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There are secret tunnels underneath the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York. Back in the day, the tunnels were part of the underground railway, providing safe passage for runaway slaves to escape to Canada. Later in history, during prohibition, the tunnels were used to smuggle alcohol into the United States. Today, the tunnels lie in obscurity. There is a lot of speculation about what happens in the dark passages underneath the Finger Lakes, and the most popular theories are extremely spooky.

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The History Of The Finger Lakes

Underground Railroad And The Finger Lakes

The Underground Railroad was a 500-mile (804km) network of tunnels, paths, and safe houses that spanned the United States and Canada. The Railroad was established to provide safe passage to runaway slaves. Slaves would usually travel under the cover of darkness, late at night. The journey was facilitated by "Conductors" -- allies who would host the runaways. Many of the conductors were wealthy individuals based in Upstate New York, specifically in the Finger Lakes region.

Syracuse received more fugitive slaves than any other city in New York. The town was vehemently abolitionist, so much so that in 1850, the mayor committed treason by declaring Syracuse as a sanctuary city for slaves.

Other towns along the Finger Lakes include Auburn and Elmira. The Finger Lakes area was the last stop on the way to freedom, which both raised the stakes and heightened the anticipation. Christian Churches were the most common places of refuge for slaves, and often had extensive tunnels constructed in the cellars. Supposedly, many of these tunnels ran all the way under the lakes, but the entrance locations are difficult to ascertain. To this day, there are old mansions being sold on the market that have basement tunnels leading to underground bedrooms.

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Prohibition And The Finger Lakes

During the prohibition, Upstate New York was a popular spot for speakeasies and rum-running. The crates of bottles were passed along the lakes, passing through the canals that connect them with each other and with lakes in Canada. The Finger Lakes cover such a large area that any trade that goes through them is effectively ungovernable. The Rum Running business would attract every entrepreneur in the area, as one week of alcohol smuggling would net more profits than an entire year of fishing. Allegedly, part of the trade involved the utilization of the tunnels built during the days of the Underground Railroad. There are even unsubstantiated claims suggesting the presence of a submarine tunnel connecting Lake Seneca to Lake Ontario.

Ku Klux Klan In The Finger Lakes

If it weren't nefarious enough, there are old newspaper clippings reporting the presence of the KKK in the Finger Lakes region. Walter Gable, a Seneca County historian has elaborated on the story, which tends to sound uncomfortably familiar -- involving secret tunnel use and bizarre recruitment practices.

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The Finger Lakes Tunnels Today

Perhaps because of the historically illegal usage of the tunnels, there are wild conspiracy theories suggesting that there are still illegal activities going on underneath the Finger Lakes. The tradition of trafficking may not have disappeared. The ultra-wealthy who own secluded mansions near the lakes are often implicated in these crimes. Luckily, there are a number of watchdog groups that specialize in combating trafficking crimes in the Finger Lakes region. Unfortunately, it's an uphill battle and there's a long way to go, as the alleged perpetrators belong to the most privileged class of society.

Finding the exact entrance points to the Finger Lake tunnels can be a challenging feat. There are no mainstream guides for this kind of tourism. However, one of the best ways to get to the tunnels is by exploring the Finger Lakes Trail. There are various paths to take and some of them apparently lead to underground tunnels. Visitors are strongly urged to practice caution, just in case the rumors are true. Illegal trafficking operations rely on silence and a naive witness may be seen as a threat to the silence. If visitors do manage to descend into the subterranean tunnels, it's vital that they have reliable exit routes. It's also wise to tell friends and family before going into unmapped areas.

The Finger Lakes region is defined by wealth, leisure, and natural beauty. Classy academics studying at Cornell University enjoy a pristine view of Cayuga Lake. The area is perfect for wine cultivation, which naturally attracts sophisticated crowds. Beer lovers, too, have plenty to drink as there are a number of breweries operating in the area. While they are not roaming the icy tunnels underneath the lakes, explorers are encouraged to enjoy all that the region has to offer.