Secret Tunnels Lie Under Phillips Academy

Beneath Phillips Academy’s well-kempt grass lies an intricate system of steam pipes. Though most of these are blocked-off normal-sized pipelines, a few are much larger and more accessible, forming tunnels through which a person could walk underground. The known tunnels are located between Foxcroft and Bartlet Halls, between Pearson and Morse Halls, and between a baseball diamond and Rafferty Field, as well as an above-ground passage in Samuel Phillips Hall. The administration has removed several tunnels for safety reasons and forbidden students to use the others. The tunnels are very dangerous, with high voltage lines and temperatures averaging 240 degrees Fahrenheit. In the past, the Academy permitted students with adult supervisors to pass through the tunnel between Pearson and Morse Halls and through the tunnel by Rafferty field. Though students could once access the tunnels, they were originally intended for the utilitarian roles they fulfill today. The only tunnel still in use is the path between Morse and Pearson Halls. OPP staff can pass through the tunnel to perform various maintenance tasks. This passage lacks significant steam lines and therefore is safer than the others. The external entrance to this tunnel is located in the basement of Pearson, which can be accessed from the cellar doors on the side of the building. The actual pathway is extremely short. Alexandra Rahman ’08, who is researching a book on the secret history of Phillips Academy, said that students used this tunnel as a shooting range in the mid-nineteenth century. The least practical tunnel is the passageway between Foxcroft and Bartlet. This tunnel is now impossible to access and would not be useful even if one could gain access to it. Before the Academy moved it to the center of the Great Lawn, the Armillary Sphere was located across from Samuel Phillips Hall and directly between the two dorms. As a result, the tunnels underneath the dorms gradually narrow to a point beneath the original location of the Armillary Sphere where it is impassable. The tunnel along the athletic fields is the oldest of the four remaining passages, though there are no exact dates for their construction. The Academy prohibited human use of this tunnel in1995, as it could collapse at any moment. However, water still drains through the tunnel, flowing out by Watson Road. The tunnel by the athletic fields also used to be employed as a practice area for Search and Rescue classes. Instructor in French Henry Wilmer remembered leading his Search and Rescue groups through the cramped passage, saying, “You could barely crawl through, it was so small…[it was] really exciting. We used to send one group down the Rafferty side, and another down by the baseball diamond without telling them….They would meet up in the middle.” Samuel Phillips Hall also once had a secret passage of its own. The tunnel used to be the only way to reach the clock at the top of Sam Phil. On the third floor of Sam Phil, there used to be a pull-down ladder in the ceiling that led to a vent. After crawling through the vent into a small tunnel, there was a wooden staircase up to the clock. This path, however, has been completely blocked off as the boards are rotting and extremely dangerous. “Students and others have a tendency to be inquisitive [about the tunnels] and this is definitely not a place to be inquisitive,” said Director of the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) Michael Williams.