Students want to know: Are there tunnels beneath Chatham’s Shadyside campus?


An old photograph on a postcard depicts Mellon Hall. Photo Credit: Chatham University Archives

Madalena Filosemi

One of Chatham University’s most distinguishable assets is its historical Shadyside campus, consisting of Victorian-style buildings that give students an air of “familiarity, a level of comfort and inexplicable warmth,” said Samantha Whitman, a former student who left the University in 2019.

Since being chartered as Pennsylvania’s Female College in 1869, there have been countless documents, such as architectural drawings, that provide students with more insight to the inner workings and layout of Chatham’s unique structure.  

With this rich history, there is a collective curiosity of the unknown realms of the campus that fail to be shown in photographs or sketches. 

Kiserian Spence ‘22 said when he was a first-year student, he overheard other students speaking about hidden underground tunnels connecting the Mellon Center to other surrounding buildings. 

“At first I thought they were just rumors, but after a buildup of multiple people insisting that there were mysterious pathways to other parts of the campus, I had to see for myself,” Spence said.

On a late night in March 2019, Spence and four friends gathered to inspect different areas of the Mellon Center, starting on the first level and working their way down to the back of the boardroom. 

“We initially didn’t stumble upon anything of interest, but once we searched around the Mellon boardroom, we noticed what looked to be an open maintenance closet with a covered, locked door behind it,” Spence said. 

Although Spence and his friends did not venture any further, he said that he had a “strange feeling that there was more behind that door” than those working at Chatham wanted to let on. 

With the lack of any written or physical evidence of the tunnels being present at the time of his excursion, Spence abandoned his search.

However, Chatham’s archive specialist, Molly Tighe, has recently discovered a pamphlet dated back to 1983 that supports these students’ theory.

The document reads that, in 1941, “Other family employees lived on the second floor of the Carriage House. A tunnel connected the house with the garage.” 

So, at one point, there were tunnels on campus. Maybe there are still tunnels beneath the campus today. 

If they do still exist, they have likely been sealed off to keep out any adventurous souls seeking answers to this spooky rumor-turned-fact. It’s possible that no one has entered them in decades. 

The tunnels hold the secrets of who passed secretly under this campus, preserved in time far below the modern-day buildings and advances. Their secrets may never be known, but what lies beneath the campus in those tunnels will remain part of the lore of Chatham.