Yes, we have done an explainer on the Chicago Rat Hole. No, it’s not a slow news day (Picture: X/Metro.co.uk)
An untold flock of people have made the pilgrimage to see it. They’ve stared, kneeled, and left offerings of dried flowers, coins and miniature flags around it.
No one knows how – or why – it’s even there. On its Wikipedia page, people furiously debate its origin and praise its beauty.
We’re not talking about Stonehenge – that mysterious thousands-year-old monument in South West England. We’re talking about a rat-shaped pothole in Chicago, America’s ‘rattiest’ city.
Chicago-based comedian Winslow Dumaine, 32, said in a post on X earlier this month that he ‘had to make a pilgrimage to see the Chicago Rat Hole’. The name capped up, of course, which we will do so, too, out of respect.
We think it’s better than Stonehenge, to be honest (Picture: X/WinslowDumaine)
Some five million views later, the pothole now sees scores of tourists queuing to pay their respects to the ‘rat gods’.
One couple even chose the imprint as their wedding venue. Newlywed Raj Mahal shared footage on TikTok of him and his husband getting hitched by the hole.
‘My dream wedding at the Rat Hole,’ he wrote.
Another pilgrim stood piously over the hole, and into it tipped a bottle of Jeppson’s Malört, a locally produced bäsk liqueur. It’s what the hole would want, he said.
Others voted to name the hole ‘Splatatouille’ – beating out worthy contenders ‘Roscoe Road-dent’ and ‘Lil’ Stucky’- after the Lakeview Roscoe Village’s Chamber of Commerce decided the rather literal ‘Chicago Rat Hole’ name didn’t do it justice.
And they say romance is dead (Picture: X)
Honour and tribute
A ‘Rathole Music Fest’ is even in the works, with organisers writing on Facebook: ‘The rat hole itself is sacred ground and must be honoured as such.’
But Splatatouille is nothing new. It’s been around for about three decades, according to Chicago rat hole historians, yet only gained infamy after Dumaine’s social media post.
Said historians – the locals who live on the nearby 1900 block of West Roscoe Street – say the critter isn’t a rat at all. It’s a squirrel that perhaps fell into the concrete as it was setting. Easy mistake, they admit.
But we can’t blame people for mistaking the crevice as a rodent. Chicago is the rattiest city in the US, topping in October once again the list of pest control company Orkin’s annual ‘Top 50 Rattiest Cities’ list. (We can assume the best-dressed rat list for the red carpet event will be published here later.)
Rat Rat City
And Chicago, according to city officials, has a fair few reasons to be Rat City USA.
Norway rats are Chicago’s main breed and prefer fresh food above everything to nibble on. Making the city – one known for its deep-dish pizzas, hot dogs and steaks – prime territory.
Some rat hole fans are planning to throw a music festival nearby in the summer (Picture: AP)
Shrines and plaques have been placed by the crevice (Picture: AP)
Pest control services certainly make a killing in Chicago, yet when the rat hole was filled last Friday, the city mourned.
NBC Chicago reported that the tourist hotspot had been filled in with ‘what appeared to be plaster or concrete’. The culprit (or culprits) has yet to be tracked down.
State representative Ann Williams was left ‘shocked and saddened’ by the sight of the filled-up hole, reassuring Chicagoans that her office was ‘closely monitoring this developing situation’.
It didn’t take long for locals and tourists to act.
‘The Chicago Rat Hole has been restored to its former glory after local residents braved the cold and icy conditions to scrape out the plaster-like substance from the Rat Hole,’ Williams said hours later on social media.
A city in mourning
The future of the Chicago Rat Hole is unclear. One resident who lives in a flat just above it issued a ‘gentle plea’ on the Chicago sub-Reddit asking onlookers to be respectful to those who live in the neighbourhood.
Between loud late-night ‘chants’ and car honks, tourists have left a trail of cigarette butts and beer bottles on the street and clogged streets up so much that postal workers struggle to deliver mail.
The rat gods would not be pleased, we imagine.
Residents welcome the attention their beloved rat hole is getting – the rubbish and noise, not so much (Picture: X)
‘What was once a fun little quirk has become a trashy, cheap marketing ploy,’ the user said, adding that city leaders are considering replacing the concrete slab.
Nevertheless, most locals love the rat hole for the sense of community it’s brought the area, even if the newfound attention is giving them headaches.
Dumaine, who started the rat hole mania to begin with, knows this all too well.
‘I cannot express the awe and gratitude that I feel for everyone who made this what it is,’ he said of the hole on Sunday, sharing photographs of the shrines people have made by the pothole.
‘The scale of this whimsy is truly going to stay with me for the rest of my life.’
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‘The rat hole itself is sacred ground.’