-- Alexandra Poulos of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, always knew there was something special about her house. And now her suspicions have been justified.
Poulos believes she has discovered a piece of true American history: a secret room below her basement that was once part of the Underground Railroad.
“This is such a weird, odd story,” Poulos, 43, told ABC News of her beloved white colonial-style home. “When I was a child 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.”
When her mother and her brother passed away within a year of each other, Poulos had her father sign over the rights of the home to her so it would remain in their family, despite his moving out.
“It’s my childhood home. My parents bought it in 1974,” she said. “I just love it so much. I started renting it out, and now we have awesome tenants.”
Recently, however, the burdens of being a landlord starting sinking in when multiple things in the home’s basement starting breaking, one after another.
“First it was oil tank that went, and then after that it was an old cast-iron sewer pipe that just started cracking, so I had to get that replaced,” she said. “And then Jerry [her tenant] called me and said, ‘Alex, you have to come to the house because there’s cracks in the walls. I always respond right away because I try to keep the house as I would want it, because I still love it.”
With the basement fresh on her mind, she remembered a rumor that a former neighbor told her father years ago.
“There was a neighbor out back, an old doctor and his wife,” Poulos recalled. “She told my dad, ‘You know there’s a basement under your basement.’ My dad just thought she was crazy or whatever. Long story short, I always had that in the back of my mind.
“For the past couple weeks, I’ve been looking stuff up on the history of homes in the area,” she added. “It was, like, 2 a.m. one night, and I came across an article that said there was this house that’s, like, a five minute drive from my house and the owners found out it was linked to the Underground Railroad. They said they knew it was down there and they knew it was covered up by cement. And then I knew. That was it.”
The lightbulb went on in her mind that perhaps her home could be associated with the Underground Railroad as well.
When Poulos called Baldwin Masonry to make sure the cracks were taken care of in the basement, she asked them an odd question.
“I asked him if when he’s digging in the basement, ‘Can you dig a little deeper?,’” she said. “And I knew he thought I was a total nut. But I explained the possible historical connection, and he wrote me back and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve never encountered anything like that, but that would be really neat.’”
The very next day, she got a call from the workers that they had found something strange.
“I get a call saying, ‘You’re not going to believe this. They found it,’” Poulos said. A large hole in the basement floor leads to a previously unknown room 14 feet below. “I said, ‘You’re joking.’ I swear to God, they found it. It’s a whole other area of the house.”
“It’s just suspicious because I think what we found might have predated the house being built,” said Jerry Sanders, Poulos’ tenant. “It’s about 14 feet deep and maybe about 6 to 8 feet wide by about 15 feet long. It’s a nice-size room.”
There is also a stone wall on one side with one stone jutting out that is particularly loose. But Poulos hasn’t wanted to investigate what’s behind the wall too much, for fear of affecting the foundation.
A local historian said there are plenty of other reasons the hidden room may exist but didn’t discount the historical prevalence of the Underground Railroad in that area.
“The region in general historically has been known as an abolitionist sympathizer area that probably did have a good number of people who have been involved in or were sympathetic to anti-slavery activism, including potential participation in the Underground Railroad,” said Rachel Moloshok, the managing editor of publications for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
“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, based on the actual documentation of that,” she added. “Then you can make inferences.”
Moloshok said the room could have been for storage or maybe somebody had a family secret to keep or perhaps “somebody was paranoid and hiding gold.”
Regardless, Poulos is thrilled about her mysterious new discovery.
“I need to figure out next steps,” she said. “Jerry is so enthralled by it. They’re just as obsessed with this stuff as I am. Jerry said, ‘I’ve always known this house is special, from the second I walked in.’ It’s like a spirit saying, ‘Don’t leave me.’”