Places You Can No Longer Find

One day, while I was wandering aimlessly around Manhattan, I stumbled on a little public courtyard, tucked away from the sidewalk. Standing in the middle of this gray public space was a towering statue of a naked woman, with half of her skin peeled off to expose the innards (and fetus) beneath. At the time I was rather new to the city, and finding this massive, fearless monument, I felt like I’d discovered some kind of secret, magical, NSFW corner of the city that no one else knew about. I left there in a bit of a stunned daze, not paying any attention to where I’d actually found myself, so when I tried to return not long after that day, I couldn’t find that little courtyard anywhere. It was like it had simply disappeared, or I’d dreamed visiting it in the first place. Thanks to the power of the internet, I was able to rediscover the place I’d visited, an outdoor art space that was showing Damien Hirst’s The Virgin Mother, but that Brigadoon quality of an incredible place you can no longer find, persists.

(Image: John Royle/Public Domain)

Allowing yourself to get lost can be an incredible experience, especially when you find yourself in some unforgettable new place that you never could have found if you’d tried. The only problem is that once you leave, those places can seem to get lost themselves. It’s easy to forget how you got there, and the whole experience can take on an ephemeral quality. We want to hear about those places you’ve been that you can’t seem to find anymore.

In the comments below, tell us about your own Brigadoon/Shangri La experience. That place you visited that you can’t seem to find anymore. Describe the experience, how you lost the place, and what made it so magical. Also, whether you were ever able to find it again! Your response might be included in an upcoming article on Atlas Obscura. Some places are even more wondrous after they disappear.

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That’s bizarre @EricGrundhauser.

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I had the amazing fortune to live in Rome Italy for a total of five years. The last year was my Senior Year in HS at an American High school in Rome. It was amazing what you can see there. A small thing I noted. To make the canopy above the main altar at St Peter’s Bernini needed bronze. He went to the Pantheon and removed the “useless” Roman bronze decorations. There is a plaque on the right as you enter the Pantheon that says so. Needless to say, these were priceless Roman Bronzes.

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That was a portal to another dimension.

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There are plenty of places that would meet this criteria , but there is one in particular that comes to mind right now , the bird aviary at Leeds castle near Maidstone in Kent.
If I remember correctly it was first built in the 1920’s by the aristocratic owner of the castle , Lady bailey , who was suffering from some kind of debilitating illness and kept exotic bird species as a kind of therapy to ward off depression.

It was in a little walled garden and had enclosures with many rare and endangered colourful bird species. All kinds of birds such as South American toucans and macaw parrots , African hornbills, Bali starlings , Mexican , Central American and Brazilian parrots and parakeets , South African crowned cranes , Australian cockatoos , New Zealand Kea parrots and Chinese laughing thrushes.

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The moment you stepped inside the garden you would hear a cacophany of diferent bird calls and be confronted with the sight of all of these colourful and charismatic birds from distant lands. The aviaries themselves were always well planted with lots of exotic plants so it could be quite difficult to spot some of the birds amongst the foilage. As a kid my family visited the castle quite a few times for days out and to see the music concerts that were held on the grounds. Needless to say , for me the aviary was always the highlight of the trip there.

At some point in the last couple of years I discovered that the aviary had been closed by some bureaucrat bigwig at the National Trust, the body that runs English heritage sites. The decision apparently due to “economic costs” and because it just wasnt a priority in comparison with “maintaining the castle”. I remember reading about it and just feeling really disapointed not only that the garden would disappear but that I wouldn’t be able to take my own future kids there to see it.

This is going to reflect badly on me , but I remember seeing a picture in the article of the self important pompous bureaucrat in her pretentious pastel coloured 80’s powersuit with her smug insincere smile, and thinking what an absolute moron.

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A few weeks ago I decided to wander over towards Fallowfield - the ‘student ghetto’ of Manchester. Once upon a time, during undergraduate days, I lived there and would walk up Oxford Road, up through Rusholme (‘The Curry Mile’), to get to University.

The architecture around the University corridor is sort of iconic, but it’s changed over the years and continues to change. You could use shapes as reference points and distance markers. The Uni Sign arch welcomed you into the University of Manchester proper. (It’s now gone, empty air.) The ‘Bean Tin’ popped up during my time there. Otherwise, Whitworth Hall, the Holy Name Church, the bizarre prongs above the Contact Theatre, the Whitworth Gallery, the Hospital buildings and then all the lights of Rusholme down to the Owen’s Park Tower above all the student halls of residence.

Before you got to Owen’s Park, though, there was the ‘Toast Rack’ and the ‘Fried Egg’. (a.k.a. the ‘Hollings Building’). So named because, visually, it looked like something you’d see on your breakfast table and was originally part of a Domestic Trades College, it was described as “a perfect piece of pop architecture”.

It looked so odd but simultaneously uplifting - a vision out of the 1960s and space-agey ‘Festival of Britain’ utopian thinking. Passing it every day way back when, it was the sign that I’d made it back to base. When I returned a few weeks ago I had a mind to get some photos and maybe submit it to Atlas Obscura. Alas, it was gone. (At least, I couldn’t find any sign of it.) I knew that no one had been living there and that it had been disused for several years but I didn’t think it would be torn down so fast.

No more Toast Rack and no more Fried Egg. Manchester’s redevelopment and re-redevelopment continues apace…

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I could wax poetic about Texas back-country roads. I spent my formative teenage years practically packed into a car with my parents and little sister, every other weekend, seeing where random County Road number 112 would take us. Most of those places are either lost to memory (I am entering my 30s, a long way off from the mid-teens I had been) or development (because while cities like Austin and Houston continue to grow, so too do the towns surrounding them). Cresting a ridge somewhere within the Texas Hill Country, finding a flood-plain valley spread below you shimmering with blue and red, pink and yellow wildflowers in the spring; or soft golden brown with the patient glimmer of the Blanco and its weirs (or some nameless creek, swollen but almost docile after a recent rain)…

I think perhaps my favorite from more recent memory, and maybe the most bittersweet, is Park Road 1C between Bastrop and Beuscher state parks. Massive loblolly pines sheltered significant portions of the road, the closer to Bastrop State Park, the denser the forest. Serene is the best word I have for it, what it had been. Maybe a little spooky, too, at night-spiders loved hanging their catch-webbing down into the middle of the road, so I’ll let you imagine what tales a bored dad would tell (terrify) his daughters with. I can’t tell you the amount of times my family and I went down that road before the fire.

I’ve only returned once to that road (though I’ve traveled near it more recently), since the Bastrop Complex Fire took out most of Bastrop State Park. Easter of 2013, a year and a half after. The majority of the old pines were gone, and it became a much more ‘open’ road. It is making a good recovery, from what I can tell of the stretch of 71 that parallels it, but I doubt it will ever make a return to the density it had once had.

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What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it.

When I was a kid, we used to spend summers at my grandparent’s house in Torrington CT. One of our favorite things to do was blueberry picking. We would take a picnic lunch and gather up beach pails and pots, and my mom would drive us out to a field by the roadside. It was filled with blueberry bushes covered with big sweet berries. She always told us that the field was part of the birthplace of abolitionist John Brown. Many years later my husband and I drove around trying to find it, but never did.

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I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t look the same as when you were a kid. Here’s a link to the website of the Torrington Historical Society web page about John Brown’s birthplace:


If you plug this lat/long into Google Maps, you can go into Street View and see if anything resembles what you remember from your childhood:
N 41.8393 W 73.1705
And, if you want to go back to Torrington and look around, you can drive to this area and see if anything sparks your memory.

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Thanks. I have not been back there for many years but who knows maybe someday.

Now I want to go.

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I feel like I’ve shared a few touring musicians stories on these boards already. But this “Brigadoon” experience is pretty common whilst touring simply because you so often have no idea where you are.

Considering that, SOMEWHERE IN GREECE there is a spectacular looking cathedral carved into the side of a mountain. It was just before sunset, and we were on a freeway between somewhere and somewhere. It was hard to not notice that one of the hills contained surreal portions of gothic architecture popping out of it. So we pulled over. The church was locked up for the night, but we went up to their massive steel and wooden doors and followed a trail to a small cave. At the end of the cave is a natural spring where they get their holy water. Couldn’t find a sign. I have no idea where we were. This thing was just there.

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I was driving around Palisade, Colorado along an irrigation dike, and looked across it to discover sculptures of a turtle chasing a rabbit on a bicycle with a 30’ SCUD like rocket in front of a peach orchard.

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In the 60s I was married to the military; my husband lucked out and got orders to Holland instead of Vietnam. We were stationed at what they called a “radio base” which was probably monitoring something in the USSR since it was during Cold War 1.0. The actual “base” consisted of a tiny building, probably big enough for 5-6 adults at a time, with a huge radar dish on top. There were only about 12-15 guys stationed there, the highest ranking a Sargent E6; since this small town on the North Sea was a tourist area, and it was not so long after WW II, Queen Beatrix had rules and one of them was no military uniforms, so the guys each got a stipend to buy civies; the single guys lived in a hotel, and the married ones lived “on the economy.”

Anyway, unique place with many interesting memories and stories. Occasionally my hub and I took advantage of place and traveled to see the sites. Once we came upon a castle set high on a mountain on the side of a river. I say “a” because I cannot for the life of me remember what castle and what river. I also don’t remember if we rode a tram up the mountain or simply drove. I do remember we seemed to be the only people in the place, running up small, steep, and winding stairs and looking at the river valley below from the turrets. All seems like just a gauzy dream now like a Disney movie playing in my head. I know it was real because there was also a small dining chalet nearby where we stopped for a cup of coffee.

My hub was a proud Texan who, much to my chagrin, favored showing off his “cowboy” hat and boots when we went out. As we drank our coffee the German gentleman at the table next to us asked if we were from Texas. I could see my hub’s chest puff out when he said in his best, overstated Texas drawl, “Wha yup, we sho are!” The German smiled and said “I thought so. I was in a POW camp there during WW II.” I noticed my husband’s chest deflate just a little. And for some reason I felt compelled to say I was sorry.

“No, no, no” the German guy said, “you don’t understand, I loved it there! It was the only time I had food every day, and ‘das verdek’? [Here he held his and over his head to cover it.] We got food three times every day! It was wunderbar! I wanted to stay in America, but they would not let me. I returned home and no food…no haus…all bombed. Very bad for us.” At this point he seemed to go somewhere else, so we told him goodbye; I wanted to be polite and say the usual “nice to meet you’” but the word “nice” seemed so inappropriate we just walked away and I noticed my hub had removed his 10-gallon and wasn’t so puffed up, because you know you need to learn that wars are about governments but not the humans who get caught up in them and suffer the consequences on both sides.

I still try to find that castle every chance I get with Google maps, but it still remains just an illusion I had one time.

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I am a native as well & mostly grew up in S Texas, but also lived in DFW area. We used to travel to my grandparents house in Coolidge and there were fields and fields of bluebonnets as far as the eye could see, which I saw through my mom’s fingers as she held my head…I always got car sick. >:

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For a brief time my family lived in the confines of Kings Mountain National Battlefield Park on the border between South and North Carolina. My father was hired to kill invasive honey suckles taking over the Revolutionary War battlefield. The Park Service let us live in a very old house on the edge of the park while he worked there. It was built with round, grinding mill stones for steps leading to the tin roofed covered porch that went along the front of the clapboard house. One day he came home and said, “let’s take a ride.” We drove for over an hour down poorly maintained dirt roads. Nothing but dense forest. Suddenly, he stopped the car. “Remember what I told you about the famous general everyone knows but cannot find his grave site, the hero who didn’t make it home after the Battle. I think I know where he is. Let’s go!” We walked for hours. “Dad, I think we’re getting lost!” We were not carrying a compass. He said nothing. Suddenly, I remember seeing this stone, not a gravestone but a large rock jutting out from the a tiny clearing amidst the dense underbrush. If not for the sun catching the glint off the tiny quartzite particles in the rough stone, we’d have walked right by it. Both of us walked up slowly. There was his last name roughly etched into a small flat surface on the rough stone surface. I’m sure the oldest locals knew about it but there was no signs of a trail anywhere. It was my Indiana Jones moment at age 11 long before I knew “Indy, Indy!” I went on to become a history teacher, historian, museum consultant, and writer. Over fifty years later I returned to the park. Much had changed. I tried to track down a park ranger who had been there the longest. No one knew what I was talking about. There is now a well marked site several miles from the Park in nearby NC, in the open near a farmstead. Perhaps that is site my father and I found now so developed I cannot tell. Others told me many wounded from the Battle of Kings Mountain died returning to their mountain homes. Maybe that was one we found. Priceless.

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I was in Cairns Australia in 2013 and it was supposed to be a truly magical trip, but everything catastrophically fell apart. Long story short my 6 month trip was reduced to 6 days and on my last day after angrily wandering the city with no particular aim for many hours I found a perfect restaurant that served crepes. They were some of the best crepes I have ever had and made what was a terrible trip just slightly better. I tried to look up my location when I got back to America and was never successful. It’s now just a special memory of a strange place that provides exactly what I needed, when I was utterly lost.

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I have two such places. The location of the first is well known but it no longer exists as it was. In the early 1980s I had a rare opportunity to tour the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. Among the many fascinating things that we saw was the old studio backlot, where we walked past outdoor sets from The Absent-Minded Professor (Fred MacMurray, 1961), Pete’s Dragon (Helen Reddy, 1977), The North Avenue Irregulars (1979) and the Old West town used in The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975). The outdoor sets from the Zorro television series (Guy Williams, 1957) were still there as well, although I only got a peek at those from a distance. The Disney studio is tiny compared to the other movie studios in the area, and in the intervening years they needed the real estate for other things, so the backlot has since been eradicated and replaced with sound stages and office buildings, and those historic sets that I saw are gone forever.

The other place I can no longer find was in Geelong, Australia. I visited my cousin in Melbourne almost twenty years ago and I took a couple of bus tours to neighboring places outside the city. On one of the tours we came back through Geelong after dark, and as the bus rounded a corner we passed the facade of what looked like a moderate-sized movie palace with tall leaded-glass windows blazing with light. I am a fan of old movie palaces and I craned my neck to see it but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. I have since searched Geelong via Google Street View to try to find a building that resembles what I saw, but with no success.

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About 10yrs ago, when my family lived in Virginia, we were out for one of our typical weekend family ‘no where’ drives (drives with no real destination). Taking a turn that put us near the James River (the ONLY landmark I can recall), we came upon a field with a horse running wild. Concerned for the animal my husband went to the nearest house & once on the property, saw an OLD house sitting opposite. The crazy thing was, you couldn’t see this house from the road even though it literally ran not 40ft from the front porch.
The person at home on the property visible gave us permission to enter the neighboring property, but could only tell us that it had been abandoned for some 70 odd years (no electric pole, mail box, etc). It was like stepping back into the 1920’s or early 1900’s & looking out the front windows you couldn’t see the road or any neighbors, yet the back was fairly well tended (neighbor said nobody ever entered the land or building).
We planned to return the following weekend as I wanted to try to photograph the house/property & see if I could locate owners/history/etc. Despite ALL day driving the following weekend, we never found the house again (or the neighboring house) & that included a google earth search.

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