A History of the Tunnels Beneath Immanuel Hospital

Immanuel Deaconess Institute, North Omaha, Nebraska

More than just an expedient way to move water, gas and electricity around their massive campus, there were once tunnels throughout the Immanuel Deaconess Institute in the Monmouth Park neighborhood. They were once used to move people, including the dying, the mentally unstable and others. This is a history of the tunnels beneath Immanuel Hospitals


Nurses care for a patient at the Immanuel Deaconess Institute. Notice the observation area to the right.

There were 20 buildings at the old Immanuel Deaconess campus in North Omaha. Located at N. 34th and Meredith, the first building opened there in 1891. Over the years, the campus included a hospital, an orphanage, an old folks home, and a mental health institution.

A challenge of having a facility spread out over six city blocks on a hillside was that transporting patients in the wintertime could be treacherous. Hospital administrators solved the issue in the early 1900s when they started making tunnels between the buildings. Conveniently carrying utilities across the campus, the tunnels were located more than 15 feet underground so they wouldn’t freeze, and so they stayed relatively level despite the elevation change.

A picture of the Immanuel Deaconess campus in the 1940s.

In 1976, the hospital moved to a new campus on N. 72nd Street. By the late 1980s, one of the final buildings was demolished. A decade later, a new housing development was built over the top and little thought was given to what had been there. New streets, new basements and street signs and street lights and everything all went up. Apparently, no thought was given to the tunnels, either.

In 2009, I had a chance to talk with a friend who lives in that development. Just talking about things, he told me there was this weird thing that everyone in the neighborhood had experienced. In their basement during no certain times of day, different people can hear clanging and banging coming from below their houses. Without knowing anything about it, I filed it away to learn more later.

Tunnels and More

A few months ago I was researching an article about the campus when I learned about the tunnels. Dumbstruck, I read about patients gurneys being moved by harried nurses, and corpses being shuffled away by orderlies. Finally, there was a discussion about patients from the sanitarium being moved exclusively through the tunnels, no matter what the weather was outside. The thinking was that in those enclosed spaces, it would be harder for a patient to flee.

Are there still patients below the houses banging on the pipes tonight?

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  1. I took care of one of the last deacons orphans it was not uncommon for parents to bring a child with a handicap mental or physical and have the deacons care for the child until they died a few made to their 80’s lots of stories

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    1. I have had a young boy scream “mom!” When I was hanging up clothes one day. Scared the sh** out of me. I could feel the breath on my face. I just said “I’m not your mom” & got the hell outta there. I have experienced the banging so, like it said, I didn’t do research so I plugged a boombox to the light so I didn’t hear it. Now I know those are the sounds. Like a wrench on a pipe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have lived in one of those houses since 1997. Even though the house was built in 1995, I always hated it going to the basement. You can hear the banging that other people have mentioned as well as you can hear mumbling of voices. I did not research the history of the land beforehand. To resolve the issue, I plugged a radio into the light socket attachment so when the lights went on so did the music. That way I did not have to listen to the other noises. In addition to the basement, I have heard an elevator go to the top of the stairs and the ding when it reached the top. I have also been hanging up clothes upstairs and had a little boy scream “mom!” In my face. I do not have any children so I calmly told the voice that I was not his mother and got the hell out of there. Lol! There is a lot of unexplained stuff that goes on in this house. That being said, I think that we all get along well as long as they respect my space and vice versa.

    Liked by 1 person

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