VT UndergroundVirginia Tech has long been rumoured to have a mess of steam tunnels running beneath its grounds from one end of campus to the other.
The topic came up with a reader recently while discussing the 2007 Virginia Tech (VT) shootings and a bit of web searching pulls up sites filled with as much rumour as evidence.
Since entering the VT tunnels is illegal, and dangerous, hard facts seemed unlikely to come by, until a reader pointed me to a site on the Deep Web. The Deep Web runs sites on an anonymous browser that ideally keeps surfing and hosting a somewhat private affair. (Learn all about it here from BI’s Dylan Love)
The Deep Web site “Beneath VT” may be the most comprehensive authority on the VT tunnels online, and it’s certainly the safest. Probably not a good idea to Google tunnel entrances in a dorm room on the school’s network, since campus authorities seem to take this pretty seriously. The Deep Web offers motivated students a way to explore, remain un-imprisoned, and not be expelled. Let’s see what’s under there, but first, the risks.
Beneath VT: Dangers
Steam tunneling carries many risks. It’s not a game … Here are some of the perils that may await you if you choose to explore the steam tunnels.
The greatest danger you are likely to face. It’s illegal to enter the steam tunnels, a Class 1 misdemeanour in Virginia, which means you can be fined up to $2500 or even face up to 12 months in jail.
It’s also against university policy, although the tunnels are not mentioned specifically. If caught, you could be warned, suspended, or even expelled.
The Virginia Tech Police department will follow you into the tunnels if they see you entering them. Even if they don’t, someone could call in a report and they will be waiting for you when you leave.
Steam tunnels are not safe places; there are large drops and it’s very easy to injure yourself if you’re not careful. Do not let your guard down; be careful where you step, do not make poor decisions about when to go exploring, and always be aware of your surroundings.
Properly warned let’s take a look at a few of the tunnels Beneath VT. First our map:
The original site has an interactive map, so it’s possible to see that Agnew Hall is just southwest of the drill-field. This is supposed to be the safest and easiest place to access the tunnel system. The tunnels are said to be larger here than other locations and walking is not a problem, and the Agnew to Cowgill tunnel is a straight shot.
Beneath VTAgnew-Cowgill TunnelBeneath VT:
Be careful when entering the tunnel; there’s a ladder located on the side of the grate opposite you. Climb down, making sure to close the grate behind you, and turn to the left. (There’s not much to see to the right, but feel free to check it out of you’re so inclined.) You are now heading toward Davidson Hall.
On your way, you will pass two grates on your left side. Never use these as an exit; they are on the lower Drillfield and can be easily seen from West Campus Drive and most of the Drillfield.
The tunnel runs mostly straight until you reach Davidson, where it turns to the right and continues on straight toward Burruss. Shortly after Davidson, you will come to a mess of pipes. This is actually where the steam tunnel crosses above the Davidson-Hahn pedestrian tunnel. Continue on, but watch your head while weaseling your way through the pipes; the pipes are padded, but I wouldn’t push it. The tunnel continues on straight for a bit; you will pass another grate on your left. Do not use this as an exit either. It’s the grate in front of Pamplin and can be easily seen from the Drillfield. Shortly after the grate, you should see some steps. At this point, you will be under Burruss Hall. After the steps, the tunnel will turn to the left.
There will be some steps down, then you will enter a smaller section of tunnel that is very hot. If you continue straight, you will pass a ladder down to the subtunnel that runs toward Hahn North and passes Derring on the way. Be warned, though that the ladder is quite warm, so you will probably want to wear gloves. This subtunnel is very hot, so you won’t want to spend long down there. If you continue down the tunnel, you will notice a subtunnel heading toward Derring on your right, behind some pipes. You’ll have to squeeze under them if you want to check it out. Although I have not been down this subtunnel myself, I have heard that there is a locked gate down this tunnel which blocks entry into Derring’s basement.
Whoever maintains the site is as thorough as they are thoughtful. Each of the 10 tunnel sections comes with directions, points of interest, instructions on entering and exiting without being seen, and a degree of difficulty. The Cassell-Barringer section of tunnel is said to be the most challenging. This run is the easternmost red line on the map, with Cassel the southern end point.
Beneath VTCassell-Barringer TunnelBeneath VT:
I wouldn’t recommend this run; it’s pretty cramped and hot. It’s definitely not for beginners.
You can enter this run at the grate in front of Cassell. It’s behind the big pine tree on the left side of the front of the building if you are standing with your back to Dietrick. The grate does not move quite as easily as some of the other grates, but it still works. It’s a bit loud though, so make sure there’s no one around.
After you climb down the ladder, you will find yourself in a pretty cool entrance room. There’s a lot of graffiti in here. You’ll want to be careful of the hot water coming from the machine behind the ladder, though. It could easily give you a nasty burn … Continue on across Washington Street. It’s a tight squeeze in some places, but it’s going to be like that for the rest of the run, so just get used to it.
Eventually, you will find yourself at a turn in the tunnel. Above you is the manhole near Barringer; it looks like they had to change the height of the manhole at one point, so there are actually two sets of ladders. It’s pretty cool.
Definitely cool, and a whole lot safer exploring the tunnels using this site than without it. Along with Trip Logs and Links, Creative Commons licensing the site offers an email address hosted on an aboveboard dot com site.
We’ll keep that address off here and the host’s privacy as untarnished as possible.
Besides, if you’re determined to hit the tunnels using Beneath VT as a guide, then a bit of exploring now is exactly what you need.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.