Via Jason Kottke. My favorite? The subterranean realm of long-dead Smithsonian Institution moth expert Harrison Gray Dyar, who dug "almost a quarter mile of tunnels" beneath his home in Washington:
The text, from a 1932 issue of Modern Mechanics and Invention, reads:
ONE of the oddest hobbies in the world is that of Dr. H. G. Dyar, international authority on moths and butterflies of the Smithsonian Institution, who has found health and recreation in digging an amazing series of tunnels beneath his Washington home.
Almost a quarter of a mile of tunnels has been completed, lined with concrete. The deepest passage, illustrated in the accompanying diagram, extends 32 feet down.
Every bit of earth was removed unaided by Dr. Dyar, being carried out in pails. He found the tunnel-digging an appealing form of exercise to relieve the intense strain of his work day, which involved much close work with high-power microscopes.
The catacombs are constructed in three levels, with steps and iron pipe ladders leading between different tiers. The idea first came to Dr. Dyar when he sought to make an underground entrance to his furnace cellar.
Anyone know if the tunnels are still around? According to Pamela M. Henson, they got Dyar in a bit of trouble:
During the 1920s Dyar's most peculiar hobby came to light. When a truck fell into a labyrinth of tunnels near Dyar's old home in 1924, newspaper speculation attributed these to World War I spy nests, Civil War trysts, and mad scientists. Eventually Dyar accepted responsibility for the tunnels and similar works behind his new home, saying he found relaxation in digging underground. The brick-walled tunnels extended for hundreds of feet and measured six by six feet.
View the whole collection here.