Rust and Despair

At the now-infamous 1987 “Devil’s Easter” meeting of several noted crashers in the back room of a cockroach-infested Denny’s in Peoria, “Godless” Bob Alvarzo’s student and underage lover Daisy “Chain” Ramirez asked him the immortal question: “Why do cherries ripen where they do? Couldn’t one just open up in the middle of a playground full of little kids, or right under the motherfucking pope? What makes a cherry pop?” Godless Bob slowly picked a piece of griddle cake out of his beard, deep in thought, while Daisy stole a Camel from his pack, broke the filter off, and struck a match off the sole of her cherry-red cowboy boot. Bob’s eventual reply was short and to the point: “Rust and despair” he claimed. “You wanna find a big mushroom, you look for shade and shit. You wanna cherry, you look for rust and despair”.

There is no “typical” gate, but certain characteristics seem to predominate:

1) Most gates are in the United States or Latin America.

There are anecdotal reports of gates being found on every inhabited continent, but nowhere else on Earth seems to have the intense concentration of gates that can be found in America. Gates are not unknown in Canada, but they are nowhere near as common there as they are in the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

There are crashers outside of America, but as crashers tend to be territorial and secretive even among their own, the average American crasher knows little of them except rumors, and crashers from different countries seldom meet or exchange information on non-hostile terms. Latin America has it’s own deeply established subculture of crashers, some of whom are actual Satanists who do the job as much for bizarre religious reasons as for the money. Southeast Asia (Particularly Cambodia) and Russia also have healthy traditions of crashing, and in recent decades one has sprung up in the more destitute and polluted urban sprawls of Japan and coastal China. Britain’s crasher subculture is small and very strange, ran by an apparent secret society that holds a Mafia-like monopoly on the practice.

2) The vast majority of gates are in depressed urban areas.

Gates in rural areas are not unknown, and some, like Three Holes in Utah or The Scab Farm in Minnesota, are famous. But make no mistake: Most gates are inside cities. Even when gates are found in rural areas, they tend to be found in or near an abandoned man-made structure, such as a condemned old mine or desolate farm.

Furthermore, gates are never found in clean, bright, wealthy areas in cities. Just as rotting meat attracts maggots, Godless Bob’s proverbial “Rust and despair” always accompanies a gate, albeit sometimes very subtly. A neighborhood does not have to have dead dogs rotting in the street and burning cars on every corner to host a gate, just the same old banal malaise and disrepair you pass every day.

3) Some gates open at spots where terrible events occurred, but others most seem to have no obvious trigger.

Every crasher has heard the same old spooky stories: “That gate is in the basement of the strip mall where the Penis Collector used to cruise for boys”, or “That gate is near that church where all those Jesus freaks cut the gas line and killed themselves so the UFOs could come and pick them up”,or “I’ll bet those Nazi camps over in Europe have tight cherries”. The assumption is that gates are like haunted houses, that they are somehow formed when some heinous murder, genocide, mass suicide, or other terrible event occurs on the spot.

Is there any truth to this? Well… maybe. Sometimes. Three Holes is located at a site where Native American tribes allegedly used to abandon “unclean” deformed and retarded kids to die, way back in the way back. The house that hosts Jennifer’s Bedroom was in fact part of the Underground Railroad, and at least ten fugitive slaves were buried alive there in 1859 when heavy rains caused the underground tunnels to collapse (You even used to be able to take a tour of the house and hear about it, back before the state ran out of money). In July of 1978, a 16-year-old runaway girl was tied to a bare bed frame with bailing wire in The Old Bottle Factory and raped by at least 30 different men over three days. And yes, we all know that the now-closed Scary Radiator was located in the basement of a house where Jeffery Dahmer lived for about fifteen minutes in the 80s, right below the tiny apartment where he would ask his bar pickups to take a cold shower first, and then lie very still.

But for every gate that has a campfire tale attached to it, there are ten that don’t. And very often you will find that the stories attached to many famous cherries are bullshit: The Scab Farm was not John Wayne Gacy’s boyhood home, nor was The Refrigerator Graveyard outside Cedar Rapids, nor Nhildrach in Illinois. And while we are discussing Illinois’ many gates, The Bleeding Crawlspace is not under the site of a school shooting “Back in the fifties or sixties”, and, in fact, the building was never even a school (it was an agricultural testing laboratory). The Razorwire Garden was actually once a boy’s juvenile detention facility with a bad reputation for rape, but if any snuff films were shot there they have yet to surface. Likewise, it is true that there were at least three suicides in the Red Library before it was condemned, but that’s not so unusual when one considers that it was an assisted living halfway house for the mentally ill throughout the seventies and eighties.

What We Know
Crasher Jargon
Game Terms
The "H" Word
Rust and Despair

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