HomeTrendingTrap Door Under Prison Leads To Treasure Trove

Trap Door Under Prison Leads To Treasure Trove

The clanging of steel on stone had echoed through the ancient corridor for weeks now. Dozens of headlamps flickered from corner to corner as they all searched for the secret way out. 

Stirring up swirls of ancient dust like so many ghosts. They were working on the lower levels where the smell of decay was strongest – looking for a glimmer of light or a whisper of fresh air. That’s when they found it.

From the way the somber structure stands alone on Spike Island, you’d never know that it is just a ten-minute boat ride away from the picturesque town of Cobh. 

Built upon the bones of an old Irish monastery, the fortress still bears traces of every change to its structure and purpose over hundreds of years. However, it was the building’s final form that earned it the moniker “Hell on Earth.” 

During the Great Famine of the 1940s, Ireland was in the midst of a crisis. Potato crops failed again and again, and millions of people were driven to the brink of starvation. Crime skyrocketed as people became desperate. The government’s response?

The stone fortress on Spike Island became the world’s largest prison – and one of the most notorious.

Men and boys who were deemed guilty of a wide range of offenses were ferried to the island and locked up. Murderers and violent robbers were incarcerated alongside dissidents, vagrants, and petty criminals. The prison population quickly swelled to 2,300 inmates. Most never made it back home. 

Later, the prison became known as “Ireland’s Hell” because of what happened there.

According to reports, more than three dozen inmates were crammed into a space no bigger than 40 by 18 feet. The inmates who were kept outside, however, didn’t fare any better. They were chained to one another and forced to perform manual labor.

It’s estimated that more than 1,000 inmates perished on the grounds. But the ghosts of the inmates who haunt the stone halls aren’t the only skeletons in Spike Island’s closet.

The prison closed its doors in 1883 and reverted back to a military base. But Spike Island seemed to have a way of attracting the sinister. In 1921 it reverted back to a prison and then, in 1985, it became infamous once again.

In 2004, the jail closed its doors once more – but it still housed a remarkable secret. When a team of archeologists began to excavate in 2020, they finally uncovered it.

In 2020, bioarchaeologist Barra O’Donnabhain led a team into the cold lower recesses of the foreboding structure to discover what lay underneath.

The archeologists were working to open up parts of the prison that had been previously inaccessible when they suddenly uncovered a hidden tunnel. The secrets of the Spike Island jail were finally beginning to unravel.

The tunnel that the archeologists had uncovered ran beneath the walls, and they realized that they had found a sallyport. 

Sallyports are a common addition to military buildings. This one had been built to allow soldiers to enter and exit the building safely. But, finding the tunnel was just the beginning. At the end of the tunnel was a wall that seemed to lead nowhere… to the untrained eye, at least.

Tearing the old stone wall down was a slow and laborious process. Guided only by the light of their headlights, the team removed the bricks piece by piece. 

With a low rumble and a puff of dust, the old wall finally gave in and collapsed. But nobody could believe what was on the other side. 

O’Donnabhain and his team stood in shock and awe at what the wall had been concealing. Behind the old wall was another wall. Only, this time, it had a door. It was unlocked. 

The team didn’t waste a second to find out what was on the other side. It swung open freely on its rusty hinges. Suddenly, they were in a pitch-black chamber. At the end was a staircase. 

The stone staircase came out of nowhere, spiraling up into the darkness. But what immediately struck the team was that it seemed to be suspended in mid-air. Bones and wine bottles littered the floor. 

Strangely, this room and staircase hadn’t been on the original floor plans and were never mentioned in any of the official documents. Stranger still, it lead nowhere.

Because the building had undergone so many renovations and conversions, O’Donnabhain speculated that the staircase was a remnant of the first-built fort on the island in 1790 – before the fort was swallowed up by the much larger fort that was built around it in 1790. 

Alan Callaghan, the site’s assistant manager, had another theory.

Because the staircase once led to the top of the fort’s walls, Callaghan believes that it could have played a role in a number of daring escapes from the prison. 

However, the staircase is just one of the fascinating secrets that archeologists have unearthed at the site over the years. The most chilling find had been in the graveyard.

O’Donnabhain and his team have been excavating the prison on Spike Island since 2013 – but their first discovery was the most unsettling find of them all. 

The team started to dig up the two burial sites on the prison grounds and unearthed a number of skeletons with a bizarre defect that had grim implications.

Some of the skeletons the team excavated were missing the upper section of their skulls. O’Donnabhain suspects that they have something to do with Cesare Lombroso and his grisly experiments in the 19th century.

Lombroso was an early criminologist who believed that criminals had certain “markers” in their brains that could be used to identify them.  


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