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Ormond Beach Observer Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 5 years ago

The Tunnels: One girl's search for something worth discovering

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A childhood dream could be coming to life as I attempt to dig up some undiscovered Ormond history. 

BY EMILY BLACKWOOD | STAFF WRITER

Some girls grew up with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I grew up with Indiana Jones and Nancy Drew.

Not only did my cinematic upbringing result in an intense desire for Harrison Ford, but it also drove a constant need to find the historical mystery in every old motel or abandoned house. It’s a lifestyle that has gotten me into some awkward trespassing scenarios throughout the years.

But every feeble attempt to solve some great riddle eventually led nowhere. I’ve been blaming children’s mystery novelists for giving me false hope, people in my town for not having more interesting secrets and myself for being a consistently bad detective.

Who knew Ormond Beach would give me what could quite possibly be the great mystery I was born to solve?

Tunnels. Currently I'm fixated on discovering the existence of John D. Rockefeller’s tunnels.

It all started when I was snapping photos at The Casements for one of the many events I’ve covered there. Like always, I was doing some harmless eavesdropping when I heard a woman talk about “the tunnels."

“Excuse me,” I tapped her on the shoulder and began my bad habit of entering conversations I was never invited into. “What are the tunnels?”

The woman turned and gave me one of those “you are incredibly rude” faces I’m so used to and said, “Oh honey, you have to know the right people to see the tunnels.”

It was at that point, where I had completely been shut out to the privilege of the truth, that I knew I was on to something.

After my initial point of discovery, it dawned on my that I’d have to do some real investigative work. Like sitting-in-a-dim-library-looking-over-50-year-old-books type of work.

So I started asking around and, though many Ormond folk have put the rest the idea of "the tunnels," this is what I’ve learned about the myth. (Please let me know if I’m mistaken in any of these facts. I really am trying to be a good detective this time).

One: The tunnels were built in Rockefeller’s addition to The Casements' original structure. That part of the building is no longer there.

And two: Supposedly, there were two tunnels built, one that went to the Ormond Beach Hotel and the other to his physician’s residence, which is now called The Lion House.

A historian from the Ormond Beach Historical Society told me that the water levels during the period the tunnels would have been built were too high to support them. Still, he ended his factual lecture with a twinkle in his eye that said “anything is possible.”

It also helped that he actually said that.

Now the majority of Ormond Beach residents agree that the tunnels are a myth, usually citing no evidence ever found or that no one has ever seen them. It turns out that if you bug enough people with the same question, someone is bound to give you a different answer.

So far, I’ve got two people who believe in the tunnels. One woman said she saw the entrance from the Lion House at a party a few years ago. Another told me her neighbor’s friend used to ride his bicycle through them.

Up next on my agenda is to talk to the current owner of the Lion House. If you have seen me outside your window during the day, or looking closely at your yard for some kind of tunnel indicator, I apologize. I promise I’m not trying to creep you out.

I’d also like to take a closer look at The Casements and get my facts straight on what happened when Johnny D. lived there.

I get why it’s simple and easy to debunk such an outrageous idea. But it seems almost more outrageous that I can’t find anything or anyone to prove that the tunnels really don’t exist. I’m not calling for a dig or some big excavation (though that would be awesome), but I think it’s important to search for the truth rather than believe word of mouth.

Now I may not completely follow the footsteps of Indiana Jones or Nancy Drew, but at least I know my adventures are far from over.

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