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A Final Frontier

September 5, 2011

My brother Jim and his wife Darcy are visiting St. Louis for Labor Day; their last visit was almost two years ago when we all spent the entire week of Thanksgiving cleaning up BAB and preparing for our open house party. THIS visit was not for labor and instead all for fun, but a few days before they arrived I asked if maybe they’d be up for a little adventure and could pack accordingly.

There was one last unexplored territory in BAB and I figured at least Jim would be up for exploring… the TUNNEL!

Entrance to... ???

The tunnel is accessed through a short door in a brick wall in a dank damp room in the basement. A while ago, my friend Kyle, on touring the basement scouting out how he could best set up a haunted house at BAB, said: “Short doors always lead to evil places…”

Tunnel recon has been a low priority task with no objective other than an exploratory mission, but this weekend seemed like the right time.

Here’s what the tunnel looked like from standing within the door frame:

Path to darkness

Not being fools – with all the visible mold, lots of air-borne dust, and who knows what, we donned lots of protective gear from head to toe.

Tyvek twins

A final pose before we head out for underground adventure.

The fools are ready

There were hoses and holes and pipes and boxes and rotting wood at the entrance. We had to move a bunch of crap aside before we could start crawling inside. Sue & Darcy then tossed us the camera and said they were leaving to go get some lunch. One last pause before committing to the route.

There they go

We have been conjecturing for a long time what might be hidden at the end of the tunnel. Dead things? Suitcase of money? Maybe there was NOTHING around the corner. (According to the 1928 blueprints, the tunnel turns the corner at the back of the building.) We needed to see what’s down there not only because of simple human curiosity, but a future construction phase involving building a drive-in garage will require us to fill in part of the tunnel to support a slab of concrete that will slope to the alley. So this adventure wasn’t all just for foolish fun.

Two steps into the tunnel and we had to crouch to our knees. The ground was soft and puffy – it looked very light as though it was just recently finely sifted. Everything seemed surprisingly dry.

The soil was dry and puffy

There was lots of evidence of others having been here before us. The metal can in the last photo with a home-made handle was pretty nifty, and I thought it might be cool to use, but as soon as I lifted it, the rusty bottom stayed behind. Rats.
And there were lots of broken light bulbs. We looked up over our heads and there were empty sockets along the concrete slab above. But why all the broken bulbs around us? Past custodians (or tunnel adventurists) too lazy too carry them out? (Isn’t there some horror movie where the alien/serial killer walks along a dimly lit corridor smashing all the light bulbs so his victims won’t see him?)

About two-thirds of the way down, some bizarre black thing crawled into view. Wait – we crawled, it stayed still. It first reminded me of some kind of multi-legged sea creature like a starfish, or a weird flattened sea urchin.

What the heck? weird black thing?

A few crawls closer, and it was clear that this was a pile of blobs or drips or slings of black tarry substance from some place higher. I looked up, and the answer was there – someone years and years ago had pumped a sealant or adhesive around a pipe through the floor above, without first stuffing in something to hold the goo in place.

Black goo frozen in time.

We made it around the corner, and it looked pretty much like the rest of tunnel we’d been in. More pipes, lots of dusty silty ground, and an uninteresting brick wall at the end. There was something sticking out of the ground halfway down, I wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe some of you can figure it out…

The final leg of the tunnel... maybe something but no money...

We were starting to get sweaty in our tyvek suits so I turned to Jim and shrugged for his opinion. He looked at me and muffled through his respirator: “Leave it… Let’s go…”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric permalink
    September 6, 2011 10:04 am

    “There was something sticking out of the ground halfway down, I wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe some of you can figure it out… ”

    You’re refering to the abandoned sewer line sticking up through the dirt just to the left passed the skeleton, right?

    • Tom permalink
      September 6, 2011 10:13 am

      I think there was some square rebar…

  2. Stephen Scurletis permalink
    September 6, 2011 10:01 am

    “There was something sticking out of the ground halfway down, I wasn’t sure what it was. Maybe some of you can figure it out… ”

    Looks like a skeleton to me. Looking through old Post-Dispatch microfilm, a news story reports of an operator who dissapeared in the 1930’s and was never seen again…….
    Stephen ;{)}

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