NEW: Video link added to the bottom 12/14
NEW: Second video link added to the bottom 12/15
Haha... two secret posts in a row. I have a mental list of stories I want to write here, and somehow this one had slipped off of it. Luckily, a UT Grad who goes by "The Reel Deal" posted a comment reminding me about the story. So here it goes, with a little history first.
I never thought I'd go to UT (The University of Texas, not Tennessee). Ever since I was in middle school, I always knew that I'd go to MIT - it was where the smart geeky people went, and I was one of them. When it came time to do applications for schools, I mailed two of them. One for MIT and one for WPI, a lesser known technical school in Massachusetts. I had abysmal grades, due in a large part to my refusal to do most homework and having never actually studied for a test. I always thought it was interesting to see how much of the material I'd naturally retained. Let's just say it usually wasn't over 80%.
After sending those applications in I found myself sitting in a calculus class with my good friend Phil.
"Have you finished your UT app?" Phil asked.
"No, I didn't do one"
"You should. They're due today. Here... I have an extra one. I'm going after class to drop it off - if you come with me I'm buying Wendy's"
That was enough to seal the deal. Phil had a meal plan on campus that allowed him to use his meals at the local Wendy's. Because he had a fully stocked fridge thanks to his job (maybe I'll write about that gem later), he rarely used his meals. He often bribed me with them, accounting for many classes, quizzes, and even a few tests missed. We both loved Wendy's. That was, of course, before I began eating healthy.
During the rest of the class I filled out my application, although I didn't have time to write an essay. I didn't really have the inclination, either. I was sure that MIT or WPI would accept me solely based on my charm and potential.
Weeks passed, and my MIT and WPI letters came in. I was rejected at each of them. Oops. I wasn't too upset, though - I wasn't totally sold on the idea of going to college anyway.
Then, of course, my UT letter came in. Somehow they'd accepted me. Many of my friends had similar fates, so a bunch of us ended up at UT. In the end, this was much better and I'm very grateful I didn't go to MIT.
Then, there were the tunnels. We'd heard about them before - supposedly there was a secret network of tunnels underneath UT that connected almost all of the buildings. It was a farfetched concept, but it became credible to us when we read an article that said it was the way they got to the tower without being shot to take out Whitman.
Soon after moving into UT, we started looking for the tunnels. The UT campus is one of the largest in the world, so this was no easy task. It led us to some pretty interesting places, but we couldn't find any evidence of the tunnel.
Then one day we saw a worker servicing one of the fountains on campus. A door was opened in the back of the fountain that revealed a spiral staircase going underground behind it. Could that be the entrance to the tunnel system? We did our best to be nonchalant and peered down into the entrance. It appeared to go down quite far - surely this was the entrance. The only problem was that the worker never left the area.
Undaunted, we waited for night and headed to our armory of choice - Home Depot. Home Depot used to be open twenty four hours a day, which made it perfect for us. It seemed that nearly every adventure that we embarked on, and there were many, required some sort of supplies that Home Depot always had. We bought a small saw and headed back to campus.
With two people watching, and another two of us cutting, we tried to cut the deadbolt holding the door shut. I'm morally very against destroying property, and in our many crazy adventures (several of which involve breaking into buildings) we have destroyed only one lock and no valuable property.
Unfortunately, this lock was not destined to be the one that we broke. We cut 1/8 of an inch through the deadbolt after maybe half an hour and realized we'd never get through. We planned on getting a reciprocating saw and trying again, but it never happened. I guess we decided it was too difficult to explain why we had one of those.
For a year or so we forgot about the tunnels and diverted our mischeif to other outlets.
One night we were again discussing the tunnels, and we resolved that surely one of the many manhole covers must be hiding an entrance to the coveted tunnels. With a stick to pry them up, we hit the streets and pried up a significant portion of UT's manhole covers. We found a few cool little hideouts, but no tunnels.
The next night we returned and upturned any other manholes we could find. We were about to go home for the night when Terry made a discovery. He found a metal grate that was blowing exhaust from below. That would be nothing to get excited about except that it appeared that there was light beyond the fan. We crowded around the grate and peered in. Sure enough, a tunnel could be made out below.
We were all very excited, but the task of penetrating the tunnels remained. The grate was secured by welding and concrete and wasn't going anywhere. Further, even if we could get in, there would be no way to get past the fan.
Terry and I started walking in the directions the tunnel led, hoping to find an easier entry point. He found another vent that had no fan. It had some other metal contraption that could possibly be moved, but it wasn't promising. What was promising is the clearer view of the tunnel that grate afforded. It was real.
I walked in the other direction, and found another grate. Beneath the metal grate was a ladder leading down to the tunnel, and the gate was secured only by a padlock. Often times too brash, I was eager to go get bolt cutters and go in that night, but another friend who wishes to remain anonymous pointed out that soon it would be light and we might get caught.
The next night we returned to home depot and bought bold cutters. We were always asking weird questions like "My deadbolt is stuck and I need to cut it. Which saw is best for that?" or "Which bolt cutters can get through a masterlock", or later "my boss wants me to copy all these keys". If they were suspicious, they never shared that suspicion with us.
We left with our giant flourescent orange bolt cutters and headed to campus. We agreed that the tunnels were likely used by workers, but that 2-5:30am or so was probably a safe time to go. I wrangled with the lock while John (name changed) and Terry acted as lookouts. I was too weak to cut the lock, so John took over.
We probably should have worked out a better plan, though, because although we spotted the police, there was nothing we could do to warn John. They saw us, turned on their lights, and started driving towards us.
John made the decision for us. Bolt cutters in hand, he started running. I followed him and Terry headed in a different direction. As soon as we turned a corner John threw the bolt cutters into the bushes and we kept running. We stayed away from streets so that police couldn't see us.
When we finally made it across the street and blended into the pedestrians, we were safe. We all met back at our apartments and agreed to try again the next night.
The next night was better. Our friend Ben was in town, and he was ready to ride. He was strong, as was John, so between the two of them we were able to quickly break the lock. One by one we scurried underground and closed the grate behind us.
After nearly four years of wondering - we were in.
Any expectations we had were instantly shattered. No longer were we on campus - we'd be transported into another world. The narrow concrete path was flanked with a host of steam pipes, bundles of wires, and even toxic waste pipes. It was surreal.
We ventured down the path, but soon came to a locked gate. We turned around and made it a little further in the other direction, but there was another gate there too.
Intermitently, the steam pipes would makes scary noises which sent our hearts jumping. We were all overwhelmed and not entirely upset that there wasn't much to explore. We left the tunnels, put our own padlock on the gate, and went back home.
Plans were immediately made to go back. We'd bring the bolt cutters and get past the next gate.
The next day Terry, John, Dan (name also changed) and I returned. It was cold outside, but underground it was comfortable. We again got into the tunnels and stashed our jackets near the entrance. John was in charge of mapping out the labrynth as best as possible. We'd also brought orange tape to tie to grates so that we could find them from the outside. We were prepared.
Again we reached the first locked gate. This time I was a little more clear headed and realized that if we stood on the crossbar we could slide past it over the top. Immediately the maze began to branch and we realized that the tunnels were bigger than we expected. At the next dead end, John realized that if he hugged one of the pipes he could slide past the gate where the pipes went through.
We spent a couple hours underground exploring as much as we could. Every few minutes a steam valve would release or the pipes would creak and we'd all become terrified. There was no telling if we were alone in the tunnels, or if there were workers there.
Here are some of the incredible things we saw underground :
The tunnels were more interesting than we expected. There were ramps going up and down, entrances to buildings, forgotten storage areas, windows looking outside, and strange masses of pipe. Some places were very closed in, others were wide open. Some were brightly lit, while others were pitch black. One of our favorite areas we dubbed "the beach". It was a huge sandy expanse under one of the buildings, bordered by a concrete walkway. Along the walkway were locked cages with strange looking machines. Here are some pictures from the beach:
Of particular interest was a code (or possibly gibberish) written on one of the stone pillars.
P D G H M P D G
P H M W M L Y W O
O F F 6 I M U S S G
P - Forgive me
The full image (blurry, unfortunately) can be downloaded here : code.
We never figured out what it meant, but our interest was piqued with the "Forgive me". If you can figure out what it means, we'd all be really interested in hearing your interpretation.
Here's a copy of the map that John created : [removed at KVUE / UT's request]
Finally after spending hours underground we started to get worried that workers may be arriving. We peeked our heads out of the grate, and when no one was coming we quickly snuck out. Our lock was put back on the grate and we left.
We had intended on going back, but our lock was replaced with an official one rather quickly. We were all alarmed, thinking that it was an unused entrance. We never went back in. To this day there is a grate near ENS which you can look into and see some of the orange tape we used to mark the path.
We are a particularly responsible group of trouble makers. If any of us had gotten hurt we wouldn't have sued UT. We didn't damage anything or steal anything. I can't be sure that readers of this article will exercise the same discretion, so I won't disclose where the entrance to the tunnel is. If you're dedicated enough, you can find it. The map also provides some clues.
Update: On 12/13 I got a huge surge of traffic thanks to sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, Fazed, and many other bloggers. Within the first few hours of the morning, I received over 10k unique visitors. By the end of the day it reached 17k.
One of the people who read the story is friends with a reporter at ABC affiliate TV station KVUE. KVUE did a piece on the story seen here :
When I saw it, I was furious. The segment was pretty complementary, and that Izzy girl was pretty cute, but they stole my pictures!
The next morning I called the Austin Bar Association and was referred to an intellectual property lawyer. He was generous enough to talk with me for twenty minutes to give me a good understanding of the law and the practicality of filing a suit.
He said that it was without a doubt illegal copyright violation and that I would win in court... but he also said that it would be hard to prove that I was significantly damaged by the use, and would probably not get too much money.
After hearing that, I was still going to sue. He said we'd send a letter, they'd reply back saying that it was legal just to call my bluff because it was unlikely that I would actually file suit. However, I had every intention to do so, even if it was possible that I would lose money.
It was a matter of principle, and I was genuinely offended that they would air my pictures without credit. The lawyer suggested I first contact KVUE and try to work it out. I was skeptical that they would rectify the situation, but I wrote a letter anyway. I offered three possible solutions :
1. They could give the address on TV tonight
2. They could pay a sum of money in damages
3. They could air a different story with me and give credit there.
Within a few hours the reporter who did the segment got in touch with me. He was very apologetic, professional, and courteous. He said that he regretted the way that it was handled, and would air a segment that night with the address. I thanked him for making the situation right.
Here's the new segment that aired :
I'm not concerned with UT coming after me. It just wouldn't make sense. We explored the tunnels 5 years ago, which is more than twice the statute of limitations. We also did no damage other than the lock. If they do get in touch with me I would be more than happy to buy them the lock of their choice, though. After the second time I actually planned on taping a $20 inside the tunnel to cover the cost of breaking their lock, but we never went back.
When will the administration at the University of Texas at Austin develop a sense of humor?
My mom has been working with the code and so far she things the first line may say:
"One by one"
She thinks each line has to have its own code.
Seriously, I've worked on many seucrity systems throughout Austin. There's tunnels everywheres because that's how the undergrounds of cities work. This is no secret at all. Go under any major building in downtown Austin and you'll find the same stuff. Now there are tunnels leading from the governors mansion to the capitol building. Also tunnels going from the surrounding government buildings to the capitol. Most of those have card access, but you can just tailgate to get through. Also, there is a tunnel that runs from east to west under Colorado St. just north of West 6th between the UT buildings on either side. Check the map here: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=austin+tx&hl=en&ll=30.268433,-97.744187&spn=0.000005,0.003473&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=48.374125,113.818359&vpsrc=6&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=30.268645,-97.744041&panoid=WYo_6tIZxy5j3FSx8neEEg&cbp=12,30.43,,0,0 It's right under where the picture is looking. There's many others but you'll have to find them on your own. Oh, lets not forget the 7 level underground facility in the Austin area, only myself and a handful of other people know about, but that secret will remain.
I would just like to say that if you are dedicated enough, you can still get in the tunnels without getting caught. I've been trying a couple of times a month for a whole year now and I finally got in last night. I didn't even have to cut any locks.
Great article, Used to tunnel when I was at UT back in the late 70's. Security was not so strick back then, there were no motion detectors like they have now. It was a matter of visiting all the old buildings on campus and checking out the lower level for a way in. Found a way in via Jester and the Physics building which were not locked for over a year.
You mentioned forgotten storage, Welch was a bonanza of old stuff.
The steam tunnels meet in a large intersection underground. They didn't have all the gates you mentioned back then.
I see you found the beach. It has changed a bit. Used to be a favorite hangout and grafetti spot. It used to be a fallout shelter long ago complete with signs and it even had dry food stored there. Its under Moore Hall. For some reason the word got out about the tunnels. I don't remember why but by 1980 it was not safe to go down there for several years as far as getting caught.
While at UT, I watched the PCL being built everyday until it opened. There are at least as many floors underground as there are above ground. Some assert this is the NSA/NASA/"CIA" listening post for the UK [the UK listens to the US because it is illegal to spy on ordinary Americans w/o a warrent].
Some also assert the Texas State Capitol is connected underground the Westgate office building and the FUMC [and the Governor's mansion?] to south west, or to Camp Mabry and the "UT" aquanaut compound on the east side of the Mansfield dam. I attended some event at the fumc that ended around 9:45pm one night [or later]. The event had a reception/refreshments in the kitchen area. I left something there and returned 20 minutes later. Maybe i imagined it but i thought I saw a number of people there none of whom had been at the event????????so maybe there are tunnels to this area to?
I worked for UT for a while as a student and talked to my boss about the tunnels.
The tunnels are not "secret" but they are definitely off-limits. Students found there would usually be expelled. The tunnels access nearly every building on campus through a secured door on a basement level. Currently a key, a keycard and a pin-code are required to legitimately enter the tunnels.
There tunnels are also, as reported, gated frequently. To get from one area of the system to another would require a set of keys that only 3 people on campus have: Manager of Campus Maintenance, his assistant, and Manager of Campus Security. The manager of each building has their own keys but can only access their area of the system.
I am told that the tunnels run to non-UT buildings that used to be part of the campus, but I am not sure where.
Also, after Tynan's escapades (I think as a result of them), cameras and alarm systems were installed.
Anyone wishing to repeat Tynan's tour will most likely be apprehended quickly as there are cameras and motion detectors in there now.
Not to mention the dozens of secret cameras hidden around campus. (If you are close enough to touch a fountain or statue, you are on camera... smile.)
There is a secret underground city under Des Moines, Iowa ...
miles and miles of gateways and storage rooms filled with 1960's supplies... Many locked still doors.. many secrets..
LOL! I was just talking with my co-workers about the tunnels today and thought I'd go on line to see if I could find some pics. A few years back I was an administrator at UT (fairly high up, as a matter of fact) but like all academics in my younger days I was a sneaky little shit at well. When I first started working over there someone told me about the tunnels and I couldn't resist getting a look. But I had no "official" reason for going down there. Then one day I realized I could get a master facilities key - through my job - that would let me into about eighty percent of the locked doors under the campus. I was hooked!
I spent hours under the campus wandering around at night. And although I worked there, I still had no official business in the tunnels so if I were caught I would have been tossed out on my ear. So, needless to say, it was pretty thrilling to wander around down under there.
You guys didn't seem to get into the really old tunnels. There's actually some that appear to have been built in the early 20th century that are quite creepy. I'm not sure what they were used for prior to HVAC.
I have worked at UT in some years and I still miss crawling around under the campus.
Ah, the nostalgia. When I read this it made me dig out that probation notice from 24 years ago, and those pictures we took in the tunnels.
We were actually caught on our second trip down. Someone at a Physics Department picnic told us the way in: the control panel in the Welch elevator had been sufficiently loosened so that you could pull out a screw, swing out the panel, and trip the keyswitch to let you go into the basement. In the basement there was a chain-link gate, but the lower hinge had been rendered easy to remove, so you could (slightly) swivel the whole gate on the top hinge and the lock on the other side and crawl under.
We got in about five hours of exploring the first time. The second time we were dead-ended at a gate (trying to remove the hinges) when we were corraled by campus police (they actually yelled "freeze!"...scared the shit out of us). We dropped our tools behind the steam pipes and never recovered them.
We got probation, but really no other fallout.
By now I'm sure that all of you have read the UT tunnel story. When the story surfaced, Mark e-mailed me because he is doing a documentary on the UT tunnels. He wanted to interview me, which I was happy to do.
The interview finally happened today, and it was pretty cool. I basically just went over the same story that I talked about here, and then we chatted about the tunnels for a while. He told me a few really interesting things about them that he had learned, and showed me a picture of an old 1948 car that is in the tunnels! Pretty neat.
The documentary should be done by May, and will be playing at the Dobie theaters. I'm sure I'll go to the premiere screening, so maybe I will see some of you there. You know which hat to look for...
I live in a small town called Brighouse in England. I love it hear with its variation; towns, cities, countryside and of course history. It was May 2013 and i received a blurry photo on my phone. I don't have it to hand but it looked like the edge of a cliff. I called the friend (Richard) who sent it me and he said it was an abandon mine and that we should explore it. it wasn't too far from where we lived. Now before i continue i will tell you that me and some friends love urban exploration. It fascinates me and gives you a glimpse into what life might be like when people disappear. That and it makes for some fantastic photo opportunities.
So one evening i drove to the location where some friends where already waiting. Geared up in cloths i don't mind destroying, several led lights, camera and a flask of coffee. I didn't really know what to expect as i was pulling up to a small makeshift car park in some woods but what i really did fear was getting lost, after all it is a mine. It was already getting dark but that didn't matter, not where we was going. We walked along a trail in the woods to the mine. Seemed forever before my friend said "here we are". Looked around. Nothing. He pointed to the side of a hill no more than 10 meters away. Thats when i saw a slumped over sign. "Danger of Explosion" it said. A gap no bigger than a small window led to what was suppose to be a mine. Well time to get dirty.I slid down the wet and slimy muck. I was in.
Must say i was surprised when i slid down into the side of this hill. It was massive, an arched size tunnel about 7foot in hight but at least 15ft width. My lights wouldn't reach anything solid when i shined my light down this tunnel, yes it was long. I waited for the group to all get in then we did a light check and went over some rules. (1. No smoking or naked flames. 2. Watch your footing and move slowly 3. Stick together.) Part 1&2 where easy but it was clear that 3 was going to be hard. As we went in the size of the cavern started to shrink and the tunnels started to split in several directions. Which way to go? i looked back and tried to remember the entrance in case i got lost then turned to proceed along one tunnel.