by Richard L. Figueroa / Advertising Manager
Max Power has always been an explorer at heart. He began to explore when he was in high school, though the only places he was able to explore during that time were forest preserves around the Chicagoland area.
Power knew there was so much more to explore out there in urban environments. “I didn’t want to look around forests anymore. I wanted to adventure into these places that were relatively unexplored. I wanted a lot more adventure in my life,” said Power.
For Power, it all started in 2015 when he uploaded his first video to YouTube. In the video he explored a two mile long tunnel underneath Hinsdale, IL. Today, the 23-year-old Chicago native has accumulated over 12,000 subscribers and over 400,000 views on his YouTube channel called Strange Places where he explores abandoned sites on-camera and gives viewers the history of the place he’s exploring.
One of the main reasons Power began to upload YouTube videos was to further the filmmaking skills he learned in college. Soon after, Power became deeply involved within the the Urbex community—a community made up of urban explorers who seek thrills. In the summer of 2018 he created a collective of explorers called the Chicago Urbex Mafia.
“I put together a crew of people. We all have great chemistry and are experienced explorers. We’re also the group that is willing to do all the high risks explores—dangerous ones in which we could be caught,” said Power.
One of the members of Power’s crew is 40-year-old YouTuber and explorer Jose California. “I love [Power’s] drive and passion for creating the best videos possible at any location,” said California. “You build a great bond with someone when you explore dangerous locations.”
Unfortunately, Power’s exploration of abandoned sites is illegal because of the trespassing on private properties it requires. However, Power is always very respectful of the places he visits and doesn’t ever vandalize or steal things.
Despite his good intentions he has managed to run into trouble in the past. On one occasion, as Power explored a General Mills abandoned factory in west Chicago early in 2019, he was arrested by authorities. “A guy with tactical gear and an AR-15 popped out of nowhere. He said ‘get the f*** on the ground, I’m not playing.’ Of course, I immediately got on the ground. I got handcuffed and taken to jail,” said Power.
Luckily for Power, this was his first time being arrested and was issued only a trespass violation. The incident didn’t end up going on his record.
According to Power, one of his most interesting yet shocking explorations occurred when he explored a Nazi memorial that honored Adolf Hitler in Wisconsin. It was built by a former SS officer in the heartlands of America. The former SS officer by the name of Thedor Junker died at the age of 94 and his property was left abandoned in 2013.
As Power explored the memorial, he found cassette tapes with unseen footage of Junker when the memorial was first built. “It showed exactly what it looked like years ago before it started to fall apart. It was pretty disturbing seeing him talk about his viewpoints,” said Power.
Over 100 different locations in the Midwest have been explored by Power. Dan Lee, a fellow explorer of Power’s from Rockford, IL said, “We aid each other in finding different locations and are planning on traveling a lot next year to work on our channels.”
Power does hope to expand to a bigger audience one day and have his very own TV show. For now, he will focus on consistent uploads on a weekly basis. He plans to start traveling further away from the Chicagoland area and bordering states in order to find new places to explore, and plans on vlogging his journeys to the locations he ultimately discovers.