A panoramic investigation of the subterranean landscape, from sacred caves and derelict subway stations to nuclear bunkers and ancient underground cities—an exploration of the history, science, architecture, and mythology of the worlds beneath our feet

When Will Hunt was sixteen years old, he discovered an abandoned tunnel that ran beneath his house in Providence, Rhode Island. His first tunnel trips inspired a lifelong fascination with exploring underground worlds, from the derelict subway stations and sewers of New York City to the sacred caves, catacombs, and tombs, from bunkers to ancient underground cities in more than twenty countries around the world. Underground is both a personal exploration of Hunt’s obsession and a panoramic study of how we are all connected to the underground, how caves and other dark hollows have frightened and enchanted, repelled and captivated, us through the ages.

In a narrative spanning continents and epochs, Hunt follows a cast of subterranea-philes who have dedicated themselves to investigating underground worlds. He tracks the origins of life with a team of NASA microbiologists a mile beneath the Black Hills, camps out for three days with urban explorers in the catacombs and sewers of Paris, descends with an Aboriginal family into a 35,000-year-old sacred mine in the Australian outback, follows a ghostlike graffiti artist writing stories in the subway tunnels of New York, and glimpses a sacred sculpture molded by Paleolithic artists in the depths of a cave in the Pyrenees.

Each adventure is woven with findings in mythology and anthropology, natural history and neuroscience, literature and philosophy. In elegant and graceful prose, Hunt cures us of our “surface chauvinism,” opening our eyes to the planet’s hidden dimension. He reveals how the subterranean landscape gave shape to our most basic beliefs, including how we think about ourselves as humans. At bottom, Underground is a meditation on the allure of darkness, the power of mystery, and our eternal desire to connect with what we cannot see.

Advance praise for Underground

“An unusual and intriguing travel book . . . As [Will] Hunt reveals the scientific, historic, literary, psychological, spiritual, and metaphorical qualities of his exploration, it begins to seem less idiosyncratic than universal, a pull that has persisted throughout civilization and a mystery that has yet to be solved. The underground may represent hell to some, but it has also provided spiritual solace for centuries. . . . A vivid illumination of the dark and an effective evocation of its profound mystery.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A mesmerizingly fascinating tale . . . I could not stop reading this beautifully written book.”—Michael Finkel, author of The Stranger in the Woods

“Few books have blown my mind so totally, and so often. In Will Hunt’s nimble hands, excursion becomes inversion, and the darkness turns luminous. There are echoes of Sebald, Calvino, and Herzog in his elegant and enigmatic voice, but also real warmth and humor. . . . An intrepid—but far from fearless—journey, both theoretically and terrestrially.”—Robert Moor, New York Times bestselling author of On Trails

Underground left me, for days, wanting to go there—down, down, down, into the moisture and the mystery. It succeeds as reportage, as memoir, as historical survey and philosophical reflection. Will Hunt is a generous and literate mole man, beckoning us always to look lower.”—Ted Conover, author of Newjack

“An unusual and intriguing travel book, into the world beneath the world we know . . . a vivid illumination of the dark and an effective evocation of its profound mystery.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Underground is for anyone who’s ever peered into a crack in the earth and felt that peculiar blend of unease and curiosity. Read this and you will never look at the ground beneath you in the same way again.”—Steve Rinella, author of MeatEater and American Buffalo
 
“Will Hunt explores the subterranean world in all of its historic and psychological grandeur. This tour de force just might make you want to pull on a pair of rubber boots and strap on a headlamp to get a peek at the places we've forgotten.”—Scott Carney, New York Times bestselling author of What Doesn’t Kill Us

“Will Hunt is an irresistible guide. I followed Underground’s global tour of subterranean cultures with astonishment and joy, happy to meet a cast of cataphiles, compulsive diggers, ochre priests, spelunkers, and various seekers of the dark. I will never look at a hole in the ground in quite the same way again.”—Justin Davidson, author of Magnetic City and architecture critic of New York

“Underground is a revelation. A fearless, eloquent, and truly insightful guide, Will Hunt takes us through the hidden worlds beneath our feet, from guerrilla art galleries to ancient sacred chambers to lost worlds inhabited by lost souls. Along the way, Hunt initiates us into a suite of subterranean mysteries that span geography, culture, and time, awakening the dormant but profound allure the underworld holds for us and, as he so persuasively demonstrates, for all of humankind.”—John Vaillant, author of The Tiger 

“Always entertaining . . . This brisk work, rife with intriguing characters and little-known traditions and communities, will leave many readers wanting to dig deeper into the worlds hiding beneath their feet.”Publishers Weekly