Seminole Heights home's hidden tunnels reveal its storied past

"My husband says, 'If something is locked, you need to find out why before you open it,'" said Seminole Heights homeowner Marina Terracciano.

The recent discovery of tunnels under Ybor City has opened new interest in Tampa's underground secrets. While historians believe the tunnels under Ybor were originally constructed for drainage, there's also strong suspicion they were later used for illicit activities such as bootlegging and prostitution.

Now other underground mysteries are coming to light. Under her historic, 1925 home, Terracciano points to blocked entrances that appear to be tunnels.

She says a former neighbor told her that one of the openings leads to a tunnel under the Hillsborough River, and another to a passage to Ybor City.  

"He actually walked in the one that goes under the river and he walked for 20 minutes and he got scared and came back," said Marina.

The apparent tunnel openings are on one side of a mysterious room beneath the home. There's a multi-level concrete structure that looks like bleachers surrounding a circular space.

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Marina says there's been speculation it was for cockfighting or a brothel. There are also windows to another small room where it looks like things could be passed through.

On the wall of the smaller room are compartments that look like they could be for bottles.

Tampa mob historian Scott Deitche, who authored Cigar City Mafia and The Silent Don, said the tunnels could have come in handy back in the 1920s.

"Especially from the time the home was built, having tunnels on the Hillsborough River was right in the height of Prohibition. This was a hotbed of illegal rum running and bootlegging," said Deitche.

Marina said she's been curious since she bought the home in 2010, but the revelation of the Ybor tunnels made her even more enthusiastic about her home and its tunnels.

Deitche said he'll do more research to help her unlock the mysteries of her old home with its strange underground.