Iraan (pronounced Ira Ann) is a small oil boom town in west Texas. Somehow this little wide spot in the road has garnered some good and bad attention over the years.
Let’s start with the “good”. The town was built on land owned by Ira and Ann Yates, thus the name “Iraan”. Unfortunately, most people call it Iran and that doesn’t sit well with the locals. An interesting bit of trivia: it’s the second largest town in the second largest county in the second largest state.
Perhaps the biggest claim to fame for Iraan is Victor T. Hamlin, creator of the syndicated comic strip Alley Oop – which at one time was as popular as Dick Tracy. Victor worked as a cartographer for an oil company but had a nice sideline as a cartoonist. It is said he came up with the idea for Alley Oop while watching the steam shovels and scrapers haul up truckloads of dinosaur bones during the excavation process for the oil wells.
To perpetuate the association with Hamlin, Iraan built a park dedicated to the mythical characters in Alley Oop, including “Dinny” the dinosaur. If you’re too young to remember Alley Oop, the park is still a fun stop for kids and adults. The adjacent museum offers more than just Alley Oop history. There are some interesting exhibits and artifacts which make it worth a visit.
Now for the “bad” – generated by a flood of strange allegations. An online media source claims Iraan is empty. Stranger Than Fiction News used Google Earth clips as proof that no one inhabits the town, citing an empty high school parking lot, an empty hospital parking lot and “street” images of the town which makes it look deserted.
I admit to viewing the YouTube video and humming the theme song from Twilight Zone. I might have discounted the entire story had I not also read about a mysterious underground city several miles beneath the surface outside of Iraan. Two bizarre claims in the same week aroused my curiosity. Since the town was only fourteen miles off my designated route to research another strange phenomenon, I decided to check it out.
When we drove into town, I immediately noticed gas stations, restaurants, markets, schools, a bank, post office, library and traffic. I suppose they might have bused actors to town and staged the activity for my arrival but they since they had no way of knowing I was coming, that seems unlikely.
After debunking Stranger Than Fiction’s claim, investigating the underground city proved more challenging.
The story has nebulous origins since it is hearsay from a second party. That being said, I listened to an interview with the person who repeated what was told to him.
Allegedly, a truck driver was hired to deliver an unknown cargo to a location outside of Iraan. He was met by two military jeeps and escorted through the hills to a secret “base” where he drove switchbacks into the ground for approximately three miles. The driver saw an entire city with thousands of residents. One building was seven stories tall. He was told to back his truck into a loading dock. Once the cargo was unloaded, he was escorted above ground.
The person telling the story marveled at the fact an underground city of that size could exist in the “desert”. Iraan is not in the desert. The geography is hilly with thick foliage, trees and grasses. It is dotted with oil rigs. That was a big red flag.
Perhaps the best rebuttal came from “Tory”, a life time resident. He laughed at the mention of an underground city and was quick to point out the locals would know of any military activity. Tory explained that the oil fields are shallow. Some flow naturally without assistance from a pump. In other words, the structure of the land would never support an underground city.
While the conspiracy theory is fun to ponder, I would rule out Iraan as the location for a subterranean military city/facility.
Even though Iraan is not a modern day ghost town, the site of nefarious going-ons, or inhabited by genetically modified aliens, it is still a nice town with a quirky park and some of the nicest people I’ve met anywhere.
And I’m not saying that just because I’m old enough to remember Alley Oop.