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Monday, November 01, 2004

Vegas Urban Exploration

Urban exploration is:

Tourism with the slight chance of arrest.
Trespassing with ethics.
Happening in Vegas.

Abandoned buildings, storm drains, steam and subway tunnels. Some people see these places as ones to avoid, not testing the closed door and heeding the signs to keep out. But others see these closed, unexplored sites as both mundane and intriguing.

The most public local explorer is Josh Ellis, writer for the Las Vegas City Life. His latest adventure, The One Where Josh Almost Gets Arrested As A Suspected Terrorist, took him under McCarran Airport. Previous trips to the underground with fellow writer Matt O'Brien include Notes from underground: Exploring Las Vegas' drainage canals and Belly of the beast: Exploring the bowels of the Las Vegas Strip, with its documentation of a large subterranean art gallery. Not as impressive as the recent discovery of a real underground cinema (and much more) below the streets of Paris, or the mystery of Templar tunnels found in England, but pretty good for Sin City.

Locally, others have been sight-seeing and posting their pictures. The Urban Exploration Resource website has a good collection of Vegas UE photo galleries, including the abandoned hotel and casino Vacation Village, Martin Luther King storm drains, and the former bread factory/future loft Holsum Bread location. Make sure to go down the pages, as each location has a collection of pictures at the "Photo Gallery" link.

Chuck has posted pictures (Las Vegas Neon Boneyard, Roadhouse South Of The Las Vegas Strip, YESCO Backlot) and a manifesto.

"There's nothing I hate more than going back to a place and seeing the damage that vandals cause. I go to these places to document the forgotten, the places that progress has left behind. I do not tag, I do not steal, I do not destroy, I do not break and enter, I just trespass, and 95% of the time, I don't even do that. When I do trespass, there is no malice behind it. It's to see something that many people can't."

This is a central tenet for most Urban Explorers, that the man-made environments are treated with the same sort of reverence with which most would treat a natural formation discovered for the first time. Infiltration chronicles the continuing adventures of Urban Explorers throughout the world, all adhering to the "Leave only footprints, take only memories/photos" credo. Ninjalicious and friends venture through hotels, hospitals, and subway tunnels, mainly in Canada. The site's forum has some tales of Vegas UE, someone purportedly taking a look at Turnberry Place while under construction, and a good story on Area 51. Besides the website, Infiltration is also a self-published zine. The zine, loaded with pictures, is available through the website and has been seen at the Vegas Wow Tower Records store.

And finally, when the founder of Underground World Home Corporation (circa 1964) wanted a little hole in the ground for himself, he built one in Vegas. You can read about the house that Jerry and Mary Henderson built here. Want to rent the house for fun, profit, and the coolest office party ever? Activity Planners, Inc. has exclusive rights to the place, and includes a few pix on their page.

posted by Mr. Kimberly at


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