Substation 9

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cthulahoop 02/02/16 (Tue) 15:09:17 #08740178


I work for an electric company that provides power to over a dozen warehouses and manufacturing complexes.

Think of me as an over-glorified security guard. I ride around checking substations to make sure an OCB hasn't tripped, or an eagle hasn't nested on top of a transformer. I work the graveyard shift, which means most of my nights are spent sitting in a trailer and fighting for enough cell reception to stave off the crippling boredom. The only time this job involves any actual work is when it rains.

First, some background: Whatever image you've got in your head of this place? You're probably wrong. It's a couple thousand acres of woodlands, rivers, and country roads, with the occasional warehouse in a field. Calling this place 'remote' doesn't do it justice — even folks in the boonies don't know we're here. There's nobody around except the deer (you'll see fifty, maybe sixty a night). The substations are just shacks out in the woods. The hardest part of the job isn't checking them. It's finding them.

I don't want to give too many details (I like my job and would like to keep it), but there used to be a mining town near here. When they built a dam downstream, the whole place turned into a lake. Townsfolk were forced to relocate — the mine and factories were flooded. When the lake receded, they demolished everything and built new factories.

Now here's where things get interesting: When they demolished all those buildings? They didn't demolish the basements. And most of these substations had underground tie-ins into them. Beneath each of these little overgrown shacks is a sprawling network of tunnels connecting to hundreds of basements for buildings that no longer even exist. This underground complex basically goes on forever.

When it rains, the basements flood. When it rains hard, the water rises out of the basements and floods the substations — which are filled with extremely sensitive high-voltage equipment. Starting to see the problem?

This is where I come in: My job is to drive out to each of these substations, go down into the basement, and make sure the sump pumps kicked on. They usually do when the water hits a certain height, but the floats can get hung up (or the pumps need to be replaced).

(I know what you're thinking. Why not plug the basements up? Well, besides the cost — and having to shut down each substation while we work — there's also the fact that this job partly exists because someone has to check on those sump pumps. So none of us are exactly chomping at the bit to point this out to upper management)

When you first get hired, old-timers all tell you the same thing: Don't fuck around in the basements. Don't wander. Don't explore. Go down, do your job, come up. Watch where you step. And always bring two flashlights.

Some of these tunnels are nearly a century old, made when being 'up to code' just meant it didn't collapse five minutes after you built it. On top of that, any blueprints describing these places were lost in the flood. No one knows what's down here or what connects to what. The guy that trained me once walked from one substation to another without ever catching a glimpse of sky. That's over three miles of tunnels. Three miles.

In case you're wondering… Yeah. Everyone says 'don't fuck around in the basements', but everyone still fucks around in the basements. You just have to watch your step, stay alert, and always — always — bring two flashlights.

And trust me: You would not believe some of the shit we find down there.


This tunnel right here? This is below… let's call it "Substation 9".

The farthest any of us have gotten down this tunnel is about 500 yards — that's five football fields, or under a third of a mile. What's past that, you ask?

Nobody has a clue. The tunnel slants down, leaving the rest of it completely submerged. We've tried pumping it out, but the water won't go lower than what you see here. Which means there's who-knows how much more tunnel (and basement) past this point.

I've got more to share — including pictures. I'll write more about this tomorrow.

cthulahoop 02/03/16 (Wed) 14:19:51 #31166510

Okay, first things first: A bunch of people have PMed me saying that the picture isn't legit, there's no way there's miles of tunnels down here, etc.

Let's put this to bed, shall we?

Now that we've gotten that out of the way… I'll answer a couple of questions people have been asking:

  • We use cheap disposable sump pumps because our company doesn't want to spend the money to install anything else. That being said, a few of the substations do have some old centrifugal pumps either right there or in an adjacent basement. We run hoses and use 'em as back-ups for areas that get flooded really bad. The problem is that some of these pumps are over 50 years old — it's hard to find compatible parts, and not many of us (besides me and a few others) know how to fix them.
  • None of us are actual electricians. We're dispatchers for electricians. Rather than paying trained pros to watch the place, they pay us a fraction of the rate. When we find a blown fuse or downed transformer, we call the electricians and they handle it. We're also responsible for checking the OCBs and keeping the substations dry (the electricians don't go into the basements).
  • We handle a lot of substations (over 50). The two biggest have 220kV transformers (they drop down to 66kV). We've also got a couple of booster stations, a potable water plant, and some other stuff.
  • I don't want to get too specific about the mining town or when it flooded, because I'd rather not have people figuring out where this is or who I am. Again: I like my job. But I will say that after the flood, the mine was collapsed and never re-opened.
  • The scariest thing I've ever seen down here is a family of raccoons. If that doesn't sound very scary… then I presume you've never had your flashlight catch a pair of eyes flashing out from the shadows while you're stumbling around in an underground tunnel several miles away from the closest human soul.

Some people have been asking about the 'always bring two flashlights' thing. Let me show you something:

See how dark it gets when I turn off my flashlight?

Now, imagine that's your only flashlight and you just lost it. Imagine having to navigate these tunnels in absolute darkness.


To make matters worse… see this? This is a hole full of water. These basements are full of stuff like this. Drain-trenches, collapsed floors, elevator shafts — even straight-up pits. Some are just several feet deep; others are several dozens of feet. A coworker of mine has fallen into one of these things, and let me tell you: They ain't no joke.

Some even go down to a lower sub-basement that's been completely flooded. There's entire chambers down here full of old pumps and machines that have been submerged for decades.

Again: You would not believe some of the shit we find down here.

cthulahoop 02/05/16 (Fri) 19:11:58 #65330674


Okay, it's been a while since I last posted, but I wanted to answer a few more questions:

  • When we go down, we carry an O2 monitor. Mainly, we're worried about things like pockets of nitrogen. We also wear heavy gloves, rubber steel-toed boots, and ventilation masks (in case of asbestos).
  • A lot of these places smell pretty much exactly how they look. Sometimes? They smell worse.
  • You can still find some things from the old town above-ground, in the woods. Mostly concrete slabs, but there's a rusted husk of a truck sitting in a tree somewhere.
  • We have no idea where the collapsed mine is, and — quite frankly! — none of us are interested in looking for it. It's probably filled with poisonous fumes and other toxic, nasty shit.
  • There aren't a lot of animals down here, because there aren't a lot of ways in (that we don't directly control). I still have no idea how the fuck those raccoons managed it.
  • Some of you have been asking me if anyone's ever actually gotten lost down here. Well, about that…

Remember the two flashlight thing? It's just good sense: It's hard enough to find your way around down here. How are you going to manage without light? There's no phone reception, either. Just you, alone… with miles and miles of decaying concrete, rancid pools of water, and rusted machines — in pitch-black darkness.

But we've got a saying in industrial work: Every rule is written in blood. The reason we all carry two flashlights is because of what happened when someone didn't.

I had a coworker — let's call him John. He was a good guy. Clever, good head for numbers. Kept to himself. Real quiet. Along with me and three others, we handled the graveyard shifts for the whole crew.


One year, during a thaw, the sump pumps were getting overwhelmed. Too much water coming in — they couldn't dump it fast enough. John wanted to hook up some of these old centrifugal pumps that were just sitting around in these basements — use them to give our own pumps a fighting chance. It was a good idea, but a lot of work. Some of these pumps hadn't seen action for decades.

But John stuck with it. He hunted down every pump he could find, serviced them, hooked them up with hoses, and managed to keep our substations dry all the way into late spring.

A few days after we got things under control, I did a swap and ended up coming in during a day shift. I was John's relief. When I got to the trailer, the truck was missing and John was gone. The last entry in the logbook mentioned heading out to check on the sump pump in one of the substations.


I had to walk there. The truck was right outside, still idling. I went downstairs and searched over two hours for John. Then, I called the police. There was an investigation, a search — whole nine yards. Most of us came in off-the-book to help. We looked through those tunnels for a month, maybe even longer. Never found so much as hair or hide of him.

About a year later, another coworker — we'll call her 'Patrice' — took me aside. She showed me something she found during one of her rounds.

A flashlight with dead batteries. It had some tape wrapped around the pommel with John's initials soldered on it.

cthulahoop 02/07/16 (Sun) 17:13:02 #86713880

People are expressing skepticism regarding the size of these basements and whether they're not all really interconnected. I took a short video to try and give you a sense of scope, here.

(Pardon the heavy breathing; new mask.)

See that tunnel at the end? That's part of a whole other facility that's just as big as the one I started in. I'll try to take footage of it later.

Anyway, more answers to questions:

  • Company policy is that we're not supposed to be exploring these spaces. They know we do it — but they pretend not to know.
  • No, we never found John. As far as the police are concerned, he wandered off into the woods. As far as we're concerned… he fell into a flooded sub-basement and drowned.
  • For those of you saying we ought to have shut the facility down, drained the basements completely, and kept looking for John… that's basically what we tried to do? Again: Some of these sub-basements cannot be drained. Water just keeps getting in — either from the river or from the flooded mine (possibly both). Remember, you're dealing with massive underground structures that have been filling with water for decades. Unless you're willing to start a billion dollar excavation project to dig out all of these basements… there's literally no way to recover that body.
  • If you think it sounds creepy to work inside a massive underground complex knowing that the drowned corpse of your coworker is lurking in a flooded sub-basement somewhere under your feet… well, you're right. It's creepy as hell, actually. It's why most of us stay far the fuck away from the substation he vanished under.

A lot of you have said you want to hear about some "spookums". Well, I know this is going to be disappointing, but… outside of what happened to John? Literally nothing "spooky" has ever happened to me, here.

A few of my coworkers have told me about some things they've encountered, though. I don't know whether you should trust them, but I'll provide a few examples:

  • Patrice says that on at least three separate occasions, she's heard something like muffled "old timey radio music" playing from below. She didn't recognize the song, but says it was the same one all three times.
  • "Ed" (the guy who trained me) says he's heard some of the old original pumps kicking on by themselves. This actually isn't all that weird; John repaired a bunch of them (some we still use even today). But Ed claims the ones he's heard kicking on aren't the ones John repaired — they're deeper in. Somewhere in the parts of the complex that we haven't explored, yet.
  • That's another thing I should clarify, and I guess counts as a "spookum": We haven't explored the entire complex. Not yet. There's still dozens of passages, doorways, and stairwells we haven't gone down.
  • "Phil" (one of the old-timers) claims he once saw some pale naked guy squatting in one of the tunnels, but we're all pretty sure he's either bullshitting us or it was really just a raccoon. He also says he saw a section of Substation 9 that ties into the collapsed mine.
  • Two new hires claimed to hear knocking and yelling on the other side of a sealed door (several doors down here are welded shut). In both cases, the guys left for a different job.
  • I mentioned we have a potable water plant, but I should have clarified: We had a potable water plant. It's abandoned, now. No one's ever been able to get clean drinking water working in this place — all the faucets and drains would get gummed up with this congealed gray paste that smells like rotting fish. We use a portable toilet and bring in bottled water by the truckload.

That's basically it. Like I said, I haven't encountered any of this stuff myself, so I'm pretty skeptical.

cthulahoop 03/12/16 (Sat) 14:15:21 #33670699

Okay, so, it's been a while since I posted, but there's been some news.

Ed found John's phone. He nearly broke the damn thing when he was sloshing through the water trying to fix a sump pump. Felt something hard and flat under his foot. John kept his phone in one of those industrial-strength cases, so it was actually in good condition. It can still manage to hold a charge.

We went through his shit, and — well, like most of us, he took photos of what's below. We recognized most of them… but not the most recent ones:

Here's the messed up part: Ed found this phone in Substation 9. But according to the logbook, John didn't even go near Substation 9 the day he disappeared.

We're all kinda spooked, right now. Patrice and some others are talking about quitting. Either way, we've all talked it over and decided the best option is to turn the phone over to the police and let them sort it out.

I almost forgot. That last picture? Phil keeps saying he's seen that tunnel, before. He says that it's the collapsed mine.

cthulahoop 03/18/16 (Wed) 19:10:04 #46449280

Police are involved. Somebody must have lit a fire under the company's ass, because they're now moving heaven and earth to get Substation 9 drained. Brought in some gigantic pumps to do it with. We've all been working overtime. The pay's good, but nobody's really that happy. None of us want to be here.

This is a waste of time, honestly. John's phone just drifted. We're not going to find him down here.

On the bright side, at least we'll get to see what the hell is at the end of that hall.

cthulahoop 03/25/16 (Fri) 14:18:43 #43427769

Patrice and two others quit, today. Company's offering me time and a half to cover shifts while they look for new workers.

Nobody goes into the basements, anymore. Not unless we have to.

cthulahoop 03/27/16 (Sun) 14:04:12 #36086089

The flooded hall in Substation 9 ends in a set of stairs that go down deeper.

They think they found John's body.

cthulahoop 03/27/16 (Sun) 16:05:19 #80183729

It wasn't John's

cthulahoop 03/28/16 (Mon) 21:01:00 #29239282

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