Man finds mysterious 19th-century tunnel under his Illinois home

A man in Illinois discovered a 19th century tunnel underneath his home, leading locals perplexed as to what it was used for. 

Gary Machens, from Alton, Illinois, first discovered the mysterious tunnel when he noticed his sidewalk was starting to slope. 

‘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 explained to Fox 2

‘According to historians here in the Alton area. This tunnel was put in here around 1840.’ 

Gary Machens, from Alton, Illinois, first discovered the mysterious tunnel when he noticed his sidewalk was starting to slope

Gary Machens, from Alton, Illinois, first discovered the mysterious tunnel when he noticed his sidewalk was starting to slope

Gary Machens, from Alton, Illinois, first discovered the mysterious tunnel when he noticed his sidewalk was starting to slope

Machens believes that the tunnel opening got covered in 1895 when the brick street was laid down

Machens believes that the tunnel opening got covered in 1895 when the brick street was laid down

Machens believes that the tunnel opening got covered in 1895 when the brick street was laid down

Machens was already familiar with the history of the home, which dates back to the 1890s. 

He believes that the tunnel opening got covered in 1895 when the brick street was laid down. 

‘Why is it stair stepped like this?’ Machens asked. ‘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 said that the tunnel could have served a number of purposes. 

Machens was already familiar with the history of the home, which dates back to the 1890s

Machens was already familiar with the history of the home, which dates back to the 1890s

Machens was already familiar with the history of the home, which dates back to the 1890s

‘It’s unique, there are a few tunnels around the Alton area since we checked with the Landmark Historic Society,’ Machens said. ‘It’s been used as an icehouse or root cellar or a lot of other options. 

‘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.’

However, Machens is sure the tunnel wasn’t just built by one set of hands.  

‘Whatever they built this for, it took a lot of men and a lot of hours. You know, one guy didn’t do this,’ he added. 

Machens is open to working with the city or someone else to open the tunnel for tours. But for now, he is just looking to seal it up

Machens is open to working with the city or someone else to open the tunnel for tours. But for now, he is just looking to seal it up

Machens is open to working with the city or someone else to open the tunnel for tours. But for now, he is just looking to seal it up

It is unknown what exactly the tunnel was used for

It is unknown what exactly the tunnel was used for

It is unknown what exactly the tunnel was used for

Machens is open to working with the city or someone else to open the tunnel for tours. But for now, he is just looking to seal it up.

‘Yes, three former mayors of Alton have lived in this house through the years,’ Machens 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.’ 

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