Secret Tunnels Under Denver & Boulder

Gestural Eric Waldemar ink drawing. Child with huge shoes & hat.

This clumsy little scrawl fell out of my brush a long time ago, about 15 years before I actually had an actual little girl shuffling around the house in my big boots, sporting huge hats and dragging bulging carpetbags full of toys.


Father and Daughter, faces against a storm drain in an alley.Today the two of us spent about a half hour crouched next to an iron storm grate in a nearby alley, listening to dropped pebbles hit the bottom of the big tunnel beneath. We then chased the echoes down the tunnel with howls, hoots, and caw-caws, mouths pressed against the metal. Cities are full of secret holes. The grate was loose, and not that heavy. Maybe I’ll have to investigate one of these days, perhaps without Oonagh. There’s no ladder – anyone have a strong rope?

Then there was that time Tucker Gurney and I were creeping around the steam tunnels under the CU Boulder campus. Caught, held by the wrist while authorities were called, and then we suddenly twisted away and ran for it, chased by approaching police on foot and in cars. We rounded a corner fast and dove under a leaf pile. Did not twitch, breathe, or move a muscle as police searchlights probed the pile at length. Some of the officers on hand thought we were in there, but none was willing to suffer the indignity of stepping over and actually kicking the pile. They debated whether we were under the pile for several minutes, yards away, before moving on and giving up. Circa 1985.

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3 replies
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    I’m no expert on the CU tunnel system, and I don’t recall the names of all the buildings, but there’s a “quad” surrounded by dorms near Hallett Hall, where I lived as a freshman (c.1985). We lifted a grate not too far from the entrance to the dorm on the west side and set out underground from there on that particular evening. Beware of the fact that doors you find along the way WILL open, sometimes into inhabited spaces. We got caught (before our heroic escape) when we opened a door into a dormitory staff break room or some such thing, where the dorm’s “Resident Advisors” (athletic police trainees and ROTC) were gathered, ever-vigilant, and far more ready to grab us than we were to escape. Ingenuity and nerve eventually prevailed, though, and the good guys won, or at least got away. Secrets? Bring some chalk and make arrows or notes on the wall or floor. Sense of direction is lost pretty quickly after a few turns. Before opening the fateful door, we speculated on where we might be, and we weren’t even close. Thinking back, I bet the thugs on the other side of the door heard us talking and were curious before we ever turned the knob. I bet their side of the door was locked. Some suggest that one carry an electronic camera flash when engaged in such harmless but prohibited activities – If you close your eyes when you press the button, your pursuers are blinded for a few moments while you start running. I was never one to plan ahead that much, though. I’m curious to hear what you find. It’s not the kind of thing that changes that much over decades, and there must be dozens and dozens of ways in. Don’t call me from jail, but in any case you won’t be there for long, so send me a note when you get back home.

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