Who built this mystery tunnel underneath Toronto?

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. Soundproof walls, moisture-resistant light bulbs, a portable generator--those are just some of the things the Canadian police have discovered in a mysterious underground tunnel. The 30-foot-long tunnel was found on a property of York University in Toronto last month and police are still trying to figure out who dug it. The CBC’s John Lancaster broke the story. Where exactly is the tunnel, John?


John Lancaster: Marco, it’s in a suburban part of the north end of Toronto. If I can paint the picture for you: there’s a large tennis stadium which is called the Rexall Centre where they have the ATP tour, just to the west of that is a large narrow forest, and it’s in that forest just to the west of this tennis stadium where police uncovered this tunnel. Like you say, it’s not so much the tunnel that has police so concerned, it’s the fact that they don’t know why it’s there, and who put it there, and what the motive for this may be.


Werman: What were police doing in the forest? Did they have a hunch that there was a tunnel and they went looking for it?


Lancaster: This was a fluke discovery. It was a conservation authority worker who was simply patrolling the forest looking for refuge and that kind of thing. He found a gas canister on top of a small pile of dirt and decided to take a closer look. He shoved away some of the dirty and underneath that was a flat piece of wood that was covering a hole. He took that off and looked down and saw a ladder leading down into this dark tunnel. Police were called, they went down into the tunnel and discovered that this wasn’t the work of children, this wasn’t some kind of tunnel prank. This was highly sophisticated, the walls had been reinforced with heavy timber, the ceilings had been reinforced, there was also a sump pump and a hose connected to drain the water out of that, light tools left behind. Police figure several people spent months and months digging this. By the time police intercepted, it was about 33-feet-long, more than 6-feet-tall and about 6-feet-wide.


Werman: So, the suspicion is that it was being dug in the current age, it doesn’t go back 50 to 100 years?


Lancaster: No, the tools that were used, the compressor, the generator, these weren’t old-fashioned bits of equipment, these were all relatively new bits. There’s also evidence of food and beverages down there. One of the oddest pieces that was found down there were some rosary beads and a Remembrance Day Poppy nailed into the side of this tunnel--again, another mysterious twist in all of this.


Werman: Yeah, maybe some secret society, who knows. Dear listeners, we have photos of it all at PRI.ORG. John, you were at a media conference with the Toronto Police this morning. What are they saying about this?


Lancaster: Well, they’re reaching out. They have revealed that they sent pictures of this tunnel to security agencies, including American security agencies, around the world in hopes that someone might recognize the style of build of this tunnel. Obviously tunnels like this are far more common in the Middle East, Palestinian territories, and Egypt; they’ve been used to smuggle weapons and people. There’s no suggestion that this is some kind of a terrorist plot, however police aren’t taking any chances because that tennis stadium I was telling you a few minutes ago about, it’s going to be the host venue for the Pan Am games this summer here in Toronto. It holds about 13,000 people and you’ll have some of the biggest names in tennis, including American players, there this summer. So, given the current state of the world, given these Pan Am games are coming up, that’s why they’ve alerted security agencies around the world to see if anyone can assist them. So far, no luck. In fact, even a short time ago, perhaps a sign of just how concerned or even desperate police have become, a high-ranking member of the police service in Toronto tweeted “Hey, if you built this tunnel, would you mind giving us a call?” They really don’t have much to go.


Werman: The CBC’s John Lancaster in Toronto with the mystery of the tunnel discovered at York University. Let’s just hope it’s a bunch of people trying to get into a tennis tournament for free. Thank you.


Lancaster: My pleasure.