The Secret Underwater City In The Heart Of MinnesotaS

A parody site created back in the 1990s claims there's a giant underwater city within "the crystal clear waters of the Minnesota River." And people have been visiting from as far away as Texas to discover the Atlantis of Minnesota.

I love the "official Mankato, MN web page", which was created in 1996 by Don Descy, an educational studies professor at Minnesota State University — to teach his students not to believe everything they read on the Internet. The site includes lush descriptions and blurry pictures, in that telltale mid-1990s "free website" style, of the Mankato underwater city:

"Recent discoveries have pointed to the building of this city about 4000 B.C.," says Dr. Seymour Bottoms, world famous astrogeologist at Mankato State University. "At this time early Indians settled in the Emerald Green Valley and built the city next to the Minnesota River. The city was covered with water in about 1256 B.C. when the first of a series of major earth tremors shook the region."

And yes, the professor happens to be named Seymour Bottoms. Why do you ask? People in academia don't discriminate in hiring or tenure decisions purely based on their colleagues' porno joke names. The site also mentions a mysterious pyramid in Mankato and hints that aliens have visited the town.

The site claims to have had nearly 1.8 million visitors, which is plausible since it was a Yahoo Pick Of The Week in 1996 and has been featured in the local media constantly. We only discovered it for the first time last week, while working on the piece about weird urban ecosystems. We quickly sussed out that it was a joke site, but apparently others haven't been so discerning.

A 2007 article in the Mankato Free Press includes an interview with a Texas woman who brought her mom all the way from Kansas to see the famous underwater city — and was upset to discover it didn't exist. According to the Free Press article:

There is a disclaimer on the site. At the bottom of the main page the word "Disclaimer" is a link, which goes to another page of various paragraphs of text. At the bottom of that page, part four of the disclaimer reads: "Mankato, as portrayed on these pages, DOES NOT EXIST! ...or does it??? PLEASE do not come here to see these sights. (This had to be added because several individuals have come here to see some of the sights listed on these pages!) What can I say??"

There also are clues on the site that it is fake. No. 15 on the attractions list is simply "A Girl," which leads to a picture of Pamela Anderson. Also, the Minnesota River does not contain whales, which are saltwater animals, as is stated in No. 12.

Shelly Schultz, Mankato public information director, said the city takes great care to ensure the city's official Web site includes accurate information. She deferred questions to the Greater Mankato Chamber of Commerce regarding the city's stance on Descy's site.

Liz Sharp of the Chamber said there's little the Chamber can do about Descy's Web site.

"We have no control over anything that's out there regarding his Web site, and, yes, people have come to town because of that," she said.

I don't know what's more amazing — that a Cool Site from 1996 is still online, or that people are traveling across the country because of it. But it's sort of awesome that people believe there are whales, alien pyramids, and underwater cities in Minnesota. Prince would approve.