What to do about the hole of death in our yard

Ok, I need your help with something… As I was out digging in the yard yesterday, leveling off a small patch of ground next to the house for a raised herb garden, my shovel hit what I at first thought was a very large rock. When I cleared away the topsoil to investigate, though, I found a thick, round piece of concrete with a steel ring affixed to the top… Imagine the hatch on Lost, but without the window.

The cement, as you can see in the above photo, was cracked, revealing a dark void beneath. And, when I pulled the broken pieces away, I found a long-forgotten cistern, which, by the looks of it, was intended to store rainwater running off the roof our on 1840’s era home… Here’s what it looks like with the broken cement cap removed.

Not wanting to leave it in this condition, as I don’t want to spend my mornings fishing dead animals out of a pizza-sized hole in my yard, my initial thought was that I could just fill it in. As I’m guessing it’s at least ten feet deep, though, judging by the fact that I couldn’t touch the bottom with my shovel, I’m now thinking I should explore other options. The easiest solution, it seems to me, would just be to replace the broken cap, which had probably been in place for over 100 years. I ran out to the hardware store, and bought a large slab of cement, which is over it now, but, if I decide to go this route, I’m thinking that I should probably get something thicker and stronger. [Is the stealing of manhole covers frowned upon?] Another option would be to put in a pump, so that we could use the water for the yard. Or, I suppose, I could pump it out, seal it up, and create a second underground micro-gallery. Or, I guess we could convert it to some kind of doomsday pantry, filled with those those delicious food buckets Jim Bakker keeps telling us about. Or, maybe I could rent it to Jim Cherewick, who I hear is looking for an apartment. And the last option, as I see it, would be to dig it out, which might be the smartest course of action, seeing as how I suspect, judging by the condition of the nearby basement wall, some of the water in the cistern is making its way to the foundation of our house… At any rate, if you’d like to weigh in, let me know. I’d appreciate your input.

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  1. Crystal
    Posted May 14, 2017 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Turn it into a root cellar. If you can’t make use of it, your neighbors likely can.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Immediately erase this post and stuff it full of cash and weapons.

  3. jean henry
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I would not just cap it. If it starts to collapse, you will have major problems with drainage and sink holes.. If you fill it in, you probably should break it up for the same reason. Beyond survivalist uses, a root cellar or koi pond are possibilities. Either would be a lot of work. If you ever sell your house, it may be a liability. I wish I had a better idea. The underground gallery idea is cool as a temporary use. Thinking of Ivan Navarro’s water towers with neon.

  4. jean henry
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink


  5. jean henry
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    (What would Gordon Marta Clark do?)

  6. Janette Rook
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Spare mattress storage! It could be really unique Air Bnb

  7. Matt Jones
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks for telling us why you were originally digging in your yard.

  8. Jcp2
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I think you’re obligated to remove it as it’s now a known hazard and a liability that you’re responsible for. Your homeowner insurance company should have guidance.

  9. Dan Blakeney
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I imagine there are minimum code obligations to be satisfied. You can’t be the first to find something like this. Hopefully you can fill it with something inexpensive. You have little people to consider. We don’t want Arlo to be a well media sensation.

  10. Steven C Pickard
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    You can get a hand pump for relatively cheap at Harbor Frieght, or even rig up a syphon, and syphon that water out of there, and then you’d know if that thing is draining, or if it leads to an underground city where an ancient civilization persists to this day. You might be able to conquer the citizens of that underground civilization and become their new King.

  11. Paul Hastings
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    On Ann Arbor road between Milan and Dundee, there is a concrete place that will sell you a proper replacement cap.

  12. Matt Jones
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    My mother (Dorothy) found an old cistern in our yard in Adrian too. Inside was nothing but a small crucifix.

    TRUE STORY: Shortly after finding the crucifix, she awoke in the middle of the night to a loud, panicky banging on the back door, which is right above the cistern site. There was no one there when she went down to check it out.

  13. Adam
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Ooh, we have a couple of those! Interested to hear what you end up doing. Ours have heavy solid cement ‘lids’ covering them but I’ve been wondering if I should do something more permanent

  14. Julie
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Paul’s is the best and most sensible advice given here. You listening, Mark? Just re-cover the darn thing and put that energy into your herb garden.

  15. Stewart Beal
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Fill it in with double crushed driveway stone from Canton topsoil.

  16. Amanda
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink


  17. Steven C Pickard
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Cover the hatch with an old mattress…like they did the bomb shelter in The Road.

  18. Jcp2
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink


  19. Gary McCririe
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I’d put my money on septic tank. That sludge may be rather unpleasant if they didn’t pump it before connecting to sewer.

  20. Eel
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of babysitter-fucking-man-of-god Jim Bakker, he’s back in the news today for saying that people against Trump are filled with “the spirit of the antichrist”.


  21. Dan
    Posted May 15, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Related to Gary’s comment, you should refurbish it and build a modern day outhouse on top. You could even make it a composting outhouse and sell your “produce” to urban farmers.

  22. M
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink


  23. Jason
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Funny timing – I’m breaking up a cistern in my backyard to prepare for a new patio. Might be a long shot, but it had a heavy duty metal cap that I’d be happy to give away. Shoot me an email if you’re interested. I’m near the water tower and can leave it on my porch.

  24. Michelle
    Posted July 9, 2021 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I caught my last boyfriend fooling around with his very wealthy married friend Jason A and knowing there is a giant ominous cistern in the backyard covered loosely with a couple of planks, I fear for my life if they ever decided they didn’t like me keeping their secret.

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