5 Of Earth’s Most Terrifying Places (Where People Also Live)

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You live in a cockroach-infested hell pit right above a Peruvian Death Metal bar. One neighbor is a competitive yodeler, and the other runs a herring-fermenting business from his apartment. You think you’ve got it bad. You have no idea how bad it can get …

5

The Old Folk Who Live In The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

The 1986 Chernobyl disaster blasted the town of Pripyat with dangerous levels of radioactivity, forcing citizens to evacuate. It is now located smack-dab in the middle of a thousand square miles of wasteland known as the Exclusion Zone. You’ve visited it before, in both Call Of Duty 4 and your nightmares. It’s every Fallout game neatly rolled into one, minus radscorpions (but with way more radioactive wolves).

Oh, and people are fucking living there.

Viktar Dracou
Alcohol is a great preservative.

A mere few months after the incident, over a thousand people returned to their homes. They were mostly older and female — unflappable babushkas who had survived famine, Nazis, and WWII. Throughout all this, they had remained in their farms and houses, so they’d be damned if they were going to let some invisible death molecules chase them away. The Soviet government initially refused them entry back into the Exclusion Zone, but eventually decided they didn’t want to tangle with a bunch of old ladies voluntarily heading to Apocalypse Land to fight radioactive wolves.

“We’ll let the old people return home,” they stated. “They’ll die soon, but they will be happy.”

Ryan Menezes
“You can take my house keys from my irradiated, dead hand.”

Close to 30 years on, there are still around 130 of them kicking about, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the people who returned to the Exclusion Zone tend to live longer and better than their former neighbors. It almost makes sense. Apart from the obvious decay in the urban areas, the Exclusion Zone is by and large unchanged, save for the occasional spirited ticking of the Geiger counter. So the ones who went back got to live a happy if slightly radioactive-wolf-filled life in their homes.

Ryan Menezes
The water’s a little yellow, but it tastes like freedom.

Meanwhile, the people who were evacuated and didn’t return had to deal with unemployment, alcoholism, and the general soul-crushing depression that comes from having your life taken away by forces you can barely comprehend.

4

A City Inside An Actual Graveyard

How do people do it? How do they live in a stinking necropolis — a city of the dead, where their neighbors are all but pallid corpses, and decay greets them at every turn? How, oh how, do people live in Spokane?

It could be worse (the official city motto of Spokane, Washington). You could be living in the literal City of the Dead.


Which should be named Spookane.

The city is a vast 7th-century necropolis located on a four-mile stretch of land right outside Cairo, Egypt. The city’s expanding metro area and the country’s chronic housing shortage have led to desperate people setting up shop amongst the tombs. The arrangement is obviously illegal, but the denizens won’t leave unless they’re provided with new accommodations, and the population has grown so big over time that it’s almost impossible to relocate everyone.

An estimated half a million people live in the City of the Dead, often utilizing the existing structures. Here’s a woman coolly making dinner in a kitchen set up in a tomb:


“Ventilation’s much better than in Cousin Yasmin’s kitchen. She lives in a pyramid.”

And here’s an average City of the Dead shanty, built on and around other people’s graves:


Any zombies that rise will immediately find fresh clothing.

The city has shops and cafes, and the people there generally live a fairly normal life. Sanitation sucks, but a nearby mosque ran lines to pipe in electricity. Folks use sarcophagi as desks and shelves, and hang their laundry from lines they set up between gravestones. Hey, still beats Spokane.

3

The Refugee Camp That’s Also A Minefield

The Gulan Refugee Camp in Afghanistan is one of many places where people displaced by brutal wars can live — albeit in shitty, temporary tent-huts — until things calm down and stop exploding back at home. Gulan is a little different than other camps, though. For starters, the entire thing is located on a minefield.


Residents keep clicking random spots till a large space opens up.

The unoccupied field that refugees settled in 2014 was unoccupied for a very good reason: It was the site of a massive last-resort battle between the mujahideen and the Soviet army in the late 1980s, and is littered with anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Unfortunately, by the time the refugees found out about the camp’s fun bonus features, it was already too late. They had precious few other places to go, and since no armies were actively shooting at them here, it was a slight improvement from previous circumstances.

So how does life go for 24,000 people in a mine-infested camp? They’ve moved their tents away from the most problematic areas, and laid out cleared tracks and paths for traffic. As for the heavily armored de-mining teams working on the area, well … a human being gets used to almost anything.


Even yodeling.

Still, pack animals roam the uncleared areas, because donkeys never invented landmines and have no idea how to avoid them. Also, two-thirds of the camp’s population are children, and good luck telling kids to avoid certain areas no matter what — that only makes it taboo. And then there are the terminally oblivious. After a Guardian reporter visited the camp in 2015, a mine-clearer casually informed her that the path she had taken there was completely uncleared for cars.

Yet somehow, despite the constant worry of unwelcome foot-explosions, not a single person in the camp has died from the mines. And since the Halo Trust de-mining organization busted its ass, scouring the area for 12 anxious months and removing nearly a thousand explosives, there’s hope that the situation will remain that way.

2

The Village Full Of Deadly Snakes

The Indian village Musharu is located in an area completely and utterly infested with large venomous snakes. And they’re largely okay with this. A child might sit on the floor reading a book and see a huge snake within feet of their exposed legs, at which point they would casually inform Mom that there’s yet another snake in the house. The mom would reply, “You concentrate on your studies. The snake will go away on its own.”


That wasn’t a hypothetical scenario.

Villagers view the snakes as an incarnation of the goddess Jhankeswari, and because of the serpent’s inherent holiness, no one but members of a certain Brahmin priest family are allowed to touch them. Villagers insist that the snakes don’t bite them, and if they do, this can be cured with a dip in the local pond, some mud, and a little fasting. We … wouldn’t recommend trying that treatment, but we’ll have to take their word that it works for them.


Victims die coincidentally, of natural causes. Snakes are natural, after all.

From the snakes’ point of view, this is a pretty amazing deal. Because they don’t have to regard humans as a threat, they’re generally quite docile toward them, to the point where they have even been known to lie in the same bed as humans. The villagers say that although the snakes like to munch on the occasional chick or duckling, they never harm their dogs or cattle.

All in all, we’ve had worse roommates.

1

The Village Inside An Active Volcano

200 miles south of Tokyo lies the country’s most remote populated island, the peaceful and lush Aogashima. Unfortunately, this little slice of paradise landed frosting-side-down inside the outer crater wall of an active double volcano. In fact, back in 1785, an eruption killed half the population of the island.

Today the village is home to roughly 200 people, who are all willing to risk fiery death because Aogashima looks like this:

There are practical benefits to living on top of a vast supply of destructive geothermal energy. The island has a natural hot bath, and free cooking spots along the various hiking trails where you can saute yourself up a hot meal using the volcano’s heat.


“Mmm. These potatoes taste like brimstone!”

Even the island’s main export is volcano-related. The rare Hingya salt is manufactured there by using the island’s volcanic blowholes to evaporate sea water until only the salt remains. Scientists think the volcano is currently dormant and will be for the immediate future, leaving the villagers free to enjoy their peaceful lifestyle, connected to the mainland only by helicopter and ferry. It sounds kind of beautiful, until you remember the volcano and think about trying to flee hot burning death while only connected to the mainland by helicopter and ferry.

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