Vol. 4, Issue 7, December 5, 2006
Colossal Cave Adventure Proves Hazardous to MIT Students' Health
Public frustration is mounting at M.I.T. as a fifth victim in as many days has apparently fallen victim to an attack by an unknown nocturnal predator in the steam tunnels.
The creature, dubbed "grue" by the media for the gruesome nature of its slaying, apparently shuns the light and has only been briefly spotted in security cameras on and around the MIT campus.
MIT students have long ventured into the largely disused network of steam tunnels which extend beneath the campus grounds and beyond, despite warnings from campus police.
"It's a great place to hang out," said Tim Anderson, an MIT computer science major. "It's like this underground empire, hidden out of reach from the pressures and rigid controls of campus life. Sometimes you just need to go somewhere to escape, you know?" Freshmen often learn of the tunnels from leaflets left anonymously in their mailboxes by older students.
Curiously, while students normally carry flashlights into the tunnels (there are even caches of extra lights scattered at various entrances) all of the victims had apparently discarded their lights before being attacked.
"We can only speculate as to why otherwise intelligent students would put down their light while walking around in a pitch-black, underground network of tunnels," said Detective Mark Blank, of the Cambridge Police Dept. "Maybe they saw something else they wanted to carry and needed both hands free. But it is hard to imagine what would be more important in a tunnel than a light. It's not as though people are going to find a pot of gold down there, as far as we know."
Persistent rumors of valuable objects secreted in the tunnels, however, prompt many adventurous students to risk both academic probation and physical peril.
"Our principal concern has always been the safety of the students," said MIT Dean of Academic Advising Bruce Daniels. "Of course, we're none too happy when someone monkeys with the flood control valves down there - dam #3 is particularly tricky. But not many kids get that far."
The university has responded by boarding up the house nearest the steam tunnel entrance, a student residence dubbed the "white house", and distributing free, novelty brass lanterns to all students with a reminder to "stay safe, keep the lights on."
However, despite the best efforts of officials, the mysterious distribution of the leaflets inciting students to try the maze continues.
"Imagine: you're standing in an open field west of a white house," said Blank. "There is a small mailbox here. Opening the mailbox reveals a leaflet. What are you gonna do?"