A notorious pastime of William & Mary students is exploring the underground steam tunnels under Old Campus and Historic 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.
The tunnels are said to connect to the burial vault located under the chapel wing 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 Lord Botetourt.
Unverified Rumors about the Steam Tunnels:
- The college keeps the tunnels flooded to discourage urban explorers but use an automated drainage system 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.
- The secret societies on campus use the tunnels to travel around surreptitiously
Entrances to the Steam tunnels:
- Any manhole near the Sunken Garden.
- A small wooden door in the eastern staircase of Barrett Hall.
- A 2 foot by 2 foot metal crawl space door in Chandler Hall near the laundry room.
- College of William & Mary Student Handbook, 2006-2007
- Busbee, Jay. "The Legend of Crim Dell and other Campus Rumors." William & Mary Alumni Magazine, Spring/Summer 2006, Vol. 71, No. 3/4, p. 56.
- Lax, Andy. "Rumination on Rumors." William & Mary Alumni Magazine, Mailbox, Fall 2006, pg. 7. https://alumni.wm.edu/magazine/fall_2006/pdf/pg7_Mailbox.pdf
- Additional information regarding the steam tunnels can be found in the Special Collections Digital Archive