- Nina Martineck
The Legend of Pratt's Secret Tunnels
Those into cryptid Pratt lore might be familiar with the myth of the tunnels. Legend has it that they run under the cluster of buildings around Main Hall. Some may have heard of a winding labyrinth, while others may envision a few rat-ridden holes coming off the basement. I’ve heard fables of people using them to get to class, partaking in numerous illicit activities under their exposed wires and even squatting down there, according to one professor. Upon first hearing about the tunnels, I didn’t believe they existed. I’d gone to enough ancient schools to know how ghost stories and urban legends linger in classrooms and hallways.
I would be lying, however, if I said that a part of me wasn’t left wondering.
As it turns out, a tunnel or two runs from the steam engine in East Hall to Main Hall to Machinery Hall, as explored by Flickr user Hetx. One of Pratt’s crown jewels is its functioning steam engine in East Hall, built in 1887 with the inception of the institution. The notorious tunnels are part of this system. They primarily serve pipes and wires running from the steam engine to other parts of campus. A few storage rooms branch off from the tunnels as well. Most are empty by now, though Hetx did find a grungy pile of midcentury modern desks shoved into one and a few file cabinets filled with old documents in another. From their photos, the tunnels seem to be little more than another layer to the basement–just another quaint rat hangout.
I tried to find them for myself. I really, really did. But with a lack of solid information online (probably for the better) and a lack of non-speculative knowledge from Pratt faculty and students (also probably not a bad thing), the tunnels continue to elude me. I poked around the main cluster, searching for any possible entrance point, but all maintenance doors are locked, and my curiosity isn’t really worth expulsion.
So, yes, the tunnels are real, although their true purpose might feel a tad disappointing. Any secret societies or cult rituals that made a home in the tunnels have remained fully underground (pun intended). This doesn’t mean that we can’t pretend they aren’t cabalistic, though–another ghost haunting our house or Bigfoot in our backyard. We’re allowed to fall into the romance and the enigma and convince ourselves that steam engine pipes serve a greater purpose.
In that respect alone, maybe they do.
Art by Serena Y. Cheng