This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
The tunnel that cops found under Toronto's Black Creek Parkland is no ordinary hole in the ground. Reinforced with plywood walls and soundproofing foam and containing a generator and digging tools, it's begging us to ask: what's your deal, hole? We have no idea, but its very existence is baffling. Its discovery is one of those things—like the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, or the pit of fire in Turkmenistan that hasn't burnt out after four decades—that feels like the plot point in an apocalyptic movie.
I tuned in to Toronto Police Deputy Chief Mark Saunders's press conference on Tuesday to see if I could parse out the story.
"On January 14 of this year, a conservation officer's attention was drawn to a large mound of dirt located in a heavily wooded area of Black Creek Parkland," Saunders said. "Upon further examination, the officer located a large piece of wood acting as a lid of some sort. This lid was covered in dirt in an effort to conceal its appearance."
What Saunders refers to as a "lid of some sort" is obviously a trapdoor, because no story about a mysterious hole is complete without reference to a trapdoor. However, the fact that it's not vacuum sealed means we're probably not dealing with a bunker from the Dharma Initiative.
"Once the lid was removed, the officer observed a large ten-foot hole with a ladder leading down to a chamber," Saunders went on. "He immediately called the police. Officers from 31 Division arrived and commenced an investigation. Here is what we've learned to date: At the time of the discovery, no one was located inside the chamber. The measurements of the chamber are six-foot-four in height, two feet ten inches in width, and 33 feet and three inches in length."
So the hole isn't quite big enough to be a secret passageway for York students, but it is tall enough for most non-basketball players to stand upright inside.
"The individuals responsible for building it clearly had some levels of expertise in ensuring its structural integrity. By looking at the design, you can see that they used plywood walls and ceiling reinforcement with two-by-eight wood framing," Saunders continued. "Other items located around the immediate area were: moisture resistant lightbulbs, a sump-pump for removing ground water, a pulley system—most likely to remove dirt—a red portable gas container, work gloves, a wheelbarrow, and food and beverage containers."
Honestly, this sounds like a prank by some York University engineering students. Engineers do this kind of thing, right? Build a hole for no reason? Why not! But who exactly is supposed to be pranked by a tunnel in the middle of Black Creek Parkland?
Back to Saunders: "Located inside the chamber, hanging from a nail, was a rosary with a Remembrance Day poppy affixed to it."
WHAT? I give up on my theory about eager engineering students. This is some weird shit. Maybe this tunnel was meant to be the site of some underground chapel, like the catacombs in Paris, or that Christian iconography-filled underground congregation in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. This feels like a clue Tom Hanks would find about some Vatican-sponsored crime syndicate in The Da Vinci Code. The presence of Christian and war-related objects could be innocent, but what if it's not?
Saunders: "As part of our investigation, the chamber was excavated, photographed and forensically examined, and the investigation is still ongoing. At the moment, we are unable to determine who constructed this chamber, nor are we able to determine what the motive was for building it."
The deputy chief then went on to request that anyone with information about the tunnel, or who had seen anything suspicious on Black Creek Parkland, to get in touch with the police.
When one reporter asked Saunders why more surveillance wasn't done on the tunnel to see if any of it builders showed up to continue the job, Saunders replied, "We knew that media was aware of this and that at some point in time it was going to be released. I wanted to get in front of it." But the tunnel was discovered on January 14 and the press only reported it last night. That window would have given the police five weeks to surveil the hole before the public knew. When another reporter asked why it took so long for the police to tell the press about the hole, Saunders replied that it wasn't necessary because there was no public safety issue. And then he added, "There's nothing right now that suggests this is criminal. We're trying to establish who built it, what built it, and what were their intentions."
Various media outlets have speculated about the possibility that the tunnel may have something to do with terrorism because of its proximity to York's Rexall Centre, which will be used for tennis events during this year's Pan Am Games. Furthermore, the CBC reported Monday that national security officials were notified about the existence of the hole.
However, as the police executive in charge of security at the Pan Am Games, Saunders also said that the tunnel would have been an "eyesore" to security groups at the games—which seems like a specious claim to make about an underground hole. But he's probably referring to the security procedures that would have located something like a rosary-filled hole before it could become a threat.
But if, as Saunders said, "there's no criminal offense for digging a hole," if there's no issue of public safety, if no crime was committed, and if the tunnel didn't pose a threat to the Pan Am Games, then why did the cops need to hold a press conference with a deputy chief? As Saunders told one reporter, "I don't have a working theory. We're open. We go with the evidence and right now the evidence says that we do not understand why it was built or who built it."
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