Shorewood after dark: Students tour tunnels

by Celeste Carroll

It began with a flight of stairs with chipping paint, a dark and forgotten hallway, and a door that warned all who came near to “keep out.”

The stairs that brought us to the tunnels below were not much different than the ones you’d walk on during an average school day. However, the reality is that the tunnels are not a haunted labyrinth, but instead a place often populated by the custodial staff. But even knowing that the tunnels were there for practical purposes, I still viewed the tunnels as something foreign as we explored them – and they did bring a sense of mystery and eerie secret reality to the school I had attended for the last three years.

Timothy Kenney, principal, unlocked the first door and our five eager students descended the flight of stairs in the administration building. We gathered closer in a small group, and listened to Tony Seidita, head custodian, discuss the tunnels themselves.

As we entered, I noticed a slight drop in temperature in the air, as we listened to Mr. Kenney explain that the biggest reason for the existence of the tunnel system is to hold and grant access to the massive boiler pipes. During all my years at the high school, I had never considered that this could have been what lay beneath my feet every day.

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It was explained that all of the tunnels connect the various buildings on campus (like the tunnel I was looking at, which traveled underneath the parking lot), from the administration building to the arts and sciences building, and from the performing arts building to the gym building.

Each footstep taken as we moved forward left a dull echo, and Kenney explained to us that the tunnels in past years had been used to evacuate students for tornado drills, but this had stopped due to liability issues involving the protruding metal pipes and concrete walls.

Soon we exited these tunnels and emerged into daylight once again – this time outside of the gymnasium building – we were led to a series of underground tunnels and rooms in the performing arts building. This was perhaps the most interesting part of our excursion because of the copious amounts of graffiti etched or spray-painted into the walls by students of past decades. It was fascinating that evidence of student life was permanently marked upon the walls of the school was in a place that not many students would ever see.

Years went as far back as 1982, ’71, and even ’51 and I thought of it as a sort of unconventional high school yearbook. Other students of years past had written other sayings on the walls in large spray-painted letters, many of which mentioned their joy at the arrival of graduation or summer.  It was like we had unearthed a sort of time capsule left by past students.

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by Cela Migan

When I learned of the tunnels underneath the school, it led me to imagine a very Hogwarts-esque setting, filled with monsters and mysteries. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the tunnels and, thankfully, there was not a basilisk in sight.

Mr. Kenney led the tour of the tunnels along with Tony Seidita, the head of facilities.

We entered the tunnels from the administration building and proceeded underneath the parking lot and school grounds, finally emerging into the physical education building.

When first entering the tunnels, my eyes had to adjust to the darkness. There were dated light fixtures that lined the walls and an abundance of pipes.

Once the tour started, it was clear that getting lost in the tunnels would be quite easy. The straight length of the tunnels seemed to stretch on and on forever. There are also numerous, somewhat-obscure places, with doorways or openings leading to another path, in a never-ending maze.

A sense of direction in the tunnels is very misleading. Underground, it is hard to judge how far you have gone in relation to the surface, and it is hard to judge where you would pop up if you were to travel directly up. Getting lost in the maze that is the tunnels is a definite possibility if you do not have someone to guide you.

If the route we took had not been explained to me, I would never have believed that we had traveled the short distance from the administration building to the physical education building via the tunnels. It seemed like I had traveled so much farther and in a very different direction.

The most interesting aspect of the tunnels was definitely the old relics that had been left down there. There were old textbooks and desks, along with an assortment of odd objects that you wouldn’t typically expect to see: a shopping cart, a random chair cushion and a copy of Ripples from 2011.

Although students were not allowed down in the tunnels, a number of them have made their mark. Most of it is typical graffiti and defacement, but there was an explosion of the class of 2012’s prank, the notable red, smiling face sticker with a X for a eye.

At the end of the tour we surfaced in the performing arts building. The Mr. Kenney Tunnel Tour experience is not one that many get to have. I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of it.

Coming out from the dimness, I realized that there was a lot more to school then the normal hallways we see everyday. Now, I have not only seen the school inside and out, but also under.

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