Mole people…no I’m not talking about anthropomorphized mole people who rise from the earth in giant tunnelling machines and announce they’re going to take over the world (only to be thwarted immediately by Superman or some other superhero), what I’m referring to is a community of people who generally live far away from normal people, usually illegally, and oftentimes underground. Hidden away from the light like moles…Some do it because they’re social outcasts, others do it because they want to move away from normal society, while others are just making use of elaborate, pre-existing structures that just to happen to have outlived their original purpose, and so they are reused.
The term originally got started back in the 1930s when an urban legend started of a group of people living in the New York underground. They were homeless people, drifts, miscreants, and other outcasts of society that either wanted to live away from civilization, were rejected by civilization, or otherwise just wanted to live in the most rugged individualistic way possible. Whatever their reason, they caught the public eye and attention, and interest in who they were and why they lived the way they did just never went away.
So, after doing research on the topic, here are 15 surprising places that are inhabited by mole people, whoever they are and for whatever reason they choose to inhabit these places.
15. Freedom Tunnel, New York
In the heart of Harlem, in the Hudson River, lies the original lost city beneath one of the largest cities in the world. Called the Freedom Tunnel, it was a 3 mile stretch of underground railroad that was built in the 1930s by a man called Robert Moses, and it was used as a route for freight trains until 1980 when they were abandoned due to increased usage of truck traffic.
This is when the tunnel was taken up by around 100 people, originally called the Mole People. Their home in the underground was remarkable. They weren’t living in ramshackle housing or a bunch of sleeping bags, but they had actually pirated electricity and TV. They decorated their homes with whatever they could bring with them or jury-rig on the spot. The only thing they lacked was running water. This community was sadly gone when in 1991 Amtrak, the train company who owned the lines, basically evicted them. The Freedom Tunnel still exists, but it is a terrifying place to visit… and rumours still exist that an even more secretive community lives there, undiscovered and undisturbed.
14. Flood Tunnels, Las Vegas
The Flood Tunnels in Las Vegas, Nevada, are a massive labyrinth of elaborate tunnels spanning over 600 miles. With a large homeless population in Las Vegas, most of which live above ground (which is never safe for a homeless person) many chose to go below the glitz and glamor of Sin City to escape the harsh reality above. Despite the alleged wealth of the city, no less than 400 people live in the flood tunnels beneath the city of Las Vegas, away from the prying eyes of the public and the police.
Most of the people who live in these tunnels are not permanent dwellers, but they’re driven there by poverty and circumstance, but there are at least few groups of people who choose to make it their home due to circumstances in their lives and after being rejected by the greater world. They found a strange attraction to the struggles of daily live there.
13. The Catacombs Of Paris
The Catabombs in Paris are some of the largest necropolises in the world. Necropolis literally means ‘city of the dead’ and no matter how creepy you think they are, they are way, way scarier. Think of the catacombs you might see in a video game involving fighting zombies, the undead (mystical or otherwise). The real catacombs have them beat by a mile…or hundreds of miles anyway. The walls are almost completely covered in skulls and the bones of the dead, all were once real people whose remains now just locked as a part of the construction of their final resting place.
Due to the massive size of the catacombs, very small portions of the catacombs are open for the public to see, and only with extremely strict guidance. They’re so big, and the labyrinth nature of their nature make it not only extremely easy to get lost, but also to never be able to find your way out if you do. With entrance names like ‘Barrière d’Enfer’ (Gateway of Hell) and words that clearly tell you not to enter due to it being ‘The Empire of Death’, they aren’t kidding around.
Despite the intensely terrifying nature of the catacombs, it’s rumoured that there is a community of outcasts living there, who somehow managed to find a way to navigate the catacombs and make their home down there. Authorities discovered signs of life there. Not just like sleeping bags or food or anything, but functioning lights, working pirated telephones, and even a make-shift movie theatre. They even left a sign for the police that said ‘do not try to find us’. I can only hope they’re as cool as the gypsies from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.
12. Bucharest Underground
In Bucharest, Romania, lies a community of drug addicts, ne’er-do-wells, and orphans. Many of these people are such hardcore drug addicts, and often suffer from diseases like tuberculosis. Despite this, it isn’t some chaotic mess of a place, but it has an actual leader and some level of organization and order. The leader is a very colorful character by the name of Bruce Lee, who wears what appears to be a tinfoil hat made out of some very cheap Romanian drugs. He even sells them for a preposterously low price. While he does seem pretty shady, he does take it upon himself to protect the children that are under his charge and runs a remarkably orderly house underground, despite being surrounded by people high on dangerous drugs or getting high on dangerous drugs 24/7…largely because he provides the drugs himself.
11. Lo’ess Plateau, China
Now we’re getting to a place that isn’t necessarily populated by drug addicts or outcasts from society. The mole people of the Lo’ess Plateau have actually been there for thousands of years. They carved their homes in three ways. Either directly into the plateau, digging down tunnels beneath the earth, or building their homes partially into large mounts that surround the area. These people are the original mole people and even your typical caveman would be jealous at their ingenuity. In recent years, they have upgraded their homes to include many modern comforts, but they still live far away from civilization and in perfect harmony with the gorgeous nature of their surrounds.
Tourists have recently discovered the place and are coming in to settle in what they consider to be the most peaceful and harmonious community on earth. I guess after several thousand years, they really couldn’t escape the modern world.
10. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Beneath the streets of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, lies an extensive network of tunnels. Once upon a time, these tunnels were full of shops, factories, homes, and even bars (and when Canada had a brief prohibition in the 1910s, they turned to speakeasies). They have a colourful and checkered history, even being rumoured to have been used by Al Capone and other prohibition era gangsters to smuggle liquor into the United States. The tunnels are no longer used for that, but have long since been turned into a museum to show case their original purpose as the hidden city beneath the city. With the tour guides even dressing the part as early 20th century people.
9. City of the Gods, Egypt
This one is a mole people resident that has long since been abandoned, but nevertheless it has captured the imagination of many, many Egyptologists. Beneath the pyramids of Giza that are so well known today, they discovered a massive network of tunnels and chambers built with such perfection that it wasn’t some ad hoc thing they did to store stuff temporarily. They did this as a permanent city of some kind. Dubbed the City of the Gods by Egyptologists, they were unearthed in 1978 and are still being explored to this very day. Some speculate that the proto-Egyptian civilization built this, while others who jumped into the deep end believe it was home to ancient aliens. They even discovered unbelievably harmonic structures that not only mirrored the position of the stars and celestial bodies, but tuned to a specific frequency or musical tone. The sarcophagus in the centre is even tuned to the frequency of the human heart beat.
8. Shanghai Tunnels, Portland
Portland, Oregon is one of the largest cities in the US Pacific Northwest, and it also just so happens to include one of the largest underground cities in the United States…and for rather notorious reasons. The Shanghai Tunnels are built directly beneath the city’s large Chinatown, and in the 19th century had a massive reputation for a practice known as Shanghaiing. To Shanghai someone is basically to kidnap a man (usually a sailor for reasons that will be explained further) to work aboard ships that normally headed for the Chinese port of Shanghai. Like many underground places, they also have been believed to have been dens of illegal activities such as gambling and prostitution. Another nickname it had was the Forbidden City. Not just as a reference to the real Forbidden City, but also the fact that almost everything they did there was forbidden…except for Shanghaiing, which ironically was actually legal for a while.
7. Coober Pedy, Australia
Coober Pedy in Australia is one of the most unusual of the Mole People cities. There is actually a reason why it exists and why it continues to exist. It is known as the opal capital of the world because it produces more opal than any other place in the world. When it was discovered in 1915, the people who came there to build and work the mines realized that they could not handle the massive heat in the outback of Australia, so they did the logical thing and went underground (they are miners, after all). The resulting network of caves they built blossomed into a town of no less than 1,600 residents today.
It isn’t some ramshackle mining community, either. It has its own shops, motels, pubs, and even a church and a graveyard. It’s a full-fledged town for people who just can’t take the heat outside. It’s even open for tourists (hence the motel). Go visit it today!
6. Wielicka Salt Mine
Just like Cobber Pedy was built as a result of an opal mine, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, as the name suggests, was built as a result of a salt mine. The mine was active for hundreds of years, as far back as the 13th century and all the way to 2007, making it one of the longest running salt mines in the world, if not the longest running ever. But now it is no longer a salt mine, but it is a massive underground complex that is so beautifully renovated that it looks like a high-class shopping mall more than anything else. It has statues, chapels, and even a full-blown underground cathedral.
It also contains an underground lake that attracts over 1 million tourists a year. It is almost 186 miles (300 kilometers) in length. Of course its purposes were not always peaceful. During WWII, the Nazis used it as an underground factory to build munitions, but I guess that only adds to the history of the place.
5. Kish, Iran
Kish in Iran is another really ancient community of underground mole people. When I say ancient, I mean really ancient. I’m talking like Lo’ess Plateau ancient, being 2,500 years old. But unlike the Lo’ess Plateau, it was not a city from the get-go; it originally started as a water management system for the community in that area. Long gone is the original humble community, but Kish has now been completely renovated into the 21st century and is open to tourism, attracting many tourists from all over the world to witness the marvel of ancient engineering from Iran.
4. Cappadocia, Turkey
Another ancient underground mole city, this one also hid refugees from society in the past. The underground city of Derinkuyu had no less than seven underground layers and was said to have housed thousands of people in the past. It has churches, wineries, shops, homes, schools, and all sorts of other cool stuff. It dates back to Ancient Roman times and was said to have been a hiding place for Christians who were fleeing persecution from the Pagan Roman state which was hell-bent on feeding people to the lions back then. Since no one likes to be fed to a massive feline apex-predator, they decided to hide from as far out of sight as possible, deep beneath the ground, where all mole people go.
3. Burlington, United Kingdom
This one is one of the most secretive underground mole people cities in the world, and for good reason. This place is hidden beneath the earth in the English country side and was code named Burlington. We don’t actually know exactly where it is, but it was built on an old stone quarry and was designed to be able to house over 4,000 government officials in the case of a nuclear war. It had a BBC studio so the Prime Minister could address the nation, it also had 60 miles (95 kilometers) of roads, a railway station, a hospital, water treatment facilities, and even a pub (because you know…Britain).
2. Leavenworth, Kansas
Another American town with another underground city with similar roots to Moose Jaw and the Shanghai Tunnels. In the small city of Leavenworth, Kansas, residents discovered no less than three blocks of abandoned storefronts that appear to have hidden a secret portion of their city. Unlike Moose Jaw or the Shanghai Tunnels, no one really knows why this abandoned community existed, or when it started, or when it ended. Speculation ranges from being a hiding place for criminals on the run, escaped slaves in pre-civil war USA, or a series of bootlegging operations during the 1920s that have long since been abandoned…or more banally, was it just an abandoned part of the city that was slowly turning into a landfill for the city that exists today.
1. The Gully, Jamaica
The Gully in Kingston, Jamaica is a rather sad story in and of itself. It is one of the few, if not only places, on this list to have not just a bunch of unfortunate people living there, but it is a direct result of rampant homophobia in Jamaica. Severe hate crimes and discrimination against the gay community in Jamaica often means that many of its residents are homeless and can barely make ends meet, if at all.
In the storm drains of Kingston lies a ramshackle city of homosexual refugees living in abysmal conditions. The locals call the storm drains The Gully. From there they live with each other and try to survive, while occasionally going out into the world to protest their legal discrimination against the government. These people aren’t criminals or people who succumbed to the destructive effects of drug addiction, but were mistreated people in an unfair society who need our help and support.
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