Under Las Vegas

Richard Sharum

2021

In March of 2021. I was flown to Las Vegas by a magazine to investigate the daily lives of the estimated 2000 people who live in the underground tunnels beneath Las Vegas, one of the most visited places on the planet.

I spent 8 days in a world not widely known, and in fact hidden from most residents of Las Vegas. It is a dangerous world where groups as many as 20 form their own "villages" with their own barter economies and community rules.

This is a world without formal punishment for crimes, as law enforcement does not venture into these tunnels, for their own safety. This essentially creates an environment where drugs, sex and abuse run rampant. Violent acts, such as rape and murder also happen on occasion.

Despite all of these challenges, these individuals carry on and in my experience, are good people, caught in the web of a city that celebrates sex, drugs, and gambling.

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  • One of several "favorite" personal items borrowed from tunnel occupants.

  • One of several "favorite" personal items borrowed from tunnel occupants.

  • One of many decorations used to personalize sleeping areas deep underground.

  • One of several "favorite" personal items borrowed from tunnel occupants.

  • Flooding and water are constant issues for those who live in the tunnels underground. "Trench Foot" is a condition that is regularly reported by occupants, leading to bacterial infections, among other things.

  • Kenneth Hilliard gathers rocks outside of his tunnel in order to build a barrier of rock and trash, hoping to prevent water from flooding his slepping area.

  • An unidentified man and woman set up a tent in a tunnel they have been living in for almost two months. Most people who live underground try and build some sort of shelter, as a means of protecting their belongings, as well as protection from rats at night.

  • An unidentified man reacts after injecting heroin into his body, underneath the Strip.

  • A man who would only give his name as Robert, from Chicago, stands for a portrait at the entrance to the tunnels he is staying at . He said "I know this way of life is wrong, I miss my daughter." When asked what her name was , he pointed to the "Wednesday" tattooed on his body.

  • Beverly, aged 25, from Chicago, sits at the entrance to a tunnel after applying her makeup for the day. She is a sex worker who works the Strip at night for money.

  • Kenneth Hilliard collects items to build a barrier aganist runneing drainwater in his tunnel as tourists walk over, seemingly unaware. Most people in Vegas, even those who live there, are unaware of how many people live just under some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

  • A makeshift cross, in honor of a deceased friend, and well known tunnel occupant "Joker", stands in a drainage ditch outside one of the tunnels.

  • Kenneth Hilliard, aged 58, shows his favorite possession, a necklace he found in the tunnels.

  • A woman sleeps on an Ottoman at the entrance to one of the many tunnels leading under the Strip.

  • A young man smokes meth in the foreground as other tunnel occupants sit and talk at the entrance. Underground there seem to be no laws as the police do not venture in there, due to saftey concerns.

  • One of the many tunnels frequented by people who live underground. There are no lights under the Strip, so most people use headlamps to move around.

  • One of many underground "camps", where several groups of people stay together for community and convenience. Underground residents are safer in groups, so it is common to see them live together, as it is mutually beneficial.

  • An unidentified man sweeps water away from his construction of a "dam" in his part of the tunnel. His bed is to the left and he hopes that the barrier he created will keep him dry for a little while.

  • Luis, aged 50, from Mexico. He wears an LED light around his neck to see underground. He stands below a storm drain that is open to the street.

  • A stripped man sits in the sun at the end of one of the tunnels, after getting high with an injection into his arm.


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