How to Find Abandoned Buildings (In-Person):
Preface: I'm not a writer so feel free to point out any errors or make suggestions. Also, The moderators of /v/Urbex and I do not condone any illegal or dangerous acts such as trespassing; do so at your own risk.
For drains see: Predator's Approach to Draining
Look for signs of obviously abandoned buildings:
- Boarded, Broken Windows
- Un-mowed Grass
- Broken Pavement
- Plants growing on the roof
- Collapsed buildings
- Abandoned Building Signs: Used in the US to warn firefighters, they are often visible from the street.
Meet Other Explorers:
Connect with other explorers on sites like /v/urbex, /r/urbanexploration, and UER.ca and meetup irl. Meeting up with other explorers is a great way to finding locations.
How to Find Abandoned Buildings (Online):
Connect the dots:
Even if the location of a spot isn’t directly given you can piece together clues found in posts/comments such as building use (asylum, hospital, etc…), general location (city, state, region), historical dates (date opened, closed, lit on fire), and nearby landmarks. These and other clues can sometimes be gathered from the photos themselves (Is it by a river? Are there mountains in the distance? Are there notable buildings or iconic landmarks in the background? Is there a sign or date in/on the building?). Using all these clues it is possible to connect-the-dots and uncover a location, it just takes time/effort.
I’ve often identified a location with only one picture and the knowledge of the city/area it was taken in by identifying the buildings seen through an open window and cross referencing them with Bing maps. Detective work like this isn't always necessary (though it can be fun), many locations are named online and are only a google search away. Below is a simple guide to get you started in finding abandoned locations online, it is by no means complete.
Search urban exploration, Urbex, abandoned, ruins, derelict, closed, shut down, disused, + your town, city, state (abbreviated and/or full), or region. This can come up with anything from news stories about a nearby abandoned building to Urbex blogs focusing on your area. Customize your search to be as specific as you want. Also remember to search your local newspapers. Also try searching for demolition auctions or real-estate listings in your area.
Bing & Google Maps:
Bing and Google Maps are very useful in finding abandoned locations. Using satellite view (or the amazing birds eye view in Bing) to find spots is fairly straight forward but can be like searching for a needle in a haystack at times. Its best used in conjunction with other information/hints; for example if I know there’s an asylum somewhere in town X I can scan the map for obvious signs of derelict buildings in a kirkbride layout. Look for:
- roofs in a state of disrepair,
- cracked/overgrown pavement,
- a lack of cars,
- trees overgrowing buildings,
- (partially) collapsed buildings.
Here are some examples: http://imgur.com/a/na1sO. Also try following rivers and train tracks; they often are adjacent to abandoned industrial buildings or old mills. Please be aware that sometimes a location will be demolished and still show on these maps so check both. Also, some locations may look abandoned online (or even in person) but are still being used (even if just for storage).
As mentioned above Urbex blogs can be very useful in identifying locations or at least giving you a general idea about what’s nearby. Find these in Google or Bing.
Reddit & Voat:
Reddit can be a great source of leads on abandoned buildings if you know where to look. /r/AbandonedPorn, /r/abandoned, and /r/urbanexploration, all contain posts that hint at or blatantly list the location of abandoned buildings. Reddit’s search function comes in handy here, just enter your town, city, state (abbreviated and/or full), or region into the search bar for these subreddits and start hunting. You can also always ask other users. These tips also apply to Voat, try /v/abandonedpix and /v/AbandonedPorn.
You’re less likely to find direct name drops on UER than other sites but by paying attention to the details in user’s posts/photos/comments it is possible to piece together locations. Be sure to pay attention to user’s listed locations and which regional board you’re in as well. There is also the obvious route of participating in the forum discussions and networking with other explorers on the site. Trusted members have access to the UER site database (though the best locations are often kept secret).
Flickr, Instagram, Youtube:
Flickr has a lot of urban exploration photos. Often the album name or photo description will name the location or contain GPS coordinates. Try using the Flickr Map Tool: https://www.flickr.com/map
Instagram and YouTube explorers also reveal locations frequently in their posts or in comments. As before; search town, city, state, and region.
A lot of big online communities like 4Chan (/out/, /x/, and /asp/) or lesser known ones like Facepunch have Urbex threads which can be helpful.