Hey everyone - I'm Bradley L. Garrett, Author of Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City and Geographer at the University of Oxford. My photos popped up in this thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/1nxrqe/adventures_of_a_serial_trespasser/

You may also know my old blog http://www.placehacking.co.uk or have seen Crack the Surface: https://vimeo.com/35626914

I'm going to stick around till 4:30pm GMT or so if you have any questions - I'll check back periodically. Thanks!

Tweeted in advance right here: http://twitter.com/Goblinmerchant

Also, here is the book if you're interested: http://www.amazon.com/Explore-Everything-Place-Hacking-Bradley-Garrett/dp/1781681295/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381328630&sr=8-1&keywords=explore+everything

Update 5:05GMT: Right everyone, I'm signing off, thanks for sticking around, that was a lot of fun!

Comments: 308 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

spuddeh142 karma

I assume you are not the same Brad Garrett who was on Everybody Loves Raymond?

Goblinmerchant166 karma

No but he's hijacked my Google ranking which I don't appreciate.

theorymeltfool48 karma

Why do you think people are so fascinated with visiting places that are abandoned, forgotten, or not-in-use?

Goblinmerchant57 karma

I think it's about a desire to be a part of what came before us that isn't mediated. You know, museums are cool but it's frustrating sometimes, not being able to touch stuff or make up your own stories about why it's important. I write more about it (much more obscurely) here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/76060453/Assaying-History-Creating-Temporal-Junctions-Through-Urban-Exploration

Goblinmerchant27 karma

"[…] perhaps the most profound force of resistance stored in the cultural landscape is the expression of history that is compelling, aesthetically, because it is etched by the real suffering of the past. The figure of the constrained gives happiness because the force of constraint must not be forgotten; its images are a memento. The cultural landscape, which resembles a ruin even when the houses still stand, embodies a wailful lament that has since fallen mute. If today the aesthetic relation to the past is poisoned by a reactionary tendency with which this relation is in league, an ahistorical aesthetic consciousness that sweeps aside the dimension of the past as rubbish is no better. Without historical remembrance there would be no beauty. The past, and with it a cultural landscape, would be accorded guiltlessly to a liberated humanity, free especially of nationalism." (Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, pp. 64-65)

doyoupeeintheshower26 karma

Do you pee in the shower?

Goblinmerchant39 karma

Always. But not in the bath.

Goblinmerchant30 karma

I mean it just saves time and resources doesn't it?

king_walnut24 karma

You've been down in the depths of the London Underground a few times. What was the best thing you saw down there, or what sticks in your mind? Also, are the lights on all the time in the ghost stations or did you have to turn them on?

I'm weirdly fascinated by abandoned stuff. I love your page. Have you got any further plans to go 'place hacking' or was it all for your PhD?

Ever been unable to explore something you've really wanted to explore?

Goblinmerchant31 karma

Down Street Station was absolutely incredible - it's between Green Park and Hyde Park corner on the Piccadilly line. It was abandoned before World War II and Churchill used it as a bunker (his favorite apparently). It was stunningly beautiful and I peed in his urinal. And yeah, weirdly, the lights were on 24 hours a day. I don't know how that makes sense economically, but there it is.

I've always explored, I just didn't have a social framework for it, if you know what I mean. I'm doing other research now but I'll always go exploring when I can, it's pretty addictive.

As far as not getting into things, there are loads. I really want to see the the subterranean military citadels under London but I'll leave that for some explorers braver than me - maybe the Moscow crew.

nckt21 karma


Goblinmerchant14 karma

Haha what up fool!

Goblinmerchant16 karma

So this is what you do at work all day - now I know!

nckt8 karma


amputeenager13 karma

I am intrigued by this exchange and would like to know what the hell is going on.

Goblinmerchant22 karma

Nckt is one of the world's most celebrated explorers. But don't tell him I told you.

Goblinmerchant7 karma

Book two tickets home just to be safe baller.

davebrewer18 karma

I accidentally spent a couple of hours digging through UrbEx blogs the other night after the Imgur album posted. I was especially moved by the Confluence stuff.

What kind of advice would you give to someone considering starting in the hobby? What are the things you wish you had known about before you began?

Thanks for considering this question. Stay safe out there.

Goblinmerchant28 karma

I'm glad it sparked your interest! Get 2 good torches (flashlights) and take loads of extra batteries. In places like sewers, if you lose your light, you could actually die. I'd start with some chilled out abandoned places. If you like it, step it up to riskier stuff. And if you're in the UK, don't go on the railways, they have different laws.

Goblinmerchant51 karma

king_walnut7 karma

Says the guy who's extensively explored the London Underground :P

Goblinmerchant25 karma

I'm the last person to tell people what they should do but I'm paying for it now. The British Transport Police are overstaffed and bored apparently, just go to Paris!

XxDrummerChrisX17 karma

I'm sorry to say that this is the first time I've ever heard your name, but I am curious to know whether or not you've explored the Paris catacombs.

Goblinmerchant19 karma

I have, pretty extensively. I love the catas! Though they do break your back and neck after a few days.

TartofDarkness13 karma

Ever had any close calls in one of the places you've explored?

Goblinmerchant22 karma

Too many to count. Some with security, some with death. They're some of the best stories to tell!

ledgeworth20 karma

Well, go on.

Goblinmerchant49 karma

We explored this abandoned Russian submarine in the middle of a river. Had to take a little inflatable dinghy out to it. Halfway there, it started hissing and we were going down. We made it to the sub (barely) but then snapped off an oar trying to stop the boat. Got in and the then the girl I was with smacked her head and I had to carry her out - only to find the tide had gone out and we were stuck. Awesome night, full of blood and mud and fear.

ledgeworth11 karma

Holy shit, who came the the rescue ?

Also, noticed in that series of photos posted here, that you have a group of people, how many ? and does its numbers not invite more security ?

Goblinmerchant45 karma

Nobody does, that's the thing about exploring, you're almost always wholly responsible for yourself and your decisions which, I have to say, is liberating. I put her arms over my shoulder and walked out through knee deep muck. Some early morning jogger almost had a heart attack when we emerged from the tidal bog.

Exploring with more than 4 usually doesn't work very well.

thedavelosso13 karma

What's Ray Romano like in person?

Goblinmerchant25 karma

He always gave me wedgies, which I why I rebelled in the way I did.

Goblinmerchant12 karma

Right everyone, I'm signing off, thanks for sticking around, that was a lot of fun!

dippingmytoes12 karma

Ever explored the catacombs under Torino, Italy? All the nightclubs along the river Po are situated in the closed off ends of the entrances...

Goblinmerchant14 karma

Whaaat. EasyJet here we come!

solarp11 karma

Yo Brad! Solar P here, me and VD took you on some of your first British explores a good few years ago (Spit of Grain tower, shorts tunnels..) just want to say good job and loving all the work! Glad to see you're still in one piece after all these years, who knew you would take the community by storm. All the best!

Goblinmerchant12 karma

Damn dude that was 5 years ago! One of my days explorations in the UK, and a good one. Thanks for taking a punt on me when I still had no grey hairs.

Tacostealr10 karma

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Goblinmerchant13 karma

Other explorers. The community is full of weird drama just like any other but I've never had such close friends. I guess that happens when you take risks together.

DjSorbus10 karma

I hey man thanks for doing this to bw honest I had to refreash my memory as to who you were. But what is the one big hack that you would love to do? Also could I come too?

Goblinmerchant18 karma

No worries! I really want to go camping on Hashima Island: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/battleship-island-japans-rotting-metropolis

heytherehandsome9 karma

You obviously don't have a fear of heights, so what are you afraid of?

Goblinmerchant49 karma

Having to get a real job.

ukswitchon6 karma

Somehow I expect with fame coming from your kinda "work" you wont need a real job.

Id bet that the 'net press etc will keep you financially straight

However doubt your parents would approve -am I right?

Goblinmerchant17 karma

My mom told me earlier this year: "You've always been a trouble maker, I'm just glad you figured out how to make a living out of it." Moms.

Of course, people reblogging photos doesn't mean I make any money, I just hope people dig the book so I can chip away at this student loan mountain!

The_Kwyjibo8 karma

I once sat next to you on the Oxford Tube. You were on the phone talking about urban exploring- or some such- and you had some photos on your laptop that I recognised. Then you opened Facebook and I saw your name. (I wasn't stalking, I couldn't help but see)

No question really, just I think your stuff is pretty cool.

Goblinmerchant8 karma

That's awesome! I'm on it twice a week - next time say hi!

iammanic7 karma

I must say, you do some incredible work. Way beyond anything that I would be comfortable doing.

Now, two questions ... I see in the reddit pics that you guys shoot with canon DSLRs and L-Series lenses. Isn't that difficult to carry around, wouldn't something lighter be more convenient?

Second, I have been given the impression that Russians are very fond of doing this type of photography, and it seems to go unpunished in the former Soviet Union ... do you feel that there are more Russians involved in this sort of fun or is it just better marketing on their part? (... or, just dumb luck on my part)

Goblinmerchant10 karma

Thanks! I used to shoot on a Nikon D90 with a 10-20mm lens, which was heavy enough. Now I've got a 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm that is basically a tank. I'd love to switch to a Fuji X-Pro 1 or something but I'm not sure it will shot as well in low light. It's always a trade off, taking good equipment or risking getting caught because you're running with 30lbs of kit on your back.

The Russians are rocking it right now. They do get busted but they just carry one. I've got a lot of respect for their work. Every city has it's own Golden Ages - in London that was 2008-2012, which is what is in the book. I think Moscow is having it's Golden Age right now.

donebythehands7 karma

How do you feel about being called a sell out?

I personally don't think you are, but I also know a lot of people in the Urbex world would put you and those words together.

Goblinmerchant13 karma

That's totally fair, people can think what they like. I think a lot of them don't understand that I never pretended to be an explorer rocking it for the love - I was always, first and foremost, a PhD student who was being paid to do a job - to write a 80,000 thesis about who urban explorers are and why they do what they do. I chose to do that by becoming an explorer myself rather than writing about the practice without ever doing it because I felt that had more integrity. I guess some people would have preferred I stayed in the library, which is fair enough. However, anyone who wants to censor me can shove it, seriously, we all have a right to speak (or not) about our lives and experiences. Loads of people chose to not explore with me because they wanted to remain in the shadows. I always respected that.

reese_ridley5 karma

I saw your pictures on top of the Shard a while ago and I'm unbelievably jealous of what you guys do, ever since I climbed onto the roof of my elementary school I've been fascinated by place-hacking. Now that I'm an adult, what would be some low-risk stuff I could do to get into this hobby? There's a construction site nearby that I've wanted to go climb around on with some friends...

Goblinmerchant12 karma

Totally - go for the construction site. Usually on small sites there is no security - ain't nothing to it but to do it! Just don't break anything.

Goblinmerchant14 karma

And the Shard was crap, you couldn't see anything from that high.

jxtGGV5 karma

Where is the most terrifying place you have been?

Goblinmerchant13 karma

The Boneyard was terrifying: http://www.placehacking.co.uk/2011/12/15/military-infiltration-boneyard

Trespass in the US is a criminal offence and I didn't know what the consequences would be if caught. Also, no one had done it before which always makes it edgier.

barnzwallace5 karma

I've often thought that if I became homeless I'd break into some beautiful abandoned church/tube station/hotel/thing and build a life there. Can you tell me all of the reasons that that wouldn't work and why homeless people don't do it all the time?

Goblinmerchant10 karma

We talk about this all the time. I suggested once that we should distribute maps to homeless people with locations that have electricity and heat. But I was talking to this homeless guy the other week and he was saying that being on the streets just saps the life out of you so much you can't get up the energy to try and think through these things or act on information. I guess also they might be scared about pissing off the police, given the ways they mistreat homeless people even when they're not trespassing.

I would love to try this - just give everything up and be homeless for 3 months, try and work my way out of it. Of course, I have the benefit of knowing how stuff works internally (laws, spaces etc) in ways others might not.

darknod4 karma

What was the most interesting abandoned place you have been to and why?

Goblinmerchant10 karma

I have a lot of love for Battersea Power Station - see http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2013/06/06/urbex/

However, last year we got into this abandoned Brach's candy factory in Detroit and, get this, every level of the decaying building smelled like different food: marshmallows, almonds, chocolate. That was amazing!

StJohnsFog4 karma

What's the closest run-in you've had with potentially getting caught, and what would the consequences have been?

Have you ever been fined? Arrested? Anything?

Goblinmerchant9 karma

Yeah, I've been arrested. Most of the time though, people (security, property owners, cops) are pretty sympathetic when you explain your motivations and just ask you to leave. Sometimes they also ask you to delete your photos, which they don't have a right to, but in the spirit of getting the fuck out of there when things go wrong, sometimes you just comply and leave with a thanks.

understandrew4 karma

I used to do this type of stuff in my teens. Typically in the middle of the night, with a car full of friends. We tended to stick to "haunted" places, but generally would sneak ourselves into whatever we could that seemed cool.

I would of loved to continue doing it, everywhere in the country and the world even, but it is very expensive. How do you fund your adventures?

Goblinmerchant9 karma

I did a PhD on the topic and got research funding (I know it's weird), but when you live in the UK, you can go on a week long trip with 4 people in the car for about £200 each, all in - it's really a lot cheaper than getting around the US was when I lived there.

davegotler3 karma

How do you get to the tops of buildings like you do? I've done alot of exploring in tunnels and abandoned sites and construction zones but I still cant get up to the tops of buildings.

Goblinmerchant13 karma

For live buildings, try following someone in while you're talking on the phone and take the stairs. For construction sites, go at 2am and be a ninja.

Solvbjerg3 karma

How and why did you start?

Goblinmerchant2 karma

See below!

OklaJosha3 karma

Awesome pictures. I used to climb buildings and cranes at construction sites. Now I live in a bigger city and haven't because of security & more lights everywhere.

Do you usually go through the buildings to get to the top or do you climb?

What advice do you have for sneaking up buildings?

Goblinmerchant7 karma

Just go a few times and see what security gets up to. When you think you have enough info, hop the fence and see if there's a response. If not, run like hell for the internal stairs! Watch out for alarms in the stairs too - sometimes you have to climb a crane instead.

k1ngmad3 karma

What exactly inspired you to to become an author and explorer?

Goblinmerchant6 karma

Just a passion for discovery really!

n0ko3 karma

Why do you use the word hacking? (Place-Hacking)

Goblinmerchant8 karma

Well, "hacking" was a word that was first applied to physical space. It wasn't until relatively recently the term was appropriated by the virtual computing community. The word "hack" used to mean practical jokes or stunts, which makes sense. But then it's meaning shifted to mean a clever technical solution in general which totally applies to what urban explorers do. The 7th entry under the term "hacker" in the New Hacker’s Dictionary defines a hacker as "one who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations." So I feel like whether we're accessing off-limits space or subverting proprietary cyber-systems, it's the same thing really.

slap_my_banana3 karma

Hey Brad -

I interviewed you around this time last year for the final major project of my university degree! Just wanted to say thanks again for all your help! Ended up getting a in the project and the overall degree - your help was invaluable! Cheers bud!

p.s. Really looking forward to getting my hands on the book.

Goblinmerchant6 karma

Brilliant work! Let me know what you think of the book!

handsomescot853 karma

Climbing the Forth Rail Bridge must've took serious balls dude. I stay over the water from it. Come back to Scotland again soon!

Goblinmerchant6 karma

I'd love to, let's do the road bridge now!

mangrovejackson2 karma

Your photos are stunning; what kind of photographic gear do you take along with you on your exploration? Does it weigh you down? Were you trained in photography, or have you learned everything "on the job"? Are people uneasy about appearing in photos because of the illegal nature of some of these adventures?

Goblinmerchant3 karma

Check out the thread below for the first bit on gear.

A lot of photos never go online because people are in them. Some people are more secretive about what they get up to than others. I mean, people have office jobs and stuff with bosses who would not get this at all, as you might imagine.

HardModeEngaged2 karma

1 ten, or 2 fives?

Goblinmerchant7 karma

2 fives for sure, my corner shop in Tottenham has got no time for making change.

landinojones2 karma

Hey Bradley, I'm the guy who posted the thread, love your photos. Glad you're getting a lot of traffic. What was your favorite place you've explored, and what was running through your head the first time you did something like this?

Goblinmerchant4 karma

Thank you for posting the thread, It's amazing so many people are interested!

Exploring the London Tube was the most mind-blowing thing I ever did (despite the consequences - see thread below). I guess the fact that it's supposed to be impossible helps. Running the tracks at night, through the tunnels, masked up, with your friends, coated in Tube dust head to toe, waiting for the tracks to start singing to get a pic of a train flying by inches from your face while the people on the train have no idea you're in the tunnels... Well, there's nothing like it.

LegzAkimbo2 karma


Goblinmerchant5 karma

I saw that water tower. I think my friend Moses Gates attended. That was great stuff, reminded me of the old Jinx crew activities: http://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Frontier-Exploring-Tunnels-Rooftops/dp/0609809318

I might move to NYC next, I've got a lot of friends there.

liamv332 karma

What's your favorite icecream flavor?

Goblinmerchant5 karma

Bubble gum, for the win.

dubmast3rs2 karma

In urban spaces ruled by acts of enclosure and the privatisation of the commons your actions can't be removed from their political context. How much are you trying to undermine the concept of private property in the work that you do or is it a happy byproduct?

Goblinmerchant4 karma

Most urban explorers don't make any claims to political motivations and getting them to talk about issues of public and private space was difficult. But obviously, in a place like London where there are 500,000 CCTV cameras, increasing security constrictions, and a slow slip of all public space into private hands, breaching those barriers has political implications, even if those issues are underarticulated. I think, at it's core, urban exploration is about carving a place out for ourselves in cities that increasingly feel like they are not built for us anymore, they're just built to squeeze the little money we make out of us.

Goblinmerchant4 karma

I also think it's weird that we accept to notion of private property as normal these days without much question.

TouchMyFacecake2 karma

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start doing some urban exploration?

Also, your photos are top.


Goblinmerchant3 karma

Thanks! I'm not a real photographer, I just learned from being around other explorers. Best advice is really just start easy, do what you're comfortable with and step it up when/if you're ready. And read this! http://amzn.to/16RowKF

kenfagerdotcom1 karma

Do you get any grief from the urbex community for trying to approach subject matter and locations from an academic point of view? If so, how do you deal with it? It is a common criticism that I have to deflect from American Urbex. Thanks!

Goblinmerchant3 karma

Yeah, some people get really uptight about it. I don't really know what to say other than to be respectful and carry on. You can't let a few grumpy people stop you from doing what's important to you, I mean that's what this whole practice is about isn't it?

ThisCharmingMan_1 karma

Is there a place that continues to escape you? Perhaps you have tried multiple times and never quite gotten the access you needed? A white whale?

Goblinmerchant3 karma

There are a number. However, they will remain nameless (other than the subterranean citadels in London - see below) because one day the situation might change. When it does, photos will leak, as they do.

Shai231 karma

As someone who is afraid of falling, I find your pics a mix of interesting and terrifying. I don't understand the fascination with sitting on the edge of very high places.

Goblinmerchant2 karma

A lot of it is just about finding a quiet place to sit and chat with a great view. Getting that otherwise is most big cities would cost you a month's wages!

minuss691 karma

How much research if any do you do before going out and exploring? Specific sites, laws in the area, stuff like that?

Goblinmerchant3 karma

Loads! It really pays to know what you're getting yourself into. People are local archives and libraries are usually pretty helpful and like feeling that they're helping you with a naughty plan. Sometimes I even send them the photos after a successful mission.

Collawrence1 karma

Where can i finde people to do theese explorations with? my friends are all too lazy or scared. im a experienced climber but i dont wanna go alone :( MSG me if you r in sweeden

Goblinmerchant2 karma

Look up the UE Kingz. Sickest Swedish explorers around: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgV6F0XHJ7g

SoYppah1 karma

Where's the most boring place you've been to?

Goblinmerchant2 karma

Most places are boring actually. If I have to pick one - maybe an abandoned Denny's in LA in 2009? I thought it would be interesting and then it was all stripped out. Then some tweaker chased me out saying he was going to rape my skull if I touched his stuff (not kidding). On second thought, the tweaker actually made the place pretty interesting but as a location it failed hard.

i-Lou1 karma

I read your papers when I wrote my dissertation...in fact I think I referenced you. What is it that interested you regarding the academic works you have published?

Goblinmerchant1 karma

I came from a background in archaeology. Initially, I was really interested in how urban explorers seemed to be sort of amatuer archaeologist, digging around in places that more formal channels would ignore. After spending time with explorers though, I got much more interested in the sociology behind it all, the way this community had formed and stuck together through thick and thin when so many people were writing about the loss of senses of place and senses of community because of virtual distractions. I think the research really showed that as much as being online distracts us from real life, it also allows us to find those people out there in the world that we share a different sort of kinship with, so that we can form new communities based on something more solid than geography (says the geographer). Thanks for reading my research!

TwinLife1 karma


Goblinmerchant4 karma

I don't. I hate being a monolinguistic American but I am. Luckily, I've got loads of friends in the right places! The internet is good for that.

mb11071 karma

What place would you name as the one that absolutely blew your mind (the most) when you got there?

Goblinmerchant2 karma

See below on exploring the London Tube!

OrangeAvenger1 karma

Did you do a lot of sneaking around as a youth?

My friends and I made a habit of breaking into abandoned buildings, construction sites, etc. and reading your stories is bringing back some fun memories.

Goblinmerchant3 karma

Totally! I grew up in LA and spent many years skateboarding which is really simlar, lurking around for spots and trying not to get caught (I even opened a shop when I was 19, which is still in Riverside, CA: https://www.facebook.com/CrooksSkateboardShop).

When I got a car, I used to drive out into the Mojave Desert for weeks looking for old mining camps and Native American petroglyphs and stuff - it all springs from that same desire to found hidden bits in the world I think. It's sad that as we get older, we get conditioned to stop exploring.

m33pn8r1 karma

Tips for getting started in Urban Exploration and the like?

Goblinmerchant2 karma

Check out the threads below - read Ninjalicious to start!

shockthemonkey771 karma

How are the outside realms these days?

Goblinmerchant3 karma

Tactile tasty space is the place to be.

Whoa_Bundy1 karma

Just curious, obviously in some places you are breaking the law by trespassing and then you've posted the pictures along with pictures of yourselves in some of the photos.

Is there any fear that law enforcement can use those photos as evidence?

Goblinmerchant3 karma

There are usually statute of limitations on prosecution, so if you wait a period of time they can't pursue it (like the photo is older than 6 months). Luckily for us in the UK, trespass is not a criminal offence unless you're on railways or military/government property. Explaining that to cops is always funny.

Also, and this will sound bizarre, many people who own properties that they are going to rent out when they're complete don't mind as it helps promote their views. Some have even asked me to link their sites on my blog, which I have done as a thanks for being cool about things.

Nicshift1 karma

How did you decide that this was what you wanted to do with your life?

Goblinmerchant3 karma

Well I guess in a broad sense I always wanted to explore and discover things (I SCUBA dive too) but I only got into urban exploration in 2008 for my research. Now I just need to figure out what to explore next!

kaxtar1 karma

If you had to list items that all beginners should have with them what would they be?

Goblinmerchant6 karma

Just two torches, lots of batteries and maybe a phone in case you get stuck! Some places, like sewers, might mean you need waders and things but it really depends on where you want to go. Don't die okay?!

NerdfighterKnight1 karma

How do you have the guts to do all of that.

Goblinmerchant2 karma

I may have something broken in my brain that helps. But also, I was doing research and felt it was my ethical responsibility to step up to challenges when they presented themselves.

LeedsScene-2 karma

Many people in the exploring world label you a sell out nd a tourist as you appear to leech to other groups then post their exploits online leading to criminal convictions and things being thrown into the public which really shouldn't be - how would you respond to that??

Also you claim to know 100 skate board tricks, please name them

Goblinmerchant5 karma

Sure, you could claim that anyone who posts photos exploits locations. Or that people who don't post photos a selfish for not sharing them. I did my work with a close group of trusted friends who all knew I was writing a PhD and they've all been really supportive. I find the explorers who are most critical of my work are those I haven't met, and very likely haven't read my work or tried to understand its importance in the broader context of social movements. But everyone is, of course, entitled to their opinions. Maybe you should write a book about it?