It’s not uncommon for people to reach out to me with crazy stories. Some are simply ridiculous. The story of the Monte Ne Ghost was one. The Tale of Dickson Street Stanley was unbelievable, but I found enough evidence to write about them. When it came to this story, the man on the phone was amendment of it’s truth and I found it hard to not. This is the story of hidden tunnels beneath the city of Johnson, Arkansas.
When I answered the first call, I only can hear breathing and sound of a train’s whistle in the background. Then, the phone went dead. I didn’t think much of it and continued on with my day. With in an hour I received the second call. This time a man whispered in to the phone, “Is this Mr Spooky?” I had to laugh. Nobody has ever asked me this. I said yes and he began to tell me about the story of hidden tunnels under Johnson. He insisted I meet with him in private and to be extra careful that nobody follows me. After a series of questions, I did agree to meet up the following day. Due to my oath, I cannot tell you the exact location of the meeting.
The meeting was on a Sunday morning. It was early, so I made a stop at the local E-Z Mart to grab a cup of joe. As I walked out, I saw two Deputies chit-chatting among each other over coffee, outside, by their car. They both glanced over and gave me a friendly “good morning” and continued on. I smiled, waved and got back into my car. As I sat there, I noticed a black Camaro in my mirror with a man sitting in his car at the gas pumps behind me. He motioned to me to follow and began to pull away. This must be him!
He took me up one street and down another, often zig zagging thru the city. Johnson isn’t very big but I assumed he was trying to lose any followers. The man in the Camaro finally stopped, jumped out and quickly walked to me as I put the in Park. “Mr Spooky?” he asked. Again, giggling, I answered “Ya, I am Mr Spooky.” This guy was weird. Jittery and paranoid. I started to think, oh god. What have I got myself in to?
“What I’m about to tell you and show you must be kept in the highest confidentiality” he said. Insisting that nobody can know the location of these tunnels. As I looked around, I noticed a large, beautiful field. We were surrounded by trees. No building, no street lights. Nothing. Literally a BFE in Johnson.
The stranger walked me out across the field to a tree line and began to kneel down, wiping leaves from the ground, next to an old tree. “The emergency entrance is right here.” he said. Shockingly, he was right. Right there in front of me was a wood cover with a small hole leading into the ground.
I’ll have to admit, I really began to get excited. He slipped into the hole and I was right behind him. I was not prepared for what I saw below. As we inched down the hole, we followed a manmade stairway. This was old. very old. My mind was spinning in anticipation as to what lies below.
As we climbed down the stairs and into a corridor he started to explain how it was the conquistadors who originally started the tunnels. They used them to elude the American Indians during their quest for The City of Gold. When they eventually left the area, the tunnels had long been forgotten until 1866 when a nearby homesteader came across them.
The homesteader continued to carve out tunnels leading to his home which was almost a mile away in what is now Springdale. The corridors were quite elaborate and well made. Some of the tunnels would lead to locations in the local towns and only a few people knew of them. He said that one was Jesse James who would travel the tunnels from one town to another.
The man continued to tell me that it was in 1887 that the Johnson Post Office was built. This put the small town on the map, and more people intruding in on his project. He eventually moved underground to live…. and die. He showed the final resting place of the homesteader and his skeleton.
We kept going and he told the tales of Jesse James and other robbers, then Chicago Gangsters all using the secret tunnels thru the centuries. Even one of the very first Mayors of Johnson knew of these tunnels. Supposedly He had used them to host meetings for the then very secret Men’s group called the Dirty Thirty. These were the prominent people of Washington County and thru the years had included a collection of large business owners, Mayors, Sheriffs, Judges and even 2 Presidents. This private group were the elite. The who’s who and who made the what’s what. It was where they were safe from prying eyes as they planned business, political and… cover ups as they etched out what was to be NW Arkansas. I can’t go into much detail but one story that stood out was when they conspired against an unwilling County Sheriff in mid 1840’s and publicly hanged for murder.
The tunnels were left behind and lost to the ages by the end of WWII when nearby miners began mining for Limestone. Their close blasting would sometimes cause some of the tunnels to collapse. In 1955, they were completely abandoned as the Zero Mountain Cold Storage transitioned from what he says was “a secret Government underground Nuclear Testing facility” to what it is known as today.
After maybe 2 hours of exploring, he led me up a steep staircase. When we came out I was astonished to find us in the living room of an old house. He walked me to the front door and begged again to keep the location secret. I agreed, we shook hands and I went on my way.
As I look back at my visit with this strange man and his fascinating tales, I couldn’t help question the integrity of the stories. Granted, the tunnels were real but how much of this was BS? Maybe, I just dreamed the whole thing up. Ya. Ya, that’s what happened.