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VERBOTEN PLACES

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Menwith Hill Station
This facility in North Yorkshire, England contains intelligence and communications data for the UK and United States. Sorry, you can’t enter. Menwith Hill Station opened on 545 acres of land in 1954 and leased to the United States. The U.S. Army Security Agency established a high frequency radio monitoring capability which could receive communications from the Soviet Union. The facility continues to be used, with some individuals in an uproar that it might aid in drone attacks. Needless to say, you aren’t allowed inside.




Dulce Base in New Mexico
The Dulce Base in New Mexico is rumored to be home to extraterrestrials. It is an underground facility underneath the Archuleta Mesa in Dulce, New Mexico. Allegedly, this is a joint human and alien underground facility. Beginning in 1979, Albuquerque businessman Paul Bennewitz was positive he was intercepting electronic communications from alien spacecraft and he let the entire community know. The site was featured on the History Channel show UFO Hunters and an episode of Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. Some experts label is as “the real Area 51.”




Mezghorye - Ural Mountains
You are looking at Russia’s nuclear missile site which contains the nation’s ballistic missiles. Reports have indicated that ballistic missiles are housed here which are capable of being launched automatically. This town is technically “closed” which sounds extremely scary. Located in the southern Ural Mountains, it has been reported that there are automatically triggered sensors that can detect a nuclear strike.




Area 51
The famous military facility in the Nevada desert has a rich history of secrecy. Missiles, aircraft, and numerous other weapons have been developed and tested there. In the 1950’s it was primarily used for flight testing of the Lockheed U-2 aircraft. While it’s fun to maintain the illusion that aliens are freely roaming the grounds of Area 51, there’s no definitive evidence to suggest this is the case. Every few years a patron will claim extraterrestrial activity which always gets disproved as either a hoax or a simple misunderstanding.




Pinegap - Australia
This secret facility in the middle of Australia consists of a large computer complex with nearly 1,000 employees. It attempts to locate radio signals in the world’s Eastern Hemisphere, via information fed into the U.S. drone program. No surprise… you can’t go there! The facility commenced operations in 1970 after 400 American families moved to Central Australia. By 1999, the place expanded from two antennas to eighteen. The facility is essentially a ground control station for satellites that ascertain signals intelligence data.




The Red Zone - France
The Zone Rouge, which translates into English as “The Red Zone,” is a chain of off-limits areas throughout the northeastern part of France. The French government sectioned off these areas after WWI and never re-opened some of them to the public. The areas were judged to be too damaged by the war to be suitable for human use. Instead of trying to restore the land, the French government decided to simply cordon it off and allow nature to reclaim it. The Zone Rouge was mostly considered dangerous because there was such an enormous quantity of human and animal remains on the land, accompanied by millions of pieces of unexploded ordnance. Some of the towns in the Zones were never rebuilt.




Yanomami village - Brazil
This photo of a Yanomami village was taken by helicopter. It was likely the first aircraft the villagers had ever seen. They are seen here staring at the copter in amazement. The village, located on the Brazilian side of the Brazil-Venezuela border, had likely never made contact with the outside world. The village was dominated by a circular hut-like structure that is thought to house about a hundred people. There are roughly 22,000 Yanomami in Brazil, many of whom live in villages so remote that they have little or no contact with the modern world. The sight of a helicopter was very likely deeply unsettling.




Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion - Ethiopia
Any artifact that is biblical is kept under a tight watch. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims it to be housed within a treasury near the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, with a simple fence in the way. It is believed that this Chapel contains the wooden chest clad with gold containing two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. It is believed that the real Ark of the Covenant was transported to Ethiopia via divine assistance.




Jiangsu - China
Even if you are a museum goer, you’d better be a Chinese citizen to visit this place. It contains classified documents and equipment used for Chinese spying. Yikes! In case you were planning to take a camera inside, photography is not allowed within the facility. Apparently, they house a series of sensitive documents from as far back at 1927. The only bit of information they’ve divulged? Certain exhibits include guns that are disguised as lipstick as well as maps hidden within decks of cards. Talk about sneaky behavior.




The Google Data Centers - Worldwide
The Google Data Centers include rooms filled with CPUs containing trillions of bits of data. Understandably, Google keeps the public out. Only IT whizzes have access, and even then they can’t merely “hang out.” Limited views inside the facility are available via Google maps. While you can’t zoom in very closely, you’ll get an understanding of the massiveness of the facility. It’s plain to see how much data the center houses. Thousands upon thousands of servers allow the company to index over 20 billion web pages each day. Chances are you won’t have enough time in your life to read all of them.




The Bank of England Vaults contain lots of bullion… lots and lots and lots. The second oldest central bank in the world is obviously off limits to the public, as it contains hundreds of thousands of gold bars. The floor space over this vault covers a region about the size of the third-tallest building in London (Tower 42). The keys to open the vault door are a whopping 3 FEET LONG! The gold deposits in the vault are estimated to hold a value of 156 billion pounds, making it one of the largest gold reserves in the world. It’s sort of like its own state, since the person in charge of the Bank of England is referred to as Governor.




Lascaux Caves
These caves in the South of France are over 17,500 years old, from the Palaeolithic era. People had drawn paintings of livestock and other local creatures. Sorry public, you can’t soak up this kind of history, legally. The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures, grouped into three main categories: animals, humans, and conceptual signs. More specifically, there are 90 paintings of stags out of approximately 900 total animal drawings. One particularly fascinating section is called The Great Hall of the Bulls where many wild animals are depicted. This cave opened to the public after World War II, but the facility quickly became susceptible to mold and uncleanliness issues. By 1963, the caves had to be closed in order to remain preserved.




The Russian Metro D-6 System - Ramenki
The Russian government has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of this underground metro system. It was supposedly constructed during Joseph Stalin’s time, and parallels the current rail system. Allegedly code-named D-6 by the KGB, it is rumored to connect the Kremlin with the Federal Security Service headquarters, the government airport, and an underground town at Ramenki. If it exists, it could still be operated by the Main Directorate of Special Programmes and Ministry of Defence. In 1994, an urban exploration group, the Diggers of the Underground Planet, proclaimed to have discovered the underground entrance to the rail system. Then ten years later, former Soviet adviser Vladimir Shevchenko finally confirmed the facility’s existence.




Room 39 - North Korea
Sounds like a bad horror movie, but ‘Room 39’ is just a secretive organization in North Korea. Supposedly, the organization contains over a dozen bank accounts in China and Switzerland. Room 39 was established by Kim Il-Sung in the late 1970’s, but the origin of its name remains unknown. Some experts believe that Room 38 was merged into Room 39. But in 2010, the two were split again because of issues with foreign currency. The organization is estimated to rake in between $500 million and $1 billion each year. Not surprisingly, it may be involved in illegal activities.




Vatican City Archives
Housed in the middle of Vatican City, these documents contain state papers, papal account books, and correspondence. Qualified individuals from scholarly institutions may apply for an entry card, but there has to be a legitimate reason to be entering. The use of the word “secret” in this case is more akin to the word ‘private’ rather than ‘hidden.’ Still, good luck trying to enter these premises. There are 53 miles of shelving which contain around 35,000 volumes. Only qualified scholars can apply for an entry card into the site. They still need an introductory letter from a recognized institute of research.





Snake Island - Brazil
This unvisited island off the coast of Brazil might be small in size, but it houses many rare and native snakes. Because they are so endangered, the island is off limits to the general public. It is located 18 nautical miles off the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and is approximately 110 acres in area. There is a lot of beauty and diversity on the landmass with hills, and cliffs overlooking the open ocean. Since there are so many snakes on the island, studies show there could be as many as one snake to every square meter. Competition for resources is always at a premium.




White’s Club - England
Known as the White’s Club, it is the most famous and historic gentlemen’s club in England. Created in 1693, it only accepts male members who must be personally invited by a current member and then be approved by another two members. Of course, there are exceptions. If your name is Prince Harry, staff refer to you as a regular. The club was originally situated in Mayfair, in 1693. Yes, that was a while ago. White’s also became a gambling house in the 18th century, with frequenters being called “the gamesters of White’s.”




Bohemian Grove - California
Located on nearly 3,000 acres of land in Monte Rio, California, Bohemian Grove hosts a two week encampment with some of the most prominent men in the world. Among the constituents include artists, musicians, and businessmen. The gathering includes an all-male membership, and guests have to undergo a screening process. After 40 years of membership, the men earn “Old Guard” status, providing them reserved seating at the daily talks. Prestigious members who have served in the group include Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Edwin W. Pauley. Even earlier, members included author Jack London and George Sterling.




Surtsey - Vestmannaeyjar archipelago Iceland
Ever heard of a four year eruption? Icelandic volcano Surtsey blew up over the course of a four year period from 1963 to 1967, prompting major ecological changes. To this day, scientists are the only humans allowed access to the remote location so that the island can undergo natural ecological succession.Scientists have found that since the end of the eruption, the island has been steadily losing height. If it continues at this rate, the island will be mostly below sea level by 2100.In 1965, it was declared a nature reserve while the eruption was still ongoing. Fast forward to 2008, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in order to acknowledge its scientific value.




North Sentinel Island - Andaman and Nicobar Islands Union Territory India
This portion of the Andaman Islands is home to an indigenous group of Sentinelese. If any foreigners even attempt to sneak a peak, they are met with spears at the coastline. One of the last remaining tribes on earth that is completely untouched by modern civilization, the Sentinelese want to keep it that way.India had administered the island as part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Union Territory in 1947. But no treaties were signed, so the island remains in limbo. In 2005, the Andaman and Nicobar Administration stated they had no intention to interfere with the lifestyle of the Sentinelese. Populations are estimated to be in the few dozens.




Diavik Diamond Mine - Canada
Located in the northwest territories of Canada, this 190 mile (300 kilometers) wide region produces 3,100 lbs (1400 kg) of diamonds a year!A massive scar left on the earth’s crust in order to provide society a stone that holds so much importance.




Mirrny Diamond Mine - Siberia
Speaking of diamond mines, this one is in Siberia, which itself is a very forbidding place.This mine is more than 1,700 feet deep and 3,900 feet wide, which makes its one of the largest excavated holes in the world. Open-pit mining was stopped in 2001 but underground mining has been active since 2009. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Sakha diamond company reported that annual profits from the mine exceeded $600 million. With so much money at stake, security will be very tight!




Svalbard Seed Vault - Norway
If you enter this place – it’s not a good sign, it means something of apocalyptic proportions has happened. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a seed bank located on Spitsbergen, an island that’s part of Norway. The vault holds multitudes of seeds in the case of global catastrophes destroys most of the earth’s crops. Currently, it holds about 864,000 distinct seeds and has the capacity to hold up to 4.5 million. It has 1/3 of the world’s most important food crop seeds inside of it. The vault is 390 feet into a sandstone mountain with no permanent staff and no one person has all the codes you need to get inside. For hundreds of years, these seeds will be kept safe and a study done on the feasibility of the vault suggests the seeds might be preserved for even thousands of years. Each seed is packaged in a three-ply foil packet sealed with heat to ensure there’s no moisture. It’s fully automated and is remotely monitored. The vault is only open for special visitors and a few days a year when it accepts new seeds. And, also, it’s in the middle of the Arctic, very close to the North Pole.






The Mormon Church Secret Vault - Salt Lake City
Not far from Salt Lake City you can find Granite Mountain – which, ironically, is mostly composed of quartz monzonite. There’s a vault built 600 feet into the Little Cottonwood Canyon which is owned by the Mormon Church. The vault is used for various things like document storage but also houses administrative offices, has shipping and receiving docks and a laboratory for restoring microfilm.For security reasons, the public is barred from entry. It’s protected by two 9-ton doors and built so it can survive a nuclear blast. Of course, with a religious organization and a highly secretive vault comes plenty of conspiracy theories. But, it’s all speculation.




Ise Grand Shrine - Japan
There are actually over 100 shrines within this sacred space dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-Omikami. It has existed since 4 BC. Legends say that the goddess herself chose the site thousands of years ago for its peacefulness and seclusion. The shrine is the holding place for precious spiritual and sacred objects that are of historical importance like the Sacred Mirror or Yata no Kagami. But don’t waste your time trying to get in to see anything. Priests and priestesses of the royal family are the only ones allowed inside. It’s also guarded by Japanese military and surrounded by a fence. The only parts of the shrine the public can view are the thatched roofs of the structures. The shrine is destroyed and reconstructed every 20 years in adherence to the Shinto concept of death and rebirth.




Chernobyl - ex USSR
In terms of scale and casualties, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. On April 2, 1988, an explosion occurred during a routine test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Fire and plumes of smoke spewed out radioactive particles into the sky which traveled over the western USSR territory and the rest of Europe. 31 deaths were caused by the incident directly by acute radiation syndrome (mostly first responders and power plant workers). However, by 2008, radiation-related deaths rose to 64. The Chernobyl Forum has predicted the death toll could reach 4,000 among the people who were exposed to the most concentrated fallout which includes 200,000 first responders, 116,000 evacuees, and 270,000 residents). With all of that said, it’s no surprise that travel to Chernobyl is still highly restricted because of the risk of radiation-related health problems. The Exclusion Zone is a 19-mile circle around the explosion site where there are no humans beyond 300 residents who decided not to leave. It’s overrun with wildlife because of the lack of competition with humans for resources and in many places, the forests have retaken the land. You can actually take a guided tour of Chernobyl and the surrounding towns but for a very short time frame and even then, you’re still vulnerable to massive spikes in radiation (and therefore, health problems and risks like cancer) as you get closer to the epicenter of the explosion. Explore at your own risk. Ukrainian officials believe that the Exclusion Zone won’t be safe for human residency for another 20,000 years.




Poveglia - Italy
Poveglia is a small island located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. For centuries Poveglia has been a refuge, a stronghold, a place of exile, and a dumping ground for the diseased and deceased. In 1348, the Bubonic Plague arrived in Venice and Poveglia, like many other small islands, became a quarantine colony. Fearing the unbridled spread of the disease, Venice exiled many of its symptom-bearing citizens there. At the island’s center the dead and the dying – who were mistaken for dead bodies – were burned on giant pyres. These fires would burn once more in 1630 when the Black Death again swept through the city. In the 20th century the island was again used as a quarantine station, but in 1922 the existing buildings were converted into a hospital for the mentally ill. This went on until 1968, when the hospital was closed and the island once again became uninhabited. Legends surround the island of hauntings by the victims of plague and war, as well as a crazy doctor of the mental institution who supposedly butchered and tortured patients. Today, the island is closed to locals and tourists. In recent years, Italian construction crews attempted to restore the former hospital building, but unexpectedly stopped without reason.




The Negev Nuclear Research Center - Israel
The Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers southeast of the city of Dimona, Israel. Its construction commenced in 1958 with French assistance, according to the Protocol of Sčvres agreements. Information about the facility remains highly classified. But in 1986, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at Dimona, fled to the United Kingdom and revealed to the media some evidence of Israel’s nuclear program and explained the purpose of each building, also revealing a top-secret underground facility directly below the installation. In January 2012, media reports indicated that the Israel Atomic Energy Commission had decided to, at least temporarily, shut down the research center’s reactor. The site’s vulnerability to attack from Iran was cited as the main reason for the decision. In October and November 2012, it was reported that Hamas had fired rockets at Dimona (rather Negev Nuclear Research Center), but the facility was not harmed or damaged in any of the attempted strikes. Of course the airspace over it is closed to all aircraft. They also implement the necessary measures to prevent unauthorized entry, so the area around it is heavily guarded and fenced off.




Tomb of Qin Shi Huang - China
Home to wonders like the famous Terracotta Army, the tomb of China’s first emperor remains largely unexcavated thanks to a very protective Chinese government.




Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center - D.C.
FEMA’s center of operations is the go-to spot for our country’s top officials when disaster strikes. Dick Cheney and many members of Congress were shuttled here on September 11— the 564-acre facility has offices, dorms and a dining room in a location safely outside the city of D.C. There are armed guards. And access to the president’s Emergency Alert System. So you can’t go there.


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