A Mussolini-era reinforced concrete bunker in Rome. (file image)
There are plenty of creepy locations in real life, such as this WWII-era concrete bunker in Rome. Image by AP PHOTO

WA island bunker image is a mysterious dose of fantasy

Nik Dirga July 7, 2022

An image on Google Earth reveals a mysterious, secret meeting room in a remote location in Western Australia.


False. The image is part of a viral trend called "backrooms" where internet sleuths hunt for imaginary "disquieting images" uploaded to Google.

The world is full of strange things, but is there really a mysterious bunker hidden on a remote island off Western Australia?

A video posted on Instagram on June 29 shows a user on Google Earth zooming in on a map of WA to focus in on a small island, narrowing down into a strange underground room filled with empty chairs gathered around a floating object.

Text with the post states: “WTF is that?? UNIVERSAL ANOMALIES! This is as weird as it comes.”

The video is actually part of a viral phenomenon known as “backrooms” in which people share disturbing images of supposedly hidden or abandoned places.

Although they may appear baffling to viewers outside specific internet subcultures, backrooms are user images that have been uploaded online and in this case added to Google’s mapping services.

A Google representative told AAP FactCheck the company regularly removes false images, including the one in the Instagram post.

A screenshot from the Instagram video.
 A screenshot from the Instagram video showing the floating object encircled by plastic chairs. 

“We go to great lengths to make sure that the imagery in Google Earth and Street View is useful, and reflects the world our users explore,” the representative said in an email.

“After looking into this, our team has confirmed the image was uploaded by a contributor and had already been removed because our systems determined it violated our policies.”

Backrooms appear to have developed out of a 2019 post on a 4chan message board asking users to post “disquieting images”, Vice magazine reported in March 2022.

A photo of a bleak office space inspired other users to post images of similar “liminal spaces” that evoked vaguely menacing abandoned environments, which some claim could be accessed by “falling out of reality”.

People then also began adding the images to Google as “Easter Eggs”.

“The backrooms are not a real place,” a May article in Wired noted. Fan sites describe them as “a spatial anomaly outside of standard reality”.

The Reddit forum r/backrooms has more than 217,000 members who share backroom locations and theories. A description of the subreddit notes “THIS IS A FICTIONAL CONCEPT.” The West Australian location is specifically mentioned in one Reddit thread.

Backrooms are generally part of the “creepypasta” genre of horror-related legends shared online, such as the Slenderman child murderer tall tale.

Google Maps and Google Earth collect data through satellite and other images.

Users are freely able to upload their own images, but Google says those images must obey company policy. “Contributions must be based on real experiences and information,” the guidelines state.

“We use a combination of human operators and industry-leading technology to closely monitor 24/7 for fraudulent content, and also encourage people to report inappropriate or inaccurate content so we can review and take action,” Google’s representative told AAP FactCheck.

The mysterious floating figure in the Instagram video is “Billy le Robot”, and has been seen in other backrooms including one liked more than 4.6 million times on TikTok.

A Google Earth search of the location pinpointed in the Instagram video shows the WA backroom no longer exists.

That may be disquieting to backroom fans, but it didn’t fall out of reality – it’s just Google enforcing its submission policies.

The Verdict

An Instagram video which claims to show a hidden, mysterious space in Western Australia is not authentic. It is part of an internet subculture call “backrooms”, which aims to produce dread-inducing memes from uploaded images on Google Earth. The company  has since been removed the image.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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