Humans build incredible things. Chances are good that you passed something on your way to work this morning that would make our ancestors accuse someone of witchcraft. But we never stop to wonder what awe-inspiring creation someone could be producing right under our noses, because why would anyone build something impressive and keep it a secret? Plenty of (usually insane) reasons, it turns out.
The next time you look out your window, you might be totally unaware that you're staring right at something like ...
7Dr. Dyar's Catacombs
In September of 1924, a truck was driving in Washington, D.C., when its tires sank into the ground. On closer inspection, workers found that they had discovered the entrance to an intricate series of tunnels, with 6-foot ceilings and walls painstakingly lined with white enameled brick, an expensive building material at the time. For days, newspapers had a field day speculating who had built this mysterious underground labyrinth. Was it World War I spies? Confederate soldiers? Mad scientists?
"The Morlocks want us to keep the noise down."
Dr. Harrison G. Dyar, entomologist and mosquito expert at the Smithsonian Institution, let the speculation continue for a few days -- presumably while wringing his hands and laughing maniacally -- before stepping forward to admit that he had single-handedly constructed the catacombs. The first indication that he was telling the truth, and not just some crazy bug expert, was that the tunnels originated from the backyard of his former residence. But the idea that it was the handiwork of just one guy seemed impossible. The tunnels extended hundreds of feet in length and reached depths of up to 32 feet below the surface. Not only had Dyar done it all by his lonesome, but he'd also kept the project secret, starting work on the tunnels in 1906 and continuing until he moved away from the house in 1916, removing every bit of the dirt himself. In buckets.
"You think the garbage man will suspect anything if I leave this out on the curb?"
Once people got their heads around the fact that one guy had really done this all by himself, the search must have been on for all the dead people he'd dug the tunnels to store. When the tunnels came up clean for dead bodies, officials were forced to accept the fact that they were dealing with the most monumentally bored person on the planet (quite a feat at that time).
"I did it for exercise," he said. "Digging tunnels after work is my hobby. There's nothing really mysterious about it."
"You'd be surprised how much time you can find for digging when women won't talk to you."
His digging habit didn't end at his former residence, either: At his new home on what is Independence Avenue today, Dyar constructed a second series of tunnels, this time featuring concrete walls, stone stairways and electric lighting, and reaching depths of up to 24 feet.
And that's where he stuck all the bodies.