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Urban Legends

Campus myths: fact or fiction?A&M officials shed light on the facts behind four tall tales

Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07

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Package by Heather Dennis, Brandi Dunn and Zack Sweeten

Taking birth somewhere within the deep confines of the human mind, the urban legend transcends generations, subsequently becoming accepted as truth. Across the Texas A&M campus, five prevalent urban legends have been identified, and below, A&M officials help to shed light on the facts behind these local myths.

Scarier than any test

Adrian Martinez, a sophomore psychology major, has heard a story of a ghost that haunts the Animal Industries building on campus. Martinez explained that in its early days, the building was more of a slaughterhouse. Housed in the basement of the building was a meat-cutting laboratory of which Roy Simms was manager. Cutting his last piece of meat for the day, Simms had unfortunately forgotten to wear his meat apron. A wrong cut with his butcher knife severed the femoral artery in his thigh, causing him to bleed to death. Being an old building, the elevator took a long time to lower to the basement, delaying any help that Simms could have received. Today, the ghost of Simms is said to haunt the building at night.

"If the elevator is not left down there at the end of the day, everything gets trashed," Martinez said.

Mary Cruz, a custodian for the building, said she and her co-worker get there every morning at 4 a.m. and that they have never seen anything.

Dead man's curve

Everyone seems to have heard of an unwritten rule that states if a roommate or a family member were to die, the other roommates or family members studying at A&M would be given straight As in all their courses that semester.

"Well, it's definitely a myth," said Betty Milburn, associate director of counseling at the Student Counseling Services.

She said there is no extra compensation given to those impacted by the loss of their near and dear ones. At the most, she said professors may have compassion for the student and extend deadlines for projects and quizzes, but she completely negates the legend that students would get a 4.0 because of such a tragedy.

Milburn said students must have felt that to counter balance something so negative, a positive event must occur and that they manifested this hope in the form of good grades. She said the University has a lot of compassion for those people who are in distress and those who have suffered a personal tragedy, but giving straight As is improbable.

Banking on buses

Arthur Gould, a freshman biology major, said he heard that if someone were to get hit by an A&M shuttle bus, then his tuition fees for the entire year would be paid.

When approached for an answer to this transportation-fueled urban legend, Rodney Weis, director of Texas A&M Transportation Services, said, "(I've) never heard of anything like that before." He clarified that A&M Transportation Services had no such policies and that such a claim would not stand ground from an administrative viewpoint as well. As to how they would deal with an accident involving a student and A&M shuttle services, he responded by saying that it would follow the same path any other insurance claim would.

Steamed

No other legend has fueled as much mystique and suspense as those that surround the steam tunnels. A legend states that the steam tunnels are home to secret and covert activity and that anyone entering these tunnels would be expelled from the University. The legend further adds that during the Old Army days of A&M, there used to be a gun assigned to each student.

Col. Rick Mallahan, assistant commandant for discipline, said all that the steam tunnels contain are boilers and pipes to produce and carry steam for buildings. These pipes are quite fragile, and anyone tampering with these could have serious injuries.

"These tunnels have gates and locks with a lot of alarm systems as a precautionary measure," said Mallahan.

He said that these are out of bounds for students because it is a potential hazard to them and the University wants the students to be safe.

He said that if anyone were to illegally access these steam tunnels, they would set off the alarm systems, inviting a quick response from the University Police Department. Depending on the severity of the incident and motive, those who try to enter the tunnels could be punished.

Regarding the legend that the steam tunnels beneath the Trigon contain a stash of ammunition, Mallahan said it all was too much of an exaggeration.

He said that beneath the Trigon, ammunition is stored in the form of rifles and bullets but that these are strictly for ROTC training. About 100 of them are stored in a heavily fortified vault with a big padlock, and a number of alarm systems are installed to guard them. In fact, the vault conforms to the U.S. Army ammunition storage regulations. Mallahan said these bullets do not have pins on them and that if anyone were to gain access, they would not be able to use them.

"The pins are not commercially available in Wal-Mart," he said.

With only about two Army personnel having access to this storage facility, it's about as secure as it could get. In fact, a large sign warns unauthorized users to keep off the restricted area, but there are no guns stored within the steam tunnels, Mallahan said. Mallahan said the steam tunnels are used for just what they sound like: carrying steam.

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