Mount Rushmore may be one of the most iconic monuments in the United States of America, but it’s also recognizable all over the world. In addition to paying tribute to some of the nation’s most seminal leaders, the four faces in stone are an impressive work of construction all on their own.
But what many might not know about the famous masterpiece is that one man fought to hide something inside it. Wanting to create a secret room deep within the bowels of the rock facade, he defied orders in an attempt to see his vision through.
Mount Rushmore might not ever have even made it into fruition had it not been for one especially contentious century-old sibling rivalry. It was this fierce competition that led to the mountain’s most secret feature.
Gutzon Borglum, the man who would go on to create the iconic stone monument, had a little brother who was known for his sculpting talents. Of course, Borglum decided he needed to become even better at the craft.
Borglum got his big break when he made a bust of Lincoln that got America’s attention. It was at this point that he was commissioned for a much larger project that would end up being Mount Rushmore.
Government officials in South Dakota believed their Black Hills would be the perfect location for a monument to the country. Not to mention it would bring in a little tourist income, which was badly needed.
So, Borglum set about choosing the four presidents he considered best representative of the nation’s values. In the end he settled on Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. In 1927, he was ready to work.
But this project wasn’t cheap. The government did agree to pay for it, but it ended up costing nearly a million dollars. In today’s money, that amounts to about $15 million. With a crew of 30, Borglum started chipping away.
These thirty men were tasked with the arduous job of blasting the solid rock with dynamite, carving away at its stony facade. Definitely not easy work. As they focused on the details on each presidential face, Bolgrum’s mind was elsewhere.
While most people involved with the construction were most invested in worries about the sculptures themselves, Bolgrum had much more secretive plans in mind. The carved stone faces were only the beginning of his magnum opus.
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This is because he secretly desired to build a special hidden room, squirreled away behind Abraham Lincoln’s head. This place would include important documents, such as the Declaration of Independence, and other plaques explaining the importance of the project — the ultimate artistic statement.
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Finally, in 1938, an entire decade after construction had first begun, builders began blasting away at the top of the statue, creating the room that Bolgrum hoped to become his so-called Hall of Records.
In Bolgrum’s vision, this room would be no easy feat for the everyday person to access. Visiting the hall would require climbing an 800-foot staircase, after which tourists would enter beneath a large golden eagle with an impressively large wingspan of 38 feet.
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Of course, the government still wasn’t very fond of this idea, so officials refused to finance it. A South Dakota state senator stepped in, offering relief workers to aid in the process, but even this wouldn’t turn out as planned.
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Bolgrum didn’t like the idea of relief workers being employed because this would mean that, unlike with government financing, none of the funds would go straight into the pocket of the architect himself.
Tragically, Gutzon Borglum died in March 1941, and never lived to see the day that his cherished Hall of Records would be completed. This was far from the end of the story for Borglum’s pet project, though.
Only mere months after Borglum’s sudden passing, in October of 1941, Mount Rushmore was finally completed — sans the Hall of Records. That is, until a certain group petitioned to make Borglum’s dying wish see the light of day.
Yes, for years after his passing Borglum’s entire family fought tirelessly to have his passion project included in the iconic breathtaking work he’d created. Unfortunately, for a long time their efforts remained fruitless.
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Then, finally, in 1998 the state gave them permission to enter the half-finished Hall of Records. The family placed plaques inside the dwelling. These included inscriptions describing the work done on the mountain, as well as its significance to Bolgrum and the nation itself.
One plaque included a quote from Bolgrum: “Hence, let us place there…as close to heaven as we can, the words of our leaders…to show posterity what manner of men they were. Then breathe a prayer that these records will endure until the wind and rain alone shall wear them away.”
While it’s wonderful that Bolgrum finally received his dying wish and that his family had the sentimental closure of placing the plaques inside, the Hall of Records remains closed to the public to this day.
Still, a group of visitors recently got a great deal more than they bargained for. In fact, they saw something shockingly out of place when they looked up at the mountain.
Hard as it was to believe, there was a trespasser making her way up to the monument. And this woman wasn’t just walking a few feet off the trail, either. She was nearing a dangerous point of no return.
This woman was starting to scale the stone faces, like she was a she was a South Dakotan Spider-Woman. Somehow, she’d made it onto the face of the monument without anyone knowing.
In fact, she’d climbed over the safety railing and ignored multiple no trespassing signs designed to deter even the most confused tourist. Once she was on the rock face, observers noticed something even more shocking.
Ryan Hermens/ Rapid City Journal
This climber was scaling the monument without a safety rope or harness! And, perhaps even more bizarrely, she was climbing into the space between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson without any shoes.
Unsurprisingly, the authorities quickly reacted to the intruder. When a park ranger approached the slope intending to bring the woman back to safety, however, their interaction was far from usual.
When the ranger asked the woman to come down, she reportedly asked if authorities wanted her to come down quickly or slowly. She kept scaling the mountain during their conversation, however.
She kept climbing on the faces, reaching roughly three quarters of the way up the 60-foot tall presidents. At that point, authorities decided that they’d had enough of this stunt.
They spoke to the woman again, and she agreed to come down from the monument. She was identified as Alexandria Incontro, who was visiting the tourist attraction with her family from Nebraska.
Once back on solid ground, Incontro was searched, handcuffed, and arrested. She was then taken to a waiting ambulance to make sure that she was healthy enough to be taken to jail.
Ryan Hermens/ Rapid City Journal
Medics found that Incontro had some scrapes from scaling the rock pile at the base of the monument; she also had minor injuries from her barefoot climb. She declined further treatment and was taken to Pennington County Jail.
Pennington County Sheriff’s Office
She was charged with multiple crimes, but most of them were dropped before Incontro appeared in federal court. She ultimately plead guilty to climbing Mount Rushmore and was fined $1,000. Weirdly, she wasn’t the only unauthorized explorer in recent years.
In 1970, members American Indian Movement planned to scale and occupy the monument. Greenpeace also tried and failed to hang a banner shaped like a gas mask on George Washington in 1987.
In 2018, 19-year old Zachary Schossau, who was in the area for a Christian music festival, was nabbed by park rangers on the rocks below the mountain. He, too, had a memorable exchange with authorities.
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When the rangers approached, he reportedly said “I’m sorry dude! I was just doing it for the fun.” And while that’s a polite apology, it didn’t stop him from being arrested and fined.
Greenpeace made a return trip up Mount Rushmore in 2009; their climb, however, was designed to make a statement, which earned them a much stiffer punishment when authorities eventually intervened.
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Twelve activists scaled the back of the mountain and rappelled down the presidents’ faces. They also unfurled a large banner, asking then-president Barack Obama to stop global warming. It hung for about an hour before being removed.
Eleven of the twelve activists were charged with trespassing and climbing Mount Rushmore. They were all fined and sentenced to community service, while one member spent two days in jail. Trouble keeps happening at tourist attractions around the world…
When a 12-year-old Taiwanese boy embarrassingly tripped at a Taipei museum, disaster struck. He fell into a 350-year-old oil painting, punching a hole in it — and this was no cheap work of art!
The painting, entitled “Flowers” by Italian painter Paolo Porpora, was estimated to cost a cringe-inducing $1.5 million. But don’t fret. The exhibition’s coordinator, Sun Chi-hsuan, disclosed that the boy was super apologetic, and the painting was insured.
Although Rome’s Colosseum is literally ruins, we can’t blame all of the tourists for its condition, considering the Italian landmark is actually ancient… but we can blame a few of them for its less-than-stellar state.
Two Brazilian dudes thought it would be a cute idea to hop the Colosseum’s gate at the crack of dawn and spray paint the walls! Thankfully, both men were arrested. Enough battles have been fought at the Colosseum; authorities don’t need anymore!
In 2007, Nick Flynn tripped on his loose shoelaces and fell down a flight of stairs at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam museum… directly into a display of inanely prized 17th century Qing dynasty vases, demolishing three of them. Oopsie.
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Although Nick wasn’t charged with anything, despite the ridiculous $800,000 worth of damage, authorities wondered if the “accident” wasn’t really an accident: he was arrested and banned from a separate museum. Coincidence? Hmmm.
We all know what the Mile High Club is, and it almost always involves a cramped airplane bathroom. So is there a club for gettin’ down 455 feet up… on the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza? Well, one couple tried to start one!
Laughably, Egyptian authorities investigated Danish photographer Andreas Hvid after he posted a super NSFW photo of himself and a woman in a telling position atop the pyramid. This was not the photo.
Although he claimed the racy photo was fake, he did admit to scaling the monument, which is also forbidden. Way to give the conservative Egyptians a headache-and-a-half.
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One family visited a UK monastery-turned-museum, the Prittlewell Priory, with a mission for mayhem that would earn them some serious internet notoriety…
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They placed their baby in an 800-year-old sandstone coffin, obviously ignoring all museum barriers, just to snap a cool pic. And yes, they, of course, damaged the artifact. The destruction wasn’t awful, but the disrespect stung just the same.
Vladimir Umanets must have felt like he had a message of great importance to share with the world because he sure did go big when it came to spreading the good news…
In 2012, Umanets spray-painted a note, in black might we add, on one of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko’s works at London’s Tate Modern gallery. The self-promotional scheme landed Umanets in prison for two years.
An anonymous 24-year-old man decided to test his luck by attempting a selfie adjacent to the 126-year-old statue of Dom Sebastiao, a highly honored Portuguese ruler. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a picture-perfect moment.
Sure enough, according to Fox News, he lost his balance and caused the prized statue to take a nose-dive to the concrete ground, crumbling into pieces.
The furious “Infraestruturas de Portugal” planned to press charges on the man. It’s been said that Dom Sebastiao’s spirit will return to Portugal, riding a white horse, to reclaim his throne in a time of need… and maybe get revenge.
When in a foreign place, taking home a piece of culture, usually in the form of a piece of art or an accessory, makes you feel worldly. Unfortunately, a woman’s experience in a southwest Chinese jewelry store was less than enriching.
After trying on a jade bracelet, she was notified that the price of the piece was $44,000. Her frantic attempt to remove the bracelet only led to its tragic demise. Watching the pieces break in half caused the woman to literally faint in the shop.
Yellowstone National Park is full of Mother Nature’s treasures. You’d think that people would let those remain sacred to the land, but not everyone does. In this case, these tourists had good intentions, but poor judgment.
Tourists stole a baby bison they believed was freezing. They drove the baby animal to the closest ranger station in a pursuit to save it. Of course, it’s commonly known that bison are equipped to handle the cold winter weather, just not to these tourists.
Unfortunately, the calf was unable to be brought back to its family because of the human interaction it endured, so the baby was euthanized. A park ranger said: “The well-being of these animals depends on visitors exercising good judgment.”
While visiting the International Arts Center Main Avenue in Yekaterinburg, Russia, a group of women tried to take a selfie in front of an art display by renowned artists Francisco Goya and Salvador Dalí.
The women proceeded to knock down an entire wall of art in the process! The Russian news agency, TASS, reported that “Goya’s work had its frame and glass broken. As far as Dalí’s artwork is concerned, apart from shattered frame and protective glass, it also suffered damage to the picture itself.”
Luckily for the gals, the Yekaterinburg police refused to open a criminal case against them, as reported by CNN. The question that still remains, however, is: did they get the picture?