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As much fun as it is to wait in line for hours just to get a new Facebook profile picture, at some point you start wondering if visiting famous tourist attractions is even worth it. After all, these are the most photographed places in the planet. Even if you've never been there before, you already know them better than your grandma's living room (you're a terrible grandkid, by the way).

Or you think you know them, anyway. It turns out that many of these iconic locations have fascinating secrets hiding in plain sight, like real-life versions of video game Easter eggs (or, you know, actual Easter eggs). So the next time you're stuck in a line with 200 other tourists, look around and you may spot ...

7
The Empty Building In The Middle Of Times Square

New Yorker

About 37 million people visit New York City's Times Square every year, making it the world's second-most-visited tourist attraction (the first is presumably the nearest public bathroom). Hiding a whole building in such a heavily-transited area sounds like some David Copperfield bullshit -- and yet hardly anyone pays attention to the empty 25-story skyscraper at the center here:

chensiyuan/Wiki Commons
We always figured those billboards were suspended in the air with dark magic.

One Times Square was originally constructed in 1904 to serve as the headquarters of The New York Times (hence the name). Despite making a big deal out of their giant concrete dick, they ended up moving out only eight years later. That's right, even the people who named Times Square couldn't stand to stay there for too long. Here's what the building looked like back then:

Brown Brothers
Was there ever not traffic in New York?

After its most recent owners went bankrupt in 1992, the building was sold to Lehman Brothers. Rather than house new tenants in the tower, they had more lucrative residents in mind: ads. Shitloads and shitloads of ads. The firm had large screens crudely attached to the facade of the building, and now One Times Square rakes in $23 million a year, despite having zero tenants.

New Yorker
Unless the graffiti-scrawling ghosts count as tenants.

OK, they have a Walgreens on the ground floor. Other than that, the building's only current inhabitant is the New Year's ball, which sits alone on the roof all year, dreading its next encounter with Ryan Seacrest's face.

New Yorker
It draws upward and shrinks from the thought of those teeth.

When Lehman Brothers sold the building to another firm in 1997, they did so for an obscene 300-percent profit. These days, the building is worth $495 million, and each billboard rents for between $1 million and $2.4 million annually. That's, like, at least twice as expensive as renting a hotel room in that area.

New Yorker
With that kind of money, you could build your own naked cowboy.

So when you're watching the ball drop on New Year's, remember that you're watching it fall onto a building full of nothing but empty halls and abandoned office space, making it exactly as full of character as Times Square itself.

Terabass/Wiki Commons
Times Square: a tourist attraction of Super Bowl commercials.

6
The Secret Room Behind Mount Rushmore

National Parks Service

In the cinematic classic National Treasure 2: Book Of Secrets, protagonist Professor Yellface McEyebrows (or something) discovers that there is a secret complex behind Mt. Rushmore which contains another hidden treasure hardly worth the ticket price of seeing Nicolas Cage when he was still relevant. But that's ridiculous, right? There isn't any secret room behind Mt. Rushmore, and if there was, our teachers would have told us in school. Right?

Well, as we keep telling you, your teachers sucked.

via National Parks Service
It's right by the historically accurate rendition of LBJ's rock-hard buttocks.

It turns out that sculptor Gutzon Borglum's (we're 90 percent sure we didn't make up that name) original vision for Mt. Rushmore was a slight bit more elaborate. Among other things, it included full torsos for each of the presidents, and the entire mountain was to be carved into the shape of the Louisiana Purchase. Then he wanted to inscribe descriptions of important moments in U.S. history in enormous letters across this Mt. Louisiana Monstrosity. No word on how many moving lasers he wanted to include, but we're guessing "all of them."

Once logic, reason, and money set in, Borglum settled on an idea for a "Hall of Records" where a repository of important U.S. documents could be stored for future generations (like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and hopefully the tab for the epic post-Constitution-signing bash). Borglum's death in 1941 stopped the project ... but not before he had already begun blasting for it. Because even at age 73, the man loved to blow shit up.

National Park Service
You can stop clicking the screen to make it go further. This isn't a '90s PC game.

In 1998, the U.S. government installed a sealed titanium vault and a 1,200 lb. granite capstone inside the chamber to hold copies of the its most important documents, and not to contain an eldritch atrocity Richard Nixon accidentally summoned into existence in 1972. Nope, that never happened.

But the important thing here is that there is a literal national treasure hiding behind Mt. Rushmore, and now we have to go check Wikipedia to see if Ghost Rider was a real guy.

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5
The Glamorous Abandoned Terminal At JFK Airport

Richard Kwabena Slote/Wiki Commons

If you've ever looked out the window while being groped by security at New York's JFK International Airport, you might have noticed a lonely terminal that doesn't appear to get a lot of action (so, the opposite of JFK himself). This despite its snazzy design and gull-like winged roof, which make it look like a place where the Super Friends might hang out.

pheezy/Wiki Commons
The original Hall of Justice was completely demolished after Superman tried to hunt a mosquito.

Well, like a truck that turns into a battle robot, there's more to that place than meets the eye. That's the Trans World Airlines Flight Center, which was designed by a famed Finnish architect and opened in 1962. Unfortunately, when TWA went belly-up in 2001 (not a good year for aviation, if you remember), so did the terminal. Ever since, it has sat empty ... except for all the classy '60s furniture inside, which we like to think comes alive at night and has magical Night At The Museum-like adventures.

Dana-Allene/Wiki Commons, Lauren Schmale Estacio/Wiki Commons, Dana-Allene/Wiki Commons, Lauren Schmale Estacio/Wiki Commons
Or, most likely, some pretty hot orgies.

Talks have gone on for years, with plans for the terminal to become a restaurant, a conference center, an aviation museum, or even a hotel. So far, none have yet to pass, and these days, TWA's terminal remains idle and unused, serving as a reminder of a time when airlines gave a shit about their passengers.

Mark E. Swartz/Wiki Commons, Jgw1980/Wiki Commons
If you're really quiet, you can almost hear the smooth jazz playing.

But could it ever be used as, you know, a terminal again? Not likely, since JetBlue Airways built another terminal around there, completely engulfing TWA's old one, and even demolishing part of it in the process. Because sometimes real life gets a little heavy handed with the metaphors.

JetBlue Airways
Why didn't you just have a million pigeons poop on the building, God?

4
The Secret Suite At The Top Of The Eiffel Tower

via HGTV.ca

When Gustav Eiffel debuted his tower in 1889, it got the warm reception and critical acclaim of Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Which is to say that everyone fucking hated it. A lot of prominent critics considered the building a huge eyesore, with one Guy de Maupassant eating his lunch every day beneath the tower because it was the one place where he couldn't see it.

Alphonse Liebert
Part of it was that he found it ugly, the other part was that he had an extremely tiny penis.

Of course, Eiffel didn't care, because he was probably too busy cackling from his secret apartment at the very top of the tower. How secret? It wasn't even open to the public until 2015, or about 90 years after Eiffel had died. We don't envy whomever had to clear out all the accumulated newspapers and credit card notices.

As opposed to the cold, bare structure on the outside, Eiffel's little abode was furnished with wallpaper and wooden cabinets, and had a cozy small home-that's-a-thousand-feet-high feeling to it.

via HGTV.ca
"One bedroom, modestly furnished, TERRIFIC VIEW!!"

Once word about his little secret got out to the Parisian elites, Eiffel began receiving offers of ridiculous sums of money in exchange for staying even one night in the place -- and he didn't even have to put out. Eiffel's response was a middle finger. He instead used the space for peaceful reflection and (as we've covered before) occasional science-y shenanigans with Thomas "Jerkface" Edison.

Serge Melki
"My dear friend, I've just thought of a new experiment. Pull my finger."

And that's not the only thing the Eiffel Tower has been hiding from us. It also touts a military bunker underneath its south pillar, which itself is rumored to contain a double-secret tunnel leading to the French Military Academy. This has not been confirmed, though, and neither have the rumors of a deformed guy with a mask running around down there singing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs.

Caroline LD
In reality, this is the basement where Eiffel's figurine-collecting son lived until he was 35.

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3
The Secret Train Platform Under Grand Central Station

Sam Horine/Gothamist

Yeah, turns out New York City has more hidden spots than a teenager's room. One of the most obscure is located right under Grand Central Station, a place 750,000 unsuspecting people walk (or push their way) through every day. It's a secret train platform, complete with a train.

Sam Horine/Gothamist
Condition: gently used.

When the historic Waldorf-Astoria hotel was constructed, it was built directly on top of the underground rail lines that led into Grand Central Station. However, in 1929, someone got the bright idea that instead of VIPs behaving like Neanderthals and arriving at the Station, they should arrive directly at the hotel, thereby avoiding even looking at the riff-raff. So a secret train platform was constructed, and bafflingly not named Platform 9 3/4.

via Columbia.edu
The fact that this was 70 years before Harry Potter is no excuse.

The first person to use it was General John J. Pershing on a visit to the city in 1938. It was most famously used by Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 to hide his wheelchair-bound condition from the public. Roosevelt arrived in his armored train and exited his car via a giant elevator that let him leave directly into the street, Batman-style. It is this particular train that is still down there today.

Sadly, after Roosevelt, there weren't many presidents that used trains anymore, and aside from an underground party thrown by Andy Warhol in 1965, the platform was completely unused by the 1960s. In the 1970s, the "Presidential Siding" had become known less for its class and more for its squatter residents, who were later evicted (presumably by the Ninja Turtles). Today, it's completely closed off to the public, save for the nondescript street-side entrance door:

via Columbia.edu
Completely covert.

So the Waldorf-Astoria can hide something underground, but it's not like they're hiding an entire floor of their building. That'd be impossible ...

2
The Secret Floor On Top Of The Empire State Building

Evan Bindelglass / CBSNewYork

... unless you're the Empire State Building, that is. They have a floor so secret that even The New York Times claims there are only 102 floors (until someone hastily corrects it after we publish this article). It, like most publications, misses the 103rd floor, which appears to exist only to entertain the incredibly famous and/or ridiculously wealthy.

Empire State Building
We're not saying they only invite them up there hoping they'll fall, but we're also not not saying that.

Right above the official "top floor" is an outdoor observatory offering enormous 360-degree views of New York. It is only accessible via a hidden staircase on the 102nd floor, and via having won at least one Kid's Choice Award, it seems. However, the reason for the sweeping views is also likely the reason that almost no one is allowed up there; the 103rd floor lacks any and all safety measures, aside from a kind request to please, please not jump off.

Navid Baraty/Gothamist
That and the death stakes they've apparently installed.

The ledge itself is seriously precarious, and anything more than a light breeze could be enough to make you recreate the end of King Kong.

Katie Sokoler/Gothamist
Wearing heels up there requires more balls than scaling Mount Everest.

One thing the few regular mortals who have visited it have noted, besides the predictably awesome views, is the incredible silence. Since Manhattan is an island, the water goes a long way toward absorbing all the sound. We're reasonably sure you can still smell the street gyros up there, though.

Meanwhile, the closest you're probably gonna ever get is the "Celebrity Walk" on the second floor, which is nothing but a large hall of pictures of celebrities on the 103rd one. Because it's not fun enough without rubbing it in our peasant faces.

Evan Bindelglass / CBSNewYork
Fuck you too, SpongeBob.

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1
The Creepy Abandoned Island In The Middle Of Disney World

Shane Perez

Today, Walt Disney World operates four distinct amusement parks: Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. However, there is in fact a fifth park they no longer like to talk about, like your cousin who's voting for Trump: Discovery Island. The monorail goes right by it.

via FloridaSunshine.com
Civilization in the upper right, broken and abandoned dreams front and center.

Disney opened the park in 1974 as Treasure Island, before presumably realizing that this was a misleadingly exciting name for a big wildlife observatory and changing it to "Discovery." They ended up closing the place in 1999, since they'd just opened Animal Kingdom and it's unfair to force kids to look at animals for too long when they wanna play Game Boy. All the animals were transferred to the new park, and the island itself was forgotten by man ... until 2009, when an urban explorer named Shane Perez swam over in the middle of the night like a fucking Navy SEAL, dodging Disney security in the process.

What he saw there was right out of Jurassic World. After finding the overgrown pathways, Perez and pals worked their way around the empty park photographing things like empty animal cages, old employee photos, and snakes preserved in jars. You know, classic Disney fun.

Shane Perez
Looks like Discovery Island employees didn't get pee breaks.

Also: vultures. Not cute cartoon ones, but the ones that try to eat your face.

Shane Perez
Okay, they're a little cute.

Disney responded by threatening to ban Perez from their properties forever, which just sounds like a challenge to sneak into all the other parks, too. As for the island itself, there were plans in 2009 to turn it into the world's most kickass Lost-themed attraction, but they went the way of the show's plot: nowhere.

Xavier Jackson has a Twitter, Facebook, Blog, and an enormous ego that needs regular feeding.

Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!

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