Henry River is a small abandoned town very close to mine, and because I hadn’t seen the movie Hunger Games, and there’s a reason for that, I paid no attention to what has clearly diminished in hype about this film location. I pass it every day on my errands into Hickory, so I decided to check it out, then watch the movie to see if I might recognize anything. And recognize things I did.
Prominent in the opening scene and then in several flashbacks, this is District 12, the home of Katness Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Surprisingly, everything is still exactly as it was depicted in the film.
The ride to the village is a long curvy, two-lane, azalea-lined drive, and missing the place is not an option because you must turn off toward the river to avoid it. Like many other mill towns, there is a general store, a reservoir, and a building that may or may not have been a school. The river is at one end with the mill, which now appears to be a storage facility for something else. This part of town is closed with dozens of “Keep Out” signs, presumably for safety as the dam is quite high and the river is very low.
You can see the river better from the bridge which, even after all the rain we’ve had, runs at a trickle. Perhaps some of the river has been siphoned off for farming. Anyhow, it was all spooky and had a ghostly feel to it. The store was in the best shape, but most of the houses, though standing, were near collapse. Chimneys had caved in on themselves. There were holes in the wood floors, and nearly all the porches were rotted and tenuous. Windows were smashed; though odd pieces of furniture remained in some homes. The craziest thing of all was a pile of hundreds and hundreds of those stretchy cotton bands that you would put on a child’s potholder weaving frame lay deeply imbedded into the dirt in front of one of the houses. At first I thought they were worms, and then I think I saw some socks that might have been cut to make those bands. The sheer amount of them made it all the more strange, and I left trying to imagine who on earth dropped all those bands.
Supposedly the area is closed. It is not. And some will tell you it is off limits, but there are no “No Trespassing” signs other than the ones near the dam. I did see another car come and go, and watched as they took some brick souvenirs that had been laying about. The store is locked tight but the houses are accessible though that’s not where I would want to be in the next chimney collapse. I wondered if the wood on these structures was cedar or cyprus, as the houses themselves were outliving the bricks.
As of May 1st, this town was accessible and a true ghost town. You can buy tickets at $50 a pop from a company that gives tours, replete with costumes and re-enactments. But it’s the haunting nature of the place when you are there alone that makes the trip worthwhile.
Henry River is Exit 119 off I40 about 4 miles west of Hickory, NC. For more information link HERE.