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2 min Read
Published October 8, 2013

The Darkness Beneath Campus: Exploring the NC State Steam Tunnels

Fans of urban exploration know that many colleges include underground tunnels in their campus blueprints. Virginia Tech and The College of William & Mary are examples, and local North Carolina State University is no exception.

The existence of steam tunnels leads one to think of creepy, dark and moist underground passages. Imaginations may run wild, but the reality of steam tunnels ranges from industrial archaeology to murder plots.

Many NC State students have attempted to access the campus’ steam tunnels, although the school’s handbook of rules and regulations prohibits trespassing on university property. Some student explorers have ventured into the network of underground tunnels and lived to tell the tale. They reveal the presence of graffiti, old machinery and lots of pipes, which carry steam from the university’s power plant.

Tunnels are vast underworld beneath the campus.
Tunnels are vast underworld beneath the campus.

According to Internet lore, NC State’s steam tunnels were used as unauthorized housing for hobos who rode the railroads throughout the state during the Great Depression. Some also theorize that members of “secret societies” meet in the steam tunnels. While this may or may not be true, at least one crime has been associated with NC State’s underground passages.

In 1988, Christopher Pritchard convinced two of his friends to murder his stepfather, who lived in Washington, NC, in order to obtain a two million dollar inheritance.

During the police investigation, Pritchard disclosed that he and his pals would access the NC State steam tunnels and participate in the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. Police supposedly found Pritchard’s initials spray-painted in the tunnels.

Noticeable are a number of distinct Orbs, which eerily make appearances in steam tunnel photographs.
Noticeable are a number of distinct Orbs, which eerily make appearances in steam tunnel photographs.

Though it may sound like a fun thing to do on a weekend, crawling into the steam tunnels is dirty and dangerous work. The tunnels do carry steam, so there is a possibility of being burned or electrocuted. Also, the dark, wet atmosphere makes it hard to see, so you might miss the creepy things lurking in the shadows, which is one of the main reasons to explore the tunnels!

RELATED: Raleigh Underground: An Abandoned Mall Beneath Our Feet.

Quick flick from some local URBEX Tunnel Raiders — good view of what to expect!

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  • Ginny Gillikin


  • I have a journalism degree and an English minor from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. I am a staff writer for I enjoy music, books, photography, hiking and travel. Previous jobs include positions at Deep South Entertainment in Raleigh and ReverbNation in Durham. All my articles.

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