Man discovers mysterious 19th-century tunnel under his home
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The past has come back haunt an Illinois man who found an old underground tunnel beneath his home.
Gary Machens was in for a surprise when he found a mysterious 19th-century-era tunnel beneath his house.
The discovery was recently profiled for a Fox 2 St. Louis news segment where Machens took the camera crew deep below his home. The clip also explored how the tunnel was eventually discovered and proposed a theory about how the underground underpass came about.
The tunnel was found after part of the sidewalk by Machens’ house fell apart and he saw an entry into it.
“Had a problem here at the sidewalk and as we were doing some excavating and repacking of the rock here, we discovered this tunnel here,” Machens said in the news reel as he stood inside the tunnel. “Lotta brick. Whatever they built this for, it took a lot of men and a lot of hours. One guy didn’t do this.”
Historians who visited the tunnel believed that the well-preserved area dates back to at least 1840. Machens revealed that his own house’s past can be traced back to the 1890s.
“Yes, three former mayors of Alton have lived in this house through the years,” he said. “I don’t know if any of them knew about this. The house was built in 1890, the tunnel is believed from 1840, so it was here for 50 years. What it was used for, I don’t know. We’ve got maps that go back to 1863 and this house was not there and there was not another house on this property here.”
The clip showed that the tunnel consists of a set of stairs as well as offsets on the walls. He theorized that the crawlspace could have been used as part of the Underground Railroad, as an ice storage area or maybe a cellar.
“It could have been used for the Underground Railroad. There’s no proof of that but there was a ferry here in the Alton area to the Missouri side and it’s possible it could have been used for that,” he continued.
“It’s unique, there are a few tunnels around the Alton area since we checked with the Landmark Historic Society,” Machens said.
He added that residents likely covered the opening to the tunnel around 1895, when townsfolk lined the street with brick to level out a change in elevation.
“Why [are the stairs] stepped like this?” he said. “Why is that in there? Do you see the offset in the brick? And if you look along this wall it turns that way a little bit. Look down along this wall.”
Machens is a history buff himself and even hopes to open the underpass for tours if he can get the city to help with logistics and cost. For the time being, he has to fix up his sidewalk and seal up the tunnel entry.
And as far as creepy hidden vessels go, it’s nothing compared to when a New York City woman became convinced her apartment was haunted after uncovering a hidden room straight out of a horror flick. She documented the spine-tingling discovery in a series of TikTok videos that have collectively amassed millions of views.
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