5 Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands Hiding in Busy Cities

#2. Seattle Underground

The Underground Tour

In the late 1800s, downtown Seattle was less the fish-smelling, hipster mecca it is today, and more like the Swamp of Sadness from The NeverEnding Story. No, seriously: Whenever it rained, the streets would "bloat deep enough with mud to consume dogs and small children." Luckily, in 1889, that was no longer a worry. Oh, not because they fixed the infrastructure -- because the Great Seattle Fire pretty much burned the whole thing to the ground. They had bigger stuff to worry about.

University of Washington
Bigger buildings to fry

For a time.

Then the flames died down, the torrential rain returned, and the entire downtown area, much like your mother, was nothing more than a gargantuan, smoking mudhole.

via Seattle Homes Today
Turns out God works for a rival tourism bureau in Portland.

A flannel of officials (that's what you call any convened group of Seattleites) decided that an urban bog maybe wasn't the cool new city-planning movement it seemed at first glance. Instead of rebuilding downtown, they decided to raise the city floor 8 feet, which made a lot of sense to everybody that didn't own property below the 8-foot line. For those unfortunate suckers, the new city-on-stilts meant that they'd have to relocate their first-floor lobbies and storefronts to the second floor, and many of them just didn't have the money for it. So they carried out business as usual on the pre-fire city level.

Postdlf/Wikimedia
Mining, smithing, and such.

Meanwhile, developers who could afford it started building at the higher level, meaning that, among other things, the height differences between the old and new sidewalks were off by as much as 35 feet in some places. So, for a time, there were two downtowns in Seattle: the aboveground one, for the happy sun-dwellers (well, relatively speaking -- this was still the Northwest) and the one in the underground tunnels, for the poor, the Morlocks, and some of the more civil molemen.

Northlight Images
To ease their sadness, they'd pretend a still-sadder society lay buried further down.

After roughly a decade, the seasonal affective disorder, vitamin D deficiency, and constant raids by the lava warriors convinced most everybody to live aboveground again. However, the abandoned areas below became a hotbed for brothels and criminals, so the city addressed the issue in the most efficient way possible: ignoring it until it went away.

Which it did, sort of. But much like a mummy's curse, downtown Seattle would not stay buried forever.

Postdlf/Wikimedia
Should have sealed it while we still could. Fools, fools all of us!

Now, the area beneath Pioneer Square is a labyrinthine network of tunnels, still marked by ancient wooden window frames, 19th-century brick-and-mortar walls, hanging wires, crumbling store fronts, and rusting iron gates. If you ever decide to spring for a tour, just try not to think about the fact that they're, you know, holding up the current Seattle.

The Blog Below
If you wait long enough, that Starbucks you're craving will eventually crash down to you.

#1. Six Flags New Orleans

Taylar Chalmers

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, killing, injuring, displacing, and just generally ruining the lives of pretty much everybody who couldn't get out in time. So perhaps it's not the greatest tragedy that the amusement park also flooded in up to 7 feet of water, but you know, it still kind of sucks if you were a fan of roller coasters.

Bob McMillan/FEMA
Like FEMA, who budgeted "photograph coaster" ahead of "rescue people."

If you're a fan of uneasy carnival-style terror, however, you are in luck. The sign out front still reads "Closed for Storm," and the many walkways, once packed with squealing tourists, are now packed instead with clumps of mold. Its swings dangle lifelessly in the wind. Its concession stands remain Twinkie-less.

Lost Los Angeles
The Twinkies survived, floated away, and opened their own park.

Its arcades are almost completely devoid of sweaty, sticky little hands.

Almost. We wouldn't rule out the possibility of some tiny unearthly hands clutching at you if you get up the balls to stroll through there.

Christopher Dame
Ha ha! The sign is a joke. It's funny because it's not true.

Strangest of all is the dichotomy between seemingly untouched amusement park and utterly destroyed wasteland. Because the disaster was relatively recent, from some angles everything looks like it's just shut down for the night. Man, you could hop on that roller coaster right now if you could get some power to it ...

Richard Thompson
Could you charge it from your phone?

And then you turn your head and notice the trees growing through the tracks ...

Christopher Dame
Could you call emergency services from your phone?

And then you turn your head again and notice the weather-pocked clown staring at you ...

Cree Garrard
He's offering beads. He wants you to disrobe for him.

And then you turn it again and notice the other clowns ...

Melissa Golden/Redux
Notably, the original park featured no clowns at all.

And then you try to turn your head one more time to run, but it's no use. Big red gloves are closing over your mouth, breath rotten with stale candy washes over you, distant giggling grows louder, and with your last thought you wish -- you hope against hope -- that wasn't the sound of a zipper being pulled down ...


Natasha Saravanja is currently wasting her Masters in Classical Archaeology by exploring urban ruins around the US. Check out more cool places at LA to Z.

Related Reading: If your desire for abandoned wastelands has yet to be sated, click here and look at a whole wasteland of tires. For some desolate wastelands within walking distance of normal cities, read this article. You'll learn about London's horrifying underground tunnels. Ghost towns more your thing? Cracked has you covered.

Ever wonder if all Pixar movies were secretly the prequels to some horrific apocalypse? So have we.

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