Why I (usually) name locations

It’s a common practice within the Urban Exploring community to “codename” sites in order to hide their location. This is a practice which, although done with good intentions, is fundamentally flawed, and not only is it a pointless exercise, it actually causes more harm than good. Yet, the question “why do you name locations” is one I am asked frequently, so here I look at the pros and cons of codenaming vs naming a location and offer an explanation of my decision to name most sites.


An Introduction to Codenaming.

For those not familiar with the Urban Exploring scene, the practice of codenaming is essentially giving a site a new name, one which does not identify the actual location. The purpose of this is to hide the location, either from other Urban Explorers, from potential thieves and vandals, or from the general public as a whole.

The sentiment behind this is, in the most part, a noble one. To any Urban Explorer, the thought that they are doing their part to “protect” a location is enough to allow themselves to post photos of the location they have trespassed at on the internet for anyone and everyone to see. You may already be able to see the flaw in that logic!

Some, on the other hand, use codenames much more selfishly to hide the location from fellow Urban Explorers, to try to ensure the location they have discovered remains exclusive to their own collection. Codenaming wasn’t always the norm, and in fact in the early days Urban Exploring, no sites were codenamed. This worked well, and it wasn’t until the explosion of Urban Exploring’s popularity on social media that codenames started be used. Sadly, most of the time, the decision to use codenames was born out of hatred and jealousy amongst people who wanted “that shot” but had no interest in the location itself. Even more sadly, that custom stuck!

The Big Question: Do Codenames Work?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the answer to this, however it is still extremely common, with many Urban Explorers swearing by the mantra “you must never name a location”. The truth is, there is no evidence to support the theory that codenaming a location offers it any kind of protection. In some cases, it may delay the inevitable, that with so many people now taking part in Urban Exploring, nothing stays secret for very long and the location is soon revealed.

The truth is, there is no evidence to support the theory that codenaming a location offers it any kind of protection.

Amongst the new-wave of Urban Explorers, the true essence of exploring seems to have been lost. There are now numerous customs that I particularly despise whereby locations are traded, swapped, shared, and for God’s sake even sold! These are practices that have spawned from the culture of codenaming locations. Where is the “exploring” in buying or swapping locations with some random guy on the Internet who happens to have the same interests? The new so-called Urban Explorers simply flock to the next new hotspot as soon as it’s posted on the Internet. And I really do mean flock, which brings me nicely onto my next point…

Code names cause a huge rush of people to a location.

We see this time and time again. As soon as a location is posted, every single one of the pseudo-explorers wants to be the next person there. The location inevitably gets found by either someone researching, or the original poster shares it with a friend. Those people share it with their friends, and so on, and before you know it, every explorer on the scene knows where it is, and you can guarantee the place will be overrun the following weekend.

The result is unwanted attention is drawn to the location, and it gets sealed up or trashed pretty quickly. A result that is now well recognised, and ironically spurs on that initial rush of people even more!

Case Study: Chateau Secession

For those familiar with urbex locations, you will surely be aware of the location codenamed as Chateau Secession. For those unfamiliar, this was a large Chateau in France, posted on the internet using a codename. Over the following few weeks the location saw ridiculous footfall from Urban Explorers, while items in the house were moved around incessantly, ever increasing damage was caused, and many items were removed from the house. The situation became so bad the owners, who were well aware of the people visiting, as well as the posts being made on the Internet using the codename, were trying their best to keep people away. The floods of people continued, and the situation became so bad that they felt they had no other option but to use their air-rifles against the trespassers. At least one person was injured after being shot with the weapon, which had the effect of warding people away after that.

Contrast the above to a location that has been named. There’s an interesting bit of psychology behind this, and the result is that massive influx of people rarely happens with named locations. Everyone already knows where the location is, so there is no need to rush, to try to get there before everyone finds out. Weird, isn’t it? But look out for this phenomenon and you’ll soon notice the trend.

Protection from vandals is the other often quoted reason for codenaming a location, with claims that a location will get smashed-up if named. Again, this is a misguided sentiment. While locations do get vandalised, it is not people who have seen it on the Internet that cause the damage – after all no one would be willing to travel any kind of distance just to cause a bit of damage… Why would they? Local kids are almost always to blame for damage, and it is likely they will be aware of the location without the help of Urban Explorer’s posts on the Internet.

It is not people who have seen it on the Internet that cause the damage

What about thieves? Can codenames help reduce theft, or be beneficial in other ways?

There are some situations where a codename may be beneficial, however I would argue that there are better options. There is no denying the likelihood of a theft taking place from a location that has high-value goods is greatly increased if photos of those items are posted on the internet. Unlike the casual vandals, a thief has much more to gain from travelling to a location, so there is much more motive for thieves to travel. They may even keep an eye on Urban Exploring forums and websites hoping to see something to potentially steal. However much a codename in this situation would help is debatable. After all, if you found the location, someone else can too, so the thieves could still work out where the location is, just like other explorers regularly do. A much better solution in this case would be to post it to a limited audience, such as a private group on Facebook or Non-Public section of a forum, however even those can leak. In reality, the only way to truly conceal the location is to not post it on the Internet at all.

Case Study: Cockerill-Sambre Vintage Power Plant

The Cockerill-Sambre site was a huge steal works spread across a large area. Much of the site had been visited by numerous Urban Explorers, however for a long time some parts remained unexplored. Eventually a previously unexplored area was discovered by an explorer who decided to code-name that area of the site “Wet Dogs”, although I am unsure of the reason why that name was chosen. The usual life-cycle of a codenamed location ensued, the location of the site was shared throughout the community and it wasn’t long until a lot of people were visiting. Despite only ever being posted online with a codename, photos started to emerge very quickly showing that parts of the power plant had been torn apart, and damage caused to the machinery. The code name had not managed to conceal the location from the metal thieves who soon ripped out the valuable materials contained within.

In this instance the outcome would have been the same whether the site was named or not, but it just goes to show that using a codename offered no protection. The building had stood untouched by the metal thieves for decades, but was ripped apart as soon as the codenamed location was posted on the Internet.

What are the pros and cons of naming a location?

As we have studied above, the use of a codename is rarely an effective measure to safeguard a location, and in many circumstances actually has a detrimental effect on the location. But does providing a name have any benefits in itself? The benefits of providing a name may be difficult to see at first, which is probably a driving force behind the widespread use of codenames.

Starting from the point of view of my own website and the people who visit it, an article about an abandoned location has much more value if the reader knows what they are looking at. The aim of my website is to show abandoned locations to the general public, including a brief historic account, and to document those locations as a historic record. It is impossible to keep an accurate record without the name and location – a record with no identifier is a useless record!

It is impossible to keep an accurate record without the name and location

Looking wider afield we also see other benefits to naming a location. I am asked on a regular basis if my images may be used for all sorts of purposes that are beneficial to the buildings. Buildings at risk often have a group trying to save them, and I am contacted pretty much on a monthly basis by such organisations who want to use the photos in their conservation efforts. I’m always happy to oblige, however it is unlikely they would have ever even known of the existence of those photos had a codename been used. The articles on my website are often shared into local interest groups, or bring the attention of at risk buildings to a wider audience, which sometimes can be all that is needed to start conservation efforts or raise awareness of such. I have seen this happen, time and time again, received letters of thankyou from owners or friends-groups of buildings, and seen some magnificent structures saved and returned to use, all because those people were able to identify the photos!

Are there any exceptions?

As with any convention, there are always some exceptions, and I do occasionally post reports without specifying a location. As an example, if somebody entrusts me with information about a code-named site and wishes it to remain codenamed, I will respect that. In other cases, a site may not have an official name, so a name to help identify it within the community would help. In most of these cases, my own preference is to use a description rather than a codename, as it’s more accessible to the wider audience. Each site needs to be assessed on a case by case basis, but in most circumstances, not posting in public would be a better option than choosing to post with a codename.


Codenames are widely used within the Urban Exploring scene, with the common belief that locations will be safeguarded from damage, or kept secret from other explorers. The truth is that codenames offer no such protection, as the locations are shared widely throughout the community. It is unlikely people would be willing to travel any kind of distance just to cause damage after seeing a location online – it is in fact locals, usually kids who cause the majority of damage. Codenames fuel a rush of explorers to a location when it is first posted, all hoping to get there before the crowd, but in reality they are actually the cause of that crowd. This is a phenomenon that doesn’t exist when a location is named – there’s no need to rush to try to get there before everyone else finds out. Additionally, providing a name has many benefits – it adds value to any article about an abandoned location as the reader knows what they are looking at, it enables a historic record to be kept, and helps with conservation efforts or raising awareness, which in turn helps to save at-risk buildings from demolition or find new uses for them.

My final word

I hope this article goes some way towards helping you understand my decision to name locations on this website. As you can see, there are reasons behind the decision, and in almost all cases naming a location will not have the detrimental effect that many people believe it will have.

I don’t post up locations with their name thoughtlessly. If I feel it would be unsuitable to do so, I may post it into a non-public forum where only selected members can see, or sometimes I choose not to post it online at all. I understand that people have their own opinions on codenames, and I know many people will continue to use them, but I hope now that you understand the reasoning behind my decision, in general, not to use codenames.