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July 18, 2017updated 28 Jul 2021 2:35pm

This Google Street View glitch shows you what it’s like in New York in your actual nightmares

By Jonn Elledge

One of the amazing things about the internet is the way it enables you to indulge in virtual tourism. Using Google Street View, you can explore strange lands and distance places from the comfort of your desk. It’s all the fun of being on holiday, except that you can’t enjoy the weather, try the food, talk to anyone, and also you’re at your desk.

Anyway. Another way in which it’s just like being on holiday is that, just occasionally, when you’re least expecting it, it can turn into an actual nightmare. Let’s take a trip to New York City’s Times Square:

Uh. Ah. Maybe if we turn around?

My god. They’ve got us surrounded.

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They’re even below us.

They’re in the sky.

There’s a button there labelled “Report a problem”. Well: there’s a problem. There’s a big, big problem.

Normally on Google Street View, what’s more, you can click to move in one of several directions. Here, though, no such luck. We are trapped by the giant hands. Forever, and ever, and ever.

The reason we can’t move, in fact, is because this image is not actually an official part of Google’s guide to the world. It was uploaded by a user – Stephanie Cheung, the owner, one suspects, of the infinite hands – as part of the tech giant’s “Local Guides” programme.

This, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is a nifty way of getting users to contribute data to Google’s mapping system. Add a photograph or a review or a rating, and you can score points. Encouraging users to do the legwork for you offering them largely notional rewards is a business technique known as “gamification”.

All of which makes me think this isn’t really a glitch, exactly. More likely, it’s a deliberate easter egg left by Ms Cheung, waiting for someone to find it. Then again, maybe, she just hates tourists and wants to give them all nightmares. Either way, we can get behind that.

Should you spot any more nightmare-inducing traps hidden somewhere on Google Maps, then please god don’t write in or we’ll never sleep again.

(Hat tip: this massively viral tweet from the Daily Beast reporter Kelly Weill.)

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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