Culture

Viral Photos Catalog Creepy, Decaying Mall (Photos)

A decaying corridor and water feature at the Metro North Mall in Kansas City.A decaying corridor and water feature at the Metro North Mall in Kansas City.

Maybe the images reflect pessimistic views of the U.S. economy or the direction the country is headed, or maybe they capture something about American excess and commercialism.

Perhaps they're fascinating just because they're creepy. Whatever the reason, photographer Seph Lawless's images of the abandoned Metro North Mall in Kansas City have gone viral, with thousands of social media users sharing the photographs of decay in a once-busy shopping center.

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Photographing urban decay is Lawless' trademark. His website features images of abandoned carnivals, with close-ups photos showing paint peeling off of carousels, rust claiming the superstructures of ferris wheels and long-neglected roller coaster tracks swallowed up by overgrown vegetation. Other photos depict crumbling apartment buildings and once-glorious churches defaced with graffiti.

But Kansas' North Metro was "by far the creepiest mall" he's been in, the photographer wrote on Instagram.

Looking at the images, it looks as if the mall has been abandoned for decades, but it's only been two years since the 1.3-million square foot building was shuttered for good following years of decline, according to the Daily Mail.

The mall opened in 1976 and featured 125 shops, with four large anchor stores, a movie theater and a food court designed around a stage and water features. But like many malls around the country, the North Metro Mall was dying a slow death for years.

The reasons for the death of the classic American mall are varied, but an April 25 Business Insider report noted that major retailers that traditionally anchored large malls -- stores like Sears, Macy's and JC Penney -- have been closing hundreds of locations, leaving the malls without major lures to attract foot traffic.

The problem is compounded by the steady rise of e-commerce, with brick-and-mortar stores struggling to hold on to the brisk sales of past decades, according to a report by Green Street Advisors, a real estate research company.

Lawless says he documents commercial and urban decay for political reasons, as well as artistic ones.

"I wanted Americans to see what was happening to their country from the comfort of their suburban homes and smart phones," he told ABC News, according to his website.

Sources: Daily Mail, Business Insider (2), Seph Lawless / Photo credit: Seph Lawless/Instagram