A good Moleman too you
January 14, 2004 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Do Mole People- subway tunnel dwellers- exist? Mole People by Jennifer Toth says yes, and the Straight Dope agrees, while others aren't so certain. On the other hand, Some have decided to make a movie about it. [link via Neil Gaiman]
posted by drezdn (14 comments total)
I just saw Dark Days, which is a really stirring documentary about subterranean New Yorkers. It seems much less sensationalist than a movie that uses "mole people" in its title. Definitely worth seeing.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2004

They certainly exist, or existed. I had a chilling moment about a decade ago when I took a wrong turn in a midtown subway station, walked down the wrong hallway, and entered a cavernous room that was filled with people living in cardboard refrigerator, TV, and washer-dryer cartons -- a subterranean shanty-town. I don't know if they're still there, but at that point in time, it was no myth, whether Toth was embellishing or not.
posted by digaman at 11:45 AM on January 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

While I think that most of Joe Brennan's critiques are probably valid, in that Jennifer Toth used a certain artistic license in her book, some friends of mine who worked with the homeless in Manhattan have confirmed that there was a growing community of underground dwellers. This may have changed post 9/11 as security concerns may have focused much more attention on public transportation in New York, but during the Rudy Guliani era, homeless people were being swept out of midtown and underground.
posted by marcusb at 11:51 AM on January 14, 2004

I would think so. Workers regularly move through the tunnels and the police probably do perform sweeps, but there are tons of abandoned tunnels where people could hide. The whole system is a giant, dark, multi-level maze. It's only logical that around this time of year when the temperature drops to the single digits and strong winds gust between our giant skyscrapers, many homeless are going to get the idea to move into warmer territory. It's a lot easier to jump a turnstile, walk down to the edge of the platform and hop a 3-foot high gate than risk being arrested for breaking and entering an abandonded building.

Even when you ride the subway, if you look out the windows you'll catch light coming out from open doors in the tunnelsrevealing service rooms and closets with mattresses and cardboard boxes in them, and sunlight streaming down staircases the lead up to the areas underneath those grates in the street that New Yorkers usually walk over without a second thought.

Also, in high school I read the sequel to the movie "Relic", called "Reliquary". The plot is based entirely around "mole people" and it's not half bad.
posted by tomorama at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2004

In and of itself, that website from Columbia about abandoned subway stations is really cool.
posted by tomorama at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2004

Actually, it was the sequel to the book, not the crappy movie loosely based upon it. /nitpick off
posted by rushmc at 12:19 PM on January 14, 2004

This Side of Brightness also has a plotline about subway dwellers. It's fiction, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:20 PM on January 14, 2004

I just saw Dark Days, which is a really stirring documentary about subterranean New Yorkers. It seems much less sensationalist than a movie that uses "mole people" in its title. Definitely worth seeing.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:44 PM CST on January 14

A strong, second recommendation.
posted by the fire you left me at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2004

What about subterranean crab people?

Anyway, Margaret Morton's photo-documentary book about the subterranean community under the West Side Highway, is worth taking a look at. Incidentally the community is now gone.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2004

Wouldn't be the first time for a film...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:05 PM on January 14, 2004

Here's a huge thread (179 posts!) on Toth's The Mole People from the Usenet alt.folklore.urban newsgroup.
posted by jonp72 at 5:53 PM on January 14, 2004

The FPP sets up a false dichotomy.

* Are there Mole People? Hold on.
* Are there subterranean tunnel dwellers? Yes.
* Do they live there permanently, rarely traveling above ground? No.
* Do they even live there for very long? No.
* Do most of them live in or around subway stations? Probably.
* Are there vast, interconnected, many-leveled tunnels beneath Manhattan? No.
* Do I trust Brennan on this more than Toth? Yes.
* Why on earth did Toth feel the need to embellish her "documentary" with easily falsifiable physical descriptions? Who knows?
* Should it affect her credibility? Cave lector.
* Are there mole people? Not in the sense that Toth argues. Unfortunate, since the real thing is compelling enough as it is.
posted by dhartung at 10:09 PM on January 14, 2004

I'll triple up the Dark Days recommendation - a superb documentary.

Having seen the film, I'm in no doubt whatsoever that people live in subway tunnels. The poor reporting from Toth is a shame, but should reflect on her, not the veracity of the story she's covered badly.

Or, what dhartung just said.
posted by jack_mo at 5:34 AM on January 15, 2004

What is this then? Cave lector, "Beware, the reader"?

It-it says, "Let the reader beware"!

No, it doesn't! What's Latin for "beware"? [grabs dhartung's ear] Come on, come on!


Third singular subjunctive of caveo is...?


[writes] Caveat.   And lector? What is lector?




So the meaning is...?

"Let the reader beware"!

[sheathing his sword] Understand?

[dhartung nods eagerly]

Now, write it out a hundred times!

Yes, sir, thank you, sir! Hail Caesar!

Hail Caesar. If it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off!

Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar and everything, sir!
posted by languagehat at 9:28 AM on January 15, 2004

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