Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Mysterious Hole in the Ground

One small eyesore on our property for going on two years was a rectangular flower bed, awkwardly placed near the pasture gate, very overgrown, lined with bricks, and quite ugly. Tall weeds and privet choked out the flowers. The bricks were barely visible. I forgot to take its photo before we began digging it up. It was about 5' by 4'. I half-heartedly began pulling a couple of bricks out yesterday before I gave up. Today Adam went at it with a will:
 I heard him holler early in the process. I was worried he'd hurt himself (again), but thankfully, no -- he'd merely broken his shovel. When I walked over from the greenhouse he said, "Look at this," and showed me the strangest thing ....
 Under that overgrown flower bed (lilies and irises, vinca and weeds) lay a solid sheet of metal covering the entire bed. Adam dug and whacked and dug and exerted himself. It flexed as he stood on it -- clearly there was a hole beneath. Finally he was able to lift the edge of the metal. We'd been speculating on what we might find. A grave??? An empty hole? A cistern? A dungeon ...? An outhouse hole? Adam speculated that the Mysterious Mr. M., who was French, might have hidden a stash of French coins in the ground. Or perhaps it was Confederate gold, concealed from the Yankees? Our minds were racing! Julia came over (wearing her shark onesie, of course). She was hoping for a dungeon and dead bodies.
 A first peek indicated it was definitely a hole. The iron bars across looked ominous until I realized they were supporting the metal sheet ... duh.
The digging went slowly because I'd asked Adam to spare the flower bulbs and rhizomes as he unearthed them. I knew there were irises, plus some gladiolus bulbs and some pretty tall daisies that were about to bloom. None of them got enough sun in that location.

We threw the bricks to one side.
 After much effort, an exhausted Adam prised the metal sheet back so we could peer into the hole.
 What a creepy thing to discover in your back yard! We walk past this spot dozens of times each day.
Inside, it was quite dry. The deep rectangular hole is lined with a tightly sealed cement block wall. It has a lip around the bottom edge. It is about 4 - 5 feet deep. The bottom was soft when hit with the shovel. Considering where we live and the water table, it's quite surprising that a hole in our yard would be this dry.

Adam and I disagree about its purpose. He says it was an outhouse vault. I've seen (and used) my share of outhouses in West Virginia, and they never, ever looked like this. Of course, West Virginia and coastal North Carolina are quite different landscapes. Still ... why would anybody go to the bother to line an outhouse hole like that? It looks more like a cistern, or perhaps even a place for underground dry storage. Nobody -- absolutely nobody -- in this area has a basement. I don't even like the idea of being buried in a cemetery in our county. After hard, heavy rains when the water is standing in the roadside ditches for days, I look at the cemeteries and it doesn't seem possible that those caskets are not soggy. How in the world did this particular hole remain so dry? It's certainly a mystery.
I'd love to have a dry cellar storage, but now that the metal sheet has been lifted, I imagine the next heavy rains we have will seep under the edge and make that hole a moist place. It's a shame. It looked perfect for a fine potato harvest. If you have any ideas about our Mysterious Hole in the Ground, please tell!


  1. I would tend to agree with you that it might have been a place for dry storage or keeping things cool. Glad you didn't find anything too ominous!

  2. It seems kind of strange to me that they didn't line the floor with cement or something. Maybe that's where Adam is getting the outhouse theory?

  3. If you inquire around among the "old-timers," maybe one of them will help you solve the mystery?

  4. Not sure, but I'd guess cool storage. Lots of people in our area used to hang meat in cool cisterns and some had little shelves or indentations for butter to set on.

    Are you going to fill it in with dirt or cement or something?

  5. That is a bit creepy looking, and I wouldn't have been surprised if a body had turned up in it. I guess I've read to many mystery books. : )

  6. In my neck of the woods, that would probably be what we call an ice house. Large houses usually had one to store ice for the kitchens.


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