The 90s Club & the Clue
in the Old Album
By Eileen Haavik McIntire
Who would want to kill retired journalist BIll Myers? Bill's a nosy old buzzard at Whisperwood Retirement Village. Half the residents, his home health aide, a county commissioner, and his own daughter had a reason. Nancy and the 90s Club take on the challenge.
A Mystery in Lyon
I’m looking forward to the lock-picking class coming up soon. It’s offered by my favorite travel company, the Atlas Obscura people. I was given the book, Atlas Obscure, by a friend who knew what I’d be interested in—weird places, people, and things. Since then I’ve attended one of their lectures and receive their newsletter. As an author, I am awestruck at their marketing genius in parlaying the promotion of one book into a series of lectures, workshops, tours, and newsletter.
Also as an author, a reader, and a curious person, I look forward to the latest oddities offered in their newsletters. Here’s one example.
In 1959, road workers in Lyon, France, were building a tunnel under Croix-Rousse Hill to ease traffic congestion when they came upon a well. Then they found that the well was part of a network of 32 identical tunnels branching off the vertical well shaft. Each tunnel was about 100 feet long and ended in a dead end. This network of tunnels resembled a fish skeleton and was named the the arêtes de poisson, or “fishbones.”
As strange as this sounds, underground tunnel networks are common in Europe. Most cities have subterranean tunnels formerly used for crypts, cisterns, or storage: Paris’s catacombs house the remains of over six million people.
We all know about Rome’s catacombs. Edinburgh’s vaults were once the home of the city’s poor and their livestock; and Istanbul’s Yerebatan Saray, or Sunken Palace was built in the 6th century to supply water to the palaces of the city. Lyon itself has numerous underground tunnels, bunkers, and waterworks, many of which are open to the public. But none of these structures have posed such a mystery as to the date of their construction and their purpose as Lyon’s Fishbones.
In 1961, workers found in the Fishbones a saw, trowel, human remains, and half of a bronze wreath covered with gold leaf. Amable Audin, historian and founder of Lyon’s Gallo-Roman Museum, deduced that it was part of a Roman statue harking back to the Roman Empire. Lugdunum, Lyon’s predecessor city, was founded in 43 BC to house refugees fleeing persecution. It rapidly became one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire. Its amphitheater, called Le Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules (Amphitheater of the Three Gauls) still lies at the foot of Croix-Rousse, and is remarkably well preserved amidst the Bohemian boutiques, cafés, and bars in the area.
But instead of pursuing further investigation, Audin incorrectly concluded that the tunnels had been built during the 1600s, the same time as the streets above them. And so the human remains were exhumed, the tunnels were resealed, and the city of Lyon continued to ignore the existence of the Fishbones.
For over 50 years, the Fishbones lay all but forgotten. The only visitors were clandestine: youths graffitiing walls and holding raves in the tunnels and curious spelunkers. One of the latter was Walid Nazim, who found a point of entry underneath the Catholic church of Saint-Bernard in Croix-Rousse. The church had been deconsecrated in 1999 and closed completely in 2004.
When Nazim discovered the Fishbones at age 11, he felt they were different from the rest of the city’s subterranean network, and having found no answers, he formed his own hypothesis: that the Fishbones were secret passageways used by William of Beaujeu, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar.
In 2007, Lyon’s Archaeology Department began to reinvestigate the Fishbones. Dating the tunnels was a challenge, but alongside years of graffiti, archeologists found Roman inscriptions. After three years, the archaeologists concluded that many of the wells piercing the Fishbones were much more modern than the original structure and had been concreted over in places, so it was difficult to find parts of the original structure to carbon date.
But one question remains: What was the purpose of the tunnels? This June, specialists commissioned by Lyon’s Archaeology Department (including geologists and historians) will present their hypotheses at a seminar. Numerous theories have already been debunked: the tunnels were not a water drainage system, a refuge, or a catacomb.
It is unclear if the findings will be publicly released, but we certainly hope so.
Oct. 1, 2022: Chocolate Town Book Festival, Hershey, PA.
...and more to come as
covid restrictions ease up.
"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
I love reading and writing mysteries. Here are two of my latest.
From Kirkus reviews -
“... fast-paced and multilayered thriller with well-developed characters and colorful settings.... An engaging tale for aficionados of psychological suspense.”
The House on
"“An engrossing tale of suspense, treachery, and bad choices made for good reasons…. Historical novel readers with special interest in a suspense story that embraces civil rights activism and gang activity will find The House on Hatemonger Hill hard to point down.” – Midwest Book Review