In Evil Justice, the second book in my Manhattan Mysteries series, Anna Winthrop infiltrates a group of urban explorers in her efforts to track down a ruthless killer she thinks was once a member of this group. Her first adventure with the group is exploring a tunnel that runs under Chinatown. There really is such a tunnel. It now houses the Wing Fat Shopping Arcade and connects Doyers Street with the Bowery. It’s a winding, fluorescent-list passageway with little shops on each side. But over a hundred years ago it was the central tunnel in a whole network of tunnels used by warring Tongs—Chinese gangs—to move secretly from one point to another. So violent were the battles among these gangs that Doyers Street, where the main tunnel begins, became known as the Bloody Angle.
Urban exploration, also known as “urbex” or “UE,” is the investigation of urban areas that are off limits to the general public. Urban explorers often take dangerous risks in their efforts to infiltrate forbidden sites. Explorations sometimes result in arrest and punishment. These risks are part of the excitement for many followers of this activity. Possible urban exploration sites include abandoned buildings; sewer, water and drainage tunnels; utility tunnels (for instance, steam); and subway and train tunnels. Books and films have been made about urban explorers, who pride themselves on their ability to access places most people can’t. To the police, who believe urban exploration is especially irresponsible in an age when law enforcement personnel are usually needed elsewhere, urban explorers are nuisances and trespassers.