If you're a fan of fantasy books, you're probably well aware that Harry Potter sleeps in a secret cubbyhole under the stairs. Of course, when he goes to school at Hogwarts, there are plenty of secret passages to explore there, too.
Throughout history, all sorts of homes have been built with secret passageways, hidden rooms, and storage spaces out of plain sight. For some people, the reasons for these secret places are practical. Perhaps they fear they will one day need a place to hide from invaders. Or maybe they have valuables that need a secure storage spot.
For others, secret areas may be nothing more than a whimsical preference. After all, who wouldn't like to be able to use a secret passageway to access a hidden area of the house? And who could resist having a bookcase that moves to reveal a secret room?
- Singer Sewing Machine Company president Commodore Frederick G. Bourne built a five-story castle on Dark Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River in New York. Filled with secret passageways, Singer Castle, as it is known now, was used by Bourne to host elaborate parties. So why the secret passageways? According to legend, Bourne liked to sneak out of his own parties so he could spy on his guests to find out what they would say about him when he wasn't around!
- Doug Carlston, founder of gaming software company Broderbund, created a home that was like one of his gaming worlds brought to life. The home contained over 1,700 feet of secret passageways and 1,100 square feet of hidden catacombs. Traveling through this maze of secret corridors, one can find treasure chests, caves, and even a “room of doom" that can only be escaped by swimming through a chute or jumping through a waterfall!
- In 1710, Captain Jonathan Hunt built a house in Northampton, Massachusetts. He included a secret passageway as a family hiding spot, because he feared attacks from local Native Americans. Today, the house is a residence hall on the campus of Smith College. Every year, college students enjoy searching for the secret passageway!
- The Octagon House in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, was built in 1856 by trader Isaac Brown. The 12-room house was built like a fort with nine secret passageways and a hidden room, because Brown feared Native American attacks since the area was on the frontier at that time. Over time, the secret passageways and hidden room were put to good use as a stop on the Underground Railroad. They were a perfect place to hide runaway African-American slaves headed north.