Legends, myth, and urban legends

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Underground Steam Tunnels

A notorious pastime of William and Mary students is exploring the underground steam tunnels under Old Campus and Ancient Campus. The college administration has explicitly prohibited entry to these tunnels in the Student Handbook: "For reasons of safety and security...mechanical equipment areas and steam tunnels of College buildings are closed to all but authorized employees."

Despite the threat of expulsion and real safety hazards, hearsay and a few unofficial guides on the Internet provide students with resources on "tunneling" including points of entry.

According to college alumnus Andy Lax, class of '77, the tunnels connect to the Bortetourt Chapel Crypt located in the basement of the Wren Building. In 1977, access to the Crypt from the tunnels was blocked with a padlocked steel door to prevent vandalism. During that time, supposedly, it was popular for fraternity brothers to sneak into the Crypt and steal a bone from the tomb of James Blair.

Unverified Rumors about the Steam Tunnels:

  • The college keeps the tunnels flooded to discourage urban explorers but have an automated drainage system for when maintenance workers must access the tunnels.
  • One or more professors no longer employed at the college have escorted students through sections of the tunnels.


References

College of William and Mary Student Handbook 2006-2007

Busbee, Jay. "The Legend of Crim Dell and other Campus Rumors." William and Mary Alumni Magazine, Spring/Summer 2006, Vol. 71, No. 3/4. http://alumni.wm.edu/magazine/spgsum_2006/feature_5.shtml

Lax, Andy. "Rumination on Rumors." William and Mary Alumni Magazine, Mailbox, Fall 2006, pg. 7. https://alumni.wm.edu/magazine/fall_2006/pdf/pg7_Mailbox.pdf


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