MYSTERY MONDAY: Risky Ride of the Moonshine Submarine - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Ross said the sub's history is shrouded in mystery but what is known is it was found in the weeds of Davis Island and donated to the commission three decades ago.

MYSTERY MONDAY: Risky Ride of the Moonshine Submarine

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Some historians say the bootleg liquor business (better known as moonshine) was already a lucrative trade in the state. But the nationwide crackdown prohibiting the sale of alcohol pushed bootleggers to buy and build technology. Some historians say the bootleg liquor business (better known as moonshine) was already a lucrative trade in the state. But the nationwide crackdown prohibiting the sale of alcohol pushed bootleggers to buy and build technology.
Thomas W. Ross - "Bud" to most people - is the Executive Director of the Grand Gulf Military Monument Commission. He says the river used to be more swift and the boat were often more crude. Thomas W. Ross - "Bud" to most people - is the Executive Director of the Grand Gulf Military Monument Commission. He says the river used to be more swift and the boat were often more crude.
"It's just something that I can't even imagine that somebody would put this thing in there," Ross said, motioning to the 14 foot long craft made of cypress and covered in cheap metal. "It's just something that I can't even imagine that somebody would put this thing in there," Ross said, motioning to the 14 foot long craft made of cypress and covered in cheap metal.
"If you get the ignition system wet it's going to stop. I would think, for something like that, it probably had water issues, you know," Hill said. "If you get the ignition system wet it's going to stop. I would think, for something like that, it probably had water issues, you know," Hill said.
"During prohibition...," Ross adds "...people would go to any lengths to get liquor. It didn't matter whether it was bathtub gin or moonshine rum. Anything that was alcohol. They would pay what it took to get it." "During prohibition...," Ross adds "...people would go to any lengths to get liquor. It didn't matter whether it was bathtub gin or moonshine rum. Anything that was alcohol. They would pay what it took to get it."
Prohibition era Mississippi: the 1920's.

Some historians say the bootleg liquor business (better known as moonshine) was already a lucrative trade in the state. But the nationwide crackdown prohibiting the sale of alcohol pushed bootleggers to buy and build technology.

Al Capone's people had machine guns.

Other runners souped-up their vehicles.

But it was in Claiborne County/Warren County area that only one crime-ring could boast having...

...wait for it...

...a submarine. Jacob Kittilstad headed out to what's left of it this MYSTERY MONDAY.

Click here to watch last week's MYSTERY MONDAY: Pocahontas Tepee for Sale! But Who's Buying?

The ships are bigger now. They're able to handle what the Mississippi river throws at them. But about 100 years ago the river was a different animal.

Thomas W. Ross - "Bud" to most people - is the Executive Director of the Grand Gulf Military Monument Commission. He says the river used to be more swift and the boat were often more crude.

"There's whirlpools. There's logs. There's trees. I've seen whole trees coming down the river," Ross said.

"It's just something that I can't even imagine that somebody would put this thing in there," Ross said, motioning to the 14 foot long craft made of cypress and covered in cheap metal.

"It's just old tin. And it was sealed with tar around the seams where it's screwed together," Ross said, running his fingers along the rusted exterior.

"This was a one man - they called it a submarine that they used to haul whiskey and rum across the river during prohibition," Ross said.

"It was powered by a T Model engine," Ross said.

"I've said many times to people who have looked at this that the man that drove it was drinking his wares because this is something that I wouldn't get in the Mississippi River in for all the tea in China," Ross said.

Ross said the sub's history is shrouded in mystery but what is known is it was found in the weeds of Davis Island and donated to the commission three decades ago.

"It just ran low-profile in the water, you know, probably late in the afternoon it was just like another log floating in the water," Ross said.

For the bootleggers - what could possibly go wrong?

...other than the fact that they're strapped into what's essentially a tin coffin dropped into the Mississippi River...

...all while hauling more than 50 gallons of moonshine which has a bad habit of either starting on fire or exploding...

...then there's that Model T engine which is blowing out fumes. It's missing now but if that wasn't well-kept, let's be honest here, it was probably unreliable at best.

Out of Mendenhall, Model T Ford enthusiast Kirk Hill said apart from the physical danger the submarine is also a mechanical conundrum.

"To put it in a boat, first of all, just cranking it would be a problem," Hill said.

"If you get the ignition system wet it's going to stop. I would think, for something like that, it probably had water issues, you know," Hill said.

"Of course the thing weighs a good bit. To be steering and dealing with all the other things that are going on around you, especially if it was a low-profile boat like the submarine - I'd fear for my life most of the time," Hill said.

"During prohibition...," Ross adds "...people would go to any lengths to get liquor. It didn't matter whether it was bathtub gin or moonshine rum. Anything that was alcohol. They would pay what it took to get it."

"Bravery. Stupidity. Or he had a siphon line to the moonshine and he was getting a nip as he went across," Ross said.

And that may have been the strategy well into the 1950's, Ross said.

After all prohibition may have ended in 1933...

...but moonshine is still illegal to this day.

"You know, you could carry quite a bit of liquor in one trip. And nothing says they don't turn right back around and make another trip," Ross said.

Model T collectors in the area have also said there are stories about the sub's engine still surviving somewhere.

It went missing after the death of an underground collector almost a decade ago, those collectors said.

If you have an idea for a MYSTERY MONDAY segment, contact Jacob Kittilstad at jkittilstad@wjtv.com or 601-664-8839.
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