back to top

10 Secret Worlds Below Your Feet

New York City's underground is one creepy place.

Posted on

1. Canal Street Canal / Via Google

Collect Pond, a once idyllic spring-fed body of water, was the sole water source for a burgeoning Manhattan. Located near the contemporary intersection of Mott and Grand Streets, the pond was where the steamboat first saw success. Canal Street gets its name from an actual canal that dumped the disgusting remnants of that pond into the Hudson River. Pop open the correct manhole cover on the western edge of Chelsea to uncover the tail end of that same, 200 year old canal.

2. City Hall Subway Station / Via Google

The greatest architectural wonder of the New York City subway system is a decommissioned platform hidden just beyond the end of the 6 line. Built in 1904, City Hall was the city's first subway station and featured vaulted arches and tiled ceilings. It became a ghost station when lengthier trains were no longer able to navigate the platform's curvature. You can now tour this stained glass-adorned station twice monthly with the MTA or see it through a window by staying on the 6 train past its last downtown-bound stop.

3. Croton Aqueduct / Via Google

The Croton Aqueduct was a 41-mile long gravity-reliant pipe that delivered fresh water to New York City from the Catskill Mountains upstate. In service until 1955, remnants of the aqueduct can be seen on manhole covers bearing its name as well as the High Bridge Water Tower (connected to the oldest bridge in the city) over the Harlem River. Savvy urban explorers have hiked through the treacherous underground portions of this aqueduct in the Bronx.

4. Minetta Creek / Via Google

This long forgotten waterway, once an important feature of downtown Manhattan, is now buried deep underground. Slicing through Washington Square Park, the brook was a fast moving trout-filled stream that early inhabitants fished from and built houses around. Paved over by New York's early developers, the last remaining signs of the brook are isolated in the Washington Square Park area -- including a fountain in a nearby apartment lobby that uses water from the hidden creek, a street bearing it's name that supposedly follows the creeks winding route, and a manhole cover that gives you a small glimpse at the waterway still flowing beneath your feet.

5. Atlantic Avenue Tunnel / Via Google

Hidden under Brooklyn's bustling Atlantic Avenue is one of the oldest railway tunnels in North America. The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, originally designed to eliminate street-level train fatalities, was built below Atlantic Avenue in 1845. The tunnel was sealed off in 1861 in the wake of corrupt dealings. The tunnel, which Walt Whitman wrote about, was completely lost for 120 years until Bob Diamond rediscovered a point of access when he was 18. Soon after, he was leading tour groups of over 50 people down a manhole cover in the middle of one of the city's busiest thoroughfares. The tours ended in 2010 when New York City terminated his contract.

6. Doyers Street Gang Tunnels / Via Google

Doyers Street in Chinatown not only has some of the best dumplings the city has to offer but it also has a fascinating long and violent past. This meandering street, with a near 90 degree angle bend, is believed to be the bloodiest street in U.S. history. The so called "Bloody Angle" is where various Tong Chinese gangs would frequently ambush and murder each other with guns and hatchets (some say that the term "hatchet men" was spawned here) before escaping through an intricate network of underground tunnels. It's believed that some of these tunnels stretched as far as the Hudson River, providing gang members a means of escape before the police even knew what happened. Today, one former tunnel exists as a small underground commercial area on this street.

7. Fort Totten

Buzzfeed Original / Via Chase Guttman

Tucked under the Throgs Necks Bridge, the Civil War-era Fort Totten was designed to guard the narrowing channel that separates the Long Island Sound from the East River. Once a missile command post, the fort features a series of secret passageways through bunkers, ammunition lockers and abandoned fortifications that can be explored on regular lantern-lit tours.

8. Freedom Tunnel / Via Google

Once the haven for New York City's mole people, Freedom Tunnel served as an oasis for the city's homeless for many decades. Now a working Amtrak tunnel, Freedom Tunnel's underground shantytowns have been nearly wiped out by the city with the exception of some of the more creative hermitic residents who live deep underground. The appeal lays in its graffiti art and the beautiful sun rays that leak from the street grates above. There are access points to the tunnel all along its route (including in the 30's, 60's and 120's) but security has increased over time.

9. Waldorf-Astoria Train Platform / Via Google

Even some of the most jaded New Yorkers would be surprised to learn that an abandoned subway track is hidden under the luxurious Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Track 61, according to legend, was most famously used by Franklin Roosevelt during the height of World War II. Riding in an armored train car, Roosevelt could travel to the city in secrecy and hide his polio affliction. Typical cargo included Roosevelt's car, which could be driven off the train into a nearby elevator and delivered to the hotel's garage.

10. Columbia University Tunnels / Via Google

Underneath the Ivy League classrooms that educate some of the world's brightest students there exists an extensive tunneling system that dates back over a century. Columbia University's oldest tunnel is a remnant of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, the site the university was built on in 1900. The tunnels, which still serve as maintenance access and contain old train tracks and coal hoppers, played an important role in the Manhattan Project. The first atom split in the U.S. was accomplished with a still radioactive Cyclotron in the basement of Pupin Hall and as recently as 2003, half completed Manhattan Project centrifuge experiments were evident in the tunnels. In fact, a student was expelled from the school after stealing active uranium from one of these underground sections. In the 1968 Vietnam War protests, the tunnels were used as a means of traveling between occupied buildings. Although security is increasing, the easiest tunnels to access connect Mudd, Iris, Dodge Fitness Center and Havemeyer buildings.

This post was created by a member of BuzzFeed Community, where anyone can post awesome lists and creations. Learn more or post your buzz!