Chicago/ Parks & Nature
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Published on January 12, 2024
Chicago's 'Rat Hole' Phenomenon Sparks Joy and Debates Among Locals and Online ViewersSource: Google Street View

Chicago's latest buzz isn't about the Bears, the Bulls, or a City deep dish. It's about a rodent—or maybe not. A peculiar pavement etching, colloquially dubbed the 'rat hole,' has taken social media by storm, located in the 1900 block of West Roscoe Street. First vaulted into the viral stratosphere on X by a local artist, the imprint resembles a flattened critter, now drawing locals and tourists alike looking to capture a glimpse or maybe leave a penny for good luck.

Initially notable as a rat replica, area residents suggest otherwise. Interviewed by NBC Chicago, Michael Rascati quipped, "I'd rather visit the Trevi Fountain than a dead rat," hinting at the strange appeal of the so-called 'rat hole,' which he believes to be a squished squirrel. Likewise, Michael Risher, a neighbor, humorously noted the imprint's tenure on their walks, "My wife and I went on a walk maybe four years ago and walked past it and saw it. And every time we walk past it we wave hi to it."

But what fuels the fervor around a sidewalk blemish? Winslow Dumaine, the artist credited with the viral post, described the imprint to the Chicago Sun-Times as "a universally lovely, funny thing." His tender touch of humor resonated, drawing crowds leaving change—$1.21 to be exact on one occasion—and other tokens. Cindy Nelson, a veteran on the block, has a more practical take on the mystery, asserting it's not a rat but a squirrel that met its fate in the wet cement.

In the swell of speculation, the 'rat hole' has morphed beyond just an accidental art installation. Now it's a small symbol of local joy, as neighbors recall dressing it up for Halloween, dubbing it a grave site worthy of the same kooky affection as the city's infamous alligator, Chance the Snapper. Taking a leaf out of a quirky Chicagoan tale, one that sidesteps political scandals, C.J. Tuor, another resident with a clear view of the 'rat hole', acknowledged the lighter side of the social media whirlwind, as they claim to "appreciate the attention to rat hole," even seeing their 3-year-old join in the debate about the creature's identity.

The kick from this critter-shaped concavity is clear: it's become a piece of concrete folklore, luring people with its whimsical presence—a lasting impression in the city's concrete jungle. For now, whether it's a rat or a squirrel is secondary to the shared chuckle and community chats it has inspired, proving once again, in a city famed for its skyscrapers and sports, sometimes it's the little things on the street that steal the spotlight.