Byron Hot Springs
An abandoned resort hotel complex near the town of Byron, lost in the dusty hills between Oakland and Stockton, CA.

Used by the Bolbones Indians for centuries, the therapeutic hot springs were discovered in the 18th century by white fur trappers. The springs quickly became an important stopover on California's early trade routes.

The third major structure to be built at this location, this ornate Beaux Arts style four-story brick hotel opened in 1914. In its Jazz Age heyday, its golf course was popular with San Francisco socialites and Hollywood stars like Fatty Arbuckle and Clark Gable. The SF Seals even used this luxurious hotspot for spring training. The resort was sent spiraling into decline by the Great Depression, finally closing in 1938.

During WWII it was commandeered by the military, renamed “Camp Tracy” and used for German and Japanese POW interrogations. Over 1500 prisoners passed through Byron in four years.

In 1946 the military sold the hotel to the Greek Orthodox Church who converted it to a monastery named “Mission St. Paul” It failed in 1956.

Since the late ‘50s, the resort has been sold and resold to a long list of developers who all had big plans to rejuvenate it. All failures. Its current owners still want to redevelop the spot as a major resort destination. In the mean time, suburban Contra Costa County sprawls in its direction . . .

There’s a lot of talk on the web about the hotel being haunted. On one full moon night, I was amused to find a paranormal research team wandering the hallways while taking readings on hand held machines that looked like props right out of “Ghostbusters.” A medium lead the parade, muttering “I feel the presence of a military man . . . “ in hushed tones.

I've spent many nights out there over the last couple of years, alone and in groups and saw no evidence of ghosts that couldn't be explained as simply wind under the eaves, or owls rustling around. Spooky and creepy? BIG time, but haunted? Come on.

Still, on another trip, my lighting equipment kept shutting off for no apparent reason. That never happens. I also dropped one of my gels, and when I bent to pick it up, a gentle gust of wind blew it a few feet out of reach . . . over and over again. The place just has an amazing vibe—so it's easy to let your imagination run wild.

Of more concern than ghosts are the packs of wasted teenagers playing “A Clockwork Orange” out there. Several of the small buildings on the grounds have recently burned to the ground, and large sections of the exterior walls in the kitchen/office-wing have been knocked down.

As it stands now, the hotel will likely be reduced to rubble soon, either by developers or tweaker teenagers.

More info here.

Shot between October 2005 and June 2007. Some multi-exposure compositing, contrast adjustments and minor cloning on some of these, but the lighting FX and color are all done in-camera. These are not Photoshop creations.
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