Tunnels and Locked Doors

A couple of weeks ago, my roommate called me into his room to show me a document he had found on the internet. It was written by a guy named Rick (probably a pseudonym) who, four or five years ago, had infiltrated the tunnels and corridors beneath WLU. As a student here, I knew that there were non-public consumption areas underneath the school, but I’d never been. We’re just talking about storage rooms and service tunnels, but they are behind locked doors, and locked doors are well known for hiding things that are interesting. Rick had been to see them and after reading his tale, I wanted to see them too.

I had visions of retracing Rick’s steps. He talks about a door underneath the Peters Building that is large, metal and usually locked. This was the case, and quite abruptly my efforts were derailed. So, I looked around.

Four years ago, where I was standing had been part of a public-access underground tunnel, but having fallen into disuse, it had since been abandoned. It was quiet except for the rumbling of something behind the metal door. Above me, classes were changing, but it was muted and distant.

The room was a polygon of faded yellow paint and concrete. Along the wall opposite the way I entered was a large concrete safe that seemed to grow out of the wall. To the right was the locked nemesis of my adventure. Next to it was a pair of elevator doors. There was only an “up” button and I pushed it out of curiosity. I waited. No elevator came. Checking the elevator upstairs later, I saw that above the elevator doors there was a ‘G’ floor light, but no corresponding button. I was where the elevator no longer went. Leaning against the safe’s wall was a pile of old office furniture. Some empty rusted lockers ironically advertised their availability for rent. Across from the elevator was the entrance to the public access tunnel, next to which stood a snackless vending machine.

I pass through this school every day and never think about this sort of place. We live in a time of architectural precision and efficiency. Everything has a purpose and is designed accordingly to maximize space and minimize cost. Superfluous design nuances are becoming more rare, and secret doors and passageways are the realm of super-villains and eccentric billionaires. Conversely, modern spaces hide the leftovers of expansion, catacombs of urban sprawl, closed subway tunnels and endless mazes of sewers. They are forgotten once they are no longer of any real use.

I was in just such a pocket of architectural forgetfulness. I walked along the corridor of the tunnel, underground. The corridor was the same colour as the room I had just left. There was more office furniture, mostly old desks tipped up against the wall. There, I found a woman’s doctor’s note proving that she was sick during a business mid-term, stuck between two pieces of a drawer.

Past the desks was the intersection of the tunnel where you can either go right to the library or left to the Alvin Woods Building. I remembered there used to be a security camera in this hallway and became a little paranoid. In the centre of the intersection was a ?-sphere convex mirror, which somehow did not hinder my anxiety.

I remembered the tunnel from when I had used it, no less than two years ago. To my left was the familiar route to the academic buildings, looking lonely like the city streets in Omega Man. It had the feel of being abandoned in haste. From what I could see, the lockers contained a mixture of student jetsam: old midterms, scraps of papers with phone numbers; stuff with less-than-no memorabilia value. One had the remnants of a lunch. Another held the October 12, 2000 Toronto Star. A small number of lockers had rusted locks on them, making me wish that I carried bolt-cutters to school with me for some reason.

Turning right meant going where the tunnel ceased to be. The washed-out yellow paint on the walls and the tiled floor ended about 10 feet from the intersection. It was replaced with a dirty concrete floor and the slattern grey of unpainted cement blocks. Five white pipes passed across the floor, suspended from the ceiling, leading to the darker recesses of the library.

The fluorescent lights humming behind me couldn’t reach into it. I could have crawled along the pipes under the library, but for the dark. To the right, the wall opened up into a lightless room full of the surfeits of construction: scrap rebar, bricks, coffee cups.

Everything about the area bled the phrase ‘not for public consumption,’ but there was no door, no boundary except for where the paint stopped. This lack of a door or gate made the transition from the unused to the unfinished a bit bizarre. This is what had become of the public access space: abandoned, gashed, and then left open. Quiet, dark, and hidden under the campus was the line between civilization and the wilderness created by its wake.

I wasn’t breaking any rules by being there, but I didn’t stay long. I was a little bit jealous of Rick; there in the catacombs of the school I had found nothing but waste and quiet. At least he had been able to see something.

Editor’s note: The referenced document, which written by Rick Scott and posted to the now defunct urban exploration webpage Urban Adventure Archive, has been archived here. Blueprint Magazine does not claim ownership or copyright over this document, and has preserved it merely for purposes of posterity.