Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is one of the most unique music venues in the United States. This stadium is nestled between the curved brick-red rocks that give the location its own kind of flavor. Crowds of thousands have gathered in this location since the early 1900s to hear one-of-a-kind performances.
And there’s a secret hiding underneath this stadium. A secret that very few, outside of the famous performers, get to actually see. Underneath the mounds of sandstone that comprise this space, there’s a tunnel system that reveals why this truly is a one-of-a-kind venue.
A show at Red Rocks Park is something that most artists have on their bucket lists. This unique space has global acclaim and brings groups with international renown flocking to Colorado.
Roman Tafoya / 303 Magazine
One of The Moody Blues’ members said it best, “Whether you come to Red Rocks as an audience member or performer, you feel like you’re part of something.” Multiple artists describe its almost spiritual draw this way.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
Though the space has operated as a performance venue since the 1900s, the natural feature itself has a much, much longer history. It was formed more than 300 million years ago due to erosion from the Rocky Mountains.
When the Earth’s plates shifted, they created “waves” in the ground, which grew into the gorgeous cliffs that dot the space. This type of landscape is extremely common across Colorado and even Wyoming.
Tyler Hitchcock / Flickr
Thanks to this erosion, Red Rocks Park was formed about 10 miles from Denver. The rocks shifted into a “natural amphitheater,” which lends some awesome acoustics to the performer, plus a breathtaking set piece for anyone in attendance.
John Brisben Walker was an American publisher who had the vision to turn the structure into a performance space. John had a vision of artists standing among the rocky cliffs, singing.
He quickly worked to bring his mental picture to life. John owned Cosmopolitan magazine, and sold it to William Randolph Hearst for $400,000, or $11 million today, to fund his passion project. This man was serious.
Karen Arnold, Public Domain Images
With his fat stack of cash, John bought what was then known as Garden of the Angels. He quickly rebranded it to Garden of the Titans and booked an act for its first-ever show in May 1906.
A 25-member brass band gave the first show, but John didn’t stop there. He wanted to outdo himself a few years later and hired four separate bands and staged a massive fireworks show. Was this garden getting too big for one man to control?
When the city of Denver purchased the space in 1910, they made some major renovations, including updating the name. This was definitely a savvy purchase by the city.
Fifty years later, on August 26, 1964, The Beatles played a show at Red Rocks. It was their only show to not sell out during their major tour. Ringo Starr recalled this when he returned 36 years after that.
So many greats graced the stage. Jimi Hendrix unleashed another iconic show at Red Rocks in the ’60s. In the ’80s and ’90s, bands like U2, Phish, and Depeche Mode played there. And Rush played there too.
The theater is known for its live recordings too. Country musician John Denver recorded several of his concerts there in the ’70s and ’80s. He took his stage name from the nearby city, so he felt a special connection.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater continues to be a major landmark in the Denver area, drawing 1.3 million concert attendees in 2017 alone. But what lies beneath this ancient sandstone? Hmm.
Unlike nearly all other spaces, the backstage area of Red Rocks Amphitheater is actually under the stage — not behind it. Walking through the brick space is like walking through a history of the world’s best bands. Why?
Rob Lee / Flickr
When an act performs at the amphitheater, they sign their names in this underground space. This has created one of the coolest word searches for other artists or anyone else lucky enough to see it.
Christian Murdock / Colorado Springs Gazette
This tunnel connects the green room where the performers relax before their shows and the sound booth. Artists can walk through and hope to gain more musical talent through signature osmosis before a performance.
Christian Murdock / Colorado Springs Gazette
Some of the standouts include: John Mayer, the Zac Brown Band, Led Zeppelin, Gorillaz, Steve Miller, Tenacious D, Nine Inch Nails, Santana, Pretty Lights, Stevie Nicks, and The Grateful Dead.
The tunnel has become so full of signatures, artists are starting to sign the stairs, the lights, anywhere there’s still a little bit of room, so they can make their mark on a space with tons of history.
No one knows when the signature tradition actually started. The tunnel itself was dug in 1959 and — at some point — the bland brick was taken over by the creativity of the performers bringing life to this epic spot. It adds the perfect finish to any epic performance.
Muse / Tumblr
Red Rocks is just one of many landmarks concealing a secret. Mount Rushmore might not ever have even made it into fruition had it not been for one especially contentious century-old sibling rivalry. Then, we’d never know what this mountain conceals.
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.
YouTube – David Malki
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.
The National Archives
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.
Utah’s Adventure Family
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.
Black Hills Vacations
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.
Lauren Murphy/ Music Feeds
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.
Inside Climate News
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.
Portal de Turismo
One family visited a UK monastery-turned-museum, the Prittlewell Priory, with a mission for mayhem that would earn them some serious internet notoriety…
Cottrell & Vermeulen
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?