Pennsylvanian Man Discovers a Long-Lost Underground Secret After His Lawn Bubbles
Picture this: it’s a relaxing Sunday morning. Last night’s storm left behind a clear, blue sky. You’ve just come back from church, and you’re ready to put a little work into the garden while the sun’s out. As you make your way to the flowerbeds over the lawn, you hear a sound you’ve never heard before: a whispering hiss—and it’s coming from the earth beneath your feet.
This is the story of James Carlington, an unassuming resident from Pennsylvania, and how he unearthed a century-old secret from his very own backyard. What began for James as a garden-variety phenomenon soon led to the discovery of something huge. Read on to discover for yourself what James and his family found waiting for them just below the surface.
A Typical Sunday Morning
It was a typical Sunday for James Carlington and his wife, Sarah. They got up, ate breakfast, and attended the morning service at church. There were a few chores to do around the house, but besides that, it was the perfect day to set aside for rest and relaxation.
After James and Sarah were done with the housework, James started to think about the garden. It was still damp from last night’s rain, but since the sun was shining, it looked like prime time for pruning.
A Great Day for Gardening
The weather is fairly moderate in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, but that’s not to say that the town doesn’t see its fair share of storms. It had been raining hard last night. The grass and leaves still glistened with raindrops. An energized wind still rushed through the air.
Last night’s storm had kept James from getting a good night’s sleep, but that was all well and good. He changed his Sunday best for a shirt and pants and put on his old pair of gardening gloves.
A Call From the Grass
Maintaining his garden gave James a lot of peace and joy. He was proud of his work. Sarah said that he often got lost in his own world while gardening. It was his way of recharging from the day-to-day demands of work.
But that Sunday, before James had even set eyes on his prized flowerbed, he heard something strange. There was an odd hissing noise. He called Sarah, who was still inside the house, and asked her if she’d heard it too. As it turned out, she had.
A Mysterious Sound
James examined the outside walls of his home, then inside, to no avail. Both he and his wife were puzzled and a little concerned. The hissing noise might be the result of a leak. It could be the sound of an animal. The two continued to search up and down.
Of course, the sound wasn’t coming from the house. It was coming from underfoot. James’ yard was usually kept trim and tidy, and since he hadn’t spotted anything moving over the top of the grass, he hadn’t taken a better look.
The Hunt Was On
After examining every pipe, every appliance, and every nook and cranny, James and Sarah finally took their investigation back outside, where the noise seemed to be getting louder. It didn’t occur to them that the hissing noise could be coming from so far away from the house.
But eventually, James and Sarah traced the hiss to a corner of their backyard. It took them a second to see it, but after a moment, Sarah spotted it: a great big green lump the length and width of a person or a large animal sticking out of the earth.
The Earth Was Gargling
Of course, it had been difficult to see from the house. But now, up close, the grassy lump was practically bursting. Neither James nor Sarah had ever seen this before, certainly not in their backyard, anyway.
The lump was definitely moving. It wobbled back and forth. Could there have been something alive under the grass? Maybe snakes or lawn pests? After a moment in shock, James did what any man would do in his situation: he poked it.
James put his best foot forward and touched the lump with his toes. In response, it jiggled back and forth like the mattress of a waterbed. It seemed to be filled with liquid of some kind. James walked around to the other side and gave it another poke.
After a few times pressing the grassy mass, James and Sarah took turns pressing into it to see if they could flatten it out. But the green pimple still stood firm no matter how many times they pressed their feet into it.
Like a Trampoline
James decided to stab the bubble, hoping to pop it and release whatever was inside. But the lump was too spongy, and his foot alone was not enough. James decided to step things up a level.
James lept on top of the mound with all of his weight. Just like it had looked like a waterbed, it felt like a waterbed too. He sprang onto the center and hopped up and down while his wife watched from the side.
James continued to jump on the mound as if it were a trampoline. James even started to enjoy himself. But no matter how hard or how high he jumped, the mound would not burst. It was more solid than it had first seemed.
Rather than burst out, the liquid inside shifted from place to place. When James stepped off, the lump reformed back into its bubble shape.
Get Your Camera!
As James worked, Sarah was capturing these strange happenings from the sidelines. They’d tried poking it, jabbing it, and even jumping. It was evident that it would take something more to flatten this bump.
James went to the house and returned moments later with something sharp. Once again, Sarah raised her camera, expecting to see a geyser or at least a leak. By then, they’d attracted the attention of their neighbors over the fence.
Sarah joked that there was actually a nest of snakes waiting for them to make an opening, but nothing deterred James from his mission. He took his umbrella and began carefully digging into the soil, expecting a spring of liquid or an explosion of water and mud.
But once again, for all his poking, the mound only jiggled back and forth. Their neighbor went back into his house. James and Sarah were once again left scratching their heads.
The Right Tool for the Job
Sometime later, their neighbor took a turn, using gardening tools. They poked on top and around. With a little effort, they managed to break through the skin of the lump, at long last.
The lump slackened as it released all the pressure beneath. As the water poured out, it looked unusually clear. The lump began to flatten. But the story is far from over.
As James stood on top of the lump, victorious, he watched as his feet sank into a pool of clear water—the rain from last night’s storm, he figured. At last, the grass had been lowered back onto solid earth.
James tread around the lump to help push the water out. As it did, the water flowed out onto the lawn, where it began to pool. The water kept coming and coming.
The Floodgates Opened
After James opened up the mass on his lawn, the flow of water would not stop. It looked as if a pipe had been burst. But at no point had James stuck anything solid. Where was all this water coming from? What was going on?
A never-ending spring wasn’t the only thing waiting for them under the surface. Sarah continued to snap photos while in a state of shock and amazement as their whole yard began to fill up with water.
Like a Burst Pipe
For half an hour, the water just kept coming. While their yard was filling up, James decided to investigate the lump. He wanted to know what was underneath out of curiosity. This curiosity led to quite the find.
As this was happening, his wife Sarah was wondering whether they had a serious problem on their hands or not. The flood had been expanding out to their neighbor’s yard too. But while she was in the middle of her pondering, she heard her husband call her over. He’d found something else.
The Black Thread
James noticed what looked like a piece of black plastic protruding out from under the grass. He tried to pull it out, but it would not come. No matter how hard he tried, it wouldn’t move an inch. It seemed attached to something under the earth.
James, Sarah, and their neighbor started to wonder what it could be. Did it hold treasure, or worse, a dead body? Either way, without further digging, there was no way to know, and until the water went away, they would just have to wait.
While It Drained
After a little while, their pool of water drained out into their neighbors’ yards, where it was absorbed into the earth or evaporated. James and Sarah were still curious about the contents of the black bag, and so they investigated further.
They returned to the spot where the lump had first appeared. They began digging around the black plastic. Upon closer inspection, they realized that the plastic was made of thicker stuff than that of a garbage bag. It was also much bigger.
The Net Widens
James grabbed a shovel and started digging around, hoping to find the other side. But every time he lifted the earth, the plastic seemed to reach further and further. It seemed to go on and on.
In fact, it seemed to cover the whole yard. After a time, James has almost uncovered the whole plot of grass, and still, he could not find the edge. Whatever it was covering, it had to be enormous.
This Thing Is Huge!
After examining the black plastic bag, James realized that it must have been there for years, maybe even before they bought the house. He tried to carefully extract it, but still, it was spread too far and too wide.
Eventually, James realized that the “bag” must have covered all corners of his yard. It was no mere bag but a cover or tarp. James went to work uncovering every inch. What could such a large tarp possibly be hiding?
To Every Corner
James dug up little samples all over his yard. It turned out the black tarp covered just about every inch of the garden. James had never seen such a thing. He walked back to the spot where the lawn lump was still flattening out.
Out of simple curiosity, James reached into the hole made earlier and cut through the black plastic with a knife. As he cut through, he felt an object: solid, rough. He got to work clearing the rest of the earth around it.
Striking Something Solid
When he was done, James had uncovered something remarkable. He stood over old wooden planks. They looked to have been buried there long ago. Try as he might, he could not loosen them. They were fixed in place.
There was also a strange smell. The planks weren’t just covering that spot. Like the plastic tarp, they seemed to cover quite a wide area. At this point, James was worried that he would have to get the police involved.
Down the Rabbit Hole
First the lawn lump, then the huge plastic tarp, and now a mysterious floor running beneath the garden. The mystery went deeper than he would have ever imagined. They had no idea what they would find if they kept on digging.
Before he went any further, James recalled his house’s blueprints. He wanted to check if there was any mention of old flooring in his home’s original design. In the meantime, he continued to clear away the surrounding earth.
While all this was happening, James’ wife Sarah was out on errands. When she pulled up to the house and saw the mess in the garden, she was horrified. When James called her over, however, her outrage turned to confusion.
She found James by the hole, smelt the strange odor, and saw the buried planks. She didn’t know what to make of any of it, but she left her husband to his work. It wasn’t long before something even stranger turned up.
Not far from where the lawn lump had first appeared, James made a startling discovery. While digging around, he uncovered a handle on the planks. It was old and decayed, but it was a hatch. James figured there must also be a latch mechanism too.
Time and moisture had eroded the wood and the iron, but there was no mistaking it. The tarp and the earth would need to be cleared away if they wanted to get it open. James grabbed his shovel.
Never Before Seen
James and Sarah were a thorough and careful couple. When they were planning to buy their house, they had even gone over the building’s blueprints. When they were making their assessment, there was nothing about a buried floor or an outside basement.
This was something that they’d never seen before. They had no idea what was hiding beneath the hatch. One thing was certain: they were going to get answers.
James got back to work with the shovel and started digging. He cleared an area around the hatch and cut a square out of the tarp. Just as they thought, there was a latch mechanism on the other side of the handle.
As he was digging, James imagined what lay on the other side. Could it be buried treasure? Or the entrance to a secret war shelter? Or a creepy, underground dungeon? Maybe it led to a system of tunnels. His imagination was racing. Pretty soon, his work was done.
Finally, James finished his digging. With great effort, he turned the hatch over and looked inside. At the bottom was an old staircase covered in dirt and stone. It looked as if it was falling apart. The couple was in shock.
With their hearts racing, James asked Sarah to hold his ankles while he crawled in to get a better look. James climbed in, attempting to be as gentle as he could be in case the stone fell apart under his weight. The further down he went, the less he could see.
An Underground Vault
James and Sarah grabbed their flashlight from the house. With courage and care, they made their way down the staircase. To their surprise, the tunnel opened up as they approached the bottom. What they found was amazing.
James was shocked to see what looked like an old wine cellar. There were even a few empty bottles lying around. By the smell of the place, it seemed as though it hadn’t been used for a long time.
Where Was This on the Blueprint?
The place seemed to have been hastily abandoned. It smelled worse than sour milk and fermented fruits. The glass bottles on the floor were covered in heavy dust. As they explored, one question ran through their minds: Why didn’t anyone tell them about this secret wine cellar?
As far as they could remember, the blueprint of their house had no information about this hidden addition at all. James picked up one of the dusty bottles. To his surprise, the date on the bottle was almost a century old.
One Hundred Years Old
With a clue as to the cellar’s age, the couple hit up the local library and consulted professional advice. They’ve since learned that the wine cellar was kept a secret by its builders for the one simple reason: they never got the necessary planning permission.
Had the local authorities known at the time, the original owners of the house might have faced large fines or worse. To save themselves money and time, they had simply covered it all up with a black sheet and earth.
Why the Coverup?
Okay, the secret cellar was hidden to save money. But why was it covered with plastic? Why not just cover it with soil? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. The soil on their lawn was not all that deep.
And a thin layer of soil doesn’t hold much water. The plastic was used to retain water for the grass. Without it, the rain would have seeped through into the cellar, causing more damage.
If they hadn’t covered the cellar, its original owners would have had to have torn up the roof and filled the pit with an enormous amount of dirt. But it was because of the plastic tarp that their lawn bubbled in the first place.
Given the time period, the house’s original owners were probably in a hurry to cover up their secret wine stash. After all, the United States had just entered the time of prohibition. We can just imagine their sadness as they closed the wine cellar hatch for the last time.
A Quick Fix
Instead of demolishing and creating a new lawn, which would have been expensive and laborious, the original owners probably decided to just put a black cover over it so they could pour soil on top and plant grass seeds, pretending as if nothing was hidden below.
This is the cheapest and easiest way to keep the appearance of a lawn. Their plan seems to have worked. The cover lasted for so many years, at least until James and Sarah discovered it in the 21st century.
Naturally, the couple was worried about the grassy bubble that appeared on their lawn. Did the cellar have anything to do with it? Actually, it didn’t. The black tarp was the real culprit. As it had trapped so much rainwater, the lawn above began to swell.
This is typical of lawns that come pre-laid with plastic covers underneath and is a common problem. The correct name for this phenomenon is “lawn blister.” It’s rare, but it can happen. Using plastic covers can be cheaper than properly filling a space with soil, but it does have its drawbacks.
How It Happened
What happened to James’ yard had something to do with the storm that happened the night before they discovered the wine cellar. Since there was an excessive amount of water, it built up under the plastic sheet.
But James was never in danger, even if he’d jumped, poked, or prodded on the blister. It was just water and nothing else. The worst thing that can happen with a lawn blister is a small flood, which happened to James and Sarah.
The Legend of the Lost Cellar
Finding a long-lost, secret underground wine vault isn’t a regular Sunday pastime for most people. It certainly would have been an interesting story to tell around the watercooler on Monday morning, back at the office. We’ve always loved the idea of finding a hidden treasure like that, but it’s even more special when you think about how it was right in their backyard!
What would you do if you found something like this? Would you keep it a secret or make it the talk of the town? If you ever see a lawn blister in your backyard, just remember: you probably aren’t sitting on anything as uncanny as James and Sarah’s discovery, but who knows?