10 Eccentric Homes With Hidden Passageways


Britannia Manor

If you play Ultima Online, a series of online role-playing games, then you may know Richard Garriott as Lord British. Lord British is the in-game avatar of Garriott, a computer designer and programmer. And Garriott isn't just Lord British online; when he hosts his famous haunted house at his Austin, Texas, mansion, he does so in Lord British garb.

Even when it's not Halloween, Garriott's house, Britannia Manor, is an interesting place to be. The 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) of the home include not just a maze of hidden passageways, but also a fully functioning observatory, a moat and a swimming pool with artificial rain effects [source: Gunther]. Stay on your best behavior, or you might be relegated to the dungeon, where you'll take up residence with the human skeleton, the human fetus, a few shrunken heads and dead animals [source: Pitts]. But if you're scared of creepy toys, the upstairs room with automated marionettes won't be any better.

Garriott once compared his house to a piece of interactive software, and a trip through the home does seem to involve the same skills as a computer game [source: Lewis]. To access one hidden passageway, the user must pass a magnetized piece of pottery in a certain pattern over the sensors hidden in a shelf to unlock a secret passageway.

Those who think they have what it takes to survive in this lair camp out every other year for the chance to obtain free tickets to Garriott's four-night haunted house. Guests go on a quest throughout the house, encountering witches, bloody pools, flying demons and banshees, to name just a few features from years past [source: Gould]. It takes several hundred volunteers and tens of thousands of dollars to put on the event, but Garriott truly seems to enjoy it. In 1993, he bragged about getting three people to wet themselves from the shock of being showered with six-foot (1.8-meter) sparks from a Tesla coil [source: Lewis].

Richard Garriott is building a new home in Austin, so he may outdo Britannia Manor. But no matter what features he installs, it will be hard to top the storied history of the next home on our list. Turn the page to read about the college dorm with haunted hidden passageways.