5 Creepy Abandoned Places That'd Make Perfect Villain Lairs
Congratulations, you demented supervillain! You've managed to piss off the hero by throwing their best friend into the shark pit and bombing the romantic interest's beach house. The end game is near. The final confrontation is inevitable. There's just one small problem: Your evil combat lair from the last time this happened is still at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, and you've gone and blown most of your spare budget on that horde of surprisingly easily defeated laser hamsters. Still, not to worry! As one of Cracked's foremost experts on budget villainy, I've compiled a handy list of badass abandoned structures you can pretty much just walk into and claim as your own. Take your pick:
The Orpheum Theatre
It's no coincidence that every action hero from James Bond to Generic Murder Dude #367 in the beginning of Assassin's Creed: American Boogaloo has found themselves sneaking around theaters and operas. They are creepy places even when the actors are on stage and the seats are packed with condescending tuxedo-wearing fuckers.
Where it gets really disturbing, however, is when the seats are empty and the doors are locked. That's when villains like the Phantom of the Opera or Sander Cohen from BioShock crawl out of the woodwork. Villains, that is, who are precisely like you. Unfortunately, it's not like abandoned horror movie theaters are just hanging around, ready for the taking ...
Look, we all know I'm setting up a thing here. Just play along.
... except, that is, for the Orpheum Theatre in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
"Man, I don't know," I hear you saying. "It certainly looks adequately scary, and I could definitely see myself settling down in the place and wandering its corridors wearing a mask and holding a giant mallet that makes sparks as I drag it across the floor. But I just stole all these orangutans from the zoo, and I've been meaning to teach them to use the miniguns I've had laying around since the Lyon heist. They'd wreck the interior within minutes." To which I say: Don't worry, the Orpheum has it all. Turns out the official name of the place is "La Salle Francs Tireurs," or "French Sharpshooters Hall." It combines the European tradition of enjoying the fine arts with the American tradition of shooting the shit out of everything, by which I mean that it's a theater that also has a gun range.
Think about the options this gives you, regardless of your preferred brand of villainy. When Special Agent Lance Dickheart inevitably infiltrates the place, you can stalk him through the grimy corridors yourself. Or you can sic your army of now firearm-proficient Homicidapes at him, as you gloat safely from the rafters and lob the occasional grenade at your nemesis. Hell, you can even go full Batman villain by kidnapping the agent's sidekick and setting up a deathtrap on the stage. If you can't decide the theme of the trap, the theater will even help you with that: It just so happens that the place opened on the same day that the Titanic sank.
The Tequendama Falls Nightmare Mansion
Let's start this entry by tipping our metaphorical hats to the mad genius who deemed it a great idea to take a French mansion designed in the esteemed "clearly fucking haunted" architectural style and stick it next to a steep precipice in the ass end of rural Colombia. Without him, the world would never have seen La Casa del Salto del Tequendama, possibly the world's only mansion that sounds like it's putting a curse on you.
It spent its teenage years bullying the Amityville Horror and Psycho houses for not being scary enough.
Did the place start its existence as a creepy hotel? Absolutely. Is its location reputedly a suicide hotspot that dates way back to when the conquistadors first came farting about the place? Sure, why not! Did the building inevitably go the way of the Overlook Hotel, falling out of favor and into disrepair before finally becoming abandoned? Yep! Did some doomed organization attempt to turn the place into a museum of caverns, of all things, a few years ago? Oh yes. That last step is a particularly important one, because it means that the horror movie that inevitably resulted from disturbing the slumbering building has probably played out by now, and the demogoblin that dragged all the visitors down the basement levels should have eaten its fill of man-flesh, so it can be bargained with.
Oh, and did I mention the place is located by a damn waterfall?
OK. Oooookayyyy. That waterfall's a bit much, isn't it? Let's revise a bit. Clearly this is not a building, it's a The Last Of Us level. Maybe one of the Far Cry games, or even something in the Uncharted universe. Either way, sorry in advance, friend -- no matter what the protagonist calls himself, he's going to be a damn one-man army, and everyone's going to sound like either Nolan North or Troy Baker. Hope you have approximately 2,000 mooks who don't mind hiding in cramped corridors for days on end at your disposal. Not that they'll help, but an extra five minutes of life is an extra five minutes of life.
Still, on a positive note: No matter how well you plan and execute your nefarious deeds, we both know that somehow, some way, you're going to get thrown off that damn waterfall. So just take up base jumping and wear a parachute 24/7, and you should survive to see the sequel with just a badass facial scar or 16.
The SS Ayrfield
Let's say you're one of those overly specific villains who can only function in a very particular environment or situation. No, not quite Calendar Man level -- if you're that far gone, the only headquarters you're going to need are the ER and your familiar cell at Arkham Asylum. I'm talking Mega Man villains, or maybe even Pokemon: vast power, only within the confines of very specific elements. Like if you were somehow both grass and water type.
I'm not necessarily saying that I have anything to accommodate such ridiculously limiting bullshittery. However, if that's the way you really want to go, I might just casually nod my head toward SS Ayrfield.
It's like Noah's Ark, but for trees.
A century or so ago, this massive-ass coal freighter was abandoned in the Homebush Bay, which was then contaminated with toxic waste because fuck you, just because it's a ship doesn't mean that it can't get a Joker-style origin story. Eventually, the bay got less toxic, and nature started eyeing the ship. Stuff took root and started growing, and before you knew it, two things long neglected by man had formed an unholy union that you just know can start whipping spiked vines at your enemies as soon as you reach the captain's cabin and find the flute that commands this naval jungle.
And here's the thing: By settling in and learning to control SS Ayrfield, you don't gain just one ship: You'll have an entire navy. The Ayrfield has three compatriots rusting away at the bay. The Heroic, the Mortlake Bank, and the Karangi are just waiting for the right megalomaniac to control them. And if for some reason it turns out that the ships are just dormant wrecks instead of toxin-infused haunted ships waiting to take their revenge, well, you still have the high ground. You can just do that annoying Metal Gear enemy thing where you jump around from place to place (or, in this case, deck to deck) as the elderly, monovisioned, inexplicably snake-themed mercenary chasing you rapidly finds out that his limited depth perception isn't worth jack shit in a combined jungle/marine environment.
And if you want to expand beyond Homebush Bay, there's roughly a hundred wrecks laying around nearby.
As for the actual game level to your boss battle, hey -- SS Ayrfield is in fucking Australia. Just buy your nemesis a plane ticket to the nearest airport, it's fine. They'll still have to run through miles of fucking Australia to get to you. They've been bitten by at least seven funnel web spiders and 14 drunk locals before they even lay eyes on your lair.
Fucking Australia. Why anyone ever built supervillain lairs anywhere else, I'll never know.
Shicheng Underwater City
Here's why. Oh shit, son! You knew this was coming: a straight-up water level!
As video games have taught us, there is no protagonist in the world who doesn't loathe water with the wrath of a thousand supernovas, including those who actually live in water. Makes shooting and punching too difficult, plus all that goddamned electrified seaweed keeps tasing them in the dick. So unless your nemesis is Aquaman (in which case, just take your game to the Gobi Desert or whatever, and fire missiles at the guy as he impotently shakes his fist atop the tsunami that can never quite reach your lair), why not ruin their day (and even worse, their hair) by setting up shop in the Shicheng Underwater City?
Mer-henchmen and trained killer whales sold separately.
Sure, underwater supervillainy is not everyone's cup of tea, but consider the facts: The name of the place literally translates to "Lion City," so your base would have the most badass address imaginable ("Yeah, you can just send the bill to the Lion City at the bottom of a motherfucking lake"). If that's not enough, Shicheng is also colloquially known as Atlantis of the East, which should be more than prestigious enough to show that bastard Baron Barren and his billion-dollar mansion who the real prime time player is. Furthermore, Shicheng never went down because of a natural disaster. The Chinese government deliberately sank it in 1959. Sure, they say it's because of a dam they're building, but we've seen movies -- we know how these things work. The Lion City clearly hosts at least three ancient superweapons and/or demonic warrior-kings for you to find and enslave.
And failing that, there's a whole bunch of creepy statues you can convert to harpoon deathtraps.
So never you mind a little dampness. Take over the place, and whatever dipshit Tomb Raider or Chosen One kid they send after you will have to swim at you through these murky waters ...
... only to suddenly reach the center of the city, where they'll come to a dead stop as they find you maniacally cackling in your underwater dome. And that's when the giant crabs will attack.
The Charleroi Power Plant
Quick: Are there multiple heroes coming after you? Is at least one of them carrying an unwieldy, large sword? Do the majority of them sport spiky $200 haircuts that have no business looking that good after the swathes of your underlings they've cut through? Holy crap, did they just summon some sort of elder god to breathe abyss flame at your favorite general?
You know what? Fuck it. If they want to go full Final Fantasy, we'll give them Final Fantasy. What you need is a huge, ominous tower they need to climb as you prepare.
Few things are more ominous than the classic "nuclear sludge could leak out of me at any second" shape.
Yeah, fine. Good. That'll do. Once they're inside, they should probably have to navigate some diabolically complex yet beautiful corridors and platforms. I wonder if this tower has any?
Spoiler: Hell yes it does.
Let's say they somehow manage to navigate their way through that shit sandwich (with a hefty icing of your angriest minions, of course). Man, they're tough. We'd better give them a good arena to run about before you unveil your true might. In fact, let's go with that "central circle and a buttload of platforms" structure every single RPG in recorded history features at some point, in some dungeon.
*Ominous orchestral music*
Now, with all the pieces in place, all we need is a vast, central chasm you can dramatically rise from as you unveil your newfound powers of a generic anime dark god.
Yep, got one right here. Can't have a bidet on the same site, though. It's a plumbing thing.
Wait, you didn't take the time to gain the powers of a dark god? I, uh, probably should have put that down as the first item on the list, really. Still, you know how it goes. The boss battle has to take place. Here, you can borrow my switchblade that may or may not turn out to be a novelty comb. Go nuts on the haircut kids, friend. My invoice regarding the Charleroi abandoned power plant in Belgium is in the mail.
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked weekly columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
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