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The “Mole People” of NYC

  • People live deep beneath the surface of Manhattan

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
  • cooking
  • electricity
  • “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:

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About breakinbadd
Hey I excel in just about anything that I try, who am I?

9 Responses to The “Mole People” of NYC

  1. cat baldwin says:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0235327/
    an excellent movie about the same topic.

    i think the desire to evict has everything to do with liability, not just because they choose to live differently.

    should one of them be injured and some long lost family member sue the state of NY or god forbid, several of them die in a massive tunnel collapse… etc.

    the state would be in serious hot water and they’d rather evict than deal with the publicity fall out. plus, TECHNICALLY, what they’re doing is illegal so it’s not like they’re having their rights taken away from them. they’re choosing to live outside the law.

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  3. breakinbadd says:

    yes, I agree with that reasoning of why NY wants them evicted. They dont want our society to see that there are different ways of living and that these ways of living are working. So labeling them as lunatics,drug addicts etc. would shut down their life style. Open minded people should realize that these mole people are just as organized as us. They have a social structure and they all obey higher power. They dont just lay around, they have daily routines and everything. Its amazing.

    • breakinbadd,

      I’m sorry I was with you until your penultimate sentence. That made me wonder which side of the case you’re on. Are you saying they’re more delusional than the rest of the population? Why is this higher power thing good? Or, are you merely suggesting that the guy living 3 feet under a train is getting his power from the third rail, which at 3 feet over his head is both higher and power?

      Sorry. I guess I should state that I’m an antitheist. So, those who invoke higher powers do not automagically get any sympathy from me for doing so.

      • I should add that I don’t mean to be too negative only to point out that it’s a false assumption to believe that everyone would think belief in a higher power is a positive trait.

  4. Frank says:

    A great read … and thanks for stopping by my blog. I invite you back as I have a bunch of presents under the tree … and your readers are welcome to come along!

  5. Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn has a good explanation of the reason that people in our culture would try to evict the mole people. This book is the first in a series of 3 that I highly recommend. Suspend your disbelief in the lead character. It’s worth it. Like Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, Quinn needed an outsider to look at our society for the purpose of the book. Who the outsider happens to be is not really germane to the plot.

    http://www.bestwebbuys.com/Ishmael-An-Adventure-of-the-Mind-and-Spirit-ISBN-9780553375404?isrc=b-search

    Anyway, the answer (in mostly my own words paraphrasing his ideas and possibly mixed with some other writings as well) to why they must be evicted is because in our culture we can’t tolerate the possibility that there might be another way of life that doesn’t depend on having food locked up and practicing totalitarian agriculture that destroys all else on the planet for our short term benefit. We must make all other ways of life unacceptable. We must assume those who would walk away from our society are mentally ill or drug addicts. We must assume that we alone know the best, and perhaps even only, way to live.

  6. heraldb says:

    Thanks for following me. You have a wonderfully written about page and I believe in the same principles as you have expressed. Keep believing and you’ll succeed. Cheers!

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