your exit. It’s the explorer code.

Got it? Follow it!

You never know what you’ll find rambling down a remote, dark road.  “Hornet Spook Light” road (aka Route 50) in Quapaw, OK.

2. Bring a camera. When all those Debby-doubters out there tell you,”There is no way you went into that old sewer! Vermin live in the sewers. You can’t even walk past a Chucky Cheese without D-con in your pocket and flashing a mouse trap!” you can whip out a photo and say, “Did too! Ha! HAHAHAHAHA!”

3. Don’t forget a flashlight. If I need to explain this one, you really shouldn’t be trespassing. Ever. In fact, you might not want to leave home. At least not without supervision.

4. Make sure someone else knows where you are. Your grandmother. Your significant other. Your dog. Anyone. It’ll make it easier when you call them for bail money.

5. Trespassing often requires one to overlook certain signage, but there are times when you should heed the warnings. For example, if you happen to be traveling in an area recently ravaged by war — like Bosnia — consider obeying the signs. Especially if during said war idiots spread landmines throughout the villages, countryside, mountains, roads, and burned-out houses. It’s a royal pain the ass to clear out all the landmines when the conflict ends, and it often takes years or decades to find them all. Even then, many are missed.

Sarajevo, Bosnia 2005
Skull and cross bone. Caution tape. Red sign. Good things to avoid when considering trespassing. Especially in Bosnia.

Along the same line, anything with a skull and cross-bone insignia is a good indication of somewhere you’d best stay out of. Kinda a universal language, ya know? In general, you’d be wise to avoid yellow caution tape in any language, signs with little red and white targets on them, or red signs with big capital letters and scary exclamation points. Otherwise, you could find yourself alone on a hike in a fairy tale-like Balkan forest, minding your own business, passing innocuous looking target signs, wondering if they are just funky path markers or something more worrisome. You might then pass a few written signs you cannot read, but as a sly explorer, you decided to take a picture of the sign and send it to your Croatian-speaking friend, who about an hour later sends back a message that goes something like, “Where are you?!  Whatever you do, don’t go down that path. The signs says ‘Shooting Range! Do Not Enter.” ( Of course, that always happens AFTER you’ve gone about an hour down that path, are hopelessly lost, and turning around is not exactly an option.) Just saying, if something looks like a target or a cross-bone, sometimes it is a target or a cross-bone. Not usually the best places to explore. Not that I would know. I never trespass.

6. Bring cash. Useful for paying off whomever might be lurking in that really cool, forbidden place you found that wants to do you harm. Or that wants to call the cops. Extremely effective if you have lots of small denominations and you toss them up in the air. While the Mr. Bad is busy trying to catch the floating cash, you can be busy running away. Also useful for snacks and drinks.


7. Snacks and drinks. Sneaking around builds up quite an appetite.

8. Good pair of shoes. Flip flops, stiletto heels, bouncy moon-shoes, ice skates, roller blades, and jelly sandals are not recommended. Running shoes or hiking boots are best. And for god’s sake, please don’t wear those comfy, sturdy sneakers that light up when you step. Makes it awfully hard to run away from the security patrol person, psycho-clown serial killer, or pack of rabid hyenas chasing after you. If it’s a demon or hell hound on your ass, well, you’re probably screwed regardless of the shoes. Which brings me to my next point…

9. If you’re going to anywhere rumored to be haunted, it’s useful to carry the latest ghost hunting arsenal: voice recorder for EVP sessions (digital means you don’t have to carry extra tapes); an electromagnetic meter – i.e. ghost detector; camera (which you should already have – see rule #3), flashlight (see rule #2); Proton pack (if you can find one); and holy water, salt or whatever talisman will give you comfort when something inevitably goes crash, slash or curr-plump and makes you want to run toward your car screaming.

10. Another thing. Don’t scream. It makes a scene. Draws attention. You’re trespassing, remember? Attention bad. Therefore, screaming bad. Don’t do it.


11. Candy. I can’t seem to trespass without some candy. Nekos for late night cemetery strolls; M&Ms, and then those little tea sandwiches and coffee for abandoned buildings; Snickers bar for forbidden fields, forests and the like. Scooby Snacks are a popular option for all you mystery hunters out there. That is if I ever trespassed. Which I don’t. Not ever.

12. Bring a partner. Or two. Maybe three. More than that and things tend to go wrong fast. Plus it’s more fun to have someone to sit beside you in jail. Gets lonely when Bubba the burly biker gang member and Honey from the street corner are paroled, and you’re left alone waiting for Mr. or Ms. one phone call to spring you from the joint. (You did heed rule #4, right? Bail money=good).

13. Smile. Or for those of you with bad teeth or a politicians’ grin, just try not to look sleazy or mean. Or suspicious. Or rich. It helps if you get caught by the bad guys or the good guys. Although, first run. Then smile. Running has a higher success rate.

That’s it… The Backroads Rambler rules for trespassing. Do any of you urban explorers, ghost hunters, photographers, or wanderers out there have your own must-do or must-avoid rules for trespassing? I would love to hear your stories, see some pictures, and learn some of your favorite tips. Please share them below!

Ghost Road
Searching for the “Bragg Road Ghost Lights” in the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas. Check out your location in daylight first. Easier to plot escape routes. Nothing like running from the spooks in the dead of night and no clue where you’re going.

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