You”re probably familiar with the Paris Catacombs, Capuchin Catacombs, and even the London Catacombs. But did you know they all pale in comparison to the catacombs underneath the city of Odessa, Ukraine?
Under the streets of Odessa exist more than 1,500 miles of underground tunnels, the result of nearly a century of mining. The Odessa Catacombs have a pretty colorful history, but were officially sealed off by the government in 1980.
Historians estimate that catacombs were likely first constructed around the 16th century. However, it wasn”t until the 1800s when they reached their peak size.
The city of Odessa sits on a large quarry of limestone. In the 1800s, large mining operations were launched underneath the city. They removed limestone, which was used to build the city above ground.
The catacombs quickly expanded in size around this time, covering more than 1,500 miles. This huge labyrinth of empty tunnels would soon come in handy for the residents of Odessa.
During World War II, the Nazis forced the Soviets out of Odessa in the midst of occupation. The tunnels served as protection for Soviet rebels. They hid underground, tormenting the Nazis in the city while staying safe.
Throughout the war, the Nazis never managed to successfully root out the rebels hiding in the tunnels.
After World War II, the tunnels were used by smugglers. These smugglers even partially expanded the catacombs in some places.
In 1980, the government of Odessa decided to close the catacombs for good. They sealed the entrances, but did not make it illegal to explore the tunnels. It wasn”t long before an unofficial tradition of secretly exploring parts of the catacombs became popular.
Tragedy struck in 2005. To ring in the new year, a group of Odessa teens decided to party in the catacombs. During the party, one girl was separated from the group, unable find her way back. She spent the next three days wandering through the catacombs in total darkness before collapsing and dying of dehydration.
Her body was found by a group of explorers in April 2005. However, it could not be removed by the police until 2007 because she was too far from any exit. This is what her body looked like when she was first discovered.
(via Who Forted?)
The Odessa Catacombs look like a fascinating place to visit, but not without an experienced guide. You don”t want to end up like that poor girl. Just imagine being drunk at a NYE party underground, getting lost, and being abandoned by your friends to die alone in complete darkness. I can”t think of a worse fate.