BY KAILEY TEDESCO
I never made it to Penn Hills Resort.
Something about carpeting on the ceiling and heart shaped bathtubs green with fungi fascinates me endlessly. It’s an infatuation, really. I wanted so badly to live in it all for a while. Every mark of graffiti and every vine growing up from the pink floor was evidence.
It proved that everything will be haunted one day.
Penn Hills was a ski resort and golf course in the Pocono Mountains. In the 1960’s, they catered to young couples honeymooning or looking for an inclusive vacation. They threw big New Year’s Eve parties. They had an ice skating rink. The entire place looked like the visual archetype of love. It was red and velvet and pink and plush. There were bubbles and fake flowers gushing from floors and ceilings. It was gaudy and it was beautiful.
It functioned as a resort until the death of its founder in 2009. Employees went unpaid, and then employees went. The doors shut, but Penn Hills didn’t close for years. Performance artists and photographers flocked to it. If you look at #pennhills on Instagram, you’ll find hundreds of photos of people “swimming” at the bottom of the now empty wedding bell shaped pool.
It’s a lost love.
I never took engagement photos with my husband, because Penn Hills was bought and mostly demolished by “New York City Investors” before we could get there. I had hired a photographer who specialized in abandonment. We had to sign a waiver that said if we all got arrested, we’d have to post our photographer’s bail. I’d been through abandoned buildings before. I was sure we wouldn’t get caught.
Weeks later we found out that police cars surrounded what was once Penn Hills. Fires blazed, burning rooms full of mattresses, rooms full of TVs, rooms full of broken champagne glasses. The rest of the rooms would be demolished.
It was gone before we could see it for ourselves. And it haunts me even more.
I keep falling in love with abandonment. Free beauty divorced of its context and pragmatism. A place that no longer serves its intended purpose. The evidence of fullness inside of emptiness. Ghosts leaving their marks in spray paint or shattered glass. Everything leaves a corpse.
I’ve been writing about Penn Hills for years. It’s only forty minutes from where my husband grew up, always in the backdrop of our relationship.
When I feel lost or unable to find words, I scroll through photographs of what once was, like visual ASMR, a nostalgia for somewhere I’ve never been. In the static of your own silence, you can sense decades of celebrations all overlapping, glittering. And then the snap of it all going quiet again.
Kailey Tedesco lives in the Lehigh Valley with her husband and many pets. She is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing), Lizzie, Speak (White Stag Publishing), and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press). She is a senior editor for Luna Luna Magazine and a co-curator for Philly's A Witch's Craft reading series. Currently, she teaches courses on literature and writing at Moravian College and Northampton Community College. For further information, please follow @kaileytedesco.