The “Mole People” of NYC
December 23, 2011 9 Comments
In 1900, New York City began constructing the worlds largest underground railway system.
In 1940, this underground railway expanded to almost 750 miles long, creating a maze of tunnels. Soon after, many of these tunnels became obsolete and were forgotten about.
This long-lost area became the home of the “Mole People.”
Under the busy streets of New York City, there is said to be a civilization ranging from 3,000-5,000 homeless people. They live in “multilevel labyrinths” beneath Grand Central and Penn station, feasting on rats, garbage or anything they can get their hands on.
Before Jennifer Roth published her book “The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels beneath NYC,” most people perceived these Mole People to be alcoholics, drug addicts, or mentally ill.
But when Jennifer Roth went to find out herself, she discovered it wasn’t as simple as just a bunch of lunatics living in the tunnels.
Within these 5,000 homeless people underground, there is a sizable community consisting of a group of 200 separate people. These 200 people formed their own society deep under ground in a strange place.
This Community has its own social structure consisting of:
- a teacher
- a mayor
- a nurse
- an exercise room
- “runners” (discussed later in the article)
Their “homes” are constructed with plywood and cinder blocks. They have beds, rugs, night stands and even gas stoves in these homes. Children were seen using leaking pipes as showers.
One man explained that his alarm clock is the sound of a train passing 3 feet over his head. Since he has no watch, and he knows the subway schedule so well, he uses the sound of the trains to manage his time. He called himself a “Runner.”
These “Runners” go to the surface of NYC to collect food and supplies that their society needs. They have jobs, they steal, they ravage through garbage pals, and they even collect government checks from churches.
People of NYC have seen runners climbing through the tunnels and going in and out of their “secret doors” sandwiched between midtown apartment buildings and bodegas.
The leaders of this society have been down there for over 15 years.
When they were interviewed by Jennifer Roth and filmmaker Mark Singer, they explained that life down in the tunnels is better than “at the top.”
Some of them have chosen to live in the tunnels, leaving everything they had behind. I question why they would want to live in such a strange place.
Fighting gangs that try to take over their territory has been a major concern for them, but their only fears are that Police and/or the MTA will have them evicted. They have yet to cause any disturbance to any New Yorkers, but the MTA still wants them evicted. Their excuse is that the tunnels are too dangerous for the homeless people.
I personally believe that this is a lie. I feel that they want them evicted because they are living down there for free.
Years after she discovered the society and her book was released, Jennifer Roth fled from New York City because her life was anonymously threatened.
The fact that there is an organized civilization in the tunnels has given the mole people a spot in our strange place collection.
See the rest of our strange place collection here!
Here is a short video introducing the Mole People: