The SMU Tunnel System

Main Piece

At Southern Methodist University (SMU), there is a rumor that there is an extensive tunnel system underground beneath the campus. In official building plans, there are some air vents that go between the buildings, but people say that there is much more actually there than indicated on the plans. Allegedly, during World War II, the tunnel system was built as an evacuation and shelter zone.

AB says that “the joke is, if you ask an old professor about it, they’ll wink at you.” He also says, “Some people who want to push the envelope a little bit, who are really into this stuff, claim that they have a catacomb… and the catacomb contains famous SMU people… like Robert Heyer, the first president of SMU, is buried underneath Dallas Hall.”

There is a student tradition at SMU of going to the Meadow School of the Arts (which is an old, not-well-maintained building), and going down to the basement, where “you can get lost easily.” From there, “If you open the wrong door, you can find a chasm; if you know the plan, you can find the chasm.” AB’s friend C claims to have brought climbing equipment to this chasm and rappelled down the chasm. C says there were marks of people having been there before, but it was sealed off at the bottom.

Informant background

AB is a university student at Southern Methodist University (Dallas), originally from the California Bay Area. He is a member of the SMU band.

Performance context

AB described this to me during a phone call when I asked him to tell me about SMU traditions, rituals, and rumors.


These kind of secret-passages-and-tunnels rumors seem to be very popular among teenagers and early-20-somethings. The appeal is shown through the idea of the “legend quest,” of going out and trying to see if the rumors are true or not. The fact that AB has heard of many friends and acquaintances trying to explore the tunnels is evidence of this ongoing legend quest at SMU.