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Are There Really Tunnels Under the United States?

Us Is Fictional, but Here's the Truth About Those Mysterious Tunnels Under America

US, Lupita Nyong'o, 2019. ph: Claudette Barius /  Universal / courtesy Everett Collection

Jordan Peele's new thriller Us has become the latest viral sensation, gaining some major traction as audiences buzz about the film's twists and turns. Without going into any serious spoiler territory, the concept of underground tunnel networks plays a big part in the movie's plot. It's a great concept for a tense thriller movie, but is any of it actually plausible in real life?

Author Will Hunt, who wrote the new book Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet, spoke with The Wrap about the plausibility of the film's tunnel twists. According to his research, there are, in fact, plenty of empty tunnels beneath our feet. But there's not a sinister explanation for them — it's just boring old infrastructure.

"There are way more tunnels underground wherever you are in the United States than you would imagine," he said. "There are just crazy layers of infrastructure, whether they be active or abandoned transportation tunnels, sewer lines, aqueducts or even military or government infrastructure hidden underground. Wherever you go, there's something under your feet that people don't think about."

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The real tunnels that snake under the country are often the kind that no one would ever want to set foot in — think abandoned mining tunnels or active and decommissioned sewer lines. Underneath most major cities, a fair bit of infrastructure is stored underfoot. It's nothing particularly exciting, just the sort of things most of us never think about.

However, Hunt does explain that there is a rich history of underground communities, often marginalized or struggling people in major metropolitan areas who have nowhere else to go.

"In the deeper strata of New York City, you find mole people, you find people who have made homes for themselves in deep hidden nooks and alcoves under the city," he told The Wrap. "They're these marginalized, forgotten people who are living completely out of sight in essentially a separate reality . . . Basically, any city of any size that has, like, a stratified society where there are people who are struggling, you're going to find these communities who have gathered in hidden places. And they say something about the society on the surface. They're a reflection of our darknesses, the injustices of our society on the surface."

For the most part, googling "tunnels underneath the United States" will pretty much just turn up a ton of conspiracy theories, while the reality is often much more mundane. But, as Us proves, the idea of a secret world beneath our feet is a concept that's irresistible to storytellers and audiences.

Image Source: Everett Collection
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