BSC Folklore

Underground Tunnel Network

Source: Kenny Murray (2006), collected by Meghan Pruitt

Jerry Garcia

Description:

There is a secret elevator located somewhere on campus. If a certain key is inserted into its control board, the elevator will take its passengers down further than the basement level, down to what some alums identify as a network of underground tunnels leading all over campus.

Commentary

The story of secret passages is no stranger to college campuses.  No evidence has emerged pointing to any vestige of truth in the tale about BSC's secret passages, but many schools do have underground tunnels—old, out-of-use steam tunnels.  UCLA boasts a quite expansive maze of dilapidated, dangerous and absolutely off-limits tunnel system that attracts myths and legends just by its very nature: it's forbidden.

For a college student, the denial of access to any place on campus practically sets off a giant beacon that begs for some brave soul to break the rules and discover the secrets behind locked doors.  A great example of this phenomenon at Birmingham-Southern lies on the edge of campus behind sorority row—Simpson, a supposedly condemned building, draws students' attention like flies to honey.  Before it was completely demolished to make way for a new lake, the Old Fraternity Row held the same mix of fear and fascination—when windows have been boarded up for years, there is no telling what could be inside, or what could have been left behind.  Drawing from these motifs, the story about the BSC tunnel network probably came from our natural desire to discover the unknown. Another origin of the BSC tunnel myth could come from the story that Birmingham-Southern was built on top of an old mine.  This alteration in the tale—that we're living on top of a series of mineshafts, not a network of steam tunnels—personalizes the popular legend and gives Birmingham-Southern a certain air of mystique and rich history.

Works Cited

  • Bronner, Simon J. Piled Higher and Deeper: The Folklore of Campus Life. Little Rock: August House, 1990.
  • Jamali, Lily. "Underground." The Daily Bruin. 27 Feb. 2001. UCLA. Jan. 2009
    http://dailybruin.ucla.edu/archives/id/3014/.
  • Williams, Michael. "UCLA Steam Tunnels." Michael Williams--Master of None. 31 Dec. 2004. Jan. 2009
    http://www.mwilliams.info/.

YOUR THOUGHTS?
Email your comments, corrections, or additions to tcowan@bsc.edu.