When a pair of explorers traveled to a rural area of England, they were heading there on a mission: to venture inside an abandoned building. The property they were seeking was no mere dilapidated shack, however, but a $13 million mansion that had once been owned by a member of Pink Floyd. And when the intrepid duo reached the home in question, they could probably never have guessed what they would ultimately find there.
Dan Dixon is an urban explorer from the United Kingdom. Also known as “Urbexing,” urban exploration is a trend whereby people investigate derelict buildings and areas. Dixon, for one, describes himself as having a “passion for history, architecture and decay.”
Now, in January 2017 this explorer started a YouTube channel called “Exploring with Fighters.” Dixon has since uploaded dozens of videos that see him visiting the likes of deserted houses, hotels, theme parks and factories. And over the course of a year and a half, the intrepid investigator has built up a following of over 97,000 subscribers, with his uploads having garnered nearly eight million views in total to date.
But one video, which was shared to YouTube in September 2017, sees Dixon and his friend investigate one particularly intriguing venue. To do just that, the duo set off at 4:00 a.m. and traveled for four hours to Oxfordshire in southern England. The explorers soon discovered, though, that the trip was well worth it.
Specifically, the YouTubers went to Hook End Manor, which sits not far from the village of Checkendon, and the property itself is a pretty special place. For one thing, the large home was once owned by David Gilmour, a guitarist and vocalist for the iconic band Pink Floyd. And when the investigators stepped inside the mansion, they were stunned.
But Hook End Manor had quite the long and storied history before Dixon and his buddy had even arrived. The Elizabethan-era property, which has a whopping 11 bedrooms and sits on 25 acres of land, was reportedly initially constructed in 1580 for the Bishop of Reading. Businessman Sir Charles Clore is among the other notable former owners of the mansion.
Eventually, though, Alvin Lee from blues rock band Ten Years After bought the manor and converted a portion of the property into a recording studio. Hence, musical greats such as Rod Stewart and Tom Jones have laid down tracks at Hook End Manor.
It was Lee, though, who sold the house to Gilmour in 1980. And on the grounds, Gilmour kept the inflatable pig of Pink Floyd’s that was used in promotional efforts for the album Animals. He also cut part of the band’s 1987 album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, in the manor’s recording studio.
The mansion later went to West Side Productions, the producers of recording artists Morrissey and Madness, before it was bought by Trevor Horn during the ’90s. Famous during the ’80s, Horn was part of The Buggles, the group responsible for the hit song “Video Killed The Radio Star.” In addition, the ex-pop star is a well-known music producer who has worked with many acts, including Seal and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
And Hook End Manor was Horn’s family home, which he shared with his wife Jill Sinclair. However, in 2006, tragedy struck at the mansion. Back then, the couple’s son Aaron, who was 22 at the time, was visiting from college when there was a terrible accident.
On that occasion, the student was firing rounds from a BB gun into targets in the grounds of the house. But he had no idea that his mother was in the garden too – until he accidentally shot her in the neck. Sinclair was subsequently taken to hospital, where it was discovered that she had suffered damage to her brain as the result of a ruptured artery.
As a result, Sinclair was in a coma for several years. Then in 2012 Horn went on to state that his wife was no comatose; even so, she could not “speak, move, or smile.” Sadly, the wife and mother died of cancer in 2014 at the age of 61; by that point, her husband had already sold the manor where the accident had occurred. The property was then reportedly bought by British musician Mark White, but the house seemed to have been left untouched ever since it changed hands.
Dixon, meanwhile, had heard rumors that the property had been abandoned, and so he went to see for himself. And while he had been worried that the explorers would not be able to gain access to the building, they actually walked straight in. Dixon explained that it wasn’t illegal to do so, either. “In the U.K., there is no criminal trespassing,” he said on YouTube. “We can legally go in there with an open door. It’s a civil trespass, [a] civil matter only.”
Dixon and his friend therefore started to explore the mansion. And while he described the place as “amazing” and “untouched,” the urbexer added that there was still a “lot of damp” and work required to update it. Now, one of the first things that the group saw was a room with a snooker table in it.
“It’s set up perfectly. Oh wow, this is absolutely amazing,” Dixon said. “Pink Floyd probably sat around and chilled out and played snooker in this room.” There was also a dining table and chairs for ten with china on display. But while at first glance the rooms looked pristine, huge cobwebs in the corners suggested that the house hadn’t actually been taken care of in years.
The explorers also found a room with peeling wallpaper and sheet music left open on a piano. Meanwhile, photos strewn about a countertop gave the area a distinctly creepy feel. That was nothing, however, compared to what they found in the basement.
You see, down in the dank cellar was a headstone for a seven-year-old boy. The child, named Little Jack, had tragically died in 1909 – and the group couldn’t believe what they were seeing. As the explorers told the site Get Reading, “It was quite eerie; the pool and snooker tables with games set up were definitely a bit spooky. It was a very interesting experience looking around there, like it was a whole life frozen in time.”
And, after the video was shared online, people praised Exploring With Fighters for their amazing discovery. A number of viewers also declared that they loved watching the clip. “This was rock gold! What a find!” one YouTube commenter exclaimed. Another person added, “You guys make the explore worth watching; you have so much heart and passion in what you do. Awesome explore, guys; big thumbs up.”
Meanwhile, the explorers have visited other deserted buildings, as well as supposedly haunted graveyards, in the time since they posted the clip – which has been viewed more than 465,000 times. Then, several weeks later, Dixon shared another video after having visited the manor for a second time – and revealed that it isn’t uninhabited any longer. As the urbexer said, “The owner just turned up, and it’s pretty mad. [The house is] not abandoned now.”
Dixon went on, “It’s lived in, there’s lights on, [and] there’s cars in the driveway. [The owner] seemed pretty angry at first but said he’s got nothing against the hobby. It’s pretty cool, but [the house is] not abandoned. Maybe this has prompted whoever owned it to move back into the property, but it’s definitely not abandoned anymore.”
While it’s nice to think that this grand old house has finally found a family who call it home, it strangely isn’t uncommon for the mansions of former stars to sit unwanted for years. Yes, even the place where Mike Tyson lived at the height of his fame remained empty and unloved for ten years. And this is what it looked like when a photographer was granted access to the somewhat eerie building.
In a sleepy Ohio community, a huge mansion sits empty behind wrought-iron gates. Once, its walls are said to have echoed with the sounds of decadent parties, while tigers prowled their cages within the grounds. But those heady days ended long ago, and now this property faces a future of a very different kind.
Born in Brooklyn in 1966, Mike Tyson was drawn to boxing from an early age, and it soon paid off. Before he was 21 years old, he had won the title of world heavyweight champion, becoming the youngest boxer ever to hold the crown. Fame and success soon followed – but so too did a life of excess and abandon.
In 1989 Tyson attended a sheriff’s sale and forked out $300,000 for a mansion in Southington Township in Northeast Ohio. Apparently, he wished to be near a trainer who lived in the area. But the boxer also surely had entertaining in mind, and the house reportedly saw plenty of outlandish get-togethers over the years.
However, three years after he had purchased the property, Tyson’s career took an unexpected turn for the worse. In 1992 the boxer was handed a six-year jail term for the rape of 18-year-old beauty pageant winner Desiree Washington. And although he denied the allegations, Tyson spent the next three years behind bars.
After his early release in 1995, Tyson then threw himself into rebuilding his career. But even though his early comeback clashes were a success, he found himself in trouble once more when a 1997 bout against heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield ended in Tyson’s disqualification. During the fight, he had bitten one of Holyfield’s ears badly enough to leave a piece of it lying on the floor.
Still, although his boxing license was suspended for a year after the incident, Tyson was back in the ring come early 1999. Controversy continued to dog the boxer’s career, however. That February, he found himself back behind bars after having assaulted a pair of motorists during the previous year. And as Tyson’s situation changed, so too did his living arrangements.
In 1999 Tyson sold the mansion in Southington for a $1 million profit to Paul Monea, an entrepreneur who had made his fortune marketing fitness regimes. But just eight years later, Monea himself was in trouble with the law. In 2007 the businessman was handed a 13-year sentence for money laundering, and the house went back on the market.
In 2010 the property was then bought by another fitness entrepreneur, Ron Hemelgarn, for $600,000. Following this, it was donated to the evangelical Living Word Sanctuary Church – apparently as part of a tax write-off scheme. And after paying off $50,000 in fees, the organization – which had previously been operating out of a local YMCA – found itself with a new home.
By this point, the building had stood empty for a number of years. However, in 2015 the church granted Johnny Joo, an Ohio-based photographer who specializes in capturing images of abandoned places, access to the building. And as he explored the cavernous space, Joo was able to experience a sense of what the mansion must have been like back when it was apparently party central for Tyson and his friends.
At one time, crystal chandeliers hung from the ceilings, while carpets decorated in tiger print lined the floors. The estate was also home to four real-life big cats – animals that Tyson kept in cages on the property. And even though the people who had once enjoyed these plush surroundings departed long ago, Joo discovered that a startling legacy of their presence had been left behind.
At the entrance to the mansion, an elaborate set of wrought-iron gates embossed with Tyson’s name keep out unwanted intruders. Meanwhile, inside, vaulted ceilings frame huge spaces that must have provided an impressive setting for the boxer’s parties. The building that housed the indoor swimming pool is, alone, far bigger than the average home.
Elsewhere, a black marble Jacuzzi bath with gold fixtures is surrounded by panoramic windows overlooking the grounds. The bath’s sophisticated color scheme has, however, been marred by vandals, who have used white paint to spray the anarchy symbol across the glossy bottom.
On the second floor, the space that would once have been Tyson’s bedroom sits empty of any furniture or decoration. The mirrored ceilings remain, however, hinting at the wild scenes that must once have played out within these walls. Meanwhile, even the bidet boasts elegant gold fittings.
When Joo visited the mansion, the church had just begun to transform the building into a suitable place of worship; and three years later, it is still working on the lengthy project. “The property was untouched for ten years,” pastor Nicholas DeJacimo told the Tribune Chronicle. “You had so much grass you could have sold it for hay.”
So far, workers and volunteers have felled trees across the property’s 60 acres, painted the building’s exterior and renovated a basketball court ready to be used by the youth ministry. Furthermore, they have dismantled Tyson’s tiger cages and plan to build a pavilion in their place.
In the future, the church plans to convert the vaulted space that once housed the swimming pool into the group’s main sanctuary, complete with stage, pulpit and pews. Apparently, those involved will also create an area where baptisms can take place and transform an existing fireplace into a feature waterfall.
Elsewhere, the church is set to develop the second floor to provide meeting rooms and office space, while a gymnasium will help keep the congregation fit. And inside the property’s four-car garage – which must have seen some incredible vehicles over the years – the developers are to build a nursery and classrooms for young people.
At the same time, DeJacimo has some decidedly wholesome plans for the master suite with its mirrored ceilings and jacuzzi bath. “We heard there were some crazy parties here,” he admitted. “We will turn this into a room where women can get ready for a wedding. There will be a sitting area and place for their gowns.”
At the moment, the church plans to open its property’s doors in December 2018 – just in time for the Christmas holidays. And in fact, Tyson himself has been invited to take part in the proceedings. That said, during his time in prison, the boxer converted to Islam – so one wonders whether it’s likely that he’ll visit a Christian place of worship in his former home.
After a career dogged by drug abuse and crime, Tyson is now retired and living with his family in Las Vegas. As for DeJacimo, he’s delighted with the way that things have panned out. “This is pretty amazing,” he gushed. “Not many ministries have something like this. This got dropped in our lap. I tell everyone this was meant for us.”