While some criminals act by daylight or moonlight, there are others who prefer even darker, more mysterious means of illegality: secret tunnels.
It may seem like the stuff of fiction, but secret tunnels exist and have been used and built for various reasons — perhaps most notoriously by criminals. Here are four types of secret tunnels (that we know of) used for illicit activities.
SecretTunnels Used For Smuggling
Tunnels are ideal for smuggling drugs, people, among other clandestine goods, and the more secretive, the better.
Since 1990, over 140 secret passageways have been discovered under the Mexican border to smuggle drugs like marijuana and heroin into the U.S. In September of 2013, authorities located a 2.4 mile long tunnel between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, according to the Guardian.
Another was discovered in February 2014, which was 481 ft long, 2 feet wide and 3 ft high, with hardwood flooring, electricity, and ventilation, AZ Central says.
Mexico isn’t the only country tunneling to America, though. Another drug tunnel was found between Canada and the U.S., from Langley, Canada to Lyndon, Washington, discovered in 2005.
That’s not even mentioning smuggling tunnels overseas, one of which is a 2,300-foot long tunnel discovered in 2012 between Slovakia and Ukraine, used primarily to smuggle cigarettes into the EU.
Secret Tunnel Communities
To some, tunnels are more than just a transport mechanisms – they’re rent-free underground homes, albeit dirty and illegal ones.
One of the most notable example is in New York City, which has at least 16 closed stations and countless other abandoned subway tunnels, once reportedly home to a community of tunnel-dwelling people (illegally) residing in underground areas – equipped with almost everything but running water and electricity.
While lack of verifiable evidence in the various documentations of these “mole people” lead some to call it urban legend, there have since been reports of as many as 6,000 underground dwellers as recently as 2010 – causing others to wonder what happened to them during floods brought on by Hurricane Sandy.
Secret Tunnels Used For Theft
Besides smuggle-tunnels and tunnel-homes, there are also those tunnels used or built specifically for burglary.
One classic caper-style burglary was an epic bank heist in Berlin. Thieves used a 100 ft tunnel from a garage to the bank’s safe deposit room in early 2013, and though there were several resulting arrests, not all of the burglars were caught.
During another epic bank heist in August of 2005, Brazilians tunnelled into a bank from a fake baseball cap store, stealing out-of-circulation notes that were therefore untraceable. The now-legendary mastermind, called Paulo Sergio, is assumed still at large.
And because not all secret tunnels are smart tunnels, there’s also the cautionary tale of two Aussies that, aiming for a jewelry store, accidentally tunneled into a local KFC. The two decided to make the most of it and rob their vault (no, the Secret Recipe was not in it), but were apprehended soon after without any diamonds, or chicken.
Secret Tunnels Used For Attack
Lastly, attack tunnels account for the most deadly form of underground architecture. This type of tunnel is used to allow passage, often between nations, for quick and silent strike on enemies.
Such secret tunnels exist between North and South Korea, nations that have technically been at war for 60 years. Four of these tunnels have been discovered, though there are rumored to be over a dozen more, built by North Korea for surprise attacks on Seoul.
One such tunnel, called “The Third Tunnel of Aggression,” is big enough for 30,000 soldiers to march through hourly with full weaponry, Business Insider says. South Korean “tunnel hunters” have been searching for others, wary of the threat they may pose.
Similar tunnels have been located between Gaza and Egypt, used to smuggle guns and other goods that authorities feared would be used to attack Israel. A majority of these were closed in early 2014, the NY Times reports.