As we approach 2024, there’s a buzz on TikTok about TikTok Tunnel Girl, a Herndon woman gaining fame for creating tunnels beneath her home. Just a few days ago, we came across a post on our bingo card titled “Virginia Woman Building Possible Unauthorized Underground Tunnel System Below Her Home.”
Known as “kala” on her “Engineer. Everything” TikTok account, this enthusiastic engineer showcases the construction of a series of tunnels beneath her house. She has gained recognition as the “TikTok Tunnel Girl,” posting over 200 videos since October 2022. In these videos, she welds, stacks cinder blocks, dumps rocks, and discusses the engineering challenges she faces while constructing a “subterranean tunnel system” 22 feet below the surface in Northern Virginia.
Kala, who has chosen not to share her legal name with news outlets, admits on TikTok that she is not a professionally trained structural engineer (although she works as a software engineer). She emphasizes learning new practical skills in her videos, openly sharing failures and challenges encountered during the project.
Before this project, she had minimal experience with electrical work and considered it like magic. In a recent video, she stated, “Before this project, I had very little experience with electrical, and I had to learn a lot of new things. Honestly, I used to think it was magic, which it is.”
It remains unclear why the woman is digging tunnels beneath her home. DCist/WAMU has attempted to reach out to Kala through various channels, but as of now, there has been no response. She recently declined to comment on the tunnels in local media.
Speculations range from searching for a top-secret government tunnel to digging for a mansion foundation or dealing with ghosts. In her first TikTok video posted in October 2022, Kala mentioned starting a new project to build a “storm shelter” on the edge of her property. She clarified later that it wasn’t because she was preparing for a storm but because she enjoys complex and challenging DIY projects that keep her busy and entertained.
In recent videos, TikTok Tunnel Girl has adopted the term “urban mine” or “subterranean tunnel system” to describe her unique endeavor, creating a mix of admiration, astonishment, anger, and fear among thousands of viewers who comment on her project. Some praise her and others living nearby for their dedication to safety, while others express concern.
In 2017, a fire broke out in secret tunnels beneath a Bethesda home, resulting in one fatality and imprisonment for another individual. In July, a small fire occurred in Kala’s tunnels, promptly extinguished.
News coverage, including stories by NBC News and Bloomberg Op-Ed, has focused attention on the woman. In November, she mentioned to the Daily Mail that once she completes this underground project, she hopes to build a palace.
All of this raises the question: Could this effort be legal? Recent Reddit discussions suggest that the contemplative home is in the Herndon city limits, and local concerns about the validity of constructing underground tunnels beneath residential properties are surfacing.
Last week, the woman posted a reevaluation video featuring “voice actors” portraying local officials inspecting the tunnels and issuing a stop-work order. In her TikTok on December 28th, she stated, “They need an immediate assessment by a professional engineer. Luckily, contrary to rumors, it’s entirely under my house slab and shouldn’t be too hard to acquire. Permits and approvals. So, we’ll be working on that.”
A city spokesperson confirmed that a stop-work order had been issued. “The City of Herndon received notice that possible violations of the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) were occurring on a residential property within the city’s corporate limits. Following standard protocol for such notifications, representatives from the Building Official and Zoning Administrator offices conducted a site inspection on Thursday, December 7, 2023. The city is working with the property owner to correct any violations and ensure the property is safe and secure. Code compliance,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson declined to provide more information about the violations and what needs to be done to correct them.