5 Frightening Hellholes (That Are Now Ordinary Places)
Architectural reminders of the most ghastly chapters of history are everywhere, but it's not always a simple matter of bulldozing them, burying them under 100 feet of concrete, and getting home in time for Vanderpump Rules. No, sometimes people get, uh, creative with these leftover monuments to the horrors of humanity. That's how we ended up with such secretly unsettling destinations like ...
The Fancy Hotel That Was A Concentration Camp
They're out there: concentration camps, ugly reminders of the depths of human depravity. But when you find yourself confronted with one, what should you do? Demolish it? Turn it into a museum? It's a tricky situation, but we can probably all agree that the answer should never, ever be "buy it and turn it into a five-star hotel." But that's what the guys at Ukraine's Citadel Inn went with.
"Featuring friendly Christmas lights, numerous prestigious awards,
and just oodles of incredulous ghosts!"
Underscoring the whole "let's not tell people this was a death camp" thing, Citadel Inn carries a 9.2/10 rating on Booking.com, 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor.com, 4.9/5 on Hotels.com, and so on. It's been called the best hotel in Ukraine by multiple sources and is the winner of several awards from respected critics. This is baffling.
Unless every other Ukrainian hotel is currently a concentration camp.
You see, you won't find any memorials in honor of the lives lost here. You won't even find a brochure about its darker historical significance. The owners are flat-out pretending this wasn't a concentration camp. Over 100,000 people died there, but because there were no burials, the owners feel that it's totally fine to ignore that. Apparently, they "plan" to open up a museum, but there's no sign of that yet.
No signs whatsoever.
The Nazi tower/luxury inn, located in Lviv, was never actually used by its own people for military purposes, but the Nazis took it over during WWII and transformed it into a death camp for Russian prisoners. It was called Stalag 328, and its sole purpose was to starve enemy soldiers until they died, because that's just one of the many horrible ways the Nazis did business. It was standard procedure to just not feed the Soviet POWs, garnering Stalag 328 the upbeat moniker "Tower of Death."
"Fine dining in a room where thousands starved to death! Book now!"
The inn's website has a history section, and it makes absolutely no mention of its dark past or the fact that the place is almost certainly haunted by the ghosts of 100,000 angry Russians. There's a bar where a man probably died wanting only to see his family again. If you really want to piss off the nameless victims of the Tower of Death, you can also visit their award-winning spa! So says the hotel's website:
Soft light of aroma candles and lyric music in a meditation-room will help our guests feel refreshed and will contribute to their excellent mood. We also offer sauna and massage. Lviv doesn't know analogues of pleasure that one can feel from relaxation like this!
Plus, twins? In a haunted hotel? Waaaaait a minute ... you're fucking with us, right?
There's nothing tackier than making money off the suffering of others, and nothing so unrefined as a concentration camp posing as The Ritz. They might as well have made it a Hooters.
The High School That Was A Nuclear Missile Base
More and more, schools are starting to resemble state penitentiaries. They're surrounded by tall fencing, they have metal detectors and security guards, and depending on where you live, the teachers are even packing handguns. But there is perhaps no school quite so secure as Jackson Heights High School in Kansas, because it wasn't built to be a school at all. It was built to house nuclear missiles.
We're 90 percent sure your school's groundbreaking wasn't this awesome.
How do a bunch of kids end up learning fractions and the joys of teenage insecurity in a building that once housed a doomsday device? As we've discussed before, silos have been frequently decommissioned and repurposed since the 1960s, and private citizens are allowed to purchase them. In 1969, this particular silo was bought by the school district for exactly $1. The main level contains nine classrooms, and the missile bay now houses school buses.
Their prom just played this for five hours on loop.
The silo once housed an Atlas missile. In 2007, officials realized that children and dangerous chemical waste don't mix. Analysts took a look at the groundwater supplying drinking water for the Atlas silos (including Forbes S-9, aka Jackson Heights High) and found a degreasing agent called trichloroethylene, which, since its sole purpose is to keep missile fuel lines clean and lubricated, should never, ever be ingested by human beings. We didn't know things when this was still operating as a missile base, so all the waste was just dumped on-site.
"The students should be fine, as long as they don't try to smoke the water.
Aw, fuck, we just gave them ideas."
After efforts in 2009 to clean up the place, the school was declared reasonably safe. Go
Deaths, The Destroyers of Worlds Cobras!
The "Zero-Star Hotel" In A Swiss Fallout Shelter
Like the $1 missile silo in Kansas, old nuclear bunkers are apparently an excellent source of revenue if you know what to do with them. And unlike Citadel Inn, it doesn't always have to be creepy and wrong. If you were lucky enough to be in Sevelen, Switzerland, in 2009, you could've stayed at the world's only self-proclaimed zero-star hotel.
In case Switzerland's jail hotel is too ritzy for you.
It was called the Null Stern Hotel, and unlike its lavish distant cousin, it probably wasn't full of angry Soviet poltergeists, and the low price of a few Euros a night got you your own bed, a pair of slippers, and extreme intimacy with total strangers.
The bowtie man stands over you and watches all night.
If reliving your college dorm routine of desperately trying to pretend you can't hear your roomies boning furiously three feet away from you wasn't your idea of a fun vacation, you could've paid just a little more (20 euros) to experience the next level of your nostalgia trip: your first apartment. You know the one. Unpainted concrete walls, a bed that takes up the whole room, and a tiny bathroom to call your own. Oh, and there's no heating, so you get to use a hot water bottle to stay alive during those balmy Swiss winters. There was, however, a complimentary chocolate on every pillow, next to a pair of ear plugs. Now you're on vacation!
"Your ears AND feet will be protected from the fallout of your roommates' holiday sex."
Said an owner of the hotel's mission, "Switzerland has more than 250,000 fallout shelters, and we are still building them. ... It's a way of confronting this bizarre hangover from the Cold War era and moving on." The last we heard, the Null Stern proprietors were looking to expand their uniquely Swiss brand of no-frills lodging, so don't be surprised if you someday hear about a charming bed-and-breakfast that is rigged to explode at a moment's notice.
The Albanian Tattoo Parlor That Was A Bunker
Thanks to a paranoid dictator named Enver Hoxha, Albania is riddled with abandoned bunkers. In the 1970s, he had over 750,000 of them built, and absolutely none of them ended up being used. After his death in 1985 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, communism in Albania became a thing of the past, leaving the bunkers -- and a lot of nightmarish history -- in its wake.
That's 750,000 of these bastards in a country with a population of 3 million.
The bunkers represent a painful chapter in Albanian history and are an extraordinarily annoying blight on the landscape. But leveling 750,000 Cold War bunkers is no easy task. They're so stout that a bulldozer just won't do the job. According to one story, Hoxha chose the engineer who masterminded his bunkers by asking him to create a bunker for himself and then stay inside it while Hoxha had it bombarded with military-grade explosives. We're not sure if this is fact or fiction, but considering Hoxha's reputation as a xenophobic wacko, it doesn't seem like a stretch. Regardless, whoever built the bunkers built them to last. And they have.
But some Albanian citizens have banded together to repurpose these terrible places, and one of the most successful projects is Concrete Mushrooms, an educational/artistic hybrid organization that collects information about the bunkers and turns them into useful, positive places like cafes, playgrounds, art pieces, and even two-person homes. One of the more unique examples of this kind of repurposing is a bunker in northern Albania, near the border with Montenegro.
Hobbiton was part of the former Yugoslavia, but they demolished the burrows
for collective housing.
This particular bunker isn't hard to find. Local artist Keq Marku Djetroshan painted his bunker and turned it into a tattoo parlor. And, hey! If you accidentally end up with a neck tattoo of a morbidly tumescent Homer Simpson fistfighting a minotaur in a maze of Twizzlers, you have 750,000 nearby options to spend the rest of your life avoiding everybody.
The Music Conservatory That Was Hitler's Office
Repurposing old and/or historical buildings is nearly always a controversial subject. But when you throw Hitler into the mix, it becomes flat-out impossible to make whatever you're repurposing OK.
We left his bunker a parking lot, and we still feel kind of dirty.
Take the former Nazi headquarters in Munich, for example. The building itself survived Allied bombings, so Germany has had plenty of time to figure out how to reconcile the ugly history of "Hitler's office" versus the "clean architectural lines of a useful building." Surprisingly, the powers that be have turned the building not into a museum but an education center. Not a World War II education center -- a music conservatory, where modern children practice playing their violins and pianos in Hitler's custom-built office.
If you don't play Wagner, the walls start to bleed.
The really big problem seems to be that, like Citadel Inn, there are no signs on the building denoting its original purpose. So you could be a regular German parent looking at getting your child top-of-the-line music lessons when you later discover, WHOOPS, your kid is practicing in front of Der Fuhrer's favorite fireplace. But, hey! At least now you have a perfectly legitimate reason to skip your kid's piano recital. ("I'd love to hear your rendition of 'Big Rock Candy Mountain,' honey, but Hitler.")
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