Homeowners might find all sorts of odds and ends when they move into a new place, including money, historical relics, and even passive-aggressive notes from previous residents. But Archie and Philippa Graham-Palmer hit the jackpot. After inheriting an ancestral manor, the couple stopped cold while remolding their basement. Archie and Philippa knew they’d uncover some interesting sights, but they never expected to learn a secret that was more than 100 years old.
When Archie and Philippa stepped inside together for the first time, they knew they had their hands full. Archie had grown up in the house with his parents, but they hadn’t done much work on the space. The pair was walking into a nightmare.
The Graham-Palmers’ manor was built in the early 1800s at Cefn Lea Park. It was actually the second building to stand on the grounds, as the first burnt down in a 1794 fire. Once the couple dug into Victorian-era practices, this wasn’t surprising.
For instance, their bathrooms would explode…a lot. In their early plumbing and sewer systems, flammable gases like hydrogen sulphide and methane would leak into the home. When an unsuspecting person lit a candle, they would cause a massive explosion.
Sullivan Independent News
The first plastic, celluloid, was invented during the Victorian era. Consumers loved the material so much that they added it into clothing. Unfortunately, this was also extremely flammable. Nobody could say whether this caused the devastating fire at Cefn Lea Park, but it led to a tumultuous path.
Donaldson Brothers, N.Y.
After the manor was rebuilt, it was inhabited by the Griffiths family. Eventually, it was left to the Kenyon family of Gredington. The Gredingtons held it until 1830, when the home was auctioned at the Wynnstay Arms Hotel.
Reverend Nathaniel Roberts and his wife Frances were the next people to live in the home and surprise, surprise, there was another massive fire. The home went through another massive renovation then.
Next, Sir William Henry Roger Palmer and his wife Eleanor (Frances’ sister) moved to Cefn Lea Park. Finally, it was passed to their son, Sir Roger William Henry in 1854. Following a 1930s renovation, the home remained dormant until Archie and Philippa entered.
It wasn’t a pretty sight. The basement was filled with an enormous pile of items Archie’s family had amassed over the years. Sifting through the piles, the couple discovered something exciting — it seemed like a secret doorway.
Tara Being Tara blog
If you’re familiar with the true-crime genre, you’ll know that hidden rooms don’t always have the brightest history behind them. Apparently, this one had been covered after WWII. What kind of secret was the family trying to hide?
FaderFX / Deviant Art
For once, a secret room had an exciting and not depressing backstory! Behind the Victorian walls hid a kitchen and servant’s hall that hadn’t been touched since 1830. The couple was flabbergasted by the sight.
Stepping into the room was like taking a time machine to another moment in history. This kitchen and servant’s hall would have been managed by entire battalion of staff: butlers, footmen, scullery maids, house maids, ladies’ maids, and valets.
At least 20 servants would have been employed at the Cefn Lea Park home. They worked in the home until the early 1900s, when practices changed for servants. Before then, they had zero time off from their duties.
Also, servants slept in small, cramped rooms that were often devoid of windows. They were exploited by their masters to the point where they had little time to take care of themselves.
Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Regardless, the kitchen the Graham-Palmers found was magnificent. It had a double range, a spit for roasting meat, ovens covered with soot — all signs of a well-used kitchen. There were also plenty of tea kettles, of course. This was the U.K. after all.
Photo by Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/Getty Images
There was also a cookbook from 1911 inside the room. Many of the recipes were impossible to create without a large staff, and the book detailed some amazing recipes: mince pies, pastries, jams, whole-roast pig. Fit for a feast!
Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images
Archie grew up never learning about this area of the house. His family cooked meals in a smaller and more modern space in another level of the estate. The basement kitchen was last used before the start of WWII.
Jonathan Cant / Twenty20
The owners hid in the basement during German air raids. Once the threat was gone, the family boarded up the kitchen, and eventually, as piles of items were stacked in front of the opening, forgot about it.
Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Since their discovery, Archie and Philippa are undergoing a preservation effort to bring the kitchen back to its Victorian-era glory — minus the servants this time. They’re currently redecorating the walls with a Victorian color scheme.
The couple is also refurbishing the tarnished silverware and other cookware they found around the room. They want to honor all parts of the home and the family’s past — especially when it was underneath their feet.
Archie and Philippa were thrilled to connect with a lost chapter of their family’s past. After all, there was no guarantee that old kitchen would ever be discovered. But for other hidden rooms, their designers did intend to return to them, even if it took decades to unlock the secret.
After 70 years, 83-year-old Rudi Schlattner never expected to return to his childhood home. The stately residence caught the attention of many passers-by in Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic. Naturally, the Schlattners were devastated to leave it.
But they had little choice. By 2015, Rudi was the only one left who remembered his family’s turbulent past, but he made sure the younger generations knew their story. And it was all one callous decision that turned their world upside-down.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Czechoslovakian leaders resented Germany for taking over their country with brute force. President Edvard Beneš retaliated by expelling all ethnic Germans from his country, even those who’d lived in Czech society their entire lives.
So 13-year-old Rudi and his family had no choice but to flee immediately, lest they be forcibly moved by the military. Carrying only a few bags each, they had to leave most of their possessions behind. But Mr. Schlattner had one trick up his sleeve.
After a career as a wealthy merchant, Rudi’s dad knew a thing or two about storing valuables. He told his son that all their worldly belongings were stowed away somewhere in the large attic of their house.
It was a clever move. With the dust settling on an international power struggle, European nations had no qualms about confiscating private property from displaced citizens. With any luck, the Schlattners would be able to return home and reclaim their property.
Fate, tragically, had other plans for the family. They moved into the American-controlled portion of West Germany, where the Berlin Wall totally shut them off from their familiar hometown. Rudi’s parents never saw Czechoslovakia again.
However, Rudi’s desire to rediscover his birthright never wavered. After Soviet Europe opened back up to the world, the octogenarian reached out to Vaclav Houfek, director of the Usti Municipal Museum. He wondered what became of his old house.
Vaclav was pleased to report the building was still in fantastic shape. A kindergarten had taken over most of its rooms, though no occupants ever renovated the attic. It basically looked the same as it had in the 1940s.
This revelation energized Rudi. Was it really possible that all of the relics of his former life were out there waiting for him? He had to find out. Working in tandem with the Usti Museum, he returned to the attic.
As familiar as the dusty planks were, Rudi couldn’t see any hidden stash of family heirlooms. He and the other researchers knocked on the wooden panels with a hammer, but couldn’t locate any hollow spots. They were ready to give up.
Fortunately, a memory buried deep in Rudi’s consciousness came roaring back to him. He recalled his father saying that a small string was the only way to open the compartment. Minutes later, Rudi spied a piece of twine dangling between two boards.
He pulled it. After cloud of musty air puffed out, Rudi stuck his head inside. Amazingly, the Schlattner family’s possessions were still there after all those years! Stacks of boxes lay untouched, and Rudi couldn’t wait to see what treasures they held.
The museum staff, once the shock wore off, loaded up Rudi’s find into a truck and brought it back to the archives for inspection. While cutting open the paper around the first box, they prayed that the items inside were still recognizable.
They soon found there was no need to worry. The contents of the Schlattners’ attic pained a vivid picture of life in 1940s Czechoslovakia. Rudi wiped away tears as he held dolls and toys that were once his childhood favorites.
In fact, his dad packed up nearly everything the family owned. Bottles of makeup and medicine, some of them barely used, suggested that he truly expected to get back home shortly after their exile. Then, there was the matter of some real treasure.
The haul included many paintings by Josef Stegl, a celebrated Czech artist who lived with the Schlattners for a time. Without the foresight of Rudi’s father, these masterpieces may have been lost to mobs of plunderers.
Amid this joy, Vaclav had one bad piece of news for Rudi: none of this belonged to him. The oppressive anti-German policies of President Beneš meant that any abandoned items became the property of the Czech state. But Rudi didn’t mind.
He took pride in his family’s past living on in the Usti Museum. Displaying these artifacts would be part of an effort across Europe to shine a light on the forgotten stories of World War II. Unlike Rudi, however, many were coming across hidden locations through freak accidents.
History came knocking for Simon Marks a year after Rudi’s discovery. The resident of Luton, England, had an accident in his own driveway one Saturday, and he groaned at the thought of a ruined weekend. That is, until he inspected the damage.
With plans to go out in the afternoon, Simon had simply been reversing his black Vauxhall Zafira out of his front driveway. Unfortunately, when he did so, he felt it lurch forward. At first look, the damage was bad — really bad.
Concerned a sinkhole had just opened up underneath his house, Simon took some pictures of the massive crater beneath his car’s tires and sent them to his father, Gerald, who was on his way to help. “I was just terrified the whole house was going to vanish,” he said.
The closer Simon looked at the damage, however, the more he came to realize that perhaps this was something more than a sinkhole or a “badly constructed garden.” Carefully, he began removing the cracked slabs of concrete—and was stunned by what he saw.
Descending into the darkness of what he’d once thought was going to be a massive thorn in his side—and his wallet!—was an old, rusted ladder. That was when he and his dad decided to start digging.
Simon and Gerald didn’t have fancy tools or machines to help the excavate the hole that was, as The Sun later reported, “nearly full to the top with mud.” They simply used shovels and buckets.
The pair dug and dug, the pile of excavated mud growing larger by the hour. Strangely, ordinance surveys didn’t shed any light on what might have been hiding beneath Simon’s driveway. According to those reports, there was nothing but empty land before the home was built.
Soon, Simon and Gerald had removed about five feet of mud in total—enough for them to crouch down inside and further inspect the space. Gerald had a hunch that he knew what it was, though he needed to see it to be sure…
The two men descended the ladder, unsure what they would find. Once they reached the bottom of the chamber and established their footing, they turned around—and came face to face with something unusual.
There in front of them was a strange doorway. Unsure if it was safe to enter the mysterious corridor, Simon did a little scouting. “I got my selfie stick,” he said, “and put it down the hole where I saw two rooms.” So what were they looking at?
Meanwhile, Gerald’s hunch was confirmed. “My dad saw it and instantly said it’s an air raid shelter,” Simon said. “We googled it and found there are quite a few in this area.”
After conducting some research, Simon surmised that the shelter had been built during World War II after a bomb landed near the home. This was a good theory for a number of reasons…
During World War II, the Luftwaffe—Germany’s air force—conducted a number of precision bombing raids on the United Kingdom and its allies. The unit infamously bombed Liverpool, Birmingham, and parts of London not far from Simon’s home.
mperial War Museum / Wikimedia
The looming threat of a bomb dropping at any moment pushed authorities and private citizens alike to construct bomb shelters. At first, tube stations, basements, and cellars served as protection; in the 1940s, communal shelters were built.
When there was an impending threat of an incoming bomb, authorities activated air raid sirens, which prompted people to head to the cover of one of these shelters. Many of them were reinforced with brick—just like the one in Simon’s driveway.
In Simon’s shelter, hidden within the rubble of the largest chamber, were a number of well-preserved historical pieces. This newspaper might have seen better days, but it still served as a reminder of what was happening around the time Simon’s shelter was built.
This milk bottle, filled to the brim with caked mud, also offered a small glimpse into the past. Had someone been drinking from it while waiting for the bombs to drop above their head?
Whoever owned the house before Simon must have built the driveway right on top of the shelter. When the door’s hinges finally rusted away, the door fell into the chamber, making it only a matter of time before the concrete collapsed inwards.
“It’s incredible to think it has all been made by hand,” Simon said about the shelter. “It’s part of our history so it should be kept.” Simon and Gerald hoped that it was structurally sturdy; this way, they wouldn’t have to fill in or remove the shelter.
Surprisingly enough, catastrophes occur on people’s properties more often than not. A couple in Idaho was suddenly woken by a loud noise in the middle of the night. However, when the woman walked into the garage, she couldn’t help but shriek in horror at what she saw.
It was around 4 a.m. and Brittany Bush, her husband, and their young son were sound asleep. They lived in a quiet neighborhood where things were usually quite peaceful. But on this night, they heard a sudden crashing sound.
Startled awake, Brittany and her husband searched the house. Had someone tried to break in? Thankfully, it seemed the coast was clear and they went back to sleep. The following morning, however, Brittany went into the garage. When she opened the door, she screamed…
Brittany couldn’t do anything but stare in horror at the mess inside of her garage. All of the family’s belongings were lying in shambles in the middle of the garage! Surely this was the source of the loud noise during the night. That’s when Brittany took a closer look…
“As I was pushing the garage door up, my right foot was stepping into the garage and just kept going down,” Brittany explained. “I was holding onto the garage door and looked down and just started screaming. I’m like, ‘Our whole garage is sunk down!'”
It didn’t take long for the family’s neighbors to find out what had happened. People slowly trickled by throughout the day to survey the damage. They were all shocked by the hole, and everyone naturally wanted to know how it got there…
As Brittany and her husband investigated their garage, they discovered what might have caused the problem: there was actually another room beneath their garage! It really wasn’t a sinkhole at all—it was a mysterious room they’d never even knew existed.
Inside this mysterious room were shelving units that still had someone’s belongings on them. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust and weathered from years of neglect. Brittany and her husband moved in closer to investigate.
As it turned out, there were plenty of interesting things on the shelving units. The first one that stood out to the couple was the large number of glass bottles. What were they used for? They had no idea, but they were going to keep digging…
Brittany noticed several large boxes packed with old documents of some kind. The couple also realized that the walls of this hidden room were incredibly deteriorated, with mold and mildew filling nearly every crack of the cement siding.
Strangely, the majority of the belongings in the room appeared to have been previously owned by children and a woman. There were plenty of kids’ toys, as well as a woman’s handbag, a hair curler, and a letter. Those weren’t the weirdest items, though…
Most intriguing to Brittany and her husband was one letter in particular. The edges were tattered and the coloring had faded over the years, but it was still very much intact. They looked carefully at the smudged writing to see who it was addressed to…
Interestingly enough, it was addressed to a business called “Melaleuca: The Wellness Company,” an online wellness company based in Idaho Falls that provided customers with a variety of health products. But why was this letter buried in their house?
Brittany and her husband knew they were lucky that this was the extent of it. Naturally occurring sinkholes are often devastating. Still, they needed to get to the bottom of this one in particular…
Once it was determined that they weren’t in any immediate danger, Brittany’s husband contacted their insurance provider. Shortly after, an insurance agent arrived to assess the scene. Along with him was an engineer…
The Bushes initially thought that the room was a bomb shelter, but the engineer quickly shot down that idea. He was also surprised it hadn’t caved in sooner, as the concrete was only two inches thick. That’s not all he had to say…
“[The insurance provider and engineer] said don’t be alarmed if there is a body down there,” Brittany told East Idaho News. “‘We hope there’s not but if there is stop what you’re doing and call the police.'” Whoa!
Another strange detail about their discovery was that this mystery room didn’t show up on any city or county records. There was no kind of paperwork at all that indicated the room was ever officially constructed!
Brittany and her husband were incredibly lucky that no was badly injured. Although it was all a bit scary, the couple did think the discovery was fascinating. The mystery of it all was clearly piquing the interests of people all over the area.
Brittany and her husband are now in the process of looking through the debris and trying to determine exactly what purpose the area once served. Now, the next time they hear loud noise in the middle of the night, they certainly won’t go to bed until they find the source!