More good news for people who want to watch educational TV, but can’t stay awake through it. American Pickers is a relatively new show on The History Channel, and it is extremely watchable. But what, you ask, does that have to do with weird houses and strange places to live? Only everything! Mike and Frank drive around to “pick” from people’s collections of stuff. Sometimes they’ll spot a barn that looks promising, and other times they’ll see a whole yard or lot simply full of antiques and junk. They say they’re looking for “rusty gold” and sometimes they find it.
On a recent episode, they meet a man named Ron, who is a hoarder extraordinaire. He lives on a few acres of land that is not only covered with stuff, he’s also dug a 26-room underground dwelling that is similarly filled with stuff. It’s painted all crazy, it winds all the way through his property, and at some points goes down to many, many feet below the surface. So, it makes you wonder – does this happen often? If so or if not, how cool is it that we got to see the inside of Ron the Mole Man’s underground lair?
Ah, Ron. You really made me start wondering about people living underground, and if they all wear purple hoodies with the drawstring drawn tight as you do.
It might follow that this post talks about hoarders – a breed of folk talked about on a certain TV show, and a breed often visited by the American Pickers. But nay. I decided instead to look into our nation’s underground dwellers. And according to certain sources, they exist in abundance.
Jennifer Toth wrote a book called The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City in 1993. In it, she goes underground to find scads of homeless people who live not really “off the grid” but under it. Margaret Morton, a photographer, did a photo journalistic piece on the same subject called The Tunnel: The Underground Homeless of New York City. Morton’s work went to justify Toth’s work, but others sought to call her out as a writer of fiction, rather than nonfiction.
Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope initially backed up Toth as well, but after reading a piece written by Joseph Brennan – a subway enthusiast who said that “every fact in this book that I can verify independently is wrong,” Adams changed his tune. He didn’t out and out call Toth a liar, but he did think that she did a lot of embellishing in her work. What do you think? Are there people living under New York City? Do they collect a bunch of stuff like The Mole Man, or is he a mole of a different color?