What lies beneath? Nothing

What lies beneath? Nothing

by Kate Paulman

While it may make campus more interesting to have dark, creepy or even usable, tunnels traversing the grounds, these are just campus myths.

“Once upon a time, back in 1901, the heating plant had a kind of maintenance area and a big, 85 foot tall tower,” said Joe Walt, professor emeritus of history. “The plant had pipes kind of radiating out from it to heat the rest of the buildings on campus. However, these are just pipes running under the ground. Most of them are only about 6 to 8 inches across, no room for a person to get down there.”

According to “Beneath the Whispering Maples,” by Joe Walt, Simpson does have ‘radiating tunnels that would carry heat to all the buildings.’

Stories of an underground coffee shop and pedestrian walkways under the campus are complete myth, according to Bart Lane, director of campus services.

“Really, there are no tunnels,” Lane said. “What we do have are a few crawl spaces under some of the buildings, like Barker and Buxton. But even those are just utility tunnels; barely big enough for service workers to get into.”

Walt and Lane agree that rumors of tunnels under campus could have arose from the heating pipes.

“We have many pipes that carry heating steam and telephone lines. All those are direct buried,” Lane said. “That means that we dig a trench, putthe utility in and cover it with dirt.”

One such pipe trench was dug below the brick sidewalk between Kresge Hall and Mary Berry. However, as Walt says, stories about subterranean pathways are “just not the case.”

“People never traveled to class under the ground,” Walt said.

“If someone did try to walk down there, they’d suffocate before they even got to the opening,” Walt said. “But it is a pretty efficient form of heating. If you put the pipes under the ground, you have no chance of the steam pipes freezing.” Walt says that a spot of steaming ground on campus a few weeks ago was because of a problem with one of the pipes and this evidence this supports the point of there being no tunnels.

“When one of the pipes broke or just got a leak, you noticed that they dug a hole around the steam. They didn’t crawl through any tunnels to fix it,” Walt said.

Some pipe paths can also be seen in the winter, according to Walt.

“The snow thaws over some of the pipes that are buried pretty close to the surface,” Walt said. “The pipes heat the ground up and the snow can’t hold over top of them.

“The Simpson ‘tunnels’ are just heating and other kinds of pipes,” Lane said. “Not nearly as exciting or mysterious as it could be.”