5 Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands Hiding in Busy Cities
Archaeology is defined as "the quest to discover the crumbling remains of past civilizations, then get hammered and blasphemy-hump on top of them like impaired teenage chimpanzees." But you don't necessarily have to earn a fancy degree and apply for expedition funding in order to get your apocalyptic-bone on. Because, as we've shown you once before, you could turn any corner in your home town and stumble on stuff like ...
(Before you go wandering around wastelands, why not read up on guns in the Cracked De-Textbook?)
LA-88 was built in 1956 and manned by more than 100 soldiers who had the endearing motto "If it flies, it dies." The base was just one link in the "Ring of Steel" -- 16 Nike missile sites that protected L.A. from Russkie bombers in the good ol' days of the Cold War (some say they were higher quality than the Reebok missile bases, while others say they lacked a certain flair).
Conversely, some FILA bit SKECHERed out by the whole place.
If you're not familiar with Cold War death machines, the Nike Hercules missile packed a freaking nuclear warhead -- which seems like overkill for just "bringing down airplanes" to us, but we digress. Fortunately for those of us who value the relative uncookedness of our skin, the Nike program was dissolved in the '70s, and the site abandoned. LA-88 comprises two main tracts: One side contains a parking lot, a network of water treatment facilities, a creepy utility booth, and a small kennel for patrol dogs --
The nation's nuclear arsenal was in good paws.
-- while the other is a burnt-out, tagged-up complex of gutted warehouses, office buildings, twisted metal, and ... oh yeah, actual missile silos. You know, where they kept the nukes. The nukes right next to Hollywood.
Cleverly hidden under a flashy gold carpet.
The LAPD SWAT team drills there on occasion, so in addition to the freaky Cold War hauntedness, LA-88 also contains burned-out buses and bullet-riddled practice dummies, for just a little bit more of that Fallout-style wasteland ambience.
Great practice for all those perps who stand in stationary vehicles.
Pollepel Island, aka Bannerman's Island
If you're ever traveling through New York from Poughkeepsie to Beacon, you might spot a mysterious island in the Hudson River that hosts what looks like a big-ass castle. If you get really high in the back of your colorful van and your talking dog insists you head over to check it out, you'll find that -- holy shit, it is a castle. And an ... arsenal?
Yes. Yes, an arsenal. They're rather explicit about that.
Frank Bannerman was a 19th-century Scottish immigrant who had a serious kilt-lifter for both masonry and weaponry. At the end of the Civil and the Spanish American Wars, Bannerman bought up the government's excess stock of everything from weapons to ammunition to blankets and resold them. His stockpile eventually grew so large that the city of New York had to boot his ass out of Manhattan. There are only so many weapons you can comfortably own within city limits, and that amount is "slightly less than an islandful." Luckily, the munitions trade had made him a very wealthy man, and he was able to buy himself that island and stock it full of weapons, as well as a castle to hold them, and presumably some sort of ghost-dog to guard the objectively crazy weapon horde.
A castle! What could possible break through a castle?
Bannerman, knowing that there's no point in subtlety after you've already established a private island for your arsenal, went full supervillain and even had some of the ordnance incorporated into the architecture. However, he died before his castles were fully complete, and years later a fire gutted much of the buildings' interiors. And so, the ravaged site was left to the elements.
And several of what we're sure were the best paintball games in history.
It's only a matter of time before the rest of the structures collapse, so try to catch a glimpse of the red and gray turrets while you still can. CAUTIONARY NOTE: Local American Indian tribes believed the island to be haunted long before the crazy arms dealer built a doomed castle there, so if you hear some sort of spectral howling, do not get out your rifles. Bullets only feed the Munition Mastiffs.
The Dome House
Built as a seaside vacation retreat by Bob Lee in the early '80s, this Star Wars-esque domicile offered all the luxuries the 1980s had to offer: hot tub, satellite TV, white patent leather loafers without socks, a sense of desperate, greedy naivete ...
The home was truly futuristic for its time -- completely self-sustaining, its unique multi-dome shape collected rainwater to use for baths and dishwashing, and electricity was provided by solar panels. Unfortunately, living on the Florida coast comes with some pitfalls, chief among them being old ladies in bikinis and giant friggin' hurricanes. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit the Dome House pretty hard, and today, well, "luxurious" isn't the first word that comes to mind.
It gets natural light, though. Some. So there's that.
The home's once shining white exterior has now deteriorated into the sickly mottled gray of a dead shark, and the domes have started tilting wildly as they sink into the sand. While we have plenty of crumbling castles and rusting warehouses in this article to remind you of the inevitable forward march of progress, the Dome House is the only ruin that is at once dilapidated and futuristic, like the aftermath of the Jetsons' zombie apocalypse.
aka The Flintstones.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you wait long enough, that Starbucks you're craving will eventually crash down to you.
Six Flags New Orleans
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
Could you charge it from your phone?
And then you turn your head and notice the trees growing through the tracks ...
Could you call emergency services from your phone?
And then you turn your head again and notice the weather-pocked clown staring at you ...
He's offering beads. He wants you to disrobe for him.
And then you turn it again and notice the other clowns ...
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.