Secrets Underground: North America's Buried Past

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Uncover the spine-tingling mysteries and eerie surprises that lurk right under your feet!

In Secrets Underground, history buff Elizabeth MacLeod takes readers deep down, down, down below the earth's surface, and introduces them to a completely different world -- sometimes terrifying, often baffling, and always fascinating.


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Uncover the spine-tingling mysteries and eerie surprises that lurk right under your feet!

In Secrets Underground, history buff Elizabeth MacLeod takes readers deep down, down, down below the earth's surface, and introduces them to a completely different world -- sometimes terrifying, often baffling, and always fascinating.


  • the Civil War secrets carefully concealed in Organ Cave, West Virginia
  • the top-secret equipment that lies deep below Grand Central Terminal in New York City
  • the network of tunnels in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, that once hid victims of persecution -- and illegal liquor transported by notorious Chicago gangsters
  • how the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, the largest and most powerful city of its time in what is now North America, nearly disappeared without a trace
  • the abandoned ships buried beneath San Francisco that reveal the city's history as a top destination for fortune seekers during the Gold Rush
  • the nuclear shelter the U.S. government kept hidden for decades underneath an exclusive resort in West Virginia called The Greenbrier.

Guiding readers through these fascinating places, MacLeod reveals their long-kept secrets and deftly explains how these lost and hidden subterranean passages, spaces, and caves answer decades-old puzzles, help us understand our own past, and lead us to discover what life was really like in eras gone by.

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Editorial Reviews

Readerly, National Reading Campaign - Charis Cotter
The stories in this book are well researched and thought-provoking, providing an illuminating glimpse into the dark history buried under our daylight world.
Resource Links - Jaclyn McLean
MacLeod has produced yet another immensely readable, engaging piece of middle-grade nonfiction with wide appeal.
Children's Literature - Toni Jourdan
History hides away in many curious ways as historians dig, probe, and question for answers to the past. Some secrets are right under foot as we find out from photos and text that show underground, hidden from sight, are some shocking truths. Tenochtitlán, the Aztec island that was buried over during a battle with the Spaniard Cortés was entirely covered over and renamed Mexico City. In 1978 archaeologists unearthed ancient objects after an electrical worker dug underground looking for cables and found a large stone disc over ten feet wide. In San Francisco during the gold rush days ships crammed the wharf area as thousands arrived to seek out their fortunes. The ships got stuck there, were deserted and eventually were built into and over and forgotten until decades later when again, new construction unearthed the carcass of an old ship. Further north in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada during the cold winters the buildings were heated by basement boilers and workers traveled underground from building to building to fix them. Then the railway came and so did the Chinese workers who were charged a “head” fee if they wanted to move to Canada. The Chinese ended up using these deserted tunnels to hide and many lived in these tunnels for years. Later gangsters took over the tunnels during the Prohibition era. From caves unearthing Civil War secrets to Grand Central Terminal’s underground railroad that may have carted around President Roosevelt to Prohibition gangsters, these secrets are unearthed and even chronicled with timelines, suggestions forfurther readings, as well as a list of places to visit. This is a collection of history’s underground treasures all in one book for the history loving reader. Our past may be underfoot but it can now be in the front of our minds as we seek out our hidden, subterranean history. Reviewer: Toni Jourdan; Ages 10 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—What mysteries are buried under our modern cities? How were those underground places used? This book attempts to look at North America's buried secrets from a historic point of view. Beginning with Mexico City's foundation on the Aztec city of Tenochtitá and moving chronologically across the rest of North America to include buried ships in San Francisco from the Gold Rush; a West Virginia cave used by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War; Prohibition-era underground tunnels of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; New York City's buried machinery during World War II; and a giant bunker in West Virginia used during the Cold War. Chapters open with a short narrative meant to hook readers and then give a description of the underground structure and its historical significance. However, students may lose interest, as the historical background is a trifle circuitous and takes precedent, leaving little room for exploration of the subterranean areas. There are surprisingly few actual photos of the caves and tunnels, and what the book does have are small sized. The sidebars are filled with ancillary information that doesn't always enhance or complement the text. Readers who are drawn to historical mysteries may be disappointed.—Patricia Feriano, Our Lady of Mercy School, Potomac, MD
Kirkus Reviews
MacLeod digs into historical records (though not particularly deeply) to shine a light on selected tunnels and other underground installations that have fallen into obscurity.Her chosen sites, evidently selected more for geographical spread than similarity, range from the ruins of Tenochtitlán’s Templo Mayor below Mexico City and a West Virginia cave that became an important secret source of saltpeter for the Confederacy to tunnels beneath Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, used by Chinese immigrants and bootleggers, and a huge bomb shelter built for Congress during the Cold War. All have intriguing histories, though much of what the author relates is speculative or, like the scene-setting miniepisodes that open each chapter, invented to crank up the drama. She also doesn’t consistently drill down to specific details about how these subterranean wonders were constructed or, in more modern times, reconstructed. Furthermore, though most of the images and period photos add informative visual notes, some filler has been mixed in, and several sidebars are poorly placed—being, at best, only marginally related to adjacent passages.Still, this will give general readers hints of what draws spelunkers and urban archaeologists to probe below our planet’s surface. (Nonfiction. 10-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554516308
  • Publisher: Annick Press, Limited
  • Publication date: 2/18/2014
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 1,012,261
  • Age range: 10 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth MacLeod is a prolific author of non-fiction books for children, including Bones Never Lie and the Red Maple Award-winning Royal Murder. She lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 18, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I was intrigued by this book when I saw it because I've been a f

    I was intrigued by this book when I saw it because I've been a fan of the TV show Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel. If you are a fan of that series, you will definitely want to pick of this book.

    The first chapter interested me the most as it was on a topic that I teach, the Aztecs.  It explains the history of the Aztecs from how they chose the city of Tenochtitlan as their capital to their defeat by the Spanish.  It then explains how the city got buried and how it was uncovered. It concludes with what is happening now with the discovery.

    The rest of the book is similar covering ships buried in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, a forgotten cave used during the Civil War in West Virginia,  underground tunnels used during the Prohibition in Canada, Grand Central Terminal's underground tunnels in New York City, and the bunker under the Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia.

    There are also facts that can be found in the margins of the books that give information about other places with similar "hidden treasures."

    This is definitely a book to have if you teach any aspect of US History. As a lover of history, I was throughly intrigued with every aspect of the book. As a teacher, I really think that my students will love learning these unusual facts about our country.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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