Metro East Family finds prohibition-era secrets in attic

Hidden in an ordinary closet is a false ceiling and a fascinating story.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – It’s a family with a secret. And at the same time nothing to hide.

The man speaking for the family asked us not to use his name or say where his grandmother lived for more than 40 years because the family recently discovered her attic.

“My grandmother would never let anyone up there,” he said.

And the rest of the family don’t want anyone else to look for what they found.

Hidden in an ordinary closet is a false ceiling and a fascinating story.

Her grandmother passed away at the beginning of this year in the mid-1980s. Then the family’s curiosity peaked.

Hidden in the rafters and a false wall only accessible from above, they found hundreds of liquor bottles, labels, and the remains of an illegal liquor operation from when the house was built in the 1920s.

“If the interdiction police came in, they wouldn’t know where to look,” said the grandson.

“This story is linked to the Canavan and Tarlton Company,” said Andrew Theising, a professor at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville who wrote the history of East St. Louis.

“They were in the vice business even though they were civil servants,” said Theising. “So I’m not surprised that a house they built had a secret room for vice to take place.”

Theising suspects that even after the ban on illegal alcohol, the room was revealed by refilling alcohol bottles and affixing stolen tax labels to make them look legal, based on the family’s findings.

And this operation could still be valuable. From Chicago to Texas, the family already had offers from collectors who wanted to buy their find.


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