#3. The Secret City of Arras
Reeling from the horrible losses of the World War I Battle of the Somme in 1916, British generals needed a new offensive strategy. So they turned their attention toward the town of Arras in northern France, where they would employ the little-known Dig Dug military tactic.
Inflating Germans to death and collecting fruit. That's the British way.
The first reason the town was valuable was simple geography: It was near the war front, and location is important whether you're slaughtering Germans or selling kitchenware. But the sneaky reason Arras caught their attention was its history. It was ancient and built over a sprawling network of cellars, tunnels and sewers, and the surrounding countryside was veined with vast underground caves where chalk had been mined during the Middle Ages. In a war that was mainly fought in the trenches, the British general realized that this could be an advantage.
"So we're thinking about something like this, only more claustrophobic and terrifying."
Tunnelers set to work connecting the subterranean web, and in a matter of months they had created two immense underground labyrinths capable of housing 25,000 troops and repositioning them wherever they wanted, since they were moving right beneath the feet of their unsuspecting enemy.
We assume they just made a little opening to the surface after a few months and let the stink chase the enemy away.
This was not just a collection of cramped tunnels and caves, either -- it was a fully functional underground city. The immense caverns were transformed into dormitories, kitchens, chapels, power stations (providing the city with electric lighting) and a hospital with enough capacity to treat 700 wounded. The connecting tunnels were large enough to allow soldiers to march out to battle in one direction, while stretchers were carried back into the caves from the other direction. There were even larger tunnel routes to accommodate a supply railway.
Also, according to this, they went straight through the center of the Earth and out into New Zealand.
On April 9, 1917, a surprise attack was launched on the German lines from the secret city, with British troops spewing out of the ground like pissed off Morlock-lava. Within two days, the troops had made spectacular gains, advancing farther into enemy territory than the entire British Army had advanced in years. While the battle ended in a stalemate, it had to have at least fucked with the German army to see this spring out of the Earth from out of nowhere.
"I hope they leave all the pooping in corners we did out of the history books."
#2. The Temples of Damanhur
More than 100 feet below ground, carved directly into the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy and only accessible from a small, unassuming house, lies an incredible secret.
We know, this is starting out like a trailer for a horror movie.
According to Oberto Airaudi -- who prefers to go by Falco -- since the age of 10 he has experienced paranormal visions from "a past life" of amazingly intricate temples. While that might just sound like the ramblings of someone who smoked whatever Coleridge was on when he wrote "Kubla Khan," Falco has made it his lifelong goal to recreate his visions.
One night in August of 1978, Falco and some like-minded companions started digging into the mountainside. Over the next 14 years, they worked in four-hour shifts, using simple hand tools and sketches Falco had made of his vision. Rumors began circulating that something was going on under the house, and in 1992, police showed up at Falco's front door. When he wouldn't let them in, they threatened to use dynamite. Realizing that the cops were either serious or villains from a Disney movie, Falco and his fellow "Damanhurians" complied, leading the police through their secret door and into the mountain.
It took an hour to give the officials a tour through what they had built.
"You guys must take your acid through a goddamn funnel."
A maze wound through the rock, connecting seven huge, impossibly ornate temples, some with ceilings as high as 25 feet. Overcome with amazement at what they were seeing, the authorities revealed that they were in fact Disney villains, and seized the temples on behalf of the government. Falco was told to continue with the artwork, but that he must cease any further construction since he had not received planning permission. The Italian government later dubbed the temples "The Eighth Wonder of the World," and it's not hard to see why:
This wouldn't look out of place on a Yes album cover.
Tunnels and secret rooms wind miles down into the hillside. Each room was intricately designed in exact accordance with what must have been the craziest dream a 10-year-old child has ever had.
We can't even put together our new nightstand from IKEA without bellowing phrases so vile that our neighbors spontaneously burst into tears, and these people single-handedly built a whole new Wonder of the World. With hand tools.
"And we're going to have a mirror room, because fuck you, that's why."
While Falco is clearly inspired by something higher, the truly baffling part of this is that he did all this with friends working for free, out of the kindness of their own hearts, to make a grown-up's childhood vision a reality. We're all for lending a helping hand to our friends, but we're pretty sure we would have thrown down our tools after the first four-hour shift.
We assume the New Age dancing ladies just sprang from nowhere when it was completed.
#1. The Manhattan Project's Secret Cities
In late 1942, the United States Army Corps of Engineers purchased 59,000 acres of countryside northwest of Knoxville, Tennessee, enough land to build four cities the size of Manhattan. If that wasn't enough to get the locals asking questions, next they built three massive facilities on the property. And when we say massive, we mean that one of them was the largest building in the world at that time.
"If we all whisper, the fascists won't notice us."
Soon, 75,000 people flooded into town and began working there, and a mob of construction workers began erecting a city to house them. And still, nobody knew what the hell was going on. Even the people who worked at the giant facilities didn't know what was going on. Perhaps spookiest of all, despite having enough people to have its own minor league baseball team, the town didn't appear on any maps.
Perhaps the biggest mind fuck of all was how everyone learned just what the hell was going on: in the newspaper articles the day after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan.
"Huh, how about that. Paper says the war's over and I've been building a bomb that blurs the line between God and man."
The town in Tennessee, which would eventually be named Oak Ridge, wasn't the only secret city. As Oak Ridge was being built in Tennessee for the workers who produced the materials needed to construct the bombs, construction workers (who weren't told why they were building) were erecting another secret town in Los Alamos, New Mexico, northwest of Santa Fe. This new town, known as "Site Y" to military personnel, would provide a secluded home for the scientists and engineers involved in the project to complete their work.
Oh, and being conveniently located near the deserts of New Mexico comes in handy in case you need to, you know, explode an atomic bomb.
Here's Oppenheimer and crew bathing in the afterglow of goddamn ground zero of a goddamn atomic bomb test.
All in all, the Manhattan Project employed more than 130,000 people, many of whom lived in secret towns and had no idea what they were doing. If you were a science major around the time of the war, your first couple years out of college was like being on Lost.
Los Alamos is still home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the largest employers in New Mexico. Today, Oak Ridge is a fairly typical small town, except that they can chant, "We won WWII" any time their high school football team is getting its ass kicked.
For more mindblowing secrets, check out 6 Massive Secret Operations That Are Hidden All Around You and 7 Secrets Only Two Living People Know (For Some Reason).
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn where Cracked's secret hideout is.
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