Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #80: Cities of the Underground

Cities of the Underground returns to HISTORY this Sunday (Oct 26) with an episode entitled “City of Blood” (London). Earlier this year I talked about DC Underground, based on a Cities episode. In honor of the program’s return, here are thirteen facts learned from other episodes from last season.

1. Notorious mobster Al Capone had tunnels and secret hideaways all over Chicago. The Green Mill was a former Capone holding famous as the site where the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred. (Mob Underground: Chicago)

2. The main passage way under the Green Mill was a half-mile long supply route. There were also secret party rooms below the Green Mill, with exits to street level in case of raids.

3. The Levee District (now the near South Side), was once home to more than 100 “dens of iniquity.” One of the most notorious was beneath the Cullogen Hotel, now an auto shop. The area was primarily frequented by blue collar workers in search of women, booze and gambling, and had a system of tunnels extending six blocks north/south, and two blocks east/west.

4. There is also a secret subway system running 40 feet under Chicago. Built in the 1890’s by corrupt politicians, the 60-mile tunnel system was used to move goods through a city whose downtown streets were clogged with horses, wagons and people. The only known access to the subway is in the Marshall Field & Co building, now Macy’s, on State St. Extending beyond the downtown to the Levee district, the tunnel may have been used by bootleggers, and was sealed in 1939.

5. The Manhattan Project began in 1939. Employing as many as 130,000 people, research in nuclear weapons was conducted at more than 30 sites across the USA and the UK. One of those sites was under the old football field of the University of Illinois. Enrico Fermi’s lab still performs underground experiments, particularly in neutrinos.

6. One of Josef Stalin’s secret bunkers was built two hundred feet under a Moscow apartment building. The bunker is comprised of four blocks of connecting tunnels complete with communication center, infirmary, etc. This was the command center during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it was from here that the message to stand down was sent in 1962. (Stalin’s Secret Lair: Moscow)

7. The building of the bunker was disguised by the construction of one of the busiest metros in the world, which also serves as a bomb shelter. it has the capacity to sustain 3,000 people for three months. Many Muscovites survived the German bombing of Moscow by sleeping in metro tunnels.

8. The Chistye Prudy station was once an army command center. It too housed a secret bunker 300 feet beneath it that was like an underground city with its system of tunnels and bunkers. The story of this bunker surfaced in a 1990’s news story.

9. Izmailovo was an opulent palace built beneath a stadium still used today. Covering 1 million square feet, the opulent palace was never finished, but had room to house tanks and other supplies. There is a circular domed room within the bunker supported by marble columns where Stalin would have addressed the Politburo. Because Stalin was soft-spoken, the dome helped project his voice within the circle, while making it impossible for anyone outside the domed area to eavesdrop.

10. There are Maya temples and sacrificial caves throughout Belize—more ancient tombs, in fact, than modern buildings—but only a small fraction of ancient dwellings have been discovered, despite 40% of the country under architectural protection, due to the dense jungle. (Maya Underground)

11. There was no Maya nation, but many city states, all warring with each other, especially near the end of their civilization. Archeologists do not know why their civilization collapsed and vanished, but do know that the land was overpopulated, with increased drought and famine.

12. The Maya believed heavily in numerology (even predicted the end of the earth in 2012), and were geniuses in math, engineering and astronomy. Rulers built their tombs on top of that of their predecessor, resulting in multiple levels of passageways that wound through the inside of the temple tombs. Steps on the outside were intentionally steep so that people approached the king on their hands and knees.

13. The Maya were a bloodthirsty people, performing mutilation ceremonies of varying degrees, with sacrifices becoming more violent during difficult times. Both men and women were sacrificed, but the ultimate sacrifice was an infant, as they were most pure and therefore more likely to appease the gods.


Adelle Laudan * Stephanie Adkins * Mel
Tempest Knight * Alice Audrey * Shelley Munro
Ms. Menozzi * Debbie Mumford * Paige Tyler

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Shelley Munro said...

It sounds like an interesting program. I love watching shows like that.

Ms Menozzi said...

I miss all the neat stuff... I need a link to American TV!

Happy TT!

Adelle said...

Fascinating stuff. Sounds like a great show. Happy T13!

Stephanie said...

Those are so cool! Happy Thursday!

Debbie Mumford said...

Great list. Lots of great story inspiration here...

Paige Tyler said...

Great TT! Thanks for mentioning that show! We want to watch it!


My TT is at

Heather said...

Shelley and Adelle: Thanks, it is an interesting show. I had notes on other episodes, but seemed to have misplaced them adn did not want to mention facts from other shows unless I could verify them. The memory is such a faulty thing, ya know? LOL

Ms Menozzi: LOL - I have a feeling you would like this program. There have even been a couple episodes from Italy. ;-)

Debbie: Yes, definitely lots of inspiration from a program like this.

Alice Audrey said...

I wonder if I was a mobster in a previous life. I often dream of tunnels like these.

Janice said...

Thank you that was a very interesting TT.


Anonymous said...

Love love love these types of programs. I missed it though. :(