The maintenance tunnels underneath our feet are usually the subject of awe and wonder. Speaking personally, I have heard a lot about these tunnels, but I am skeptical about what is true and untrue about them. I decided to see what I could uncover. What is the experience of entering these tunnels like for students? What surprises them when they enter the tunnels, and what meets their expectations?
Many students learn about the tunnels early in their time at Lewis & Clark. One correspondent who spoke to me under the condition of anonymity, said they heard about these tunnels from their New Student Trip leaders. They recalled how the leaders discussed the tunnels with secrecy in mind — the tunnels, primarily how to enter them, remain an esoteric knowledge revealed only to some LC students.
The correspondent received information about entering the tunnels through “non-descript instructions sent over Instagram (direct messages).”
This student has since entered the tunnels on numerous occasions. They emphasized that the tunnels can be dangerous. Exposed pipes, low visibility, low ceilings and distance from medical care are all serious hazards when exploring these maintenance tunnels.
Others were more familiar with the folklore. Natalie Anderson ’22 learned about the tunnels long before she arrived at LC. Her father, an alumnus, told her about his memories before she attended. She first entered the tunnels in her sophomore year and found them underwhelming.
“I don’t exactly remember how we got in… but I do remember they were underwhelming,” Anderson said via email.
She expected something similar to a catacombs complex, but the ones she entered, they were more like an “upstairs attic.”
Other students have different expectations of the tunnels. One anonymous biochemistry major informed me that when they first entered the tunnels, they expected wider, extensive hallways and brighter lighting. Another student, a history major, was surprised by how inaccessible the tunnels were. They told me about the “pipe gymnastics” needed to traverse them. Students may be surprised to find that many of them are cramped, dirty and dark.
However, these two students agreed that they were surprised with the lack of graffiti and wall art. Reportedly, there is wall art of a tombstone with multiple different colors deep into the tunnels. The history major told me about a pentagram they found in the tunnels, and they believe it is possible students put it there simply to be countercultural.
In a 2016 article, Mossy Log contributor Shani Berenholz ’18 wrote about the ghost lore that surrounds the tunnels. Berenholz did not report much paranormal activity from the tunnels, and my correspondents corroborated this. The closest thing to paranormal activity any of them witnessed was a lightbulb with a chain switch hanging from the ceiling. The switch did not turn on the bulb.
Most of my correspondents had also never heard about the elusive “Japanese baths” that supposedly exist in the Forest dorm complex. Anderson noted that she may have heard rumors about them once or twice over the years, but never anything solid. Facilities Services did not reply for comment.
My first anonymous correspondent told me about a room they called the “glass room,” apparently full of shattered glass. It is unknown why the glass is there, but there are rumors of Satanic rituals occurring there. These kinds of rumors run rampant; Satanic, ghostly, cultic and occultic activity all have a presence in the lore surrounding the tunnels. As far as I can tell, there is minimal actual evidence of these activities occurring.
For many students, entering the tunnels is a riveting experience. Their experiences in the tunnels subvert their expectations of what they really are. Despite the intrigue and mystique around the tunnels, it seems this perception has largely been manufactured by rumor and imagination. In reality, the tunnels are a dark and dangerous place where one needs to be careful. Explore with caution, but you never know what you may find.
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