For years, there have been tales of homeless people disappearing into the tunnels of the New York subway system and never emerging again. These alleged mole people were said to be mutants who hated the sunlight and surface dwellers, preferring to live in underground cities built in abandoned train tunnels, where they steal electricity, tap into water pipes, and build their own houses and dwellings. More outlandish versions of the legend painted them as bug-eyed monsters who would kill and eat surface dwellers who strayed into their territory.
When journalist Jennifer Toth went into New York’s tunnels in 1993, she didn’t find any mutants. Instead, she found a community of thousands of marginalized people—runaways, the mentally ill, drug addicts, alcoholics, and recluses—living in terrible conditions. This forced the city to respond to a long-ignored problem and attempt to get these people out of the tunnels. These attempts were a mixed success. Video footage from 2010 proved that there were still homeless people living in the tunnels, and later concerns were raised over the fate of those trapped by flooding during Hurricane Sandy.
Meanwhile, in London there have long been rumors of devolved humans known as troglodytes living in the Underground, said to be descended from Irish laborers trapped during construction in the 1890s. They are said to survive by eating discarded food, rats, and the occasional unlucky tramp.
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