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Theater District's Hot New Attraction: Fiery Hellmouths

The hellmouth draws a crowd.
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The hellmouth draws a crowd. M. Eric Johnson/Twitter

Multiple hellmouths opened up in Midtown on Saturday night, erupting in a series of explosive bangs that interrupted theatergoers' Broadway experiences and no doubt unleashed a frenzy of imps into our streets.

According to the FDNY, two manholes exploded in, where else, Hell's Kitchen: One at 311 West 50th Street, near the intersection of 50th Street and 8th Avenue, and another at 322 West 59th Street. Reports came in around 7:45 p.m., and responders had the blazes under control by 9:15 p.m. No injuries were reported, though this sort of hellmouth thing is not uncommon.

"We tend to have manhole events during the summer, when there's a lot of A.C. usage," a Con Ed spokesperson told Gothamist. "Even more so during the winter, when melting snow and ice and road salt gets into the underground delivery system. That can get in the wiring … and cause smoking, and sometimes smoking manholes are manhole fires." The spokesperson added that the damaged sections of cable are being replaced.

Witnesses who found themselves on the scene said the sulfurous belches could be felt even inside local establishments.

Sydney Kashiwagi, a City Hall reporter for SI Advance and SI Live, watched the scene unfold from a neighboring building. On Twitter, she wrote that she counted five explosions, each one bomb-like in its auditory impact.

Still, the cacophony did not impress everyone equally: Some pedestrians strolled by, unruffled.

Well, yes, if you look directly at the hellmouth, its infernal light will sear the eyeballs right out of your skull. You are looking at it through a stranger's camera lens, though, and now through an extra screen; you should be fine.

Also, as a number of you pointed out on Twitter, we've been living in hell for a while now, so basically this is just some regular Satan stuff. Nothing to see here.

Anyway, ABC 7 New York reports that the explosions prompted evacuation of New World Stages theater on 50th Street, cutting short a performance of Jersey Boys. The force of the blast cracked three of the theater's windows, but everyone seems to have escaped unscathed. We will just have to wait and see about the hellbeasts these fires set free, however.

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