Hidden Rooms, Spooky Tunnels

Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune on October 21, 2013

Photo courtesy of Kate Eileen Shannon

Photo courtesy of Kate Eileen Shannon

Dreams are images, sensations and emotions that occur during sleep. When I was a child I had a recurring dream that there was a secret room upstairs in my grandmother’s house. The room was at the end of the hallway, and the wall would open and expose a toy room, sparkly and colorful, full of a child’s fantasy of toys. I had the dream many, many times.

There was actually a room in the basement at my grandmother’s that I never ever knew what was lurking behind the door. As far as I knew no one ever opened that door. I either wasn’t curious enough, and I was a curious child, or I was too afraid to try the door and see what might be behind it.

It wasn’t until I was in my 50s that the room was revealed to me. It came at a time when my grandmother’s home, now my mother’s home, had to be sold, and we were clearing it out. I must admit I was still scared to open that door not sure what we might find, so I made my husband do it.

Well the ghost of many trees must have lived in that room because it was full of wood that had been there a long time but the logs were very well-preserved with no bugs or rot. Perhaps that is what started my fascination with secret rooms and underground tunnels that I write about in my books.

Recently I have had the pleasure of connecting through my writing with Kate Eileen Shannon, the author of “The Brigid Kildare Mystery Series” and writer of the blog Rantin’ Ravin’ and Reading. She likes tunnels, too, and recently a real life mystery fell into her life.

Kate’s husband is a real estate agent. Recently he listed a house for sale that was supposedly to have belonged to a bootlegger. It was rumored to have a tunnel from the basement to the garage. The basement had a room off of it that had a huge safe door on it, but the alleged tunnel (these are Kate’s words sent to me in a message) was blocked off.

Kate wanted to knock down the wall allegedly blocking the tunnel because none of the owners since 1933 had done it, but her husband wasn’t going to be the curious person who opened the wall, so the house sold without the tunnel being investigated.

Of course homes have to be inspected but even the home inspector didn’t want to knock out the wall. Now I can understand this because I had the door in my grandma’s house that I was scared to open.

Finally a brave person entered Kate Eileen Shannon’s life in the form of a termite inspector. Since my room that I finally opened was full of wood, maybe I should have called a termite inspector to get my door opened sooner.

The termite inspector, having heard the rumors, supported Kate’s curiosity and pulled down the wall and discovered a second safe door on a tunnel.

Kate Eileen Shannon is a mystery writer and came upon her own real life mystery. I thought that was pretty exciting. Behind the wall and down the tunnel was a steel-beamed room as big again as the basement. It was full of empty bottles ready to be filled. She also found an old fedora. How did they get to the garage? I will leave that mystery for you to find the answers to if you are interested by visiting Kate’s blog.

Kate is busy building a page on the web for the hidden basement find. She is busy doing research on what they think was a bootlegging operation run out of this house during the days of prohibition, right under the police chief’s nose. He lived across the street. If you want to know more about this interesting find, visit Kate Eileen Shannon’s blog at kateeileenshannon.com and click on “80-year-old time capsule” for the story and pictures.

Yes, I love mysteries. I dream up tunnels and secret rooms and secret doors and stashes. I would build a house with nooks and crannies and secret rooms. Why not? Of course there is also something very mysterious about living in a house and not knowing what is on the other side of the door. It is amazing how many pictures and images your imagination can conjure up from the unknown secret door or forbidden door.

What did I think would be behind my grandmother’s unopened basement door? Did I imagine a dead body? Did I imagine a bogey man popping out? I might have imagined that as a kid. I know I loved my dreams of the secret toy room. It was always a comforting and exciting dream. As an adult not wanting to open the unknown door, I think I was more afraid of snakes, mice and creatures that might attack me.

Kate Eileen Shannon had a much more exciting find than I did, and I am jealous. I found wood, she found history that had been sealed up ready to be discovered. What is behind your door or your bookcase or the closet? You might be surprised what is hidden in your walls.

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