Today, our civilization is mostly concerned with what goes on above ground. Our cities are bustling cosmopolitan centers for commerce and business transactions - rarely, if ever, do we consider what might be lurking right underneath our feet, under the very streets of the places where we play and work.
But they are there: massive, intricate tunnel systems, hiding places, buildings...and all below ground. Some are only a hundred years old, others centuries, but all are fascinating.
Underground Cities in America: Portland
Imagine, it is 1908 and you are a big, brawny man satisfying your thirst with a few frosty mugs of beer in your favorite neighborhood bar in Portland, Oregon. A few more beers with all your friends, and things get rowdier as your buddies get more intoxicated. You laugh, swap jokes and stories, and soon all of you are swaying on your feet. With a belch and a wipe of the mouth with your sleeve, you set down your mug and are on your way to the bathroom, trying to weave somewhat of a straight line. Suddenly, a trap door opens underneath your feet and you plummet feet first into darkness. A mattress breaks your fall, but you are now in a cage, with broken glass strewn about outside. The trap door swings back up, locks into place, and your friends are none the wiser. Your shoes are taken so in the unlikely event of escape, the broken glass will cut your feet and leave a trail of blood for your captors to follow. You have just been 'Shanghaied.'
This scenario was all too common in Portland from the year 1850 to 1941, where able-bodied men dropped through trap doors in bars or the dead-ends of alleys and into the Portland Underground Tunnels, or the 'Shanghai Tunnels.' These tunnels are intricately connected catacombs that extend for miles underneath the city and shanghaiers, bootleggers, white slavers and opium den owners used them for various purposes. The shanghaied men would find themselves on a ship bound for the Orient as sailors who endured scanty rations and terrible living situations.
The white slavers kidnapped girls as young as 14 and forced them into prostitution, but not before confining them to complete darkness in a tiny little cell, barely big enough to move in - to break down their minds, spirits and wills before selling them off to the highest bidder.
Havre Beneath the Streets
In Havre, Montana there is an underground section that catacombs underneath the city in a series of secret passageways. Rich with history, 'Havre Beneath the Streets', as it is called, was the home of many turn-of-the-century businesses. Some of these included the Sporting Eagle Saloon, Wah Sing Laundry, Wright's Dental Office, Boone's Drug Store and a bordello.
As with Portland, these tunnels were often used for seedy purposes, including the illegal transport of liquor during prohibition. The passageways themselves were built by early Chinese immigrants, who used them to escape persecution above ground as well as to house their businesses, including a prolific opium market with opium dens.
In the Bordello, otherwise respectable citizens of the city could escape through the tunnels undetected, and employ one of the Ladies of the Night for one to four dollars, depending on the desirability of the woman.
Underground Cities In Europe
Paris: The Catacombs
The Catacombs under Paris, France are world-famous - they spiderweb more than 300 feet beneath the city streets. A part of this vast labyrinth is in fact a limestone quarry that has been harvested to make the buildings, sidewalks, monuments and bridges.
A part of these catacombs became a mass grave for more than 6 million people: the wealthy or poor, the insane and sane, the pure and corrupt - death is indeed the great leveler of humanity. The builders piled bones indiscriminately atop one another without thought to who they belong to, only how to save the maximum amount of space. During the Revolution, when land was scarce and the cemeteries overcrowded, the government decided to move the bones of the dead to the empty quarries.
Visitors can see the catacombs by entering through a simple black door, head down a staircase, past a gallery, and finally through a chamber where a sign reads in French: 'Stop - this is the Empire of Death!' And still the bones fill only a fraction of these meandering tunnels, which come with a heavy fine if you are found exploring one. Those who take it upon themselves to adventure into the catacombs despite the hazards and possible fines are called 'Cataphiles.'
Underground Cities in Cappadocia, Turkey
The underground cities of Cappadocia were carved out the native rock largely due to the lack of trees for building material. As a result, the subterranean settlements are multilevel with built-in ventilation shafts, about 18 stories deep, and at one time housed over 20,000 people. Most of the cities had stables for horses hollowed out of the same volcanic rock, as well as churches, water tanks, wine cellars, tombs, missionary schools, study rooms, vertical staircases and millstone doors that rolled across to seal the entrance.
The earliest description of underground Cappadocia is in the Greek mercenary Xenophon's work titled Anabasis. "The houses were built underground," he wrote, "the entrances were like wells, but they broadened out lower down. There were tunnels dug in the ground for the animals, while the men went down by ladder. . ." Mostly, the urban complexes served as refuge for the Hittites, who used them in defense against raiders. According to historians, this enigmatic civilization vanished into thin air after ruling for nearly 800 years.
Underground Cities: The Giza Plateau
City of the Gods
Underneath the Giza Plateau is an enormous and complex underground system complete with natural caverns, snaking passageways, ancient chambers, subterranean rivers and hydraulic underground waterways.
This 'City of the Gods' was purportedly discovered after the declassification of SIRA, a ground-penetrating radar, which has been mapping these subterranean features since 1978. Led by scientist Dr. Jim Hurtak, a crew explored the megalithic metropolis, risking life and limb to penetrate into the massive chambers (supposedly bigger than our largest cathedrals) in hopes of securing ancient artifacts and caches of Egyptian records.
Some historians believe this to be the same labyrinth described by the Greek historian Herodotus: "There I saw twelve palaces regularly disposed, which had communication with each other, interspersed with terraces and arranged around twelve halls. It is hard to believe they are the work of man. The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade. Near the corner where the labyrinth ends, there is a pyramid, two hundred and forty feet in height, with great carved figures of animals on it and an underground passage by which it can be entered."
Speculations about the function of the City of the Gods differ; some argue that it was the center of the Egyptian mystery schools, still others believe that the Egyptians used the crisscrossing tunnels as an ancient subway system. Supposedly, the expedition that explored the underground city made a documentary about their discoveries titled "Chambers of the Deep." The film was shown to private audiences, but for reasons unknown, withheld from the general public.
Due to a reader's suggestion, Coober Pedy, Australia is being added to the list of underground cities. This remote location was used for filming in the movies Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Red Planet. It is one of the only places in the world to have a golf course with no grass, and the only tree is one made by welding together scraps of iron.
There are underground churches, houses, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and some of the houses even have underground swimming pools. Here the reason for living underground is to conserve energy and to get away from the heat, which can skyrocket up to over 55 degrees Celsius (131 degrees).
Coober Pedy is known as the opal capital of the world. One man who was building himself an underground home with seventeen rooms found enough opals during excavation to pay for the entire thing. Now that's smart building!
- Coober Pedy - Underground in Australia
Learn more about the Australian town of Coober Pedy and the filming of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
The History Channel's Cities of the Underworld
- Cities of the Underworld on Facebook
Check out the show on the History Channel that goes in depth about various underground cities around the world.
- Cities Of The Underworld - Al Capone's Hangout
See the video clip from Cities of the Underworld: Green Mill Lounge
Secret Underground Cities - Travel Goodies
Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on September 29, 2016:
Thank you for an excellent, well researched article. I wonder why it is that so many humans have this desire to go underground.
kind regards Peter
Trevor on September 17, 2013:
Thanks great hub well written
Eiddwen from Wales on September 13, 2012:
What a great hub and thanks for sharing.
I now look forward to so many more.
tienhoang951 on July 08, 2012:
oh my god what sceary
coffeealera on April 29, 2012:
Wow, who knew eh? I really enjoyed reading your hub, you showed some really interesting places.
Voted up and awesome for you.
Andy, from http://coffeealera.com
Annomonous on January 08, 2012:
Wow why did they post this is it specificly says hidden or secret now there not secret anymore lol I would keep this a secret
Annie P. on December 27, 2011:
What about it?!
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on December 25, 2011:
What about underground New York City?
Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on December 07, 2011:
Well written and informative! I love that you have included Cooper Pedy. :-)
For Bekkah Campbell above - here is are are couple of YouTube videos:
donate-timeshares on October 24, 2011:
wow this was very interesting. I wonder if there are underground cities with people actually living in them that just haven't been discovered.
Dr Rockpile from USA on October 21, 2011:
I've seen photos of Coober Pedy, but that's the only one I'd heard of before this Hub.
Francis McMasters on October 12, 2011:
All this information is great!
Gerhard Smith, Ph.D. on September 07, 2011:
Re: Baby's: There's a rumor and much hard proof that a now dried up, huge underground lake used to run through the old grotto and, for that matter, most of what is now Manhattan and the lower Hudson Valley. It was used by some sort of ancient religious sect for dark rituals as far back as 25,000 B.C. or earlier. It's hard to put a date on it when you go that far back in time. But indications are still there if you know where to look.
Darla Marie Magdelein DeNunzio on September 06, 2011:
Under Times Square in NYC is a wonderful little restaurant named "Baby's". You can get all kinds of gelato and pasta there for cheap. On Sundays after late mass, they run specials on zuppo and frappes. It's in an old natural grotto far beneath the street. Truly fascinating!
Ravi Singh from India on August 13, 2011:
nice hub.you took me to a new world.thanks and nice pics.
Darlene Yager from Michigan on July 29, 2011:
This would be a great way to conserve energy today all over the world. Very nice and informative hub.
applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on June 17, 2011:
wow this is really cool. i never knew this, great information and finds.
cheap Hajj packages on June 16, 2011:
Thanks for sharing good information. It's a good job.
mtsi1098 on May 12, 2011:
fantastic hub...I guess it is true that you never know where an open door leads :)
cpr recertification on March 10, 2011:
Quite informative i must say and also it was presented very well.
Emma from Houston TX on March 05, 2011:
Nice caption. I like reading from you.
Cna Jobs on February 03, 2011:
stoney p on January 28, 2011:
man that is some crazy stuff. I'm almost intrigued to do some of the same myself
Bekkah Campbell on January 26, 2011:
I was happy to read this but i was hopping to learn more about the underground town in Australia. I also would love to learn more about the underground city of the past IDK where it is located though but by the carveings its been said that beings from elswhere called the Ant people came to help the humans build it and live there for a certain time and afterward. This city was huge even had stables for all sorts of animals and a huge rolling door witch could only be open thru the inside of the town. So it was most likely used to lock out someone or thing
DavidLivingston on December 12, 2010:
Very nice! It interests me much. I liked it.
Sedric on August 22, 2010:
I love the article about The Catacombs. Great in dept knowledge. Keep up the good work
Hajj Packages on August 07, 2010:
Thank you for your post, it was really informative, and your way of expression was great, you described things in a great way, making the reader feel that the things are infront of them.
Quick Cash Concept on July 25, 2010:
Thanks for this share dude. Really these are very much new for me. I will be visiting some soon.
FB Siphon on June 20, 2010:
Thanks for sharing this all. You are really exploring the world in a great way.
Cheap Click Code on June 10, 2010:
It really very interesting stuff here. Very much new for me at least.
hafeezrm from Pakistan on May 04, 2010:
Interesting and useful. I am about take a 2 months tour of Europe and on return would go to "whirrling dervash" city of Turky.
Thanks for a good hub.
Torry on May 04, 2010:
I never heard about any underground city.
The pix are also amazing.
katrinasui on April 30, 2010:
Wow! It is very interesting. Excellent Hub.
mica on March 23, 2010:
OverObservant on March 20, 2010:
WOW, i am writing a 5 page essay on underground cities, that was extrememly helpeful and fascinating, i love the intro about falling through the trap doors!
Claudia Peterson on March 10, 2010:
We are going to read City of Ember for our last six weeks and so I started doing research on underground cities. I liked your hub it is great. My students will be creating their own city underground.
laringo from From Berkeley, California. on January 09, 2010:
This is so cool and remarkable about was may live below us. Subjects like this are always so welcome and interesting. Great job!
Andrew from Italy on December 19, 2009:
Very very interesting hub. I'm not from that city, but I've heard that Naples too has a big underground part. Used still today for various reasons.
Marco on December 03, 2009:
I know a city who has got many tunnels and never been explore why I know? because I was raise there get back to me!
sannyasinman on November 01, 2009:
Fascinating stuff. You write well, and should post more hubs!
ratnaveera from Cumbum on October 30, 2009:
Incredible! Thanks for sharing these interesting facts! You have also added nice photos! Again Thanks!
Nancy Wisser on September 21, 2009:
interesting. I would love to learn more about the tunnels in Tabor, Czech Republic. I've heard they go 5 or 6 layers deep.
animefan1.0 on September 09, 2009:
This is so amazing! I can't believe anything like this even exists. Fantastic!
documentaryvideos on August 24, 2009:
it's an interesting place to live. it must have an interesting. pretty cool.
thanks for sharing.
LM on July 30, 2009:
I visited Havre under ground last year and was amazed that this exists in such a small beautiful town. The tour guide was extremely knowledgable. If you are in Montana, take the tour. It's worth it. Great Hub.
DG on July 16, 2009:
I think it would be interesting to see what various governments have constructed over the centurys that we've never known about and probly never will know about them.
zaina-777 on July 11, 2009:
Wow excellent hub, would love to go see all those places one day! Great information thankyou.
Maverick_999 from Dubai, U.A.E on June 29, 2009:
very cool stuff, i never knew about so many of them
Lou Purplefairy from Southwest UK on June 26, 2009:
Great hub. You may want to check out the catacombs in Exeter UK
cowgirljess from Nor Cal on June 17, 2009:
I think it would be way cool to have an underground house or a paortian underground. Great article.
Vietnam on June 15, 2009:
Thanks for your post!!!
Bbudoyono on May 10, 2009:
Very interesting !
Ninerfan3 on May 05, 2009:
What about Underground Seattle? We visited there in 1978 and were dissapointed that it didn't make your list. It's a fascinating place.
mdawson17 on April 20, 2009:
Very interesting and fascinating!! I had never seen pictures of it before THANK YOU!
Aubrey Allyn from Laguna Beach on March 08, 2009:
This is such an interesting and well written HUB. Kudos!!
powerspike from Sydney, Australia on March 06, 2009:
some great information, quite a different take on the underworld, if i ever travel to one of these cities, i'm going to make sure i'll check them out. Thanks for the hub!
Lisa Sousa from Veradale, Washington on March 06, 2009:
Very interesting hub. Those places sound very fascinating.
LondonGirl from London on March 05, 2009:
Just read this hub - it's great. Makes me shiver, though, the idea of having a quiet drink then ending up press-ganged on to a ship!
MotherHubber on March 01, 2009:
I enjoyed reading this - very interesting content!
raypharma dot com on March 01, 2009:
Cornelia Gatlin on February 16, 2009:
I lived in Portland for years and luckily never fell in to any whole and got trapped-underground. Portland and Seattle a great places to visit and to live if you have the money.
El Rey xiv on January 21, 2009:
Wow I just read a book with an underground city. I only knew of the one the presidinant made.
oparu from Jamaica Plain, MA on January 21, 2009:
This is an awesome hub!
Jawad UK on January 16, 2009:
You have done a great job. I'm lovin it.
shezz3085 from Philippines on December 21, 2008:
I really love your hub
Non facture on December 12, 2008:
Great thanks for info... all great
Rhiannon on November 28, 2008:
I had heard of the underground cities and catacombs, but I didn't know they were so widely dispersed. I had sort of thought that they were mythical. Reading this gave me chills. I want to go see these underground cities sometime.
Chele on November 28, 2008:
Very Fascinating indeed!!! Never knew about Australia. I have always read about the catacombs in France. That is creepy but also fascinating at the same time. I wonder how many "small" towns or cities have the same? I bet we would all be astonished. I know where I live in Southwest Virginia that there are several "natural" occuring caverns under some of the towns, but I have yet to hear or read of anything like Portland, but it would now surprise me if they were not used as well during prohibition. Great information and great writing!!!!!!!!!!!
jason5look@ on November 27, 2008:
This is mysterious topic. i heard that there are more than 200 underground cities in capadoccia. and only 9 cities is opened to public. wooooow. i want to go turkey and see these cities.
victorjo on November 27, 2008:
I had been Capadoccia, Turkey last year. it was really fantastic. There
megamass from Portugal on November 23, 2008:
Great post! Thanks for the information!
A J HART on November 07, 2008:
This really arouses the imagination to a point where it could be factual, I'm sure a portion is true. Gibralter could have been included. I'm fed up with murder mystereis on TV
Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on October 15, 2008:
I loved it. I enjoy the TV show so I naturally was drawn to your title. Keep up the good work.
newcapo on October 12, 2008:
This is so interesting....great topic. Thoroughly enjoyed your hub.
Tomas on October 05, 2008:
Excellent Hub! Very interesting.
starcatchinfo on September 29, 2008:
HI SERENA FULLER,
INFORMATIVE AND INTERESTING HUB
starcatchinfo on September 24, 2008:
i love to live there. cool & quite place. thanks for the hub
Patrick Bernauw from Flanders (Belgium) on September 24, 2008:
I love those "urban exploration photographs and videos"... and this is something like that! Great Hub!
Mel Sun on September 11, 2008:
WOW, I would love to explore,unfortunately I am stuck in South Africa but I do get to see the things you see through the web, so thank you so much on your hub.
Check out my hub: https://hubpages.com/relationships/expressions--Fi
KSTEAM from Scottsdale, AZ on September 10, 2008:
I have heard about that. Very interesting info.
betherickson from Minnesota on September 02, 2008:
Wow, this is amazing. I never have seen this images before but I heard from heresay that underground cities exists a long time ago. Those underground caverns looks creepy but it's quite fascinating. Great hub! :)
DaveHarris from London, UK on August 30, 2008:
The most famous "underground" in Europe has to be the catacombs of Rome. They are quite extensive and many are still in use today. One large area (actually several connecte cacverns) is a famous restaurant "Da Meo Patacca". I've eaten there and it's fascinating - if a little scary :)
LYNDA on August 21, 2008:
I LOVED THIS PIECE OF WORK , SO FASANATING TO ME , And so AMAZING AND I HAVE TO SAY UNBELIEVABLE , just blows you away to think of the accomplishments in that time?
SALLY BUGG on August 21, 2008:
DURING URBAN RENEWAL IN OKLAHOMA CITY, AN UNDERGROUND CITY WAS FOUND, A CHINA TOWN THAT I HEARD ABOUT AS A CHILD. SO HEADLINES ONE DAY SAIS " THERE REALLY IS AN UNDERGROUND CHINA TOWN"
jay on August 21, 2008:
Seattle has a good sized underground, mostly in the Denny regrade area, there the higher streets were sluiced, with the lower portions being raised by 10 feet or more, hence Seattle's underground came to be.
easegiri from Bangalore on August 18, 2008:
Good, article, underground is a place for not only hiding for children but also a place for meditation and other activities. There are doomsday undergrounds too.
Sandilyn from Port Orange, FL on August 18, 2008:
That was a great hub!
I enjoy the unique and underground places have always interested me. I was not aware of some of the places that you mentioned such as Montana. I can fully understand the need for people to find a place to get away from others due to persecution.
From the beginning of time people have built these structures and I wonder why we don't now for energy reasons,
Ms Sooz from Northern California on August 18, 2008:
I love underground places! I would love to build a home underground. Thanks for the great hub :)
starrkissed from Arizona on August 10, 2008:
this is so neat! thank you for sharing!
success08 on August 03, 2008:
This is so interesting.. I had no idea that such places existed.
In The Doghouse from California on July 29, 2008:
I saw a special on the History channel about this same subject... Underground cities are really very fascinating. Great Hub with really cool pictures.
ProCW from South Carolina on July 26, 2008:
Very interesting! I wonder what there is to walk over in South Carolina... :)
Britt Azlin on July 17, 2008:
wow, this is so phenominal! I would love to visit all of these.
Christopher James Stone from Whitstable, UK on July 01, 2008:
The things you find on HubPages. Underground cities now! You have definitely whetted my appetite for these deep, dark places.
Compu-Smart from London UK on June 30, 2008:
Excellent hub Sarena! and some very fascinating history and facts about this subject which is so intriguing!! The nearest i get to this feeling is London underground everyday!,
sweat ahsaan on June 28, 2008:
love and amazed 2 see these places i wish 2 go their sme day
sweat ahsaan on June 28, 2008:
HI WHAT AMAZIMG PLACES THESE R
SparklingJewel on June 28, 2008:
I have read about the mystery schools underground in Egypt. Initiation temples they have been called. Great !!
AndyBaker from UK on June 26, 2008:
Fascinating stuff - thanks !
summer10 from my happy place :) on June 22, 2008: