Smile Politely

A Spooky Building, An Eerie Feeling, and A Creepy Latrine in 2017

Yes readers, it is October already and that means time for my third annual spooky/ghostly/Halloweeny edition of A Building, A Feeling and A Latrine. So strap yourselves in and be ready for some mild-to-moderate goosebumps and unsettling shivers as I take you on yet another tour of Chambana’s creepiest places.

The Buildings on the Southwest corner of Windsor and Philo

Almost any building can be creepy at night, but some buildings are haunting even during the day. These derelict and overgrown buildings/sheds just off Windsor and Philo fall into the latter type — they’re scary enough even when the sun is out that I really didn’t want to visit them after dark (which is good because my phone takes real crappy pictures at night).

If you’ve never paid any attention to these structures, Google Maps says there are seven of them. They’re made of wood painted red, which now makes them look more weathered than if they’d been bare wood. They’ve clearly not been cared for in some years, but they’re amply protected by rusty barbed wire.

Some Googling informs me that this land used to be the Pell Farm, the University research farm for growing fruit. The land was purchased back in 2010 by some local residents and, though there was talk of developing the land, it appears to have sat dormant since then.

Obviously (or at least obviously for the purposes of this column) something extra nefarious must be going down in these ramshackle, windowless sheds, otherwise they would have already been turned into suburban homes or a somewhat less nefarious strip mall. Blood cult? Secret government experiments? Vampire speed dating? These are all things that are probably happening RIGHT THIS INSTANT inside these buildings. More likely though, they’re just used for storage. I’ve gone ahead and taken guesses at what is stored in each building just based on their size and location:

VERDICT: I’m sure this was a very nice fruit farm at one time, but now it’s just a FRIGHT farm! Heh.

Hanging out on the Champaign Urbana History Facebook group

If you aren’t a part of the Champaign Urbana History Facebook group you should check it out. It’s a place where long-time Chambana natives reminisce about the town’s past. People post stuff like “what was the name of that Chevy dealership in the 60s?” and “remember the Steak n’ Shake on Green Street? I met my husband there!” Then of course there’s lots of old pictures of local buildings along with photos of what they look like today (that’s really what I’m in it for, gotta keep up on my building lore). There’s all this great content, and the admin has a very strict no bickering/personal attacks/profanity policy. Overall it’s just a lovely place to spend some time on the Internet.

So, what’s scary about the Champaign Urbana History page? Well, nothing really. But you know what is scary? The unstoppable march of time, the great equalizer. Along with that, the inevitability of aging and ultimately death. So, sometimes I find myself terrified, thinking about how, in 40 years or so, it’ll be me posting to Champaign Urbana History. I’ll say something like, “hey chums, remember the Azzip Pizza?” But nobody will comment on my post. Maybe nobody actually does remember Azzip Pizza regardless of whether I met my husband there or not. Maybe Facebook has been replaced by some other social network linked directly to everyone’s brains and all that’s left of Facebook is me and Robot Mark Zuckerberg, but RMZ doesn’t care about Chambana history or pizza. Perhaps all civilization has crumbled and I’ve actually just written my post on a scrap of sheet metal that I found while wandering the wastelands trying to survive.

VERDICT: So I guess this Facebook group actually is scary as it will remind you how time flies. This Halloween, remember to ponder the passage of time and the nothingness that awaits us all. The best way to do this is by thinking about old restaurants you can’t go to anymore. 

An undisclosed cornfield on a cold, windy, autumn night

When trying to come up with a scary bathroom for this month’s column, all I kept thinking of were outhouses. I’ve never used a real outhouse, but I assume it’s a very harrowing experience. Going outside in the dead of night — locking yourself inside a flimsy wooden shack that any old werewolf or space alien could just come and kick over. I could never do my business under such circumstances, which would make it a great bathroom to review! Unfortunately, I don’t know of any actual outhouses, so I used the next worst thing: the center of an empty cornfield.

Yes dear readers, one chilly evening recently I went on an excursion to a recently-harvested cornfield to assess its usefulness as a bathroom. I did it all for you readers! But did I actually relieve myself in this field? I’ll never tell (though it’s very unlikely that I did since I prefer for my junk to not be frigid).

VERDICT: Let’s do the full pro/con breakdown for this cornfield bathroom situation.

  • Smells better than many restrooms I’ve reviewed
  • Easier to spot approaching werewolves/aliens than if you were inside an outhouse, hopefully giving you time to pull up your pants and start running
  • You’re helping the soil maybe? Sustainability!
  • If you’re one of those people who can’t stand being near other people using the bathroom, this place is for YOU!


  • Cold
  • Lonely
  • Remote location
  • No place to sit
  • Nothing to wash your hands with except mud and corn detritus
  • Nothing to dry your hands with except mud and corn detritus
  • If you want any kind of privacy, you have to go at night

Basically a cornfield is a very poor bathroom and I don’t advise you use one as the other, even on Halloween.


Hope everyone has a fun, safe Halloween. Also if you know of an outhouse I can use, hit me up in the comments. 

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