“Keep your friends close and your enemies dead and buried in the basement”—Mark Frost
Basements are cold, dark, and rarely visited subterranean places. If you think about it, they’re kind of like the coffin of the house: underground, dark, and cold spaces that we generally try to avoid. While basements are way too creepy for day to day life, their spookiness does make them the perfect setting for horror movies and scary stories. From Buffalo Bill’s basement-based murder well in The Silence of the Lambs to the blind man’s underground labyrinth in the recent hit Don’t Breathe, horrific basements are one part of a healthy, balanced horror buff’s breakfast.
But eerie basement vibes aren’t just a thing of fiction. Sometimes, movies pale in comparison to the real thing. After all, there’s a reason why horror flicks “based on a true story” are the creepiest of all. In the spirit of those twisted, true-to-life tales, here are 23 facts about the most disturbing things that people have found in real-life basements.
Creepy Things in Basements Facts
1. Mysterious Well
When a new homeowner explored the basement of his house, he made a chilling discovery. Noticing some heavy bricks on the floor, he went to move them, only to realize that they were weighing down a trap door. As he slowly opened it, he saw something truly disturbing: an 8-foot-deep by 4-foot-wide cement well filled with water.
Why does a well need to be protected with a weighted trap door? The homeowner never found out what was going on in his new property. Instead, outsmarting the majority of too-curious-for-their-own-good movie protagonists, he snapped some photos of his creepy discovery, filled the well with stones, and promptly sold the house.
2. Discovered Upon Inspection
In 2008, a comatose young woman was admitted to an Austrian hospital. Her kidney was about to shut down and her life was in danger. But doctors had even more to worry about than the patient’s failing health. The man who brought her in had a very strange story. He wasn’t related to her, as far as anyone could tell. He just showed up with a note from her mom, saying he had to bring in the young woman. And why did the young lady show signs of malnourishment? Why were her teeth rotting?
The doctors were right to ask questions. Little did they know, this man was one of Austria’s most notorious criminals, Joseph Fritzl. Fritzl built a chamber underneath the home he shared with his wife. After getting his teenage daughter Elisabeth to help him install the door, he drugged her and moved her body inside the basement. She wouldn’t see daylight for 24 years.
Fritzl committed truly horrific crimes in the bunker, sexually assaulting and impregnating his own daughter multiple times. She had seven children while in captivity. Three were adopted by Fritzl and his ignorant wife upstairs (he claimed they were orphans who just showed up on their doorstep) while others were left downstairs with Elisabeth. When one of the bunker children, Kerstin, fell seriously ill and was taken to the hospital, Fritzl’s lies finally unravelled and the world came to know about the depths of his depravity.
3. To Be Continued…
Nearly a decade after the Austrian authorities jailed Fritzl for keeping his daughter captive in a cellar, construction workers found that the criminal built another secret basement. While measuring his guesthouse outside Salzburg, the workers found an improvised wall with a hidden staircase. They investigated, fearing the very worst, but thankfully there was nothing and no one else inside the hidden basement.
4. The Haunting of Ohio House
When a group of Ohio State University students moved into a house together, they thought they were living the dream. But the house was kind of odd. When they came home, things would smell strange or appliances would be turned on, even though all the roommates insisted they were off. When they heard mysterious noises from the basement, the students investigated.
It turns out their house wasn’t haunted, but that might have been preferable to the reality. There was a locker in the basement. It led to a secret room with a bed, textbooks, and even framed pictures. Someone was living in the house, using the common areas, and sleeping there at night without any of the other roommates knowing.
The squatter, Jeremy, lived in the house last year and simply hadn’t ever left. But that’s not even the worst part: the students say that the landlords never changed the locks or even asked for keys that said “Do Not Duplicate.” For all they know, dozens of people can come and go as they please, free to roam the place they once wanted to call home.
5. Property of NASA
When a scrap dealer cleaned out the basement of a deceased IBM engineer in 2015, he had no idea what he would find. It turns out that working for IBM was hardly the deceased’s most profile job. They’d actually done some work for NASA at the height of the Space Race. When the scrap dealer went into the engineer’s basement, they found 325 magnetic data tapes and two NASA computers. We bet he made a pretty penny selling those.
6. Secret Bunker
When a homeowner passed away, real estate agents sold the house as is, with all the contents still inside. The new home owner was thrilled to not only get a house but a bunch of furniture and eagerly headed down to the basement to survey some of his loot. But when the new owner got to the bottom of the stairs, he found an odd sheet of plywood attached to the wall.
He went to remove it and discovered the unthinkable. There was an entrance to a secret room. The small room was just 4×4 feet, but it packed serious power. The room contained several gun cases and manuals, a giant safe, an assortment of ammo, and a hollowed-out grenade. The man also found a chest of money, but it was all pennies. Doomsday bunker? Or something darker? We’ll never know…
7. Underground Prison
In 2013, a man in Cleveland heard a horrifying sound. A woman next door was crying for help. The heroic neighbor went over and discovered the worst-case scenario: a terrified woman screaming at the screen door. This awful discovery was the first step to putting away the horrific criminal Ariel Castro and freeing Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus.
Castro tricked these women into going to his basement, then imprisoned them and used them as sex slaves. Between 2000-2004, Castro kidnapped and abused three women, with one of the survivors even having a baby in captivity. The women finally escaped in 2013. One month into Castro’s 1000+ year jail sentence, the Cleveland Kidnapper committed suicide.
8. Shark Tank
Officers from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had no idea what was in store for them when they made a house call in 2017. The officers found seven live sharks in home’s basement pool. Three more sharks in the pool were dead. At his trial, the homeowner, Joshua Seguine, admitted that he trafficked and sold sandbar sharks, which are a protected species.
The sharks now live in considerably better circumstances at the New York Aquarium.
9. A Chilling Discovery
While renovating an old building in Hannibal, Missouri, workers uncovered a truly unsettling secret. The dusty basement held two jars of formaldehyde, each containing one preserved fetus. Shocked and terrified, the workers needed to learn more. They asked the property’s owner about their chilling discovery. He revealed the dark truth. The house was once an illegal abortion clinic.
10. Basement Gravestone
It was just a regular day when Bridgewater State student Derek Kruk went down to the basement of his rental property. But soon, he would discover a terrifying artifact from the distant past. Feeling some variations in the floor, Kruk bent down and realized that a gravestone was embedded beneath his feet. After looking into the spooky stone, Kruk discovered that it belonged to Jabez Harden, who fought in the War of 1812 when he was just a teenager. Thankfully, the solider himself was already buried in a cemetery in Bridgewater, MA. Phew.
11. Welcome to the Dollhouse
A restaurant called Hanny’s in Phoenix, Arizona has a creepy surprise for patrons who wander into the basement. Supposedly set up by the owners (whose hobbies can only be described as strange), the basement houses a frightening array of dolls, arranged in what appears to be an homage to the famous Leonardo Da Vinci painting “The Last Supper.” Um, okay?
12. Preserved Past
When rummaging through the basement of their old family home, a British couple stumbled upon a period drama fan’s dream. They found a perfectly intact Victorian era kitchen from the 1830s. The kitchen contained pots, pans, a cooking range, and enough tables and benches for 20 members of staff. They also discovered a cookbook with Victorian recipes. Potted meat anyone?
13. Live Wire
When Linda and Wally DeForest of Goshen, Indiana moved into a new home, they had no idea that they were also moving into extremely dangerous territory. Linda unpacked, as you do, and started setting up a room for Wally in the basement when she made a baffling discovery. She called her husband and said that she found a torpedo in the basement.
Wally was understandably skeptical, but upon further investigation, he found out that she was right. There was indeed a heavy, green torpedo in their basement. The couple consulted with an army veteran who explained that it was a round for either a mortar or a lightweight anti-tank weapon from the Korean and Vietnam War.
Eventually, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit came in to take the bomb away. When the DeForests asked how it got into their basement in the first place, the Unit admitted that people sometimes kept the torpedoes as souvenirs. Might we suggest a postcard or snow globe for next time? Something nice and, you know, not explosive?
14. Benjamin Franklin or Benjamin Frankenstein?
Was Benjamin Franklin a serial killer? This was the question on everyone’s lips in 1998. Conservationists were hard at work in Franklin’s old London home when they uncovered a mass grave with over 1200 human and animal skeletal remains in the basement. Even creepier, the remains dated back to the exact time that Benjamin Franklin lived in the home.
Why on earth was Benjamin Franklin stock-piling animal and human bodies? It’s a fair question! Historians believe that Franklin allowed his friend William Hewson to use the home as a secret anatomy school. Because studying with real bodies was controversial, the basement was perfect, acting as a secret underground medical classroom where students could learn without fear of penalty.
And we thought the most interesting thing about Franklin was the whole lightning kite thing…
15. How’d That Get Down There?
An eccentric man in a wealthy German suburb used his basement for a hobby that most people would find strange and, unfortunately for him, the police found straight-up illegal. This “collector” of sorts had a bunch of World War II paraphernalia in his basement. And we’re not talking about things like newspapers and uniforms. Oh no.
This man had a decommissioned WWII 1943 Panzer tank. He also had a German cannon and a torpedo. There were also a swathe of WWII arms. The tank was well-known about town and while the man wasn’t trading the artifacts, it was still illegal to own stuff like a tank. After enough reports came in, the police ended up raiding the man’s villa in Kiel.
16. Just Leave it There!
In 2016, a construction worker made a creepy discovery. On a decidedly unusual day of work, he found a 100-year-old Ouija Board buried behind the heating vent in a client’s basement. Even creepier, the worker noticed that the Ouija Board had been placed upside down. Some people think that whoever hid it did so to break contact and protect themselves.
17. Canadian Gothic
In 2011, contractors working in an abandoned home in southern Ontario made a chilling discovery. When they went into the basement, they found what seemed to be a confinement-style room with a thick door and locks on the outside. It looked like it was specifically designed to keep somebody in. Even more mysterious: the house had been empty since 2006, but the room was built only a few years before its discovery. So far, nobody has come forward with information about the terrifying room.
18. La Mort, J’Adore
Back in 1130, France decided to use one particular part of the city as a huge cemetery. While most cities buried their dead away from urban centers, Paris (as always) went the other way. There was just one problem: by the end of the century, the burial ground was full to the brim. What could they do? Start burying people further away? Heck no! Let’s get our hands dirty.
The French decided to exhume the dead and arrange their shove their bones into the cemetery building itself. Yeah. Like, the nooks and crannies, the walls and the roof. As time went on, they just kept throwing bodies in here until they were stuck with a truly disturbing amount of bones. This isn’t to say all Parisian cemeteries worked like this, but that this one, “Les Innocents,” did not live up to its name.
Flash forward a few centuries and by 1874, Paris had transformed its gruesome history into a macabre tourist attraction: a mausoleum that people were expected to visit. This is the origin story of the famous Catacombs of Paris, a wide-ranging series of tunnels lined with artfully arranged human skulls and bones. There’s even a room that highlights deformed skeletons. Twisted indeed…
19. Skeletons in the Basement
When a Wisconsin woman decided to renovate her home, one of the first things she did was dig in her basement. Imagine her surprise and terror when she discovered that she had been living above a secret graveyard. As she dug, she discovered a terrifying assortment of human remains including the worst possible option: a child’s skull.
But thankfully, there wasn’t a secret serial killer behind the bodies. Instead, it turned out that her house was built atop an old burial ground. The skeletons may have been almost 200 years old. It took the homeowner 15 long months to secure approval from the State Historical Society before she could resume her renovations. Definitely one of the weirder fixer-upper problems we’ve heard…
20. A Place for Persecuted Catholics
Diane and Pat Farla always wondered about a strange grate in their old Victorian house in Telford, England. One day, the couple got a little tipsy and decided to just investigate. They removed the iron grille and found a hole just big enough for their nephew and his friend to crawl through (clever, Diane and Pat, make someone else go in).
On the other side was an eerie cellar that resembled a chapel. After asking historians, the Farlas learned that the room dated back to the 1700s. Why was it there? It was probably used as a secret Catholic Church in a time when Catholics were persecuted and executed. Even weirder, the Farlas found the room on Good Friday. Everything happens for a reason…
21. Mummified Remains
In 2010, two women were cleaning out the abandoned basement of their apartment building when they made an utterly chilling discovery. After the women found a mysterious trunk in their building’s basement, they opened the dusty bag, and felt their blood immediately turn to ice. The trunk contained the mummified remains of two newborn infants wrapped in 1930s newspapers.
When the police investigated, they learned the trunk’s eerie story. The owner was Janet M. Barrie (no relation to J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, by the way) and the bodies in the trunk were her children. What happened? Why did Barrie place her babies’ remains in the trunk? Tragically, we will never know. Barrie lived to 97 and never told a soul.
22. Indiana Jones, Beware
In 2009, after purchasing a home in Rexburg, Ohio, a couple began finding some unwelcome visitors in their backyard: tons and tons of snakes. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also heard noises in the walls and under the floors. Wanting to investigate, they removed a panel of siding in the basement. Suddenly, everything made horrifying sense.
Dozens of snakes come pouring out of the wall. And for a bonus gross fact? During this time, the couple noticed that their water had an onion-like taste, which a snake expert suggested was probably from the musk snakes exude when they are frightened. Removing the nest would have cost $100,000, so the couple—not wanting to sup on snake-musk water the rest of their lives— filed for bankruptcy and moved out.
23. Secret Hideout
When homeowners at Julong Gardens in Beijing started seeing more and more unfamiliar faces in their apartment complex, they became suspicious. Eventually, they discovered their building’s shocking secret. The basement was not a normal basement at all, but a maze of hidden rooms. The space was divided into worker’s dormitories with kitchens and a smoking room. What on earth was going on?
It turns out that the basement tenants were migrant workers, also called shuzu or “rat tribe” in China. It’s unclear whether or not the underground homes were legal, but whoever leased the space definitely didn’t tell the apartment’s current residents about their new underground neighbors. That has to be against some Tenant Protection Act, right?
24. Hidden Room? Hold My Beer
It was a normal day on Turkey’s Anatolian Coast. The year was 1963, the sky was blue, and a regular homeowner was about to make a phenomenal discovery. After knocking down a wall, he found a hidden room. That’s already incredible so just imagine his surprise when he found another…and another…and another. Yup, this man had inadvertently discovered an entire underground city.
Derinkuyu is one of the strangest and most impressive archaeological finds of the 20th century. This ancient city, believed to have been home to the Hittites, was formed by a vast network of underground tunnels. At least eight levels have been excavated, with more expected. In case life underground sounds sad, the Hittites were prepared. They had kitchens, livestock facilities, washrooms, and even running water from an underground river.
25. My Pet Alligator
In January of 2016, a Chicago repairman discovered an enormous alligator in the basement of a suburban house—and that’s not even the weirdest part. The alligator was apparently a secret pet, and was only occasionally taken out of its cage and into the backyard. The repairman immediately notified the police, who removed the gator and charged the owner.