Atlas Obscura

Hogan’s Alley, the FBI’s Fake Training Town

This town is under FBI protection.


Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook and Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.

When the FBI needs to train its new recruits on executing urban maneuvers, there is one place where they can be certain something criminal is going down: Hogan’s Alley, a fake neighborhood with one hell of a fake crime rate.

“Hogan’s Alley” is actually a catch-all term that refers to any tactical training ground, taking the name from a bad neighborhood in an old comic strip. The FBI’s 10-acre Hogan’s Alley was first opened in 1987 on the grounds of their training facility in Quantico, Virginia. Since FBI engagements are more likely to result in so-called “shoot–don’t shoot” scenarios than local police forces (or so the thinking goes), it was decided that they needed as realistic a training ground as possible. Thus the official Hogan’s Alley was born.


In order to role play as many dangerous scenarios as possible, the little neighborhood has a number of businesses and apartment buildings. There is a bank (which is always getting robbed), a post office, a pool hall, a barber shop, and more. They even had set designers from Hollywood come in to assist with the area’s development to make it as realistic as possible. The businesses are staffed by actors playing terrorists, civilians, bank robbers, and other criminals as the scenario demands. The place is so realistic they had to weld the mail boxes shut because they kept filling up with actual letters.

Obviously Hogan’s Alley isn’t normally open to the public, but if you find yourself lost in Quantico and end up in an eerily deserted little neighborhood in the middle of a wooded clearing, just look for the sign warning of fake ammunition firing and people holding guns. You’ll know you’ve found Hogan’s Alley.

If you liked this, you’ll probably enjoy Atlas Obscura’s new book, which collects more than 700 of the world’s strangest and most amazing places: Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders.