5 Secrets Found Buried at Famous U.S. Landmarks

Until we opened a secret panel, no one realize this planned for the apocalypse
5 Secrets Found Buried at Famous U.S. Landmarks

This Fourth of July, we want you to celebrate America by visiting one of the nation’s most famous sites. We also want you to bring a shovel with you, so you can dig for treasure. 

The digging part is, of course, completely illegal, so be prepared to fight off authorities using your shovel. Also, you won’t actually find any treasure, but you might just find something else hidden there that’s even more interesting. 

The Lost Town at the Hoover Dam

The huge bodies of water behind dams are generally artificially constructed. With Hoover Dam, that reservoir is Lake Mead, and when the country flooded the area to create Lake Mead in the 1930s, there happened to be a town in a way. Fortunately, it was a town full of Mormons, and Mormons are great at moving around, so it was a simple matter to pay them all to go elsewhere. Either way, we dammed the Colorado River and let the water rise 1,200 feet, and the town of St. Thomas was no more. 

You might have known nothing about this if you came to visit Lake Mead in 1940, or 1960, or 1980. But every so often, as the lake’s water level dropped, the ruins of St. Thomas peeked out. And for the last three years, with the water really receding, bits of the town have become extremely visible. Observe:

From our description above, perhaps you were picturing a few church steeples poking their way through the lake’s surface. But Lake Mead has receded a lot, so there are spots that used to be a deep reservoir that now just look like an empty desert with a ghost town.

Of course, if you’re not interested in old Mormon buildings, there’s also the chance that you’ll stumble upon one of the several skeletons that have turned up as Lake Mead has dried up. No, there is no straightforward explanation for how those bodies got there, and investigations are still ongoing. 

The Other Hollywood Sign

The Hollywood Sign wasn’t originally a landmark just designed to sit in the background as people walk through Hollywood. It originally served as a billboard advertising a housing development named “Hollywoodland.” It also wasn’t the only billboard of its kind. At the same time as that sign advertised Hollywoodland, a second sign advertised another housing development called “Hillside Homes of Happiness.”

“Hillside Homes of Happiness” would have been too long a message to erect in 30-foot-tall letters. So, the ad consisted of just the word “Outpost,” since the land around the development was known as “Outpost Estate.” Though these letters were a little shorter than the ones in the Hollywoodland sign, they were lit in red neon, so as to be even more visible. 

But when World War II started, authorities figured these red letters would be an attractive bombing target. Of course, foreign bombers didn’t end up attacking California, but people feared they might, so the Outpost sign was taken down and scrapped — or so everyone assumed. In 2002, a couple of hikers found wreckage from the sign still out there:

Annie Wells/Los Angeles Times

It’s not lit up anymore, other than with tetanus.

Maybe this should become an official monument, just like the Hollywood Sign, suggested some Hollywood residents. The City of Los Angeles had zero interest in this, but they also had zero interest in removing the wreckage, so the letters remain there today — for you to stub your toe on. 

The Brooklyn Bridge’s Fallout Shelter

Speaking of the precautions of yore, have you considered locking yourself away in a vault? If you live in a big city, a fallout shelter may be closer than you think. In 2006, workers tinkering on the Brooklyn Bridge found a vault full of provisions stockpiled by those fearing a nuclear strike. These supplies included drugs, blankets and 352,000 packets of crackers


The crackers prevented starvation. The drugs prevented boredom. 

Here’s where we’d like to explain to you exactly when this vault was built and by whom. But we can’t do that. There are no historical records of anyone making or provisioning a fallout shelter in the Brooklyn Bridge. Our only clues are the dates written on some of the items. 

A bunch of the boxes are stamped “1957.” That was the year the Soviets launched Sputnik, so that was a time when plenty of people feared the end was nigh. A bunch of other boxes are stamped “1962.” That was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was also a time when plenty of people feared the end was nigh. But the end didn’t come in either one of those years, and we trust that whoever stocked this vault lived a long and fulfilling life in which they got to eat plenty of stuff other than crackers. 

The Radioactive Hazard at the Grand Canyon

Some buried secrets are designed to protect you from radiation. Others are designed to blast you with radiation. 

In 2019, park officials at the Grand Canyon realized that the museum contained three 5-gallons buckets of uranium ore. The ore buckets had been sitting there next to a taxidermy exhibit for decades, and no one had realized what they were. Once someone did, OSHA personnel descended upon the museum in full HAZMAT gear to drag the stuff away.

National Parks Service

It’s a lot more exciting than measuring railings, or whatever else it is OSHA people normally do.

The uranium’s radiation wasn’t so powerful that the whole museum had an elevated radiation level, but it was powerful enough that the area near the buckets did. It was enough that the park had to send out emails, saying, “If you were in the Museum Collections Building (bldg 2C) between the year 2000 and June 18, 2018, you were ‘exposed’ to uranium by OSHA’s definition.” 

That wouldn’t mean you’re contaminated, explained the email, just that “there was uranium on the site and you were in its presence. … And by law we are supposed to tell you.”

The real crime here isn’t that countless visitors walked past radioactive buckets, but that the museum didn’t know what it had. Maybe whoever left the buckets there originally should have put up a little placard, for educational purposes. 

The Capitol’s Forgotten Bathing Area

This final discovery happened in 1936. That was from a time before most of the other finds in the article were originally buried, but this discovery originated from a period that was older still.

Workers in 1936 were excavating the basement of the Capitol building when they discovered six marble bathtubs. At the time, no one had any idea what those were doing there, and newspapers labeled the tubs a mystery. 

Senate Historical Office

They looked unused, explaining why politicians are all dirty.

It took more research to uncover the truth. The Senate had installed the tubs in 1858, while this wing was first being constructed. Senators needed bathing facilities because they largely didn’t live in homes with bathrooms. They lived in boardinghouses, which had bedrooms but no baths. 

For three decades, senators bathed in the Capitol building. It was a little more private than the Roman bathhouses that this hearkened back to, as wood partitions separated the Capitol tubs. Still, the bathing chamber was a great place for U.S. senators to relax and socialize. If the building would only reopen and expand its baths, and if all legislators agreed to bathe communally, we could reestablish camaraderie and get around to solving everything. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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