For four years, a man lived in a covert apartment in the center of a mall before security finally caught up with him.
When his landlord decided to expand the property, he forced Michael Townsend out of his old apartment and left him with nowhere to go.
After hearing an advertisement for the center and recalling having seen an empty room there before, he made the decision to make camp there as the Daily Star reported.
Things quickly got out of hand, and Michael and his pals moved into the 750 square foot apartment that was outfitted with a couch and a PlayStation.
In 1999, the neighborhood artist was out for his daily run when he first noticed a peculiar gateway beneath Providence Place Mall in Rhode Island, USA.
Further investigation revealed a wholly abandoned area that, based on the creation of the purposefully formed places around it, appeared to have been constructed almost by accident.
He claimed on his website: “During the Christmas season of 2003 and 2004, radio ads for the Providence Place Mall featured an enthusiastic female voice talking about how great it would be if you (we) could live at the mall.”
“The central theme of the ads was that the mall not only provided a rich shopping experience but also had all the things that one would need to survive and lead a healthy life.”
Townsend decided to find out if he and his buddies could actually live at the mall after returning to the room he had first seen in 1999 and seeing that it was still vacant.
“The new plan wasn’t just to live in the mall for just a week, it was now simply to live in the mall,” he stated.
Townsend and his friends allegedly apparently constructed a utility door and a breeze block wall to conceal it, according to NBC News.
Before the plan started to go apart, they lived in a state of relative calm for four years.
Townsend intended to build a kitchen, a second bedroom, and wood flooring before he was discovered. Security personnel eventually located the secret property.
The artists discovered their utility door kicked in, their PlayStation, artwork, and photo album missing one day after making a vow not to discuss the apartment with anyone else.
They increased their security measures in response, such as only utilizing the residence at night.
They had no idea, though, that the security officers had committed the break-in and had been watching it ever since, waiting to pounce on its occupants.
And when they came across Townsend one afternoon, they did just that.
As a result, Townsend was accused of trespassing. “The entire endeavour was done out of a compassion to understand the mall more and life as a shopper,” he insisted.
A judge sentenced him to probation but also permanently barred him from the mall.
Only Townsend and his ex-wife Adriana Young claimed to frequent malls, according to The Providence Journal.
But he continued to communicate with the other artists who took part in the ruse.
Townsend, who has remained in the neighborhood all these years, said: “I really wish I could go back.”