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Finding Love in the Chicago Rat Hole

Because what is more quintessentially Chicago than rats?

By Entertainment, Featured, News

Offering left at the infamous Chicago rat hole, including bottles of alcohol, coins, tea candles, and a small sculpture of glittery cheese. Photo by Sidne K. Gard.

 

On January 6, 2024, the fourth anniversary of the storming of the U.S. capitol, an equally important historical event occurred: the viral tweet (X?) that would dawn the era of rat and the eye of Chicago was tweeted. 

“Had to make a pilgrimage to the Chicago Rat Hole,” posted @WinslowDumaine on X (formerly known as Twitter) which then sparked a seemingly endless fire of online posts about the rat hole.

The rat hole, sometimes referred to as the Chicago rat hole or “Chimley,” is a small rat-shaped dent in the concrete of a sidewalk in Roscoe village. After it gained online notoriety, the rat hole became a phenomenon, even being labeled as a tourist destinationtr544 on google. 

However, the rat hole may find itself to be an imposter as many speculate that the rat hole was actually made by a squirrel. The hole was likely made by something falling, and locals attest to an oak tree that lived next to the hole before being cut down. Though the debate raged on, the hole was dubbed a rat, and the frenzy continued to advance. 

Whilst physically living in Chicago’s Roscoe Village, the rat hole has found a new home in the world of online virality. The rat hole became the first sensation of the new year, and it quickly spiraled into a far bigger territory than a small hole in a chunk of sidewalk. 

The rat hole started as nothing more than any other meme, silly and just funny enough to appeal to the masses and spread around the internet. Slowly, it has become a point of contention, while also bringing people together through its virality. 

Like those who conquered (and tweeted) before them, countless Chicagoans found their way to Roscoe village on their own adventure with the rat hole. Many offered coins, chips, small bottles of alcohol, and various other trinkets (including estradiol pills) in or around the rat hole. So many offerings were left to the point where small shrines being created and then swiftly destroyed. 

The rat hole filled with glitter, coins, and a tiny plastic mushroom. Photo by Sidne K. Gard.

 

There was seemingly no limit to the internet’s obsession with the rat hole. Not only were people swarming to idolize the vermin-stamped abyss in the sidewalk, but there were also (deeply fictionalized) religions forming around the rat hole. 

One group, @ratmasschiTikTok, is a Chicago-based performance art collective that was rat-themed long before the virality of the rat hole. They capitalized on the virality of the hole, and quickly started holding “mass” at the rat hole which included reading various fictionalized rat scripture while the members of the group carried large pseudo-religious rat-themed signs. 

But the sensation of the hole didn’t end with the religious groups. 

The wedding bells rang, and the rat was still dead. One couple made the inexplicable (yet charming) decision to get married at the rat hole

“I know [it] is kind of wild and unique, but nobody in my life — my friends, family, my wedding coordinator — was surprised at all. My husband was not surprised, either. I’m always pretty much up for a new adventure,” said one member of the newlyweds, Raj Sarathy to ABC7 Chicago.  .  

But the rat hole was not a universally beloved icon. The residents of Roscoe Village did not shine to the lovers of the hole (or the rat itself). One anonymous individual filed the rat hole in after the swarms of attention that it brought to the neighborhood. This sparked the next chapter of the hole’s legacy.

Love is a battlefield, and so is a rat hole. The substance was quickly removed from the hole after being dug out with a license plate. 

 “As a Chicagoan, I feel the preservation of history is important,” Jonathan Howell, the man who dug out the filled-in hole said to NBC Chicago, “It has a plaque, so, you gotta dig it out.” 

The fight over the rat hole didn’t end with the filling (and subsequent unfilling) of the hole. Chicago Alderman, Scott Waguespack, made an announcement regarding the city’s consideration of removing the piece of sidewalk the hole is on. Currently, there’s been no definitive decision on the removal or preservation of the hole. 

The possible removal of the hole was seemingly sparked by the neighborhood’s distaste for the attention. One resident (who claims to live directly in front of the hole) appears to have made a Reddit thread about the contention of living in front of the hole. Here the alleged resident claims that garbage piled up in the streets, the mail was no longer being delivered because of the shrines and lines of people in front of the hole, and numerous people threatened them and their neighbors because of the anonymous hole filling, among many other issues. 

Outside of threats and garbage, the alleged resident claims that the rat hole has been around for at least 20 years. Despite its rumored longevity, the rat hole’s fame appears to be its near demise amid talks of removal and anonymous midnight fillings.

But, the rat hole would leave a near-permanent impression on the permanence of the internet. 

Internet longevity aside the rat hole leaves one other impression: community. Between the two sides of the hole, lovers and loathers, the rat hole has found a way of creating communities (though they are in constant conflict with one another). Despite the disputes, and the constant animosity the lovers of the rat hole created unity in the same way the neighborhood of the hole unified against the hole’s lovers. 

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