Tomorrow is Halloween, and what this town needs is a good ghost story to get it in the mood. What follows is a tale of the darker side of UCSB, one of our community’s own little urban legends.
The story takes place during the ’60s, soon after the UCen was constructed. During that time, the janitors used harsh chemicals to clean most of the bathrooms’ surfaces and a great deal of this corrosive material found its way down the drains into the pipes just below the fledgling building. This repeated dumping quickly took its toll on the foundation, eroding most of the plumbing as well as much of the building’s support.
It was found that the new structure would not be sound for much longer and that action needed to be taken to ensure that it did not collapse so soon after it was built. The problem that the builders faced, however, was that the passageways created by the chemicals were too small to fit a normal-size human and digging underneath the UCen would only further diminish its integrity.
The solution the builders came up with was to employ midgets to enter the narrow passageways and create makeshift supports while at the same time widening the area for the larger construction that would take place. The plan ultimately called for the passageways to be transformed into an underground service tunnel.
Construction commenced and all went well for the first phase of the project. The little laborers were slow but efficient in their work. Small shafts were constructed in the UCen to afford them easy access to the work sites below ground. Unbeknownst to them, however, the builders planned to terminate their contract early, when the passageways became safe enough for men of normal size who would work for much cheaper.
Just as the tunnels were wide enough, one of the workers overheard the builders’ plans to lay them off. The worker returned to the others in the tunnels and told them of the builders’ plans. They quickly organized a sit-in, refusing to leave the work site until the builders vowed to hold true to the contract.
The sit-in went on for days and finally the builders capitulated to the workers’ demands. As they were leaving the tunnels, one of the supports came loose, burying three of them alive. They could be heard shouting for help beneath the rubble, but by the time the rescue crews reached them, they were dead. When the three lifeless bodies were pulled from the tunnel, it was found that one had been crushed while the other two suffocated.
Work resumed shortly afterward and the new, permanent supports were finished in no time along with the new service tunnel. The workers said they tried to finish it as fast as possible due to strange occurrences on the job site, most notable were the strange scratching noises coming from in the walls.
The construction finished, the crews cleaned up and life returned to normal at the UCen. No further work was done until the remodeling in 1995, and then the tunnels down to the original work sites were closed off and converted into storage spaces. You can still see one of these diminutive doorways by the elevator next to the Bookstore.
And that’s the story. Some people say that late at night in the UCen they hear things, creaks and groans and the occasional scratching sound. Most will dismiss it as the building settling, but some would say it’s the ghosts of the dead workers, trapped in the walls, trying to find a way out.
Hokey ghost story? Possibly. True? Who knows? However, there is a service tunnel that was built after the UCen’s construction in the ’60s, and just what are those little doors for? But hey, regardless, it’s Halloween. Have a good one.
Stephen King he ain’t, but you can find Daily Nexus columnist Steven Ruszczycky here on the Opinion page every Tuesday.