Secret Places The Public Isn't Allowed

The word "no" is a powerful motivator. Secrets fascinate and often drive us, so when we're told we can't know this, or can't go in there, it ramps up our obsession with finding out why. And throughout the world, there are places we're told we can't go into, for a variety of reasons. Maybe we don't have clearance, maybe we don't have enough elite wealth and status, maybe we're just not wearing pants and that's unacceptable for a Chuck E. Cheese. In any event, we continue to be intrigued by places we're told we can't go — and we're just dying to see them for ourselves.

Mt. Weather

If you've ever watched The 100, then you probably associate Mt. Weather with a post-apocalyptic safe haven. But the reality is .. that's exactly what the real Mt. Weather was designed for. The massive facility (564 acres) in Virginia is one of several fallback locations scattered throughout the United States, serving as an emergency operations center. The sprawling facility has been operated by FEMA since 1979, but has been a key, secret base of operations for the government much longer than that.

The public first became aware of Mt. Weather's existence in 1974, when an airplane crashed nearby. It's kind of hard to explain away an enormous, shadowy operations center in the wilderness of Virginia, so the government came clean about its purpose. These days, if worst comes to worst and enemies of the US start launching nukes, Mt. Weather will become the new home for Homeland Security. And unfortunately, we're not allowed in on the action — if the Fallout Wasteland becomes reality, we're the Ghouls. Sorry.

North Sentinel Island

Sometimes, when the public is told to stay away from mysterious locations, it's in their own best interest. Such is the case with North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal in the Indian Ocean. To near its shores is to invite death — literally. See, the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island don't like visitors from the outside world, and they sure as hell don't tolerate them. A decade ago, a pair of fisherman learned this the hard way when they got a little too close to the tiny island, and were killed by members of the tribe.

Since that incident, government officials in India have created a 3-mile "safe zone" around the island for anyone who'd rather not be murdered. The bottom line is that if you're looking for a fun and exciting secret getaway location ... maybe look somewhere else?

Jiangsu National Security Education Museum

Now, first things first: some members of the public can get into the Jiangsu National Security Education Museum. But here's the kicker: you have to be a Chinese national (and you have to be cool with that ridiculously cumbersome name). But if you're not a Chinese national, then you can forget about setting foot inside what is, basically, a repository for China's entire history of spies and espionage.

Call the ban on foreign visitors overly cautious or just plain paranoid, but we'll grudgingly admit that we can understand why China doesn't want interlopers getting a look at the classified information within its walls. Among the displays are detailed explanations for how the Chinese conduct wire-tapping and go about passing and obtaining secret information. And frankly, with the rise of hacking and organizations like Wikileaks, being overzealous in protecting secrets suddenly seems fully appropriate and understandable.

Pine Gap

Quick: try to think of the best place to hide some of America's biggest secrets. A place where the US government can conduct covert research and intelligence operations. Are you thinking about an underground bunker a mile below the Pentagon? A base carved into a mountain in Montana? Not quite. Try Australia — specifically, Pine Gap. Like most places in Australia, if you go there something will try to kill you, but this time, instead of giant spiders, it's hypervigilant soldiers with hyperpowerful assault weapons.

This satellite tracking station is jointly operated by the US and Australian governments, and is believed to be where many of America's drone operations originate. Edward Snowden — you remember him, right? — has called Pine Gap one of the most important facilities in the world for US intelligence. Basically, if a drone strike is carried out in the Middle East, chances are pretty good that the operation was conducted from Pine Gap.

Club 33

Because we want to assure you that not every secret place in the world is used for nefarious, apocalyptic purposes, we give you Club 33. It's less under the radar than it used to be, but this private area of Disneyland is still one of the most impossible places to gain access to in the United States. That is, unless you've got a sterling reputation and thousands of extra dollars just sitting around, waiting to be thrown at a restaurant opened by Walt Disney as an excuse to hobnob with celebrities and other dignitaries behind the scenes at his park.

The ultra-exclusive Club 33 is hidden in plain sight in New Orleans Square, so the next time you visit Disneyland, you're free to poke around trying to find the door. Just look for the one with the big "33" sign next to it. But don't count on getting a look inside. That's reserved for only those who have been approved for membership (hope you're patient, since there's a 14-year waiting list), and then only after ponying up the $25,000 initiation fee. If that seems exorbitant, don't worry: it only costs $12,000 to maintain your membership after that ... every year.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

When the apocalypse comes, it won't matter if you're a Club 33 member, because they won't have any food to serve you. So in an end-of-the-world scenario, have you ever thought about where you could find everything needed to start over once the dust settles? That's where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault comes in. Located in the frozen tundra of, well, Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, this facility houses more than 25,000 types of seeds from around the world, stocked and stored in the event of a catastrophe.

Should crops die out in a nuclear winter, the world will have backup options to give Mother Nature the kickstart she needs to get back on track and, most importantly, enable us to actually survive on more than Twinkies and, presumably, our fellow man. Considering this vault could potentially both save mankind and create a sustainable future for it, it's easy to see why they don't exactly want random people wandering in to take a look and possibly have a nibble.

Vivos One Europa

Of course, even if you have the agricultural resources to start over after the apocalypse, you need someplace to live. Someplace like Vivos One Europa, which — let's be real here — would never admit peasants like you, or us. If you didn't know where to look, you'd never even be able to find Vivos One Europa, as this massive doomsday bunker is built into a mountain in Germany. It takes the post-apocalyptic shelter aspect of Mt. Weather, and combines it with the exclusivity of Club 33, and doesn't subtract any of us, because we were never part of the equation.

The Vivos One Europa is an invitation-only fallout shelter, with space to accommodate only a select number of families. The accommodations, by the way, range from 2,500-5,000 square feet, depending on just how extravagant one of its billionaire occupants wants to get. The 76-acre facility is heavily fortified and guarded, and originally served as a weapons and ammo depot during the Cold War. Ironic, really, that a facility built to house the means to fight World War III is now the emergency retreat for the super-rich in the event of, well, World War III.

Mezhgorye

Hidden away in the Ural Mountains is the small village of Mezhgorye. It's not surprising that you'd find a tiny town in the middle of the Russian wilderness, of course. They're probably drinking vodka and fighting bears there as we speak. But it's suspected that something much, much shadier than playing hockey and chowing down on borscht takes place there, as well. The US government, in fact, believes that the sleepy little town of Mezhgorye is home to the kinds of nuclear arsenal that could make Mad Max a reality.

In the 1970s, American intelligence turned up evidence that Mount Yamantau (where Mezhgorye sits) was being turned into the hub for not just nuclear activity in Russia, but was also being converted into the Soviet answer to Mt. Weather, in terms of being a fallback bunker for the government. That construction appeared to be ongoing even after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War is certainly troubling. Unfortunately, the odds of any of us ever getting close enough to check out this potential epicenter for a nuclear war are slim to none.

Dugway Proving Ground

The Soviets didn't have a monopoly on secret research facilities during the height of the Cold War. The "Dugway Proving Ground" is a fairly ambiguous name for a government installation, but the tests and experiments conducted there were anything but mundane. It wasn't long ago that everything that happened there was still considered top secret, but recently some of the research has been declassified and has proven to be ... a little horrifying.

The Dugway Proving Ground, it turns out, is where basically every terrible weapon conceived by the US government was researched and tested. We're talking chemical and biological warfare, including — and we couldn't make this up if we tried — weaponized mosquitos. So yes, it's okay if you want to slip on your tinfoil hat and start pondering whether Zika may have originated at Dugway.

The facility is about the size of Rhode Island, and perhaps most troublesome of all is the belief by some that some of the testing involved experimentation on human subjects. On the bright side, we suppose if Captain America could ever become reality, this might be the place that births the super-soldier serum. So that'd be pretty cool, we guess.

Room 39

You didn't really think we could talk about secret places, shadowy government facilities, and doomsday scenarios without bringing up North Korea, did you? The whole country is one big shady government secret, but for brevity's sake, we'll just focus on one, extra-secret place there.

Room 39 is ... well, it's a little complicated, in that the room itself isn't so much a secret. No, it's who meets there, and for what purpose, that's the big question mark. Back in the 1970s, Kim Jong-Il created "Office 39": an ultra-secret, extremely mysterious branch of the government that remained under wraps for decades. It's since been revealed that just about any sketchy dealings done by North Korea are funded and organized by Office 39.

The branch operates out of a government building in Pyongyang, known as Central Committee Bureau 39, Third Floor, Room 39 (hence the clever name). Governments around the world have begun seeking sanctions against Office 39, which is believed to be engaged in smuggling, counterfeiting, and drug trafficking, among other illicit activities. Not that we're likely to find out for sure anytime soon. Considering you can get arrested and executed as a spy for even accidentally crossing the North Korean border, and given the impossibly tight fist with which Kim Jong-Un runs the whole country, it's safe to say that Room 39 could well be the most secretive place in the world.