Haunting and Daunting
The prison that housed Al Capone
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
This Gothic-style fortress with 30-feet stone walls, iron gates and foreboding towers might not look modern now, but when it started operating in 1829, this prison inspired 300 other jails around the world. The most expensive prison ever built, Eastern State Penitentiary was once famous for strict discipline that it imposed on its inmates. Rather than punishing them, the jail was operated like a rehabilitation centre where inmates were confined in independent cells to realize and regret their wrongdoing. They were not even allowed to talk to each other because the authorities felt that it’s better to guilt trip someone when he/she is alone. In fact, any attempt to communicate with other inmates was met with a severe reprimand. It was shut in 1971.
The Paris of the East
Ross Island, Andaman
During the British rule, this tiny island was synonymous for a luxurious lifestyle. There were clubs, gymnasiums, open-air theatre, swimming pools, post office, churches, shops, printing press, hospital and barracks and every day was soaked in some form of celebration or the other. And that too when just 500 people inhabited this island. In June 1941 the island was hit with a massive earthquake and most of the buildings here suffered cracks, and panic that the island might sink took hold. By 1942, when the WWII was in full swing, the Britishers abandoned the island fearing a Japanese invasion. With no or little resistance, the Japs landed at the island and their army head took shelter in the commissioner’s bungalow here. The bunker built by the Japs is still intact. Even Neta Subhash Chandra Bose stayed here when he visited Port Blair in 1943. Britishers reclaimed the island after Japan lost the war, however, the victors didn’t return to the island to live fearing that it will sink sooner or later.
Brought down by 90 kilos of ammunition
Bannerman Castle, Pollepel Island, New York
Like his father, who was a regular buyer at Navy auctions, Francis Bannerman VI made a fortune buying war surplus. During the American-Spanish war, he had purchased so much equipment and ammunition that he had to look for a safe place to store them. Luckily he spotted Pollepel island while canoeing on the Hudson in 1900 and decided to build the Scottish structure soon after in 1901. However, in 1920, 90kg of ammunition exploded and most of the structure was destroyed. Since then, the castle is abandoned, however, there are historical tours organised here.
Ruins of the future Sanzhi UFO Houses
San Zhi, Taiwan
Touted as vacation homes for American military personnel posted to East Asia, these saucer-shaped houses were the idea of Sanjhih Township plastics manufacturer Yu-chou Co. Designed by Finn architect Matti Suuronen, the construction began in 1978 but two years later, the construction was stopped because Yu-chou went bankrupt. Though there were several attempts to put the construction work in motion once again, none of them could see the light of day - not just because of the financial constraints but also because of the superstitions that people were fed with. Some believed that a dragon figure was destroyed during the construction which led to the dismal fate of the project.
Military Hospital Beelitz, Germany
Built in the beginning of 20th century, this 200-hectare hospital with 60 buildings was commissioned to cure people of tuberculosis during the first two World Wars, however, it’s more popular because Hitler was once treated here for injuries during WW I. People often came here for casual sex (and disappeared mysteriously) and it was also used as a confinement for people for human experiments by the Nazis. After WW II, Russians overtook it and made it the biggest treatment facility outside their country. After they left in 1994, no one showed any interest in bringing it back to life. Later it served as a film set for movies like The Pianist in 2002, the Rammstein music video Mein Herz brennt, and Valkyrie in 2008.
The drowned city - 131 feet under
Underwater City Shicheng, China
Founded over 1300 years ago, Shi Cheng was earlier known as the Lion City because it was surrounded by the five Lion Mountains but one day it was made to sink to make way for a new hydroelectric power station and a man-made lake known as Qingdao. The city that has been submerged for over half a century is now between 85 and 131 feet underwater in parts. The city was comfortably forgotten until a tourism officer, Qiu Feng, decided to make it popular amongst the diving clubs. The officer was lucky because the first set of divers who went underwater to explore this city found that the wooden beams and staircases were still intact and so was most of the city. Protected from sun, wind, and air the entire city is now known as a time capsule and is gaining popularity among the world’s renowned diving clubs.