At some point or another, we’ve all been struck by curiosity. It’s human nature. Whether you’ve opened a door you weren’t supposed to, listened in on a private conversation or ignored warning signs, our inquisitiveness has at least once gotten the best of us. When we can’t understand something, it only drives our motivation to know more. When we’re interested by a topic, we’ll exhaust our research efforts until we know everything about it. In a world populated by seven billion people, there will always be places to discover and new information to be learned. Most of the time, we can hop on a plane and indulge our Asian curiosities, Middle Eastern fixations or interests in South America. But when we’re told that we can’t go somewhere, we fixate on the fact and drive ourselves crazy wanting to know why.
As much as we want to know everything we can, there are some aspects of the world that cannot be made available to the public in order to protect valuable information. Banks, data centers, air force bases and archives around the globe need to have security measures enforced in order to deter potential wrongdoing or thieves. It isn’t surprising to us in those cases that the average citizen doesn’t have the green light to walk in and poke around as they please. But then there are the private clubs, mysterious tunnels, historic tombs and more that fascinate us with their promise of the unknown, surely shrouded in all sorts of riveting secrets and facts. Whichever category they fall into, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 most restricted areas on Earth below that is bound to get your curious mind running wild.
20 Cheyenne Mountain Complex, United States
The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is a military installation and nuclear bunker in Colorado, located at the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. It houses or has at one time housed the United States Space Command, the Aerospace Defense Command, the Air Force Command and the Federal Emergency Management System. The complex is a fascinating web of buildings built 610 meters under granite that is protected from natural disasters. It boasts flexible piping systems and has its own power plant and water supply. Oh, and it can withstand a 30 megaton nuclear explosion, bombs and radiological contaminants. Good luck finding a way in.
19 HavenCo, Sealand
At the time of its creation in 2000, HavenCo was hailed as a revolutionary offshore electronic data haven. Housed on an anti-aircraft platform off the coast of Suffolk, England in a self-declared state named Sealand, the company offered proxies, VPNS, servers and encryption keys to organizations seeking to evade authorities as long as their content remained child pornography, spam and hacking free. Due to its remote location in choppy waters in a former World War II defensive facility, it was almost impossible to gain access to without permission. Its founders ran into irreconcilable differences in 2008 and it is now defunct.
18 Air Force One, United States
While Harrison Ford made gaining entry to the President’s personal Boeing 747 plane look easy in the film Air Force One, getting onboard the real thing is almost impossible to everyone except a lucky few. The flight crew are all veteran Air Force officers with thousands of hours of flying time under their belts and the Secret Service agents on board have had to go through even further background checks than their normal screening usually requires. The features of the plane itself are classified and members of the press have to gain the President’s security detail’s trust for one year before being allowed on board.
17 Club 33, United States
Club 33 was originally a small restaurant that was one of the first buildings to be constructed in Disneyland, smack dab in the middle of New Orleans Square. While its blue door façade looks like every other entrance in the theme park, this one soon became home to a secret club commissioned by Walt Disney himself who used it for years to entertain foreign dignitaries, celebrities and high class hookers. There is a secret panel in the doorway that covers a buzzer, which those in the know have to access to gain entry into the club. It has been rumoured to host sex parties and Illuminati meetings and was recently open to the public with an offer of membership to the first 100 people who applied. Initial membership fees cost $25,000.
16 RAF Menwith Hill Base, Great Britain
The RAF Menwith Hill Base is a British Royal Air Force station in England that provides a dizzying array of services including communications and intelligence support. It’s been described as the most prominent electronic monitoring station in the world and you can bet that it’s not easy to get into. Its servers are housed in bizarre-looking gigantic golf ball structures across the base and it has been known to conspire with the NSA. It’s bordered by fences, secured by a sophisticated alarm system and guarded at all hours of the day due to the goldmine of classified information that lies within.
15 Vatican Secret Archives, Italy
Owned by the Pope, the Vatican Secret Archives are not necessarily secret despite their name. The public can request to view a document as long as it is more than 75 years old. The restricted part about the archives is that nobody can physically enter them without the Pope’s permission. It is said that evidence of extraterrestrial life exists in the facilities and nobody is quite sure of all that can be found amidst the 84 km of shelving. It’s often only been carefully screened researchers and journalists who have been granted access to this underground reserve.
14 Mezhgorye, Bashkortostan
No matter how hard you try to get into the town of Mezhgorye, you won’t be able to. Located in the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia – the town has a closed status. In administrative terms, this means that it’s subordinated directly to the federal government of Russia, which has restricted access to anyone except the town’s residents due to the secretive companies it has there creating underground facilities. It comes complete with a creepy looking entrance sign and is home to 17,000 inhabitants.
13 Woomera Prohibited Area, Australia
The Woomera Prohibited Area is located outside of Adelaide, Australia and covers about 127,000 square kilometers. It is a weapons testing range operated by the Royal Australian Air Force and is heavily restricted to the general public. It has been home to British nuclear testing, rocket testing and space probes. The facilities on its ground serve the purpose of designing a wide variety of weapons including missiles, rockets and target aircraft. The land it sits on is rich in mineral elements and is worth billions of dollars for its natural resources. It can only be accessed by special permit holders.
12 Bank of England Gold Vault, Great Britain
Beneath the Bank of England’s headquarters in London is Great Britain’s largest gold vault, which stores over 5,152 tons of gold bricks that are neatly arranged like wrapped chocolate bars on shelves and palettes. To gain access, you have to unlock a bombproof door using a high-tech voice recognition system then use several three-foot-long keys to open locks leading to it. While the size of the vault hasn’t been made public, it is rumoured to have more floor space than the average 47 story building. The total worth of the gold vault’s stock is set at $315 billion.
11 Snake Island, Brazil
Off the coast of Sao Paolo, Brazil lies the Ilha de Queimada Grande, home to 4,000 of the world’s deadliest snakes – who have been known to snatch birds out of the sky and kill them with a venom that has been proven to melt human flesh. The island is the only place on Earth that the planet’s most venomous snake, the Bothrops Insularis (golden lancehead viper,) is known to inhabit. The Brazilian government has banned all of its citizens or tourists from visiting Snake Island in an attempt to protect them, as several risk-takers have made the journey to the island in the past only to meet their death.
10 Korean Demilitarized Zone, Republic Of Korea
At the end of the Korean War in 1953, a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula was established to differentiate between the areas of North and South Korea. Today, this border remains one of the most heavily guarded areas in the world – spanning 250 kilometers long and 4 km wide. While tours to the public are available at the DMZ’s joint security area, the rest of the border is considered extremely dangerous and has seen numerous violent incidents over the years resulting in multiple deaths by shooting or mine explosion. These deaths are typically attributed to soldiers attempting to cross over the border or occur when illegally constructed tunnels across the border are discovered.
9 Fort Knox, United States
The United States Bullion Depository, known as Fort Knox, is located in Kentucky and houses a large portion of the American gold reserve. The vault housing the gold, which is said to total 3% of the total supply ever refined in human history, is lined with granite walls and protected by a 22 ton door that can withstand bomb blasts. A full list of the fort’s contents cannot be found, as the last known audit of the facility was done in 1930. It has been home to the U.S. Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution and has held copies of the Magna Carta. Today, it protects valuable items entrusted to the federal government and is guarded around the clock by the U.S. Mint Police.
8 Tomb of Genghis Khan, Possibly Mongolia
The tomb of famed Mongolian ruler Genghis Khan’s location is such a secret that it has yet to be discovered. After it was completed, it is reported that the slaves who built it were killed and then the soldiers who murdered them were also disposed of. It is rumoured that the 240 square kilometer area of the Burkhan Khaldun Mountains are the tomb’s possible site and there have been projects undertaken asking the public to tag potential locations based on images taken of the area from space. The discovery of Khan’s palace in 2004 led researchers to believe that they were close to discovering the tomb but they ultimately turned up empty handed.
7 Queen’s Bedroom, Great Britain
In 1982, a man by the name of Michael Fagan scaled Buckingham Palace’s 14 foot high perimeter wall despite it being adored with revolving spikes and barbed wire, climbed up a drainpipe and wandered into the Queen’s bedroom in the early morning hours. He triggered alarms but they were faulty and then sat on the edge of her bed while she slept and drank a cup of tea. Since the incident, security at the Palace has been ramped up and the Queen’s bedroom’s perimeter is outfitted with sophisticated alarms, motion sensors and round the clock security guard presence.
6 Granite Mountain Records Vault, United States
While most of us are aware of the Mormon religion and its beliefs, it isn’t widely known that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints possesses one of the most extensive databases on the human race in the world. In the Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside of Utah, approximately 2.4 million genealogical microfilm rolls are stored in the religion’s Granite Mountain Records Vault, carved deep into a mass of solid rock. In simpler terms, these film rolls equal about three billion pages of family history records. A 14 ton door protects this information, which raises questions as to how the religion accessed these records and what their use for them is. The vault has long been rumoured to host secret underground baptisms and religious rituals too.
5 Iron Mountain’s National Data Center, United States
Carved 220 feet underground into a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania, Iron Mountain is an elusive company operating the top secret National American Data Center. The aim of this center is to protect valuable data in the event of natural disasters and it is widely considered one of the most secured facilities of its kind. It features an underground lake used to cool data systems and a facility named Room 48 –used to discover geothermal conditions to create the perfect environment for electronic documents. The charred remains of United Flight 93 can be found here as well as some of Bill Gates’ private photographic collections.
4 The Greenbrier Bunker, United States
The Greenbrier is a historic resort in West Virginia that frequently hosts presidents and government officials due to its relative proximity to the White House. In the late 1950s, the U.S. government approached the property to help them create a top secret emergency relocation in the event of a nuclear holocaust. The bunker was named “Project Greek Island” and was kept stocked with supplies for 30 years until a journalist in the Washington Post revealed its location in 1992 – at which point its purpose was nulled. Today, the bunker is open as an attraction to visitors and is used as a data storage facility.
3 Dulce Base, United States
In 1979, American businessman Paul Bennewitz became convinced that he was intercepting electronic communications from aliens outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico in a town named Dulce. Since then, the area where he discovered signals has come to be known as the Dulce Base and is said to be a joint government-alien biogenetic laboratory that carries out experiments on humans and animals. The upper level is controlled by the government while the lower levels closest to the Earth are reportedly run by extraterrestrials. A man by the name of Phil Schneider claimed to have helped build an entrance to the top-secret base but was later found dead in his apartment, with a piano wire wrapped around his neck.
2 Bold Lane Car Park, Great Britain
A parking garage might seem like one of the easiest places on the planet to gain access to, but the Bold Lane car park in Derbyshire, England defies any pre-existing notions about the multi-storied buildings that you may have had. It’s operated by Parksafe Systems and is listed as one of the most secure places in the world by a BBC news report. Drivers are issued a barcoded ticket upon entering that is linked to a specific parking spot. They then have to enter a bay number which activates a motion sensor located in the ground. Drivers can only access the building using their barcoded ticket and the sensors are turned off once any charges are paid for. There are 190 cameras in the garage, emergency lock-down systems for all exits and a PA that allows the operator to communicate with anybody in the building.
1 Bahnhof/Wikileaks, Sweden
Wikileaks is an international journalistic organization that has been publishing secret information belonging to various governments around the world since 2006. Bahnhof is an independent Swedish Internet service provider. What do the two have in common? Well, quite a lot as it may turn out. All of Wikileaks’ servers are hosted in a Bahnhof data center located in a top secret secured bunker named Pionen that is burrowed away into the White Mountains in Stockholm. The controversial Wikileaks’ servers have long tried to be found by the Swedish police, without any luck or cooperation from Bahnhof. The bunker features steel doors and can withstand a nuclear attack, as it was originally built to be a Cold War shelter.