Secret underground rooms in houses: 9 Historic Homes That Have Secret Rooms You Didn’t Know About

9 Historic Homes That Have Secret Rooms You Didn’t Know About


Sharon Kong-Perring

Tucked away in the corners of these historic homes, secret rooms and spaces hide all kinds of stories about the past.


Hidden Rooms in Historic Houses

Remember, as a kid, watching “paranormal mysteries” like Scooby-Doo or the Haunted Mansion, wishing to go on a real-life hunt through a mysterious house with winding staircases, hidden rooms behind bookshelves, and trap doors? Well, here’s that chance!

Historic homes are steeped in stories of the past, often offering valuable context to the historical eras that they were constructed during and survived thereafter. From New England summer mansions to hotels housed in historic properties, these buildings offer rich, sometimes hidden clues to life in the past– visitors just need to know where to look! These historic houses are the perfect places to hunt for hidden secrets.

Related: These Are The Best Haunted Historic Houses To Visit In New England

9 The House Of Seven Gables Has A “Secret Staircase”

Salem is home to some spine-chilling thrills but also to this historic house! Originally built in 1668 and best known for serving as the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name, the House of Seven Gables is a sprawling seafront colonial cottage with a big secret. The “Secret Staircase” was added to the home between 1908-1910 by Colonial Revivalist and restoration architect Joseph Chandler as a nod to Chandler’s own relatives, that owned the property at one point, the Ingersolls. The Ingersolls had described a secret staircase around the chimney that led to the attic, so Chandler made it a 20th-century reality.

8 Körner’s Folly’s Hidden Passageways

The brainchild of eccentric designer Jule Gilmer Körner, Körner’s Folly is an eclectic home comprised of oddly shaped hallways, trap doors, and distorted rooms. Originally built between 1878-1880 in Kernersville, North Carolina, the house is full of secret cubbyholes and passageways that were said to allow people to move from various parts of the house without being seen. Today visitors can poke around the house to see if they can find all the hiding spots.

7 The Gillette Castle, A Spy’s Paradise

It is only fitting that the actor who played Sherlock Holmes built a house full of mystery! William Gillette built his beloved castle in 1913 with a few tricks too! Outfitting the castle with an elaborate mirror system and a hidden staircase, and a hidden room, Gillette enjoyed spying on his guests and surprising them with a few pranks. Among his favorite tricks was his disappearing bar, which could only be accessed if one knew where the hidden level was. Gillette would watch his guests struggle to open the bar back up, all the while giggling from his secret spaces.

6 Harvington Hall’s Saintly Secrets

Across the pond in a 14th-century medieval manor, concealed “panic rooms” dot the interior of this English property. These hidey-hole spots (aka “hides”) date from the 16th-17th centuries when the Catholic Pakington family would hide Catholic priests from Protestant queensmen. The Pakington Family, notably head of household Humphrey Pakington, were devoutly Catholic and had a series of “hides” created around architectural structures like the great staircase and kitchen.

5 A Secret Lab Hidden In Horse Stables At Casa Loma

A darling of the Prohibition Era, this Toronto historic house–well, mansion–was a favorite of many American socialites as a Prohibition getaway. Built in 1914, the “hill house” became a hotel in the 1920s and since has served as the filming location of Hollywood films like Crimson Peak and X-Men. However, under the famous facade is an 800-foot tunnel that connects to the property’s stables. And the secrets don’t stop there! The stables were once concealed during World War II and turned into a tech lab where anti-submarine sonar sensors were constructed for the Allied powers.

Related: This French Ghost Town Is Actually A Memorial To The D-Day Landings & World War II

4 Scorned Lovers Haunted The Secret Passageway At The Sessions House

Originally constructed in 1710 for Captain Jonathan Hunt as a place of protection for his family– there are tunnels under the house that allows for an easy escape–Hunt’s granddaughter actually used the tunnels to have secret meetings with her forbidden lover! The family never allowed her to marry her “undeserving” love; rumor has it that the lovers still haunt the secret passageway today out of spite.

3 A “Hive Of Rooms” Hidden In The Sarah Winchester Mystery House

It’s a story that paranormal researchers know all too well. Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester and heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, bought a large farmhouse in San Jose, California, only to be convinced that she was haunted and cursed by those souls killed by her family’s invention. Thus began a massive home renovation, installing the strangest architectural features in order to throw off her ghostly assailants. While many people know about the staircases leading to the ceiling and doors leading to bricked-up walls, some may not know that through a cabinet located in one of the house’s six kitchens, there’s a “hive” of 30 rooms concealed away.

2 The Real Life Book Thief Of Mont Sainte-Odile Abbey

Imagine a beautiful hotel in the rolling hills of Alsace that, despite being 1,000-year-old nunnery, is still a gorgeously kept building anyone would be excited about staying in. Now imagine a stunning, grand library filled with rare manuscripts and thousands of books housed in that building. Well, turns out this is a real place, and its library had a couple of secrets that nobody knew about!

Related: How Long You’ll Need (& What To See) At The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

After several rare materials went missing at Monte Sainte-Odile Abbey in 2002, the police were stumped. No signs of forced entry, no obvious break-in… Then a police officer happened to accidentally push a book on a random shelf, and voilà! A door opened to reveal a small secret room with an escape route that the thief was accessing the library through!

1 A Chamber Of Secrets For The Knights Templar At Quinta Da Regaleira

Completed in 1910 for a family of noble lineage in Portugal, the sprawling castle was purchased by a wealthy businessman thereafter. Turns out the new owner had a penchant for the mysterious—and created two 88-foot towers underneath the mansion decked out in symbols associated with the Knights Templar. Called “initiation wells,” the base of the underground towers features a complex series of caverns, also entirely man-made!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Topics

  • Destinations

About The Author

By day, Sharon is a museum curator in history, and by night she is a PhD Researcher (of K-Pop!) in Media and Cultural Studies. She is a bi-coastal, Korean-American traveler who splits her time between the UK, the US, and South Korea and has written and presented articles and papers for house museums across New England, popular culture conferences and magazines, and Asian Studies conferences. Sharon is an avid aviation geek, a museum nerd, and a glutton for K-Stuff (K-Dramas, K-Beauty, K-BBQ). Follow her PhDing and travels @thepophistorydoctor on IG!

Hidden Secrets of the White House

Posted on

The White House has welcomed visitors from around the world for decades—some lucky enough to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom—though it isn’t exactly an open house.

An official tour can reveal some secrets of the White House building, whether you’re riding past in a pedicab or enriching your historical knowledge on a City Cruises tour of the capital’s monuments.

From basement bowling alleys to underground passageways to who-knows-how-many secret rooms, we’ve got the skinny on the hidden nooks and crannies of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here’s an in-depth look at the secrets of the executive mansion.

Who was the first president to live in the White House?

Construction began on the White House during the presidency of George Washington in 1792, but the Founding Fathers time in office was largely spent in Pennsylvania.

In 1800, though the building was still unfinished, President John Adams moved in, making him the first President of the United States to officially hang his hat in the White House.


Which presidents put their own stamp on the place?

The US President’s house has undergone many renovations over the years as the baton was passed from one leader and first family to the next.

The first major design changes came during the term of President Chester A. Arthur in the 1880s, when the executive residence was sumptuously redecorated in the Louis Comfort Tiffany style wildly popular at the time—complete with a signature stained-glass screen custom-made for the White House entrance hall.

Presidents including Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Grover Cleveland utilized different rooms for different purposes, but it wasn’t until Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency that renowned architects McKim, Mead & White were commissioned to conduct a massive renovation that included a new addition, now known as the West Wing. The Oval Office appeared a few years later under the instruction of Roosevelt’s successor, President William Howard Taft.

The entire White House was renovated again in the 1950s, and not much has changed structurally in the years since—though with each new presidency comes a new round of tweaks and additions, many of which remain off-limits to the public.

How many secret rooms are there in the White House?

Well, no one’s really quite sure. The White House was modeled after an 18th-century Anglo-Irish estate called Leinster House, which did in fact have many secret passageways. However, architect James Hoban opted for a much simpler design for the White House, skipping the network of secret passageways and choosing instead a largely open-plan design.

The White House Historical Association has it that there is, in fact, only one secret passageway—and it’s not exactly a secret: an emergency passage-cum-bomb shelter called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which lies underneath the White House.

The underground passage (often described as a bunker) was constructed beneath the East Wing during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. In recent years, news outlets reported that at least two presidents have used the passage: President George W. Bush, during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and President Donald Trump, who is thought to have hid out there in 2020, during the January 6 insurrection.



What is underneath the White House?

Allegedly, there are at least two tunnels underneath the presidential mansion. Of these, one connects with the South Lawn and the other to the Treasury Building.

The White House basement features an indoor swimming pool built to maintain the health and well-being of FDR, who suffered from polio, and a bowling alley, constructed during Harry S. Truman’s term.

The rectangular swimming pool was built inside the west terrace in 1933, underneath grand arched ceilings between the West Wing and the White House. The press briefing room is positioned directly above the pool, a pint-sized White House theater that allows reporters to exit quickly and directly to the Rose Garden for outdoor events.

As television became increasingly useful for communication between the White House and the American people, President Richard M. Nixon called for the construction of a press briefing room, and the press corps has gathered there since the 1970s.

Built in 1947, the two-lane White House Bowling Alley was installed with the morale of White House staff in mind: It was a place to unwind and connect with other members of the presidential cabinet.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower took office in the 1950s, he transformed the space into the much-less-fun central filing and communications room, now known as the Situation Room. Truman’s bowling alley was dismantled and moved across the street from the White House, into a building today called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Nixon was an avid bowler and enjoyed a late-night bowl to let off some steam. As a result, the White House constructed a private, one-lane bowling alley underneath the North Portico, which remains in that spot to this day.

Previous Story
Ferragosto: Celebrate This Italian Public Holiday Like a Local

Next Story
The Best Places to See the Sunset in San Francisco (when there’s no fog)

OverviewIncludesExcludesOffersScheduleWhere to MeetAdditional InformationDress CodeDuration ofLess than an hourA few hoursFeatured ExperienceRecent BookingsView Dining MenuHighlightsInclusionsDeparture Point/EntranceDeparture Timehourhours5 hours4 hours3 hours3.5 hoursOne hourIncludesWhy take this tour?Important InformationWhat’s IncludedMeeting PointEnd PointShare ThisCheck AvailabilityLast Minute DealsSave NowNew TourAbout this ExperienceExtras/UpgradesAdditional Info

How the system of shelters works and is there an underground “city of Doomsday” near Moscow? In social networks, maps of Moscow bomb shelters are published (by the way, erroneous and inaccurate), people are actively interested in finding the nearest shelter in their place of residence.

At the same time, it is widely believed that shelters have not been built in the capital for a long time, and those that existed in the USSR are abandoned or refurbished. But how are things really?

Map of Moscow’s bomb shelters

Photo © TASS / Yaroslav Chingaev

Since the beginning of this year, maps of Moscow’s bomb shelters have appeared more than once on social networks. Each such publication aroused great interest of users. However, in reality, all these maps are at least inaccurate, and at most outright fakes. In most cases, a map of the location of district training and consultation centers for civil defense and emergency situations was given out as a map of shelters. At these points, you can really find out the coordinates of the nearest shelter in the area, but it’s absolutely useless to look for shelter there.

In other cases, the location of once-operating, but long-abandoned objects, removed from the balance sheet and not registered for one reason or another, was given out as a map of bomb shelters.

MoscowYandex Maps – transport, navigation, search for places

In reality, no map of Moscow bomb shelters exists, since this information is not published in the public domain. This is not an ultra-strict state secret, just information for official use, so as not to attract crowds of curious or bored researchers.

Dual-purpose facilities

It is an extremely popular notion in Russia that in the Soviet era a lot of bomb shelters were built and kept in perfect order, and after the collapse of the USSR they were all abandoned or converted for other purposes, they say, now if necessary even in the capital there will be nowhere to hide.

Photo © LIFE / Vladimir Suvorov

In fact, this is a delusion. In the Stalin era, many separate shelters were actually built in Moscow. This was due to the fact that the buildings in those days were mostly low-rise, sometimes with wooden ceilings. The basements of such houses were not always able to guarantee protection even from conventional bombs.

The legend of the “white tights”: Why did they start talking about snipers from the Baltics again

But already in the post-war period the situation changed. Nuclear weapons appeared, the population of the capital grew rapidly, the metro was actively developing. Under these conditions, it was too expensive to build dozens of separate shelters for each area. Since the Khrushchev-Brezhnev era, a significant number of metropolitan multi-storey buildings have been erected with fortified basements, which, if necessary, could be used as shelters.

Photo © LIFE / Vladimir Suvorov

All underground stations of the Moscow Metro, as well as all underground parking lots, etc. the facilities were originally designed and built as dual purpose facilities. In normal times, they are used for direct need, and in case of an emergency, within a few hours they must be converted into shelters capable of accommodating several thousand people.

The same applies to all converted individual bomb shelters that house warehouses, shops, cafes, bars, etc. The law allows the use of these premises for commercial purposes, however, if necessary, within 12 hours they will turn into shelters for civil defense. During this time, they will be cleaned of unnecessary things and stocks of drinking water will be placed there, as well as sleeping places will be equipped.

Secret objects

Photo © TASS / Grigory Sysoev

In case of an emergency, ordinary Muscovites can hide either in fortified basements equipped for temporary shelter of a large number of people, or in separately located shelters, depending on the area, or at metro stations.

Most of these shelters require a short stay – from a few hours to two days. There is a minimum of amenities and no food supplies. But since Soviet times, some enterprises have been equipped with special shelters.

Serial from the medical institute: How a maniac from an ambulance dealt with patients for a penny

Photo © LIFE / Vladimir Suvorov management, employees of defense research institutes and enterprises, personnel of state television and radio companies. As a rule, they were provided for a limited number of people, so there were special lists of employees and their closest relatives, for whom a place in the shelter was reserved.

These facilities were located in close proximity to workplaces. Their exact location, as well as technical characteristics, have been classified since Soviet times. It is assumed that they are equipped with sewerage, water supply, food supplies and are designed to survive in a nuclear war. While an ordinary civilian shelter provides for a fairly short stay, these facilities allow you to hide in them for weeks and even months.

Underground cities

Wasteland, under which, according to rumors, the underground city “Ramenki-43” is located. Frame © YouTube / Ramenki 43: an underground city under the wasteland of Moscow State University 4K

Since perestroika times, rumors about an underground city allegedly built in Moscow have been very popular. The object is called “Ramenki-43” because it is located under this district of the capital. We are talking about an underground shelter, essentially representing a whole city at a depth of about 200 meters. It can accommodate about 15 thousand people, and serves not only as a temporary shelter, like ordinary civil defense shelters, but is also capable of providing a full-fledged life underground for several months or even years.

The object was allegedly built in the Brezhnev era as the “city of Doomsday”. It was planned to place not only the highest strata of the party nomenclature, but also the best minds of the Soviet Union there. Separate “apartments” were envisaged for families, an arsenal of weapons for protection, communications, air conditioning, huge food supplies, etc. The location of the object in Ramenki is not accidental: in the west of the capital in the Brezhnev era, not only the party nomenclature, but also the scientific intelligentsia were traditionally settled. Accordingly, it was possible to evacuate them to the facility as soon as possible.

Defense line: What fortified areas Ukraine inherited from the USSR

ordinary metropolitan lines. This branch was strictly classified, never depicted on maps and did not come into contact with the usual subway.

Sealed door leading to Metro-2. Photo © Wikipedia / Anakin

After the collapse of the USSR, several similar underground facilities were indeed declassified. For example, a spare command post built directly for Stalin in the Izmailovo area. It had an underground road connecting it directly to the Kremlin.

Another well-known declassified object is the reserve command post of the headquarters of the Long-Range Aviation of the Aerospace Forces in the Taganskaya area with an area of ​​​​7 thousand square meters. The bunker was equipped with all the necessary communications and equipment, which made it possible to lead an autonomous existence in the event of a nuclear strike.

Long-range aviation reserve command post on Taganka. Photo ©

Finally, the last of these declassified facilities is Bunker-703 on Paveletskaya Street, which was closed at the beginning of the 2000s due to groundwater flooding. There was a repository of secret documents.

However, no one has presented any evidence of the existence of “Ramenok-43” and “Metro-2” at the present time. There are no documents, no witnesses who observed them with their own eyes. Most researchers consider them nothing more than urban legends. However, it is likely that the metropolitan dungeons keep many secrets that have not been revealed to this day.

Photo © TASS / Grigory Sysoev

Do you know where the nearest shelter is?

Yes, the plate caught my eye

No. And I don’t want to know, because I don’t need it

I think I’ll be notified if necessary

I’m not afraid of anything

Translation error or KGB operation: Why the Soviet hypothesis that the Moon – alien ship, became super popular in the West 9Comments: 0

Log in to comment!

Secret objects of the USSR. How were they built and what do they look like now? | History | Society

The Soviet authorities did not skimp on financing projects that were supposed to ensure the strength and power of the communist system, and, if necessary, to protect it. But at the beginning of 19In the 90s, a huge country fell apart, some military and scientific facilities were transferred to the newly formed states – yesterday’s union republics. Others were simply abandoned.

Barkhan biochemical test site

From 1942 to 1992, a military biochemical test site was located on Vozrozhdeniye Island, which was located in the middle of the Aral Sea. Its conditional name is “Barkhan”. For half a century, bacteriological weapons were tested there on experimental animals – dogs, monkeys, sheep, horses. Samples of preparations were supplied from all military biochemical laboratories of the USSR – Stepnogorsk, Kirov, Sverdlovsk-19, Omutninsk, Sergiev Posad, Obolensk.

The object was carefully guarded, the access of outsiders to the island was strictly prohibited. The degree of secrecy was such that most of the employees who participated in the maintenance of the landfill did not even know where they worked.

A whole complex of bioengineering institutes was located on the island – buildings and laboratories, vivariums, equipment warehouses. Very comfortable conditions were created for military scientists in the town. But in the 90s. everything has changed. At 19In 1992, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree to close the landfill. The military contingent was redirected to Kirov, and the biological laboratory was dismantled.

What kind of research was done by scientists on the Renaissance Island, now no one can say. Marauders stole the equipment, taking away everything that was of at least some value. Only abandoned buildings remain.

By the way, in 1995, American military bacteriologists came to the test site – they were invited by the authorities of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, who own the territory of the island after the collapse of the USSR. Foreigners took samples from several burial grounds and found out that anthrax spores, with which Soviet scientists worked, did not completely die and retained some danger.

Dvina installation in Latvia

Since 1964, in the forests near Kekava (17 km from Riga) there has been a missile system – four launch silos 35 m deep, an underground command post, fuel component storage and equipment rooms.

The facility was built in 1964. But in the second half of the 1970s, the R-12 and R-12U missiles began to be removed from service in connection with the deployment of RSD-10 systems, and, first of all, missile systems with mine launchers were liquidated. So “Dvina” was no longer needed by the Soviet government.

After the collapse of the USSR, the mines in the Latvian forests and a significant part of the premises were partially flooded and looted. All metal is cut off. Extreme tourism experts warn that it is dangerous to visit this abandoned site without an experienced guide. And it’s not just that the mines are filled with water. They say that fumes of poisonous rocket fuel – heptyl – can escape from their bowels.

Former ZKP near Aksai

Spare command post of the North Caucasian Military District (ZKP) was built in the 50-60s. of the last century, when the USSR was preparing for a large-scale nuclear war and in the vicinity of large cities underground buried command posts for various types of troops were built.

Inside the hill on Mukhina Balka (this place is located in the Aksay district in the Rostov region), tunnels 8 m high and 85 m long were laid. They were designed in such a way that the structure could survive even with a direct hit by an atomic bomb. The two-tiered bunker had an extensive system of corridors with sealed doors, many rooms and large halls. It was officially believed that the gigantic structure was intended for the repair and storage of armored vehicles. But there were also studies of underground explosions.

Round openings still lead to the buildings of the former command post. But since the mid-1980s, no tests have been conducted here. And in 1993 it was finally closed. Local residents removed furniture and plumbing from the premises. In 1998, a military history museum was opened on the territory of an abandoned bunker. Now anyone can legally come here as a tourist.

Duga radar station (Russian Woodpecker)

In order to timely detect launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Soviet military command decided to create the Duga early warning system. It was based on two nodes located in different parts of the USSR: the first was in Chernobyl (now Ukraine), the second was near Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Rocket launches were supposed to be determined by starting flashes, the radiation of which should be reflected by the ionosphere (upper part of the atmosphere). Therefore, the dimensions of the structures were impressive: the antennas consisted of 30 masts, which reached a height of up to 150 m, while the length of the structure reached 800 m. The capabilities of the project at that time were unique – the technology allowed scientists and engineers to look beyond the horizon. The status of special secrecy of the object was maintained until the mid-1980s.

The antenna near Chernobyl consumed a lot of energy – it was for this reason that they decided to build it near a nuclear power plant. A garrison was located next to the radar, where the military and their families lived. The town was named Chernobyl-2.

The station emitted a characteristic thumping sound on the air, and in the lexicon of the alleged enemy, it received the nickname Russian Woodpecker (“Russian Woodpecker”). She was accepted on combat duty in 1985, a year later the system was upgraded. However, in the same year, an accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and the operation of the Duga radar station was stopped. It was not closed immediately – until 1987, the station remained mothballed. But over time, it became clear that it was impossible to carry out combat duty there. The country’s leadership decided to complete the project. The main components were dismantled and taken to Komsomolsk-on-Amur. But the huge radio masts towering over the forest remained – they can be seen from anywhere in the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

“Nora” in Crimea

The Reserve Command Post of the Black Sea Fleet (ZKCHF) had three more names – “Object No. 221”, “Alsu-2” (in honor of the nearby tract) and “Nora”. From here, the combat operations of Soviet ships in the Black Sea were to be controlled in case of war.