LA Times
Don't go there

Robert Burns

Thursday, August 10, 2000


Up for a little urban exploration? And no, we're not talking about a quick walk through Los Angeles' Grand Central Market or a dead-celebs tour of Hollywood. How about tunnels, sewers, abandoned buildings and other places you really shouldn't go?

OK, this isn't something you do when Mom comes to visit. And it's not for the squeamish or anyone who has issues with a "No Trespassing" sign. In fact, since there may be questions of legality, you might just want to not go there at all, except on the Net.

We'll start with Infiltration (http://www.infiltration.org), a 'zine dedicated to urban exploration. The site breaks down advice based on where you're going to explore: abandoned buildings, drains and catacombs, transit tunnels, utility tunnels and such. It tells you what you'll need and estimates the risks, both legal and health-related.

For example, Infiltration warns that schools usually threatened students with suspension or expulsion if they're caught in a utility tunnel, but serious punishment is rare.

It warns, however, that there is a serious chance of getting sick exploring an abandoned site, both from biological and chemical hazards. It's generally not illegal to explore a sewer, either, but the police aren't going to be overjoyed to find you. Plus, like, yuck, it's a sewer.

Health-wise, utility tunnels have a low ick factor. UCLA's tunnels seem to get a lot of traffic. There are trip photos at
http://www.fortunecity.com/lavendar/hitchcock/333 and a map of the tunnel system at http://members.tripod.com/~tunnels/gfx/ucla.gif.

But college students everywhere seem to be making like prairie dogs. You can find information on the school of your choice at
http://www.columbia.edu/~smd45/vad/campustunnels. Cal State Long Beach (listed as UC Long Beach), UC Riverside and UC San Diego are all in the index. Pictures from San Diego can be seen at
http://www.fortunecity.com/campus/economics/215/index.html.

Another college tunnel resource site is at
http://members.tripod.com/~tunnels/tunnels.html, but the broken links on it might be your biggest adventure.

This kind of exploration is sometimes called vadding and those who do it are vadders. The name allegedly originated at MIT (you can find its tunnel systems at the college sites above) as an anagram of ADV, the nickname for a popular computer game, Advent.

Three other overview sites worth checking out are Jinx Magazine
(http://www.planetjinx.com), a quarterly published by the Jinx Project dedicated to a wide range of urban exploration; Zone Tour (http://www.zone-tour.com/front-page.htm), which bills itself as a database of urban exploration; and Rotten Eggs
(http://www.rotteneggs.com/reindex.php3), which adds pranks and challenges to exploration.

There are some good virtual vadding tours, in case, like, you have a job or something and don't want to break the law.

* The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit (http://www.bhere.com/ruins/home.htm) is a tribute to the Rust Belt that makes Kosovo look like paradise.

* Illicit Ohio (http://www.geocities.com/illicitohio/index2.html) looks at abandoned buildings in Columbus, from a prison to a big hotel. Is anyone left in the Midwest?

* The Paris catacombs have many dedicated fans. Images du Sous-Sol
(http://dezafekt.free.fr) has great photos and a well-designed site. Also visit the Catacombs of Paris (http://www.multimania.com/houze/english) and Morthicia's K-Ta Page (http://perso.clubinternet.fr/anjelica/indexkta.htm).

* Kevin Kelm's Abandoned Missile Silo (http://www.xvt.com/users/kevink/silo) is a virtual tour of a Cold War relic. Kevin spends a lot of time underground. He also has a catacomb tour at http://www.xvt.com/users/kevink/cata.

* If the smell of a New York summer doesn't scare you, try Forgotten New York (http://www.forgotten-ny.com) and Dark Passage
(http://www.darkpassage.com/contents.htm).

Still haven't seen the light? Try the Urban Exploration Web Ring (http://www.webring.org/cgi-bin/webring?ring=draining;list), which has 71 sites screaming don't go there.



Original article