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Secret Underground Cities - From America to Australia

Updated on July 8, 2013
Doorway into an Underground City
Doorway into an Underground City
Shanghai Stairwell
Shanghai Stairwell
One of Portland's infamous alleys
One of Portland's infamous alleys
White Slaver Cell
White Slaver Cell

Today, our civilization is mostly concerned with what goes on above ground. Our cities are bustling cosmopolitan centers for commerce and business transactions - rarely, if ever, do we consider what might be lurking right underneath our feet, under the very streets of the places where we play and work.

But they are there: massive, intricate tunnel systems, hiding places, buildings...and all below ground. Some are only a hundred years old, others centuries, but all are fascinating.

Underground Cities in America: Portland

Imagine, it is 1908 and you are a big, brawny man satisfying your thirst with a few frosty mugs of beer in your favorite neighborhood bar in Portland, Oregon. A few more beers with all your friends, and things get rowdier as your buddies get more intoxicated. You laugh, swap jokes and stories, and soon all of you are swaying on your feet. With a belch and a wipe of the mouth with your sleeve, you set down your mug and are on your way to the bathroom, trying to weave somewhat of a straight line. Suddenly, a trap door opens underneath your feet and you plummet feet first into darkness. A mattress breaks your fall, but you are now in a cage, with broken glass strewn about outside. The trap door swings back up, locks into place, and your friends are none the wiser. Your shoes are taken so in the unlikely event of escape, the broken glass will cut your feet and leave a trail of blood for your captors to follow. You have just been 'Shanghaied.'

This scenario was all too common in Portland from the year 1850 to 1941, where able-bodied men dropped through trap doors in bars or the dead-ends of alleys and into the Portland Underground Tunnels, or the 'Shanghai Tunnels.' These tunnels are intricately connected catacombs that extend for miles underneath the city and shanghaiers, bootleggers, white slavers and opium den owners used them for various purposes. The shanghaied men would find themselves on a ship bound for the Orient as sailors who endured scanty rations and terrible living situations.

The white slavers kidnapped girls as young as 14 and forced them into prostitution, but not before confining them to complete darkness in a tiny little cell, barely big enough to move in - to break down their minds, spirits and wills before selling them off to the highest bidder.

Havre Beneath the Streets

In Havre, Montana there is an underground section that catacombs underneath the city in a series of secret passageways. Rich with history, 'Havre Beneath the Streets', as it is called, was the home of many turn-of-the-century businesses. Some of these included the Sporting Eagle Saloon, Wah Sing Laundry, Wright's Dental Office, Boone's Drug Store and a bordello.

As with Portland, these tunnels were often used for seedy purposes, including the illegal transport of liquor during prohibition. The passageways themselves were built by early Chinese immigrants, who used them to escape persecution above ground as well as to house their businesses, including a prolific opium market with opium dens.

In the Bordello, otherwise respectable citizens of the city could escape through the tunnels undetected, and employ one of the Ladies of the Night for one to four dollars, depending on the desirability of the woman.

Underground Cities In Europe

Paris: The Catacombs

The Catacombs under Paris, France are world-famous - they spiderweb more than 300 feet beneath the city streets. A part of this vast labyrinth is in fact a limestone quarry that has been harvested to make the buildings, sidewalks, monuments and bridges.

A part of these catacombs became a mass grave for more than 6 million people: the wealthy or poor, the insane and sane, the pure and corrupt - death is indeed the great leveler of humanity. The builders piled bones indiscriminately atop one another without thought to who they belong to, only how to save the maximum amount of space. During the Revolution, when land was scarce and the cemeteries overcrowded, the government decided to move the bones of the dead to the empty quarries.

Visitors can see the catacombs by entering through a simple black door, head down a staircase, past a gallery, and finally through a chamber where a sign reads in French: 'Stop - this is the Empire of Death!' And still the bones fill only a fraction of these meandering tunnels, which come with a heavy fine if you are found exploring one. Those who take it upon themselves to adventure into the catacombs despite the hazards and possible fines are called 'Cataphiles.'

Underground Cities in Cappadocia, Turkey

The underground cities of Cappadocia were carved out the native rock largely due to the lack of trees for building material. As a result, the subterranean settlements are multilevel with built-in ventilation shafts, about 18 stories deep, and at one time housed over 20,000 people. Most of the cities had stables for horses hollowed out of the same volcanic rock, as well as churches, water tanks, wine cellars, tombs, missionary schools, study rooms, vertical staircases and millstone doors that rolled across to seal the entrance.

The earliest description of underground Cappadocia is in the Greek mercenary Xenophon's work titled Anabasis. "The houses were built underground," he wrote, "the entrances were like wells, but they broadened out lower down. There were tunnels dug in the ground for the animals, while the men went down by ladder. . ." Mostly, the urban complexes served as refuge for the Hittites, who used them in defense against raiders. According to historians, this enigmatic civilization vanished into thin air after ruling for nearly 800 years.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Underground Cities: The Giza Plateau

City of the Gods

Underneath the Giza Plateau is an enormous and complex underground system complete with natural caverns, snaking passageways, ancient chambers, subterranean rivers and hydraulic underground waterways.

This 'City of the Gods' was purportedly discovered after the declassification of SIRA, a ground-penetrating radar, which has been mapping these subterranean features since 1978. Led by scientist Dr. Jim Hurtak, a crew explored the megalithic metropolis, risking life and limb to penetrate into the massive chambers (supposedly bigger than our largest cathedrals) in hopes of securing ancient artifacts and caches of Egyptian records.

Some historians believe this to be the same labyrinth described by the Greek historian Herodotus: "There I saw twelve palaces regularly disposed, which had communication with each other, interspersed with terraces and arranged around twelve halls. It is hard to believe they are the work of man. The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade. Near the corner where the labyrinth ends, there is a pyramid, two hundred and forty feet in height, with great carved figures of animals on it and an underground passage by which it can be entered."

Speculations about the function of the City of the Gods differ; some argue that it was the center of the Egyptian mystery schools, still others believe that the Egyptians used the crisscrossing tunnels as an ancient subway system. Supposedly, the expedition that explored the underground city made a documentary about their discoveries titled "Chambers of the Deep." The film was shown to private audiences, but for reasons unknown, withheld from the general public.

Underground Church
Underground Church
boring holes for homes
boring holes for homes

Honorable Mention

Due to a reader's suggestion, Coober Pedy, Australia is being added to the list of underground cities. This remote location was used for filming in the movies Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Red Planet. It is one of the only places in the world to have a golf course with no grass, and the only tree is one made by welding together scraps of iron.

There are underground churches, houses, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and some of the houses even have underground swimming pools. Here the reason for living underground is to conserve energy and to get away from the heat, which can skyrocket up to over 55 degrees Celsius (131 degrees).

Coober Pedy is known as the opal capital of the world. One man who was building himself an underground home with seventeen rooms found enough opals during excavation to pay for the entire thing. Now that's smart building!


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    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 

      3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thank you for an excellent, well researched article. I wonder why it is that so many humans have this desire to go underground.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks great hub well written

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      What a great hub and thanks for sharing.

      I now look forward to so many more.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      oh my god what sceary

    • coffeealera profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, who knew eh? I really enjoyed reading your hub, you showed some really interesting places.

      Voted up and awesome for you.

      Andy, from

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow why did they post this is it specificly says hidden or secret now there not secret anymore lol I would keep this a secret

    • profile image

      Annie P. 

      8 years ago

      What about it?!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      What about underground New York City?

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 

      8 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Well written and informative! I love that you have included Cooper Pedy. :-)

      For Bekkah Campbell above - here is are are couple of YouTube videos:

    • donate-timeshares profile image


      8 years ago

      wow this was very interesting. I wonder if there are underground cities with people actually living in them that just haven't been discovered.

    • Dr Rockpile profile image

      Dr Rockpile 

      8 years ago from USA

      I've seen photos of Coober Pedy, but that's the only one I'd heard of before this Hub.

    • profile image

      Francis McMasters 

      8 years ago

      All this information is great!

    • profile image

      Gerhard Smith, Ph.D. 

      8 years ago

      Re: Baby's: There's a rumor and much hard proof that a now dried up, huge underground lake used to run through the old grotto and, for that matter, most of what is now Manhattan and the lower Hudson Valley. It was used by some sort of ancient religious sect for dark rituals as far back as 25,000 B.C. or earlier. It's hard to put a date on it when you go that far back in time. But indications are still there if you know where to look.

    • profile image

      Darla Marie Magdelein DeNunzio 

      8 years ago

      Under Times Square in NYC is a wonderful little restaurant named "Baby's". You can get all kinds of gelato and pasta there for cheap. On Sundays after late mass, they run specials on zuppo and frappes. It's in an old natural grotto far beneath the street. Truly fascinating!

    • maxravi profile image

      Ravi Singh 

      8 years ago from India

      nice took me to a new world.thanks and nice pics.

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      This would be a great way to conserve energy today all over the world. Very nice and informative hub.

    • applejuic3 profile image


      8 years ago from San Diego, CA

      wow this is really cool. i never knew this, great information and finds.

    • profile image

      cheap Hajj packages 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing good information. It's a good job.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      fantastic hub...I guess it is true that you never know where an open door leads :)

    • profile image

      cpr recertification 

      8 years ago

      Quite informative i must say and also it was presented very well.

    • crystolite profile image


      8 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice caption. I like reading from you.

    • profile image

      Cna Jobs 

      8 years ago

      good job..!

    • profile image

      stoney p 

      9 years ago

      man that is some crazy stuff. I'm almost intrigued to do some of the same myself

    • profile image

      Bekkah Campbell 

      9 years ago

      I was happy to read this but i was hopping to learn more about the underground town in Australia. I also would love to learn more about the underground city of the past IDK where it is located though but by the carveings its been said that beings from elswhere called the Ant people came to help the humans build it and live there for a certain time and afterward. This city was huge even had stables for all sorts of animals and a huge rolling door witch could only be open thru the inside of the town. So it was most likely used to lock out someone or thing

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very nice! It interests me much. I liked it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love the article about The Catacombs. Great in dept knowledge. Keep up the good work

    • profile image

      Hajj Packages 

      9 years ago

      Thank you for your post, it was really informative, and your way of expression was great, you described things in a great way, making the reader feel that the things are infront of them.

    • profile image

      Quick Cash Concept 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for this share dude. Really these are very much new for me. I will be visiting some soon.

    • profile image

      FB Siphon 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this all. You are really exploring the world in a great way.

    • profile image

      Cheap Click Code 

      9 years ago

      It really very interesting stuff here. Very much new for me at least.

    • hafeezrm profile image


      9 years ago from Pakistan

      Interesting and useful. I am about take a 2 months tour of Europe and on return would go to "whirrling dervash" city of Turky.

      Thanks for a good hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Incredible hub!

      I never heard about any underground city.

      The pix are also amazing.

    • katrinasui profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow! It is very interesting. Excellent Hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      WOW, i am writing a 5 page essay on underground cities, that was extrememly helpeful and fascinating, i love the intro about falling through the trap doors!

    • profile image

      Claudia Peterson 

      9 years ago

      We are going to read City of Ember for our last six weeks and so I started doing research on underground cities. I liked your hub it is great. My students will be creating their own city underground.

    • laringo profile image


      10 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      This is so cool and remarkable about was may live below us. Subjects like this are always so welcome and interesting. Great job!

    • hypnodude profile image


      10 years ago from Italy

      Very very interesting hub. I'm not from that city, but I've heard that Naples too has a big underground part. Used still today for various reasons.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I know a city who has got many tunnels and never been explore why I know? because I was raise there get back to me!

    • sannyasinman profile image


      10 years ago

      Fascinating stuff. You write well, and should post more hubs!

    • ratnaveera profile image


      10 years ago from Cumbum

      Incredible! Thanks for sharing these interesting facts! You have also added nice photos! Again Thanks!

    • profile image

      Nancy Wisser 

      10 years ago

      interesting. I would love to learn more about the tunnels in Tabor, Czech Republic. I've heard they go 5 or 6 layers deep.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is so amazing! I can't believe anything like this even exists. Fantastic!

    • documentaryvideos profile image


      10 years ago

      it's an interesting place to live. it must have an interesting. pretty cool.

      thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I visited Havre under ground last year and was amazed that this exists in such a small beautiful town. The tour guide was extremely knowledgable. If you are in Montana, take the tour. It's worth it. Great Hub.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I think it would be interesting to see what various governments have constructed over the centurys that we've never known about and probly never will know about them.

    • zaina-777 profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow excellent hub, would love to go see all those places one day! Great information thankyou.

    • Maverick_999 profile image


      10 years ago from Dubai, U.A.E

      very cool stuff, i never knew about so many of them

    • Lou Purplefairy profile image

      Lou Purplefairy 

      10 years ago from Southwest UK

      Great hub. You may want to check out the catacombs in Exeter UK

    • cowgirljess profile image


      10 years ago from Nor Cal

      I think it would be way cool to have an underground house or a paortian underground. Great article.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for your post!!!

    • Bbudoyono profile image


      10 years ago

      Very interesting !

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What about Underground Seattle? We visited there in 1978 and were dissapointed that it didn't make your list. It's a fascinating place.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very interesting and fascinating!! I had never seen pictures of it before THANK YOU!


    • Aubrey Allyn profile image

      Aubrey Allyn 

      10 years ago from Laguna Beach

      This is such an interesting and well written HUB. Kudos!!

    • powerspike profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      some great information, quite a different take on the underworld, if i ever travel to one of these cities, i'm going to make sure i'll check them out. Thanks for the hub!

    • Heartnote profile image

      Lisa Sousa 

      10 years ago from Veradale, Washington

      Very interesting hub. Those places sound very fascinating.

    • LondonGirl profile image


      10 years ago from London

      Just read this hub - it's great. Makes me shiver, though, the idea of having a quiet drink then ending up press-ganged on to a ship!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I enjoyed reading this - very interesting content!

    • profile image

      raypharma dot com 

      10 years ago


      thats amazing.

    • profile image

      Cornelia Gatlin 

      10 years ago

      I lived in Portland for years and luckily never fell in to any whole and got trapped-underground. Portland and Seattle a great places to visit and to live if you have the money.

    • profile image

      El Rey xiv 

      11 years ago

      Wow I just read a book with an underground city. I only knew of the one the presidinant made.

    • oparu profile image


      11 years ago from Jamaica Plain, MA

      This is an awesome hub!

    • profile image

      Jawad UK 

      11 years ago

      You have done a great job. I'm lovin it.

    • shezz3085 profile image


      11 years ago from Philippines

      I really love your hub

    • profile image

      Non facture 

      11 years ago

      Great thanks for info... all great

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I had heard of the underground cities and catacombs, but I didn't know they were so widely dispersed. I had sort of thought that they were mythical. Reading this gave me chills. I want to go see these underground cities sometime.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Very Fascinating indeed!!! Never knew about Australia. I have always read about the catacombs in France. That is creepy but also fascinating at the same time. I wonder how many "small" towns or cities have the same? I bet we would all be astonished. I know where I live in Southwest Virginia that there are several "natural" occuring caverns under some of the towns, but I have yet to hear or read of anything like Portland, but it would now surprise me if they were not used as well during prohibition. Great information and great writing!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is mysterious topic. i heard that there are more than 200 underground cities in capadoccia. and only 9 cities is opened to public. wooooow. i want to go turkey and see these cities.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I had been Capadoccia, Turkey last year. it was really fantastic. There

    • megamass profile image


      11 years ago from Portugal

      Great post! Thanks for the information!

    • profile image

      A J HART 

      11 years ago

      This really arouses the imagination to a point where it could be factual, I'm sure a portion is true. Gibralter could have been included. I'm fed up with murder mystereis on TV

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      I loved it. I enjoy the TV show so I naturally was drawn to your title. Keep up the good work.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is so interesting....great topic. Thoroughly enjoyed your hub.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent Hub! Very interesting.

    • starcatchinfo profile image


      11 years ago



    • starcatchinfo profile image


      11 years ago

      i love to live there. cool & quite place. thanks for the hub

    • The Lost Dutchman profile image

      Patrick Bernauw 

      11 years ago from Flanders (Belgium)

      I love those "urban exploration photographs and videos"... and this is something like that! Great Hub!

    • profile image

      Mel Sun 

      11 years ago

      WOW, I would love to explore,unfortunately I am stuck in South Africa but I do get to see the things you see through the web, so thank you so much on your hub.

      Check out my hub:

    • KSTEAM profile image


      11 years ago from Scottsdale, AZ

      I have heard about that. Very interesting info.

    • betherickson profile image


      11 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, this is amazing. I never have seen this images before but I heard from heresay that underground cities exists a long time ago. Those underground caverns looks creepy but it's quite fascinating. Great hub! :)

    • DaveHarris profile image


      11 years ago from London, UK

      Good article!

      The most famous "underground" in Europe has to be the catacombs of Rome. They are quite extensive and many are still in use today. One large area (actually several connecte cacverns) is a famous restaurant "Da Meo Patacca". I've eaten there and it's fascinating - if a little scary :)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I LOVED THIS PIECE OF WORK , SO FASANATING TO ME , And so AMAZING AND I HAVE TO SAY UNBELIEVABLE , just blows you away to think of the accomplishments in that time?

    • profile image


      11 years ago


    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Seattle has a good sized underground, mostly in the Denny regrade area, there the higher streets were sluiced, with the lower portions being raised by 10 feet or more, hence Seattle's underground came to be.

    • easegiri profile image


      11 years ago from Bangalore

      Good, article, underground is a place for not only hiding for children but also a place for meditation and other activities.  There are doomsday undergrounds too.

    • Sandilyn profile image


      11 years ago from Port Orange, FL

      That was a great hub!

      I enjoy the unique and underground places have always interested me. I was not aware of some of the places that you mentioned such as Montana. I can fully understand the need for people to find a place to get away from others due to persecution.

      From the beginning of time people have built these structures and I wonder why we don't now for energy reasons,

    • Ms Sooz profile image

      Ms Sooz 

      11 years ago from Northern California

      I love underground places! I would love to build a home underground. Thanks for the great hub :)

    • starrkissed profile image


      11 years ago from Arizona

      this is so neat! thank you for sharing!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is so interesting.. I had no idea that such places existed.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California

      I saw a special on the History channel about this same subject... Underground cities are really very fascinating. Great Hub with really cool pictures.

    • ProCW profile image


      11 years ago from South Carolina

      Very interesting! I wonder what there is to walk over in South Carolina... :)


    • profile image

      Britt Azlin 

      11 years ago

      wow, this is so phenominal! I would love to visit all of these.

      Great hub!

    • CJStone profile image

      Christopher James Stone 

      11 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      The things you find on HubPages. Underground cities now! You have definitely whetted my appetite for these deep, dark places.

    • compu-smart profile image


      11 years ago from London UK

      Excellent hub Sarena! and some very fascinating history and facts about this subject which is so intriguing!! The nearest i get to this feeling is London underground everyday!,

    • sweat ahsaan profile image

      sweat ahsaan 

      11 years ago

      love and amazed 2 see these places i wish 2 go their sme day

    • sweat ahsaan profile image

      sweat ahsaan 

      11 years ago


    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I have read about the mystery schools underground in Egypt. Initiation temples they have been called. Great !!

      Excellent Hub!

    • AndyBaker profile image


      11 years ago from UK

      Fascinating stuff - thanks !

    • summer10 profile image


      11 years ago from my happy place :)

      Excellent hub!!!


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