Experts Still Can’t Explain Mystery Behind Secret Network Of Tunnels Under Tampa, Florida

Beneath Ybor City in Tampa, Florida, lies a hidden network of tunnels that most residents have likely never seen. This underground infrastructure has become the main urban legend in the area over time, with multiple theories competing to explain what purpose it may have served.

Alcohol smuggling, human trafficking, and safe passageways to move cash are some of the rumors associated with the series of tunnels, estimated to be two or three in total.

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One of the last known access points for the tunnels, located under a Blue Ribbon grocery store near 7th Avenue and 15th Street, burned down in 2001, city officials told News 6.

Underneath Ybor City, a neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, lies a network of tunnels that many residents don’t know about

Image credits: Dann Fulton

Image credits: Sidral Mundet

In 2018, developers uncovered another entry point during a construction project near the Old Florida Brewery, close to East 6th Avenue and Nuccio Parkway, as per FOX 13. The architect of the project, Gerry Curts, explained that the subterranean passageway runs from Ybor City toward Port Tampa Bay.

After the discovery, researchers with the University of South Florida came out to map the tunnels using laser scanning.

Dr. Lori Collins with USF’s Center for Digital Heritage described them as “quite substantial” and said they barely have room to stand.

“You can stand up and maybe bend over a little bit, depending on how tall you are. But you can certainly travel through them,” Dr. Collins shared.

The mysterious tunnels, estimated to be two or three in total, have sparked a series of theories about their purpose

Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa Bay

Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa Bay

“When we went into the one tunnel—all the way to the back end of it—we knew that there had been an artesian well mapped nearby. And we did find where it was bubbling up inside the actual tunnel space today,” she added.

Rodney Kite-Powell of the Tampa Bay History Center explained that the tunnels were built as part of a sewer system at the turn of the 20th century. A few decades later, the city of Tampa abandoned them when they installed an updated system.

Therefore, the mystery is what these passageways were later used for.

The old bottles found in the site could suggest that the tunnels were subsequently used by the Mafia or bootleggers during the Prohibition era, a period when the US banned the sale, production, and import of alcohol at a national level from 1920 to 1933.

One of the last known access points for the tunnels burned down in 2001. However, in 2018, residents uncovered another entry point during a construction project

Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa Bay

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Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa BayFOX 13 Tampa Bay

However, Kite-Powell has discredited this theory, explaining that those who engaged in illicit activities didn’t need to move their products underground if they had the right connections.

“During Prohibition, Ybor City was kind of wide open, and the police were all corrupted by the organized crime that was here,” he explained.

“So to go through the effort of moving alcohol under the tunnels would have been not really necessary.”

Dr. Gary Mormino, St. Petersburg professor emeritus of history at USF, shares this view.

“I interviewed a lot of people in the ’70s and ’80s who would have been involved in bootlegging of ’20s and ’30s, and they’ve all said the only people who feared the police were those who weren’t involved in the rackets,” Dr. Mormino told the DailyMail

“If you paid off the police, you were fine.”

The tunnel found in 2018 was located near the Old Florida Brewery, leading to speculations that it may have been used to smuggle alcohol during the Prohibition era

Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa Bay

Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa Bay

The professor theorized that the underground tunnels were likely used for “white slavery related to bringing women across interstate lines for immoral purposes” and smuggling in Chinese laborers and Chinese-Cuban prostitutes in the early 1900s.

“Chinese people were brought to Cuba after slavery ended in the late 19th century to replace slaves and work in the sugar industry.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever know the truth, to be honest,” Dr. Mormino said of the use of the tunnels. “It’s a rather elusive story now.”

Additionally, researchers found old bottles in the underground infrastructure

Image credits: FOX 13 Tampa Bay

The tunnel found under the Blue Ribbon grocery store might have been connected to the former Ybor Cigar Factory, possibly serving as a path for transporting money

Image credits: Ebyabe

Experts have discredited the bootlegging theory, as it was common for criminals to bribe police officers and transport their products without resorting to such efforts

Meanwhile, Kite-Powell suggested that the tunnel found under the Blue Ribbon store might have been connected to the former Ybor Cigar Factory, possibly serving as a path for transporting money.

“Allegedly, that tunnel connected to one of the first cigar factories — Ybor Cigar Factory — for whom the city’s named. And so it may have been a way to move cash around in the very early years before Sydney because it was kind of lawless.”

Currently, there are reportedly no access points for the tunnels available to the public, so those looking to investigate will have to guess from several meters above the ground.

People were surprised to learn about the underground tunnels in the historic Tampa neighborhood

The post Experts Still Can’t Explain Mystery Behind Secret Network Of Tunnels Under Tampa, Florida first appeared on Bored Panda.
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