Asked about the tunnel system snaking under the College, students respond in a variety of ways, ranging from a bedazzled face saying they've never heard of the tunnels to sharing urban legends they've heard about the tunnel to proudly stating that they've been inside.

"Longfellow's ghost forbids trespassing unless poetic verse is uttered," one junior replied when asked about the tunnels.

A sophomore suggested that the tunnels would be a good place to hold meetings for secret societies.

Freshman Chris Carlin shared the sentiments of many when asked about the tunnels.

"Tunnel system?" he asked quizzically. "I didn't realize that there was an underground tunnel system. What was it used for?"

It is rumored that during the winter, the snow is less deep above the tunnels, and that the grass grows first and greenest above them in the spring.

Louis C. Hatch writes in Bowdoin College: 1794-1927, "Bowdoin has and probably will have for many years, a memorial of its strange unknown." The tunnels are certainly an example of that historical mystery.

The tunnels were built sometime around the beginning of the 20th century. Heating plant records indicate that the tunnels were built in 1914, but a 1901 copy of the Orient says that, "Steam heating apparatus has been installed in all the halls, and last winter the rooms were warm."

According to Hatch's book, there was a problem with fires in the dorms in the 1800s that provoked interest in steam heating. As boiler operator Chuck Blier points out, there are eight chimneys on the top of each of the older dormitories. During the 19th century, each set of bedrooms had a common room with a fireplace. These fireplaces kept the dorm warm but were a fire hazard that ultimately cost the College a lot of money. As a result, there was a push to build a heating plant with a tunnel-based distribution system.

In President William DeWitt Hyde's "Report of the President of Bowdoin College For the Academic Year 1895-96," he gave his reasoning for getting a central steam heating system: "Economy, security, and efficiency all combine to demand the central heating station as the next stage of our material development."

Hyde's plan for the steam pipes would have connected all of Bowdoin's buildings at the time in one path, kept the old gymnasium, and included a separate power house.

Hyde got his central steam heating system, but the plan was modified a bit. The old gymnasium was torn down, and the heating plant stands where the gym used to be. One tunnel runs from the heating plant to Maine Hall, behind Winthrop Hall, to Massachusetts Hall, in front of Memorial Hall, and about half way to the Searles Science Building.

The other tunnel system begins by Moulton Union and runs between Appleton and Hyde Halls, in front of Hubbard, and turns at about a 45 degree angle toward the Walker Art Building. These tunnels are accessible through the manholes and the basements of Maine and Massachusetts Halls.

Pipes lining the tunnel system make it uncomfortable to enter. One member of the Class of 2007 said that he entered the tunnel and guesses that it was about 120 degrees inside. Another stated, "It's really, really hot down there. I wear glasses and when I climbed down the ladder my specs immediately fogged up."

On that note, another student suggests that these temperatures indicate danger within the tunnel.

"I've heard they're actually heating pipes that run back and forth across the quad and are large enough to walk through, but if you walk through at the wrong time, or get stuck, you'll get incinerated."

Two students who claim to have entered the tunnels said that the tubes were pretty dangerous.

One thought that the tunnels might contain asbestos. A junior explains, "I didn't stay down there for that long'20 minutes tops?because I didn't know if any gas or whatever was leaking from the pipes."

Students who have entered the system tell the Orient that the tunnels are about five feet tall and three feet wide. They have lights connected to the ceiling every few feet.

As far as the looks of the tunnels, students comments were varied. One sophomore who has been inside the tunnels explains that the most surprising aspect of the underground system is that the tunnels are "pretty roomy."

He described the tunnel as "very inviting" and says the lights were on when he entered. Another explains, "There are a lot of pipes of all different sizes with a lot of colored valves."

A junior responded to queries about the tunnel system with an interesting description via email:

"Steam tunnels. Entrances via basements of freshman dorms (except Moore). Entrances via manholes. Basement of Mass Hall. Long dark, corridors, dusty, and dank. Longfellow's ghost forbids trespassing unless poetic verse is uttered. All this came to me in a dream..."

Amidst the rumors, it's no wonder that many Bowdoin students are confused as to if the tunnels are real or just a legend.

As senior Sarah Oberg explains, "I've heard rumors, but I've never heard any details or seen any evidence to support them."

Director of Facilities Operation and Maintenance Ted Stam verifies their existence.

"There is a pretty lengthy network of tunnels that connect buildings and the heating plant," he said.

Stam went on to explain that the tunnels are used to transport mainly steam, telecommunications, and electricity, but are also sometimes used for compressed air and domestic water.

He refutes rumors of endangerment of incineration, as he points out that the steam is not even on right now. But even when it goes on, although the tunnels can get "real, real hot when you go down in're not going to get incinerated."

This reporter was able to enter one of the tunnels to investigate. Upon entering the system, a variety of pipes were visible.

The tunnels are well lit, about five feet, six inches tall, and three to four feet wide.

Climbing into the tunnels this time of year was fine, but is inadvisable, especially during winter months when the heating system is turned on. The pipes get extremely hot and are positioned so that a person could easily fall onto them, burning themselves.

According to Blier, the tunnels make fixing the pipes easier, but were expensive and as the college campus grew, were no longer practical to build.

So the tunnels do exist. And nothing torturous happens to those who enter?even without "poetic verse."