Orphans are poignant little creatures who never fail to evoke sympathy. There are vintage portraits of orphans and street urchins from Victorian times huddled together in doorways and cobblestone alleys for warmth because they have no home; they wear sooty clothes and have filthy bare feet.
Modern-day orphans are oftentimes much better off than the poor workhouse Victorian era English orphan image (popularized by Charles Dickens’ classic novel Oliver Twist). Abandoned children these days are often cared for by foster families or housed in orphanages. Some orphanages, however, close for various reasons (i.e., lack of funding, inadequate staff), which makes one wonder what became of the children who once lived there.
Here are 15 chilling photos of abandoned orphanages that only make us wonder about their former inhabitants all the more.
15 Ghost seen in window of abandoned orphanage in Liverpool
This is a Google Street View picture that apparently caused a lot of online discussion when it was posted on Friday, February 13, 2015 (via metro.co.uk). It’s a picture taken of the exterior of an abandoned orphanage in the UK called the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution, which has been closed since 1997. The building (which also previously served as a hospital and mental asylum) is now rotting and no longer safe for occupancy. Of course, it’s always possible that squatters have come and gone over the 20 years since this building’s been abandoned. Many people viewing this image, however, believe that it shows the ghost of an orphan child who probably once lived in this very institution standing at one of its window and weeping.
14 Morgue in Newsham orphanage
This picture is an interior photo of a morgue within the building once known as the Liverpool Seamen’s Orphan Institution. At first glance, you might wonder what an orphanage needs with a morgue. Well, the answer is that buildings over the years get used for different purposes and this building, while it once was an orphanage, in its later years became a medical center/treatment facility known as the Newsham Park Hospital, which is when this morgue was probably constructed. Probably. (The timing of when this morgue appeared in this building’s history is pure speculation on our part.) Still, it’s chilling to imagine that maybe it existed in this building’s orphanage era, which begs the question of why a children’s home needs a morgue on site?
13 Doll’s head in orphanage in Pripyat, Ukraine
This image is from an orphanage abandoned in Pripyat, Ukraine, in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. Pripyat was founded in 1970 and was developed to house mainly employees of the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant. At the time of the Chernobyl disaster, Pripyat was a town with a population of approximately 50,000 when it was evacuated on the afternoon of April 27, 1986 to escape the nearby Chernobyl plant’s massively toxic effects. Part of the evacuation, obviously, included the local orphanage where the children would have been moved to a safe zone. The broken doll’s head in the above picture serves as a poignant reminder of the abruptness of the evacuation and that maybe some child didn’t even have a chance to collect their favorite doll before leaving.
12 So many beds so close together
This room would make for some uncomfortably close sleeping quarters. Imagine the chaos here at one time, especially if the beds were occupied side by side 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, kindergarten age orphans, infants, toddlers and so forth. All those young foundlings elbowing each other, trying to fall asleep in sync. You can imagine that this now-empty room was once an incredibly bustling place with a chorus of children’s voices chattering away. Now it’s empty of young ones and only metal bed frames are left with no mattresses. Grubby toys are strewn about and lots of pictures, lots of images of probably idols or public figures to look up to as the orphan children who once crowded into this room wouldn’t have had many pictures of family, most likely.
11 Broken windows and a baby carriage
This looks like the backyard of an abandoned orphanage. There are no toys scattered around in this picture and no evidence that any children ever lived here, other than one solo fire-engine red doll’s pram pushed over towards the left hand side of the image. It looks like it might have been hurriedly pushed aside, too, and no one bothered to roll it inside a garage or backyard shed to protect it from rain and snow. The building’s windows are all broken as if squatters have come by or maybe some curious people may have busted them to take a tour of the place. Birds and other wild animals probably nest in there now with the windows so wide open. Abandoned buildings make great shelters from the wild, so why not?
10 Hanging keys for mysterious doors that will remain forever locked
According to the website weburbanist.com, this image of hanging keys was taken in the Freinetschool Kasteel De Wip, a children’s home and school in Wezemaal, Belgium. The building was closed down in 2008 due to structural decay and at the time of its closure, it housed 54 live-in children. Where did all those children go? The oldest among them might be of adult age by now and would be moving along in life.
It’s something to see these keys and know that for more than a century, (since this building first opened in 1880), they opened so many doors. The smiley-face stands out among them and lends a friendly spirit to this image. Maybe it was the one that opened the door to the institution’s playroom, or something.
9 Communal bathroom sinks
Orphanage bathrooms look like public washrooms. They have rows of toilets with stalls, rows of showers and sinks. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of privacy. There’s no luxury of doing your business in a private bathroom and it’s always nice to have some bathroom privacy for whenever Aunt Flo comes to visit or you have to do a number two. It would suck to have no other option but to go into a public restroom to do all your business. Imagine being a teenage orphan having to primp and sculpt your Mohawk in a public bathroom? Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. After all, having so many sinks, showers and stalls means that you’d never have to wait for the bathroom to be empty.
8 Empty wheelchair by the window
This is such a sad image of an abandoned wheelchair. There seems to be something sitting in the wheelchair’s seat—maybe a child’s vest or harness or a super ugly and non-comforting doll that the child who occupied this wheelchair wasn’t able to run screaming away from so they were stuck with cuddling for “comfort.” It’s nice that the wheelchair is situated right beside a window, but the downside is that the view out the window would be above the eye-line of any child sitting in this wheelchair. So while they get the nice sunlight streaming into their room, they really don’t get to take in much of the view. They could see the leaves and the nearby trees and hear the birds tweeting, at least.
7 Cartoon characters on the walls
It’s such an unhappy juxtaposition to see cartoon character decals decorating the walls of an abandoned orphanage. It’s sad to decorate the walls of an orphanage to begin with. It’s like you want to say to the optimistic decorator who put them up there “nice try.” They were just trying to cheer up a fundamentally miserable place, right? It’s painful to see the state of the paint-peeling walls and grubby, dusty old mattresses and bedding scattered all over the floor. Some little ones had sweet dreams and maybe even some nightmares within this room. Now it’s empty and there are no more sleepers and dreamers to be found and these wolf/hybrid Mickey Mouse and Goofy knockoffs will just peel themselves right off these crumbling walls over time.
6 No one’s tickled these ivories in ages
Here are some untouched ebony and ivory piano keys. Ever see a player piano? Player pianos are self-playing pianos that you sometimes see in saloon scenes in old Westerns. With player pianos, the piano presses out the keys to a tune as if a ghost is sitting there with their ghostly unseen piano fingers playing the song. The effect can really be quite jarring, actually.
This is a photograph of what looks like an old organ which is sitting untouched in an abandoned orphanage. The presence of this instrument implies that perhaps this was a religious place and hymns were played here. This organ also could have been used for fun times, where everyone gathered around for sing-alongs. At least this place had music.
5 Deflated pig in abandoned orphanage’s backyard
It’s always touching to see any abandoned child’s toy. Maybe we all remember being little kids ourselves and know how we treasured our toys. This little toy pig was possibly some kid’s most precious and favorite boo. Maybe they told all their innermost secrets to it. And here’s their dearest friend, abandoned and deflated, with its sewn-on smile smiling on despite ongoing exposure to wind, rain, sleet and snow. If you loved your childhood toys like we did growing up, then you know that you’d never abandon Mr. Piggy all alone in the dirt like this unless you had to leave in some big hurry. What could have possibly happened for the child who owned this to have abandoned it here among the mushrooms, twigs, dry leaves and dirt?
4 Communal bathroom and changing area
Here’s another shot from a large, communal bathroom inside of an abandoned orphanage. Of course it makes sense that every child who lives in an orphanage can’t have their own private bathroom. It’s economical for government-funded institutions such as orphanages to offer communal bathrooms to residents simply because a private bathroom for each child wouldn’t be affordable.
Maybe when this changing and washing area was actually in use, there were shower curtains that could be pulled across for privacy. Let’s hope they had something there so the orphans could have a little bit of privacy because we all need some stuff happening off the record sometimes. We all need to feel occasionally like the wizard doing their magic behind a curtain so we can come out from behind it transformed.
3 Rusting playground tilt a whirl
Hollywood’s most famous orphan is movie actress Marilyn Monroe (birth name Norma Jeane Mortenson), whose mother, suffering from schizophrenia and abandoned by little Norma Jeane’s father, had to surrender her child to foster homes. Marilyn spent almost two years in an orphanage starting when she was around 9 years old.
Monroe’s husband, the famous playwright Arthur Miller, was once quoted as saying that Marilyn had this uncanny ability to accurately pick folks who grew up as orphans out of any crowded room. She must have recognized something in their eyes or manner that “no parented person can really know”.
That said, orphanages aren’t always bad places. The abandoned piece of playground equipment above is a testament to the fact that efforts were made to make things fun for the children living there.
2 Calendar from August 1979 still on wall
This picture must come from a Spanish-speaking orphanage (since “Agosto” in Spanish means “August” in English). It’s eerie to think that this calendar page from 1979 has hardly yellowed with age and possibly still hangs on the wall of what looks like a classroom of an orphanage that has now been abandoned for more than 38 years.
Indeed, the world was a different place back in August 1979 when this was a fresh calendar page and the 1980s, 1990s and beyond still lay ahead. Anybody returning to our modern world from that far back would feel like Rip Van Winkle. They’d post selfies and we’d think them charmingly vintage, meanwhile they’re just representing the time they came from—which would be the tail end of the disco era.
1 Crumbling orphanage in Turkey
These are the crumbling ruins of what looks like a once-beautiful building situated on Cunda, which is an island just off the coast of Turkey. Apparently, this site was in use as an orphanage up until the 1980s and it has since been left empty and its neglected structure has badly deteriorated since then. That said, this looks like a pretty idyllic setting. It’s situated on an island in the Aegean Sea which would not be a bad place to grow up. It’s probably not better than having a pair of responsible parents who’d take a bullet for you around, but hey, it looks kind of like this place could have been the setting for a Club Med resort or something back in its heyday.
sources: www.metro.co.uk, www.dailymail.co.uk, www.studioprzedmiotu, weburbanist.com, en.wikipedia.org, www.vanityfair.com