Secret Tunnels Discovered Under Tampa: Possible Mafia and Bootlegging Links

It’s been years since a network of hidden tubes was found under Tampa, but no one still knows what they’re for.

Experts think that the tunnels below Ybor City may have been used by the Mafia to bring in illegal immigrants, booze, or even money.

“These are pretty important,” Dr. Lori Collins of the Center for Digital Heritage at the University of South Florida told News 6.

Everything about the tunnels, which there are probably two or three of, is still a secret that authorities are trying to solve today.

The Beginning

Charlie Wall was born on March 10, 1880, which is the beginning of the story. His mother, Matilda McKay, was the daughter of a former mayor, and his father, Dr. John Perry Wall, was the former mayor of Tampa, a social leader, and a well-respected doctor who spent his career studying yellow fever and other contagious diseases.

Several sources say that Charlie Wall’s father’s death was the turning point in his behavior. He then shot and hurt his stepmother with a.22 gun, which got him sent to military school. He would then be kicked out of military school for going to a brothel. He grew up in the gambling halls of Ybor and West Tampa, where he learned how to work in the criminal underworld.

Gruesome Discovery

In 2001, one of the last known ways to get into the tunnel burned down. In 2018, while working on a project near an old bottling plant, the city was shocked to find another way in.

Researchers used the opening as a way to get into the network and try to map out the huge system. They even found a spring inside.

Collins told the news source, “When we went all the way to the back of one tunnel, we knew that an artesian well had been mapped out nearby.” “And today we did find where it was bubbling up inside the tunnel itself.”

Secret Tunnels Discovered Under Tampa Possible Mafia and Bootlegging Links (1)

They also found a lot of bottles, which researchers say could show that the tunnels were used to sneak alcohol during Prohibition. This is a plausible idea, given that the city used to be notoriously run by the mafia.

Another idea is that the tubes were used to safely move money when the city didn’t have any laws, according to Rodney Kite-Powell of the Tampa Bay History Center. The burned-down tunnel used to join the Ybor Cigar Factory, which is how the city got its name.

Another, less interesting idea is that the tube is just a simple sewer system.


Researchers drew the tunnels in 3D, but they still don’t know how long they are. Some think they go all the way to the Port of Tampa, which is 3 miles away.

There are tunnels under Ybor City, but no one agrees on what they’re used for. Most people think that bootleggers or the Tampa mafia dug the tunnels under many of the businesses on Ybor City’s main drag. These tunnels led to the port and made it easy to bring and take out liquor supplies.

Reference: The Post and Abandoned Florida