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A Glossary of Urban Exploration Terms

A

Abseiling – Controlled descent down a vertical drop
Access/access details – The means by which an urbexer gains entry to a location
Anorak – An urbexer with a specific obsession, for example, trains
ARTS – Abandoned Rapid Transit Stations/Systems
Asylum seeker – An urbexer who mainly explores asylums
A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms

B

Backbreaker – Long, low tunnel in a drain
Backlighting – A lighting techniques where the light is placed behind the subject
Bait – Provocatively exposing one’s position to gain the attention of police or security
Blagging – Talking one’s way into an area
Bricked up – An opening closed with bricks or other materials
BTP – The British Transport Police, the national police force for the railways, which includes the London Underground (Tube)
Buildering – Climbing buildings, with or without tools and support devices
Bunker – Underground military command post, as found throughout Australia and Europe, particularly in Britain
Bust(ed) – Getting caught

A graffiti covered wall shot during an urbex photography trip
Craig Hull

C

Cacophony society – A group whose members pursue “experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society through subversion, pranks, art, fringe explorations and meaningless madness” and who share some ideals with urban explorers
Carded – Opening a door by use of a credit card
Catacomb – Subterranean burial grounds and the mazes of tunnels connected to them, as found in several older European cities, including Paris and Rome (strictly speaking, the term “catacomb” only applies to the burial grounds)
Cataphiles – Those who explore catacombs
Catch basin – Tank located under the street where water collects before flowing into drains
Central utilities building or CUB – On a college or university campus, the building that supplies the rest of the campus with electricity, heat, cool air and water, usually via steam tunnels
Chimney climbing/Chimneying – Climbing by using various body parts to provide the force on opposing walls
Chimping – Looking through digital images, making ‘chimp’ sounds (Ooh Ooh)
CIHY – Short for “can I help you?”; query often directed at infiltrators
City – The police force with the square mile of the City of London, run by the City of London Corporation
Closed circuit television or CCTV – Television signals transported directly from a camera to a monitor via wires, without broadcasting
College tunnel – See steam tunnel
Combined sewage overflow or CSO – In older drainage systems, storm sewers and sanitary sewers may be connected to some degree, resulting in this unfortunate occurrence during serious storms
Cracking (a location) – Opening and entering a place that no other explorer has seen before
Crash bar – The bar on the inside of a fire door. These trigger an alarm
Credibility prop – An item such as a clipboard or briefcase, carried or used by an infiltrator to reduce suspicion
Creeper – One who infiltrates
Cubed location – A place where exploration areas connect, such as a tunnel leading to the basement, which leads to a ladder to the roof
Cut-and-cover – Subway tunnels created by a process of digging down from the top and covering up the hole, as opposed to boring a tube

An abandoned ferris wheel shot during an urban exploration trip
Craig Hull

D

Darkie – See stormwater drain
Digestive <from Senor Jojo> – A full-length expedition that goes in one end and out the other
Diggers – A group of underground explorers in Russia
Drainer – An explorer that is primarily interested in drains and sewers
Draining – Exploring stormwater drains (see stormwater drain)
Drop – A small waterfall in a drain

The exterior of an abandoned building shot during an urban exploration trip
Craig Hull

E

Edgework – Undertaking a life-threatening risk except for the adrenaline rush
Elevator surfing – The dangerous activity of riding on top of a moving elevator
Expo <from expedition> – A mission attempted by a group of people

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

F

Fail – A failed exploration / Failure of the secca or cop to catch an urbexer
First service – The first trains that run in the morning
Flashlight – American/Canadian word for torch
Freighthopping – Stowing away aboard freight trains in order to get free transport; not really infiltrating, but some infiltrators feel solidarity with freighthoppers

A photo of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

G

Geocaching – Using GPS units to locate hidden caches of goods based on coordinates and clues; not really infiltrating, but some infiltrators feel solidarity with geocachers
Golden Age – The best years for urban exploration in any given city (London – 2008 – 2012)
Grilles – Metal bars found in the roof or sides of a drain; rooms made entirely of grilles are called grille rooms
Gutter box – Small space or room underneath the slit in a gutter into which water falls before emptying into the drain itself

The exterior of an abandoned building shot during an urban exploration trip
Craig Hull

H

Hacking <used at MIT> – 1. Synonym for infiltrating; sometimes known by the full name of roof and tunnel hacking 2. Installing or being otherwise involved in the execution of a classy prank
HEPA filter – High-efficiency particulate air filters, useful in keeping asbestos fibers out of one’s respiratory system
Hero Shot – A highly stylised photo of an urban explorer looking smug
High-vis – A high-visibility vest
Hoarding – The temporary wooden walls surrounding a construction or demolition site
Holy grail – An exploration that requires deep research
Hot (location) – A location that has been written about online

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

I-L

Infiltration – Going places you’re not supposed to go in general; covers urban exploration as well as simply dropping in to conventions uninvited and the like
J. Bizzle – Joseph Bazalgette, architect of the London sewer system.
Junction – The point where two sections of a drain meet; a junction room is a room where two tunnels join into one
Key – A found, borrowed or copied key, also used for drains
Labyrinth – A series of connected tunnel systems built for different purposes
Layup – Area where trains are parked
Lift-o-Matic – Simple manhole key produced by the Cave Clan
Light painting – Using light and long exposure to illuminate an area or scene
Loop – Two distinct drain tunnels separating but rejoining further upstream or downstream

An abandoned ferris wheel shot during an urban exploration trip
Craig Hull

M

Maglite – A favored brand of flashlight/torch
Manhole – The name for either a hole in the street leading underground or the underground room itself; sometimes used as shorthand for “manhole cover”
Master key – A key that opens all, or almost all, the doors in a particular institution
Meet/meet-up/pissup – A mass meeting of urbexers
Met – The Metropolitan Police, responsible for law enforcement in greater London, excluding the ‘square mile’ of the City of London [see City].
Metro – The name for the subway system in both Paris and Montreal
Mice – Slang for campus security guards
Mole people – The hundreds or thousands of people who live in the tunnels under New York City, according to a book of dubious merit of the same name by Jennifer Toth
Mousehouse – Slang for the campus security office

The exterior of an abandoned building shot during an urban exploration trip
Craig Hull

N-O

Ninja/ninjors – An urbexer who is skilled at climbing
Noob – A new or inexperienced urban explorer
Outfall – The spot where a storm drain empties its water out into nature; a popular entrance and exit point for explorers
Overflow – A drain separate from the main tunnel built to carry excess water when the water level in the main tunnel is high; normally dry
Overt camouflage – Using transparency as opposed to stealth, often using a uniform or costume to look as if you belong

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

P

Parkour – French sport involving climbing up, jumping onto and falling off of manmade structures; often described as skateboarding without a skateboard
People shot/action shot –A photograph focusing on those exploring rather than the location
Physical plant – At a college or university campus, the department which is responsible for maintaining the central utility building and the steam tunnels; sometimes also used as a synonym for central utility building
PIR – Passive InfraRed sensor alarm, set off by motion through its beam.
Popper – A device used to open a manhole cover; the Lift-o-Matic is one kind
Prohobo/probo/urban camping – Sleeping in abandoned places with expensive gear

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

R

Rainslot – See catchbasin
Rappel – Descend a wall or steep face using a doubled rope
RCP – Round concrete pipe (usually used in reference to the drain shape)
Recce (pronounced Rekky) – Reconnaissance/scouting/scoping out the way inside a place before exploring it and/or clocking security patrols.
Rinsed – A location or area that has thought to have been extensively explored
Rooftopping – Gaining access to the roof of a building
Rope in/drop in/rope access – Gaining entry by abseiling
Ruin porn – A fetish for the exploration and photography for derelict locations

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

S

Sealed – An area that has become inaccessible or sealed off
Secca – Short for security guards
Sewering – Exploring sanitary sewers (occasionally misused as a synonym for draining, see draining)
Shaft – Vertical passage connected to a tunnel; – To climb up or down a shaft without climbing tools
Shrinker – Drain that just continues to get smaller as you head upstream
Skunneling <skateboarding and tunneling> – Skateboarding in drains
Slide – Steep section of a drain, steeper than a ramp
Snipping – Cutting through a fence or lock
Snotsicle <from Action Squad> – Small, mucus-like stalactite that hangs from the ceiling of certain moist sewers
Social engineering <from hacker jargon> – Dealing with people (employees, security guards) in a manner that allows you to get past them or obtain information from them
Split – The part where a drain divides
SRT (kit) – Single Rope Technique is a set of methods and equipment used to descend and ascend a rope
Steam tunnel – Underground passages that house pipes carrying steam and other utilities; found under large colleges, universities and other large institutions
Stoop – A small sewer pipe that is filthy and painful to use
Stormwater drain – An underground tunnel that shuttles rain or melted snow from urban areas back out to the wilds of nature where it belongs
Stunneling <student or steam tunneling> – Traveling through steam tunnels under colleges or universities
Swag – Artefacts removed from a site

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Anna S. – flickr.com/people/schattenmond

T

Tabi <Japanese> – Footwear with a split between the big toe and the rest of the foot; ideal for climbing
Tag (up) – To write graffiti consisting of nothing more creative than an explorer’s name
Tankcatting – Smashing or breaking into a site through a door or lock
Texta – Big, thick marker used for graffiti
The fresh – Used to describe the feeling of being in the sewer, where you can smell feces
The point – The farthest point of excavation in a tunnel
Third rail – The electrified rail that powers most subway systems; to be avoided
TOADS – Temporary, Obsolete, Abandoned and Derelict Spaces
Tomb – 1. Synonym for drain used when the drain is named after someone, from a Melbourne tradition of members naming drains after themselves (i.e. Sloth’s Tomb, Bob’s Tomb) 2. <used at MIT> An unused space, usually with only one entrance, named by the discoverer
Top(ped) out – The top of a skyscraper
Topside – Above ground
Torch – British/Australian word for flashlight
Trackies – Rail line workers
Tract – A pamphlet circulated among cataphiles, often via the catacombs
Trainhopping – See freighthopping
Trojan horse exploit – When an explorer enters a building through the front door, possibly in office attire, to let others in
Trolling – Purposefully antagonizing other people online in an act to provoke outrage
Tube – Subway tunnels created by a boring machine, or a nickname for the London Underground
Tweeker – A drug user, or copper thieves

A photo of the interior of an abandoned building - urban exploration terms
Craig Hull

U-Z

Uberboots <Albertan> – Rubber boots that come up to one’s knees or higher
Underground – 1. The oldest and one of the largest subway systems in the world, in London 2. Popular urban exploration mailing list
Urban adventure – Very much like urban exploration, but with the focus upon experiences rather than sight-seeing
Urban exploration/UrbEx/UE – The investigation of manmade structures not designed for public consumption, from mechanical rooms to stormwater drains to rooftops; usually such areas are off-limits
Usufruct – A legal concept that affords people the right to use and enjoy property owned by someone else, provided it is not changed or damaged in any way.
Vad <derived from the hacked command for the computer text game Adventure> – Explore – the word adopted by MIT students for real-world hacking
Viewing hole – An eye-level hole, usually rectangular, cut into the boards surrounding a construction site to appease curious passersby
Walk-in – A site that requires little to no effort to access
Water moccasin – Poisonous snake rumored to inhabit drains in the southern USA
Waterfall – In a drain, a large drop over which the drain water falls
Wonky – Badly framed photograph
Xmas – A period of time when security is non-existent
Yabbies <from Australian> – freshwater crustaceans found in Australian drains

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