If there’s one thing you can say about the government, it’s that they like to build stuff -- lots of stuff, wherever they can, whenever they can. It’s not by accident that the U.S. Army has a Corps of Engineers, after all. Nor is it unusual for the government to build a huge complex somewhere and then just stop using it a couple of years later. If you want to rant about government waste there’s a starting point -- who knows how many projects have been completed over the years and then left to slide into ruin and decay?
It’s not just our government either. Countries around the world seem to think that the government can only keep going if it keeps building. Who knows how many creepy and abandoned government and military complexes are out there, slowly crumbling away? How scary and weird are these remote ruins?
Fortunately for you, I have the answer. And the answer is that there are a lot of complexes out there that no longer serve any purpose. These abandoned places might be missile silos, training grounds, testing and proving stations, even hospitals and prisons. They dot the landscape around the world, forgotten remnants of perhaps a different time, or perhaps a different agenda by a long-gone administration or regime. And the funny thing is that nobody ever really bothers to renovate and reuse these complexes. It’s almost like they're cursed or something. Rather than use their existing infrastructure and repurpose them, we just let them lie there, taking up valuable space. Not to mention, we have no idea what sort of chemicals, poisons, radiation, and other unthinkable horrors might be lurking behind their walls or in bunkers deep below them. Hmm, maybe that’s why we avoid them. Whatever the reason, these places can be pretty spooky. Here are the weirdest of the bunch.
15 Eastern State Penitentiary
Hey look -- I found a different jail for us to be freaked out by. This one is in Philadelphia in our fine state of Pennsylvania. It opened in 1829 and closed in 1971. During that time, it had one very famous resident: none other than Al Capone. However, it’s true weirdness needed to be revealed over time as it lay abandoned and decaying. This particular shot is something I’d rather not delve into too deeply. But duty calls, I suppose. So, what exactly is going on in this picture? Is that a barber’s chair? Or is it an electric chair? Is it something even more sinister than that, like a torturer’s chamber -- you know, the place where they brought inmates who wouldn’t behave to “reeducate” them? It sure looks like such a thing. I don’t know, though -- it’s also entirely possible my imagination is running away with me.
14 Objekt 221
This might not appear to be that creepy of a photo; it’s just a tunnel with some water damage, right? I mean, it does look sort of menacing, I suppose, like there might be something lying in wait in the water, kind of like that monster that went after Frodo outside the Gates of Moria in The Lord of the Rings. But what if I told you this tunnel used to lead to one of the most secret and secure military installations in the former Soviet Union. That’s right -- Objekt 221, as this naval base was known, was the headquarters of the soviet naval presence in the Crimea, hence, of the whole Black Sea. This fortress was built inside a mountain and had its own nuclear reactor. The whole project was begun around 1970 -- there’s still some secrecy surrounding it, so that date is only an educated guess -- but fell out of use by the late '80s. That makes sense; the whole Soviet Union “fell out of use” at the end of the '80s, after all. No one knows what’s left of the nuclear reactor at the end of that hallway, and no one wants to know -- the base is strictly off limits. This is the spookiest thing about this whole place.
13 Maunsell Sea Forts
This picture might be the strangest of all of the ones we'll see here, not because of any outward ominous presence but because the whole thing just looks so weird. Those are “fortified” towers sticking up out of the water. They were installed by the British government during World War Two (when the British government built a lot of damn things) and were supposed to guard against German submarine attacks. They were placed in the estuaries near the sea of both the Thames and Mersey rivers. I’m not sure if they ever served much purpose since German subs didn’t really come up the English rivers. Then again, maybe that was the whole point, and they worked better than anyone expected. They're still there, rusting away quietly in the water. They kind of look like those Martians from that old Tom Cruise War of the Worlds movie -- odd and vaguely menacing, but also awkward.
12 Chernobyl I- Pripyat
We start off our tour of creepy government installations with one in the northern Ukraine city of Pripyat. That first sentence is sort of misleading because the problem area here wasn't created by the government of modern-day Ukraine but by the Soviet government in the mid-1980s. That’s when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant went into serious overload, quite literally, and spewed radiation throughout the area. The extent of the damage to both people and the land is still being determined to this day. I think it’s enough to know that the Ukrainian government’s “Emergency Ministry” refers to the area as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone or the “Zone of Alienation.” If you’re not creeped out by such a title, more power to you -- I am. Anyway, Pripyat Hospital was where they took the first responders who were suffering from severe radiation burns that first day of the Chernobyl disaster. The very next day, the entire city, including the hospital, was abandoned. This is a picture of the maternity ward as it was left that day.
11 Nekoma Missile Silo
This one is just unsettling by its very looks. It’s an abandoned missile silo in Nekoma, North Dakota. It was once part of the “Mickelsen Safeguard Complex,” a series of hidden silos in remote places that were armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles. Here’s the dumb deal, though: right after it was built in 1975, the government decommissioned it due to a new treaty with the Soviets, so the thing was only active for less than a year. However, the design is so strangely haunting it will probably stay with you for longer. After all, who builds a missile silo to look like a pyramid with eyes? Someone with a very creepy and twisted sense of humor. Or someone who firmly believed in making fun of conspiracy theories. At any rate, it’s an odd and unsettling piece of abandoned governmental architecture that will always stand as a testament to the lunatic spending of the Cold War.
10 Fukushima Ghost Town
You probably remember what happened in Fukushima back in 2011. In case you don’t, you should know that a lot of bad sh*t happened to the town -- that’s what happened. I guess that’s what you’re bound to get when you combine a massive earthquake, the tsunami that it created in its aftermath, and a nuclear power plant. Needless to say, every security measure and backup protocol in the world isn’t enough when Mother Nature gets her groove on. Fukushima had a total reactor meltdown. Actually, it had three meltdowns in multiple sections of the plant. It was easily the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Nobody knows how many people will eventually die from the radiation poisoning the event produced, but the Japanese government’s forced evacuation of the town of Fukushima may have killed upwards of 1,600 people. That my friends, is why this abandoned bike in the ghost town of Fukushima is so chilling.
9 Vilvoorde Prison
We move on to another government installation in Europe, this time to Belgium, home of the infamous Vilvoorde Prison in, fittingly, the town of Vilvoorde. The prison itself was built in the late 1700s and first served its primary function as a jailhouse (or castle, actually). Then, it became a military hospital and barracks for the Belgian army. Its last function, before it was shut down in the '70s, was as a “detention center.” Since this is Belgium, a land thoroughly overrun by the Nazis in World War Two, I hate to imagine what kind of detention center it was in the 1940s, when the Germans ruled it. Even creepier in some ways is the graffiti you can now find at Vilvoorde. You’ll notice that it has a weird, almost satanic tinge to it. This sort of thing is scattered throughout the complex, making it a place I definitely don’t want to visit after dark.
8 Central State Hospital
So, how do you like this view? It’s actually a look at one of the surgery prep rooms at Central State Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indianapolis is, of course, home to the world-famous race, the Indy 500. But apparently, it was also home to a lot of seriously ill people from 1896, when the hospital opened, until 1996, when it shut its doors for good. The problem is that those “ill” people were institutionalized not for physical ailments but because Central State’s full name was the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane. That’s right; this was one of those governmental institutions where they practiced all kinds of fun “psychiatric” cures on patients -- stuff like lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and Trepanning. If you don’t know what that last one means, you can look it up on your own -- I’ve already learned enough about screwing holes into people’s skulls to last me a lifetime. But I digress. Can you imagine being brought to this room, knowing what they were probably going to do to you? Definitely freaky.
7 Procida Jail
Here’s another prison for all of us to enjoy in its strange spookiness. The jail in question is called Procida Jail. It’s located on an island off the coast of southern Italy, near Naples. One thing you can say about islands: governments always seem to want them for their own nefarious (or even sometimes normal) purposes. Procida is no exception. The Italians first built a castle there all the way back in the mid-1500s to guard the coast. Then, they turned it into a prison in the 1800s. Big, dark castles that are actually prisons are definitely on my list of things that are highly unsettling; they automatically make me think Nazis or zombies (and, of course “Nazombies”) would be lurking there. This might explain why this picture of an abandoned cell seems so surreal to me. Check out the cot on the right. That’s not blood, is it? It must just be a stain or iron rust, right? Yeah, right -- it could never be Nazi-zombie blood…
6 RAF Stenigot
So here’s a strange and unusual installation from England. It’s the RAF (Royal Air Force) long-distance radar station at Stenigot, which is located in Lincolnshire. This monstrosity, which was built in the 1940s to deal with the Luftwaffe (the Nazi’s air force), was in almost constant use during World War Two. But it started to become obsolete as time wore on. Not only is it obsolete, but its obelisk spaceship-shaped radar stations are also as weird as all get out. The whole complex looks like a giant alien mothership dropped a bunch of saucer babies to the earth. I mean that quite literally. When they demolished the site in the 80s, a bunch of the radar devices fell off of their mounting towers and landed on the ground. They're still there today, a strange and unusual testament to a different time that looks like droppings from an interstellar race.
5 Moundsville Prison
“Go ahead -- step right into your cell; you’ll be fine. It’s not like you’re going to miss the sunlight, a cool breeze on your face, long walks, or any of the other basic things freedom allows you.” That, my friends, is precisely the sort of sentiment this picture dredges up for me. If you’re at all claustrophobic, then seeing a picture of a single prison cell with its door ajar, beckoning to you, must make you a little crazy. I know it does me. This is a picture from part of Moundsville Penitentiary in West Virginia, abandoned only a few short years ago in 1995. You know that the word “penitentiary” has the root of the word “penance” in it. That’s because when you go to prison, you're supposed to be doing penance for your crimes against society; you're supposed to be penitent. I guarantee that I'm already penitent enough. You know why? Because I don’t ever want to go into that cell.
4 Chernobyl II
OK, well I couldn’t resist another Chernobyl picture. This was, after all, one of the worst, most horrifying accidents to ever happen at a government complex. I mean, it was so bad that only a day after the “event” (I like how disasters always have to be labeled differently than what they really are) everybody for hundreds of miles around the place was forced into full-on refugee mode. Nobody has ever come back to live in the area. Pictures like this probably help explain why. If you saw this incredibly creepy doll and penguin head combo, would you want to live anywhere near such a place? The doll’s face looks like it’s made of radiation, for freak’s sake! I wouldn’t want to be even close to that zone of Alienation we talked about before. I would want to be in the “Zone of Very Far Away, Thank You Very Much.” The whole place must be haunted from deep down inside -- a creep-fest galore, if you ask me.
3 Old Salem Jail
I would be hard pressed to find a freakier town than Salem, Massachusetts, so it makes sense a former government complex from this town makes my list. As everyone knows (if you don’t, then I need to ask you, “where have you been?”) Salem was home to the infamous and legendary Salem Witch Trials. You know the ones -- the trials of women in the town who were accused of being witches. They were like the biggest news 17th century America had ever seen; the whole town ended up looking like a nuthouse. In fact, some modern theories suggest the town went crazy over witchcraft because they all ate moldy bread with rye ergot in it -- an essential ingredient for LSD!! Anyway, I digress. Old Salem Jail was built long after the witch trials in 1813 but looks the part from the outside -- perfectly Gothic. On the inside, it’s even stranger. This pic of an abandoned classroom (or detention room, for all I know), is particularly sinister when you wonder what people were taught in there. Or what was in that drawer…
2 Holmesburg Prison
Here we go, back to Philly for another jaunty little trip to an abandoned state prison run by the Pennsylvania state government from 1896 until 1995. State prisons are the best, aren’t they? The government does everything they can to make you comfortable. Look -- how would you like to live in that creepy cell for a while? No, I can’t convince you? What if I were to tell you that Holmesburg Prison was not only administered by the state of Pennsylvania but that the federal government also had a hand in the treatment of inmates there? When I say “treatment” of the prisoners, I’m actually talking about biochemical and pharmaceutical weapons research projects. The inmates weren’t really getting treated -- they were getting tested by the government. Now that you know that, are you sure you don’t want to bunk down in the old place for a night? Really? I can’t understand why not.
1 Greenbriar Bunker
I saved this pic for last because, while you may think it only looks slightly sinister, this abandoned American military complex is a lot scarier than you think. I mean, it sort of looks like a screenshot from an X-Files episode, I suppose. Like at any minute a Man in Black or an alien is going to come walking down that long corridor. That imagery sort of makes sense, for this is the Greenbriar Bunker, a controversial underground project located in the mountains West Virginia. It was supposed to house members of congress in the event of nuclear attack and had all the facilities -- water, air, food, independent power -- to do so. For a very long time. That's really unsettling and creepy; I mean, it’s good to know the government would have looked after itself, but at what cost? Anyway, that’s what the Washington Post thought when it ran an expose on the project in 1992, forcing the U.S. government to shut down the project.
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