5 WTF Abandoned Wastelands You Won't Believe Exist

Have you ever known somebody -- an old roommate or neighbor, perhaps -- who seems to leave a monumental mess wherever he goes? There are piles of Taco Bell wrappers in his back seat. His yard is where lawn chairs go to die. God, forget about the living room -- he's got eight TVs stacked one atop another. You know who we're talking about, right?

Well, these places are his Mecca.

#5. The Great American Tire Pile

Edward Burtynsky/Photo Vide

In the 1950s, Ed Filbin had a dream.

Oh, not one of those civil rights deals, or even the one where you have to flee a Kool-Aid tsunami with the mom from Arrested Development. No, this dream was strange: He imagined that, one day, discarded rubber tires would be worth a fortune. Never mind that tire piles are ugly, collect water, and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, or that they're essentially impossible to put out if they ever catch fire. Mere trifles like logic and reason were not about to stand in the way of Filbin's Great American Tire Pile. And so it was that Ed Filbin collected 42 million tires. And lo, he did put them in a giant pile. And he looked upon his work, and he said that it was good.

Edward Burtynsky/Aeroplastics
Edward Burtynsky/Aeroplastics
Originally, it formed a single giant tire. Then it kept growing.

Obviously Filbin's dreams of black rubber gold never came to fruition -- what, you mean people weren't itching to buy ancient, weather-cracked tires full of mosquitoes? -- so in the 1980s, he sold the pile off to a series of companies. Why so many people were investing in old tires, we don't know (building a Captain-Planet-villain-style lair, perhaps?), but it didn't work out for the buyers, either. Several companies went bust trying to deal with the pile. Eventually the tires were whittled down to a meager 10 million rubbers, but then, in 1999, disaster struck. Literally.

Lightning struck and ignited the pile.

Michael Macor/The Chronicle Photo
The Catholics were right: God hates latex.

The authorities tried, but simply didn't have the resources to subdue the fire, so they had but one option: Wait for it to burn itself out. They likely expected it to take days.

The inferno raged for a solid month.

Michael Macor/The Chronicle Photo
The fire truck then faced a delay because it had a flat and no spare was available.

Man, it's true what they say: The Simpsons really has done everything.

#4. Chernobyl's Radioactive Parking Lot

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Just like hurricanes, nuclear disasters have a scale of impending fuckedosity. The International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) covers a range from 1 to 7, with 1 being "microwave left open while running," while 7 is "does this tentacle make my ass look fat?" The 1986 Chernobyl disaster hit the charts at #7 with a bullet (to the head, to spare you the inevitable horrors of the rampaging mutant hordes).

Julia Dimon
And the radioactive sentient dolls. Don't forget the radioactive sentient dolls.

Millions of locals were evacuated, and an army of emergency response units were drafted to help bring the fire under control. Obviously the men couldn't run in bare chested and punch nuclear fallout in the neck, no matter how appropriately Russian that plan sounds. A slew of heavy equipment was conscripted to deal with the disaster: Fire trucks tackled the flames from the ground, while helicopters hovered over the reactor, dumping material to try to smother the burning pit. Obviously, fallout contaminated all of this equipment. So what else could they do but just abandon it all in a big-ass field?

They could have nuked it, but some called that solution flawed.

Million-dollar helicopters, thousands of heavy trucks, and other astonishingly expensive fire-fighting equipment was all abandoned as their operators presumably tried to outrace the radiation on foot. The biggest depot, pictured above, is located in Rassokha, Ukraine. That's right: "is." You can still see the radioactive parking garage on Google Maps today. Oh, don't worry, the highly contaminated vehicles aren't just sitting around, waiting for unsuspecting children to come play pilot. The most heavily irradiated equipment -- the "grow an arm where your eye should be stuff" -- that was all buried. These ones sitting out? They're just, like, "maybe get a little ball cancer in 30 years" irradiated. Frolic away, children!

Los Apos
No worse than smoking, which used to be mandatory in Ukraine.

#3. Sweden's Mammoth Wood Pile

Canadian Forest Service

In 2005, Cyclone Gudrun (a storm as powerful as a hurricane) nuzzled its way into Europe and snuggled up with Sweden and Denmark. Hey, if you're going to anthropomorphize a disaster, you might as well make it adorable, right? Unfortunately, Gudrun didn't know its own strength and ended up cuddling the roofs off of buildings, Eskimo kissing a few vehicles into oblivion, and generally spooning the holy shit out of half a continent. All told, the storm uprooted 2.65 billion cubic feet of lumber, worth more than $2.9 billion. But unlike a fire, these trees weren't gone, just dead, so Sweden gathered up as much as they could and did what is apparently standard practice: They made a giant friggin' pile.

Most of the felled timber was gathered at a military airstrip in the south, stacked more than 40 feet high, 200 feet wide, and almost a mile and half in length. It is the single biggest hoard of wood in the world (ladies). And because Swedes understand fun like no other culture on earth, the giant stack of dead trees attracted thousands of visitors daily while under construction.

Only hundreds of whom came to watch the hot Swedish construction workers.

The original plan was to start processing the logs in 2008 and be completely rid of them all soon after. But as is the way of the pile, the lumber discovered that it kind of liked where it was and didn't much feel like moving. As of 2013, Google's all-knowing eye in the sky tells us that around half of the pile is still standing.

Google Maps

Sounds like somebody's got their next vacation planned!

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