The "Lost" Neighborhood of Detroit (Part 2)

April, 2009.

John of Detroitblog was so fascinated by my tale of the "lost neighborhood" that a year later he goaded me into going back there with him to check out the place, so that he could do a story about it. And he wanted me to come along for protection against the wild dogs. Naturally I was just a wee bit gun-shy after my first harrowing experience, and had no desire to go back there, but he persisted.

I had to admit, I was still curious about the place, seeing as my initial foray had been cut so short. It took him some convincing, but I finally relented, thinking, "Hey, no biggie. What's the chance lightning will strike twice?" And with a comrade present at least, there would be a lesser chance of a similar run-in. At least being armed with the foreknowledge that there could be danger lurking in those woods was an advantage I hadn't had on my first go-round. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the original incident was probably a fluke, and that I had nothing to worry about anymore. Besides, that was well over a year ago now, and those dogs prolly either moved to greener pastures, froze to death, or starved over the winter anyway.

This was only about two months after the Johnny Redding incident, by the way. We waited until the snow melted, and made our move.

He started out by imploring me to bring my pistol. I told him that I could not do so, seeing as my carry permit expired recently and I had not renewed yet. He told me to bring it anyway.

I said "okay, sure" but had no intention of doing so.

I guess by going back there with a gun, that would somehow equate to an acknowledgment of the fact that I was willfully, knowingly going back to a place that I never wanted to return to. I wanted to remain in a blissful state of denial, I suppose. But I did have my pocketknife—not that that is what a sane person would choose to carry if they knew they were going to maybe get in a fight with wild dogs on a particular day—but as I said, I did not want to accept the fact that that's what the reality could be. Our brains work in funny ways.

When I called him up that morning, he asked me "Hey, you think I should pick up a can of mace on the way down?" I said it couldn't hurt. We parked at the strip mall on the Gratiot side of the woods (the opposite side from where I entered the last time), and began wading into the "Lost Neighborhood."

He kept saying how freaked out he was by this (having only recently read my story about the dogs), and was visibly on edge, yet he really wanted to explore this place. This is totally understandable—for someone who puts himself in harm's way as much as either of us do, when you hear a story about one of us who actually does get caught in a serious life-threatening encounter "in the line of duty," sh*t suddenly gets real. Nobody wants to get ate by a pack of dogs.

As we waded further into the woods he kept jumping at every noise or movement, saying "F#$%what's that?!" expecting to see a dog come out at us through the brush any second...which then in turn made me jump as well. Thinking back on it now, it was quite hilarious...we were like two little kids in the woods for the first time.

We came across a couple structures that I had not seen on my first expedition into these woods, with the wrecks of both a Buick Regal and an overturned moving van chassis strewn amongst the rubble:

It doesn't get much more stereotypically Robocoppy than this. There was even rubble sprinkled on the roof of the car, a nice touch:

Ruin porrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnnn....

We also found several more downed utility poles:

We found the remants of an actual trailer home as well:

The smell of a wood fire put us on alert a bit, but once we found that it was on the other side of the fence, and not a sign that we were encroaching on the turf of some potentially territorial scrappers, we were put at ease again.

Once about half an hour had passed and we had explored a couple structures, we were feeling pretty comfortable.

We even took another trip through the incinerated interurban streetcar station facing Gratiot that I had checked out in the first episode:

Again, Peter Dudley tells me that this facility continued life as a DSR bus garage until November of 1930, and later it served as a community center for the residents of the nearby trailer park, which he says was named Airport Trailer Park. Local youngsters knew the building as "the home of the Morlocks" he said, referring to the 1960 motion picture The Time Machine. Dudley said that the trailer park was still in business until at least the mid 1960s.

This I think is another of the communal facilities that would have provided amenities to the workers' housing that used to be here by the Hudson Motor Car Co. Body Plant:

I would have to imagine though that if the workers' housing went on to become regular trailer park after the war, that they would have had plumbing installed in all of the units.

Here's another car, a Ford Taurus wagon, which seems to have just fallen from the sky:

If you peer closely thru the trees, you can see the Taurus again in the distance here:

...but also note the melted phone box on the charred phone pole at left. The structure looming in the distance is the Hudson plant.

As soon as I snapped this next photo, I turned around to face the opposite way and all of a sudden heard...the blood curdling sound of dogs barking behind me.

I heard John instantly groan, "Ohh no," or something to that effect, implying that our visit would be coming to an early close. For some reason however, in my mind I placed this barking to be coming from the plant property itself—i.e., guard dogs, on the other side of the fence. I had not seen any dogs, I had only heard the sudden barks of warning. We started heading back toward our car, with me involuntarily starting to run—but before I could go two steps, the situation changed yet again as I looked back over my shoulder and now saw two dogs breaking out from the verge of the woods onto the trail less than 50 yards from us.

John shouted at me "Don't run!! Don't turn your back!!" and I knew he was right, but the only thought going through my mind at this very moment was, "Oh heeeellllllllll no, this can't be happening again." I had maintained my composure the first time and resisted running, but this time the car was almost within sight and I just wanted to run to it.

I instantly recognized the two dogs. They were dogs #3 and #4 from my original encounter! What are the f#$%ing odds...? John had his can of mace already out and was positively bristling with the fight-or-flight combination of pure rage and fear that comes from the immediacy of an imminent threat to your life...I could tell he was thinking the same thing as me—"No f#$%ing way, this can't be happening"...his worst fear was playing out just as he had dreaded before we put ourselves into this ridiculous situation. He was pointing that can of mace like it was a nuclear f@#$ing missile...his arm was so rigidly thrust forward that I knew he must be just absolutely boiling with adrenaline.

I forced myself to stop and face our attackers, and John shouted at the top of his lungs to scare the dogs. I saw them turn tail and duck back into the brush as John picked up a large PVC pipe off the ground and started waving it at them too. We took our chance to retreat from the scene as hastily as possible, while looking back every two seconds to see if we were going to be pursued. John still had the mace can locked in a death grip, and I had my pocketknife ready.

Once it became apparent we were not being pursued and were within reach of the car, we started taking the deep, stress-filled breaths of relief that come while ratcheting down from a near-mortal-combat situation, and the heavy spewing of strung-together but unrelated cuss words that follow, eventually melting away to nervous and perturbed chuckling as we got into the car.

So yeah. Just stay out of those woods.


  1. I grew up in the airport trailer park back from when I was born in 64 to roughly 74 and it was a great family place to live had a lot of friends great great memories went to school at MaComb Elementary and do to some kind of craziness with the water and an overdue water bill for the trailer park they made everybody move out and they just totally collapsed everything

    1. Susan I would love to hear more about your time at the trailer park! Especially your experience with the Terminal building. What was it used for at that time? As a student researching this building, it would be amazing to learn more.

  2. Following up with Sue's comment... our family lived in the Airport Trailer Park from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s. If you are still interested in learning more about the park, we would be more than happy to provide photos and memories from our time there.


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