Basements are suspect places. They sit underground collecting dust, all while housing some pretty interesting secrets. Old artifacts get moved into basements, children are scared to be in basements by themselves, and basements literally support entire buildings.
Sometimes, we don't even know what's lurking under our own houses. That's exactly what happened to Alexandra Poulos. She always had a funny feeling about her childhood home, but she never could have imagined what the basement of that home had in store for her. Here's the story of what she found below.
A Mystery That Almost Went Unsolved
Alexandra Poulos always had a funny feeling about her childhood home. One day, after living in her home for years, she had some builders come and take a look in her basement. What they found left everyone in total disbelief.
Alexandra was sure that they had found something of immense historical importance. After reading this story, you might want to take a look in your own basement. You never know what could be lurking underground.
Alexandra's Childhood Home
Alexandra Poulos' parents bought the house pictured here in 1974. This house is located in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, which will become an important detail later in this story. This white, colonial-style house was Alexandra's home for her entire childhood.
Alexandra grew up here— she ate family dinners here, she learned to ride a bike here, and she made friends in this neighborhood all while her basement was holding onto some interesting secrets. Alexandra had no idea what was located in her basement at the time.
A Strange Aura Led To Strange Dreams
Even though Alexandra didn't know about the secrets in her basement when she was a child, she still remembers having vivid dreams about it while she was living in that house.
Poulos told ABC News, "I would have random dreams about there being other rooms in the house. I'd look it up on dream meanings sites and people always thought I just had a crazy imagination.” Could the house itself have caused Alexandra's strange and "random" dreams?
This House May Be Cursed
In 2008, Alexandra Poulos' mother passed away. Alexandra was devastated. She and her mother were always so close, and she couldn't imagine moving on and living her life without her mom. Unfortunately, one disaster led to another, and seven months later, Alexandra's brother passed away as well.
Alexandra didn't blame the house for those tragedies. She didn't think this house she loved so much could be haunted. After her mother and brother died, Alexandra convinced her father to sign the house over to her.
A Special Connection To The Building
A lot of Alexandra's friends and colleagues tried to tell her to sell the house. Alexandra refused. She didn't want to lose the house she grew up in. She had made so many fond memories with her mother and her brother in that house.
Alexandra tod the Epoch Times, "My mom and brother, they were still there to me.” Alexandra couldn't leave her family behind. The house meant too much to her. There was no way that she was going to sell it.
A Temporary Solution
The problem was, Alexandra had a house to live in that wasn't her childhood home. She didn't want to sell the house, but she didn't want it to go unused either. Alexandra found some tenants who agreed to rent the house while Alexandra lived in her own home.
However, things didn't go according to plan. Pretty soon, chaos found that large family home again. There were some issues with the house's foundations (AKA the basement).
This was an old house with some severe foundational issues. Pretty soon, the tenants noticed that the basement was starting to smell. A sewer pipe had cracked down there and the whole system needed to be replaced.
Cracks started appearing in the basement walls, but Alexandra was quick to spring into action. She wanted to do everything she could to save the home she loved so dearly. Alexandra had some specific memories about the house's basement.
Digging Up Old Memories
Alexandra remembered the stories that her old neighbor used to tell her about what could be hidden under the house. "She told my dad, 'You know there's a basement under your basement,’" Poulos recalled. “[But] my dad just thought she was crazy or whatever.”
Alexandra was starting to think that the neighbor she had spoken with all those years ago wasn't crazy at all. Maybe she was telling the truth. Alexandra wanted to find the basement under the basement.
A Little More Research
Alexandra took it upon herself to learn more about the history of her neighborhood. She wanted to gather as much information as she could. She soon discovered that a house just five minutes from her childhood home was somehow connected to the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad was made up of a whole bunch of routes and hidden spaces. The abolitionists used the route to smuggle American slaves to freedom before the North won the Civil War.
An Opportunity To Investigate
Alexandra was disappointed that the basement in her home had issues, but she looked at the leak as an opportunity to learn more about the history of her home. She asked the builders and repairmen to do more than just fix the pipe. She asked them to dig a little deeper.
She thought they might find evidence that her house was part of the Underground Railroad route. Maybe the route went right under the house.
If You Search, You Shall Find
The builders did as Alexandra requested, and pretty soon, they found a secret room buried under the basement floor. The builders said that they thought the secret room was probably there long before the house was built.
Alexandra was thrilled to learn that her house had some interesting foundations, but she wanted to know more about the role this place played in history. She just had a feeling that this location was important— she knew it meant something more.
How Slavery Was Abolished In The States
During the first half of the 19th century, slavery was still legal in many states across America. However, people were starting to realize how cruel it is to oppress an entire group of people. Resistance movements were gaining more traction and the fight against slavery started to look like a fight that could be won.
Many of the states in the North had already abolished slavery entirely. Progress was being made, even if it was slow progress.
How The Underground Railroad Got Its Start
In the midst of this huge social and humanitarian shift, the Underground Railroad was born. Former slaves who were now freed risked everything to help enslaved people regain their freedom. Levi Coffin, a Quaker from North Carolina, smuggled thousands of slaves to safety at great personal risk.
Harriet Tubman, who had already escaped her slaveholders, took it upon herself to liberate others. Without their heroic efforts, America would be a very different place than it is today.
The Underground Railroad Didn't Involve Any Trains
This network of activist and former slaves liberating people who were still enslaved became known as the Underground Railroad. The people who took the Underground Railroad out of slavery didn't actually travel by train, though. Mostly they traveled on foot or on horseback.
The term "Underground Railroad" was a reference to some of the codenames that were used during this covert operation. This mission was successful because it was carried out so secretly and stealthily.
Could This Secret Room Be Connected?
Many people have suspected that the Underground Railroad actually made use of underground tunnels. There are theories that the leaders of this operation actually used tunnels and underground rooms to make sure that nobody would see the slaves escaping.
Could this room within a room in Alexandra's basement be connected to the Underground Railroad? Could this space have actually saved lives? Alexandra really wanted this to be the case. She wanted to know that her family's land was put to good use.
How Pennsylvania Fits Into All Of This
Pennsylvania was technically a free state at the time of the Underground Railroad, however, the Fugitive Slave Act required officials and citizens to assist slaveholders who were attempting to recapture slaves who had run away.
That meant that many of these escaped slaves had to stay hidden. They needed safe places to stay throughout the state so they wouldn't get caught by someone who supported the South in the Civil War. That's where these underground rooms come into play.
Where's The Evidence?
Alexandra is confident that she's discovered an important piece of history under her childhood home. She's convinced that the hollow room beneath her basement was a hideout for escaped slaves. However, historians have warned people like Alexandra that it can be easy to get carried away.
Rachel Moloshok from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has suggested that the secret room may just have been a place to store valuables, or it could have just been used as storage space.
Could This Whole Theory Be False?
Many experts aren't even sure that there were actual underground hideaways connected to the Underground Railroad. It would take a lot of time and money to build an underground tunnel or hideaway.
Also, onlookers would notice all of the digging and displaced dirt and get suspicious. Very few buildings in the North actually have secret rooms— at least, very few buildings that we know of. Maybe Alexandra really was onto something. Maybe there are lots of secret rooms, but we just haven't found them yet.
It Could All Be True
Moloshok told ABC News, "The region, in general, historically, has been known as an abolitionist sympathizer area. The only way to really follow up on that would be to research who the owners were in the past and follow up on property records and see if there were people who were known to be vocal abolitionists… Then you can make inferences.”
So there may be a way to get closer to solving this mystery. Alexandra wanted to know the truth.
She's Still Trying To Find Proof
Although Alexandra still hasn't been able to find concrete evidence that connects her secret room to the Underground Railroad, she's still actively researching the history of her community.
One day, Alexandra would like to lead tours of the secret room in her basement, and of other secret rooms in the area, should they be uncovered. Alexandra is currently working on educating herself, and gathering as much evidence as she can gather. She doesn't want the efforts of the members of the Underground Railroad to be forgotten.