Man Built A Secret Home In A Mall And Lived There For 4 Years Before Being Discovered

They heard several knocks on the door. The man opened the door and saw cops. Before he could ask or say anything, they quickly put handcuffs on him. 

He thought that his little secret would be hidden forever. But the truth was somehow revealed, and now he might have ended up in prison...

The Artist

The Providence Place Mall was considered to be a one-stop destination housing everything that consumers would want. But this 500 million dollar project had its own flaws. 

Artist Michael Townsend lived nearby neighbourhood. Townsend followed a daily running route that took him past the construction site of that very same mall. One fine day, he identified one of its major flaws and decided to take advantage of it. 

Daily Routine

He used to pass by this massive under-construction building and watched it slowly take shape. One day, Townsend was on his usual running routine when he observed something that left him with plenty of questions.

He stopped there for a while to understand the situation. Amidst all the bustle, Townsend caught an unusual sight. A rather unordinary spot. 

Unusual Walls

There stood two giant walls which almost touched, but not quite. Townsend thought to himself “Why isn’t that just one wall? Why would you build two walls with enough space to squeeze through them?”

The narrow canyon between the walls led to a seemingly unused space that was a couple of stories up, but didn’t quite seem to be storage or parking space. What could it be?

Unsolved Questions

Townsend wasn’t sure what the space was doing there. The spot was at a very inaccessible location which clearly meant it wasn’t for the visitors. 

All he could make out from it was that it might be a secret room or maybe just a waste of space due to flaws in the design. He continued his run without having the slightest idea of what this observation would lead him to. 

Disturbing News

Soon enough, Townsend realised it was a secret space, that was no less than a small apartment. Realising he could take advantage of it, Townsend decided to map it in for the future! 

The neighbourhood in which he lived was home to many other artistic people and the place came to be known as Fort Thunder. However, their was this one ominous builder who wanted to buy that land for a shopping mall.

The Protest

The developers wanted to demolish all the buildings in that area to make more retail space. But this wasn’t acceptable to the residents. Townsend alongwith his neighbors spent two years fighting for their homes but nothing helped.

The building was replaced by a supermarket parking lot. The residents of Fort Thunder surely weren’t done with the developers. 

Unique Plan

That's when they decided to stand up against them, but in an entirely different manner. The artists took the matter in their hands and came up with a unique plan. 

They decided to take revenge for stealing their homes. But instead of filing a complaint in the police station, they thought of something totally different.

The Perfect Spot

Townsend and his displaced friends wanted to do something to reclaim their sense of agency — to assert that spaces like the mall could belong just as much to them as to the developers. 

In order to do this, they would need to find a space in the mall where they could hide themselves away but not an area that was a store, a parking lot or a storage space. What they needed was that accidental room that Townsend had spotted years ago.

Taking A Tour

Townsend went to the site and discovered that the long, dark canyon formed by the two walls wasn’t sealed off and was still accessible from the ground. 

The entrance was hard to identify at first glance. Therefore, it became the perfect spot for them to execute their plan.

The Forgotten Room

The room was tall and narrow, filled with the byproducts of the mall’s construction six years earlier. The room had basically been forgotten.

It was a huge space with no purpose. It wasn’t a storefront or stairwell. It was just a forgotten space with piles of old construction materials. 

New Ideas

When Townsend showed his find to the rest of the group, their minds diverted from the original plan. It was as if the place them a new idea, one that would be much better.

The initial plan was to spend only a week at the mall, but now they were sitting on 750 square feet of unutilized space. It was their chance to make something great out of it. 

Moving In

Townsend and his friends decided to turn this unused space into their own personal condo! Now the plan has changed from living there for a week to using it as an apartment! They all got to work clearing the debris from the space and used their backpacks to do so.

 For every backpack full of debris they took out, they’d bring a pack full of something in. They managed to get in all the essentials along with a few strange items!


To make the space homely, they bought a few decorative items from the mall and installed them in their new apartment. They also managed to sneak in their own couch and China hutch in broad daylight! 

“We avoided the night,” explained Townsend, “and we worked with the ebb and flow of the mall. We were just part of the living organism of its daily activities.” 


Townsend and his squad had found a new refuge, sort of a magical hideout. At times they wouldn't leave the apartment for weeks. It became a strangely relaxing place for them.

It was a perch from which they could observe the world, without being in it or being threatened by new developments. But every secret comes with a price, so did this one!

The Burglary

One day, they came back to the apartment and were shocked to discover that their Playstation and several other personal items were stolen. But the intruders left the silverware and the television, which seemed odd for a burglary.

 They had managed to hide the apartment for four years, but now someone knew about the room! Who could it be?


Townsend, meanwhile, was hosting a visiting artist from Hong Kong named Jaffa. He decided to show off his little secret apartment to her. Afterall, she was a guest and what harm could it do? He showed Jaffa everything — the couch, the lights, the television.

 After four years of work, the apartment almost felt like a real home. As they were leaving, they heard a walkie talkie on the other side of the door. They were busted!

Big Mistake

It turned out that the earlier break in was made by two mall security guards. Instead of removing everything, they only took personal items in order to identify the illegal owners of the room. 

Now that Townsend had been foolish enough to come back during the day, it was all over. Everything came crashing downhill.

Unexpected Judgement

Townsend and Jaffa were taken to the police station for interrogation where Jaffa was released but Townsend was taken to the court. The prosecution rattled through a laundry list of offenses. But the judge didn’t seem too impressed by the charges — he was rather impressed by the audacity of the secret apartment dwellers. 

So he gave Townsend a misdemeanor for trespassing and released him. Townsend, who had lived on and off in the secret apartment for nearly 4 years, got away with a slap on the wrist.

Minor Punishment

Now, nearly a decade later, Townsend still lives right near the mall. But he is forbidden to cross the 13 acres boundary of the mall.

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