Keele University – Man, Myths & Monsters.
There are many legends surrounding Keele University in the county of Staffordshire, whether or not there is any truth too them I cannot say for sure, however all that I am doing is compiling the stories and reproducing them here, allowing you to draw your own conclusions. It has been claimed that the famous or infamous Occultist Aleister Crowley visited Keele Hall in the early part of the twentieth century at the request of the owner of the hall Ralph Sneyd. It is claimed that Crowley was attracted to the strong Ley lines
that are said to cross the grounds of the hall and also the tunnel which can also be found in the grounds. It is said that he created by magical means a creature known as an Egregore to guard this area which he deemed special.” An Egregore has developed to the point of attaining an independent existence as an entity itself or as an intentionally created entity, To a non-religious practitioner of magic, an Egregore and a god, or goddess, would be interchangeable terms. To a religious practitioner, an Egregore would be just below the level of a god or goddess”. This story may have some bearing on the claim that there are satanic symbols carved on some trees in the grounds of the hall, did Crowley carve these? Do these symbols have some sort of connection to this Egregore which he is said to have created? Although I have mentioned the tunnel which entrance can be found in the grounds of the hall, there are claimed to be many tunnels which run under the hall and surrounding campus buildings. I came across this information on a forum and have reproduced it here, it is as follows:
This regulation was rescinded during our period at Keele and so for many years afterwards moulding gowns would be found stuffed in odd cupboards, under stairs, or left in the little known warren of service tunnels which run under various parts of the campus. These facilitated unauthorised access up through the floor of many kitchens in halls. Those, of course, were the legendary days when women were not allowed in men’s Halls, and vice versa, after about 7pm in the evening. Quaint wasn’t it! such as a servitor, that has grown in power well beyond its original design.
Most later alumni will not know that we had to wear gowns for all lectures, in the library, and for formal interviews. Indeed we would not be allowed into lectures or the library unless so adorned.
It tended to mean that after “curfew”, when Bobby Rayne (Warden) patrolled with his little dog, people stayed where they were until breakfast the following morning, hence producing the usual consequence of prohibition; over indulgence.
Do any later alumni know of, or have used, these tunnels? They were large underground service ducts with heavily insulated (no doubt asbestos) hot water pipes running along one wall which supplied heat to the halls. A photograph I took down there, featuring Dave Williams, was published in “Cygnet” in the early sixties. Does “Cygnet” still exist? Probably not.
UG 1959-63 PG 1963-64 until I moved to Dundee with Prof. D.S. Jones.
On the subject of the Keele tunnels – they definitely exist. Some of my mates crowbarred a manhole cover up just by Horwood bar and went down there. Came up somewhere near the library.
More Tales of the tunnels (from the Keele Message Board)
I believe there’s a network of tunnels under Horwood/Keele Hall and probably elsewhere. In the late eighties, I had a Union collegue who lived in one of the wardens houses (for some reason). She awoke one evening to confront two blokes who’d got in through a hatch in the floor of the house. They’d got there thru tunnels. She was a rather an imposing figure and they scarpered before she could do them any damage. She reckoned they were probably trying to raid the tills in horwood refec, only to lose their way. Well it had to be the cash they were after, couldn’t have been the food could it….
The tunnels do (did?) exist. I was a student (1960-64) and lived in F Block (Horwood – near the rear of the Union building) for 3 years. 3 of us decided to explore them, so one evening we lifted the hatch, which was near the kitchen door, and dropped down. We were armed with torches and a piece of chalk (to mark our return journey). The tunnels were quite large and carried hot water from the nearby boilerhouse to the Men’s and Women’s Halls. After a while we decided to find a way out; we lifted a hatch, climbed up, and found ourselves in a Woman’s Hall – I think it may have been L Block. It was well after the 7.30pm curfew! We made our peace, and headed home. When we climbed out we were filthy (dust, cobwebs and much else!), and decided that this was not the way in for a romantic tryst after curfew!
I remember the tunnels well. I lived in F Block for 3 years (1961-1964) – this had access to the tunnels. I vividly recall 3 of us giving way to temptation, and deciding to go exploring. There was access to the tunnels near the kitchen in F Block; and, one night, we donned tracksuits and entered the tunnels – armed with torches and some chalk (to mark the route home). The tunnels were quite large and carried hot water pipes from the boiler house nearby. We eventually spotted an accessible exit; opened it; and climbed out. Only to find ourselves in a women’s Block – well after the 7.30 curfew! We exchanged pleasanties with some bemused residents, crawled back in to the tunnels and made our way home. When we emerged, we saw that we were covered in dust, cobwebs, etc., and made a bee-line for the showers!
We’d found a way into the women’ quarters; but realizes that those with amorous intentions had better not use the tunnels because of the muck down there!
We did not venture down again! But. . . happy days!
(Tudor Jones Keele Student 1960-64)
I remember you used to be able to buy a little leaflet from the union shop which briefly mentioned them – I never bought one, but my friend Scott Corrigan did. He told me he knew where they were. They ran from the KRA – which used to be located in the basement of Keele Hall and right under the bank and laundry (now a diner type thingy i believe). If you ever manage to find him I’d ask him.
The legendary tunnels do exist! I only wandered down into them once in my first year (1992). They’re basically just service tunnels throughout Horwood with the pipes, cables etc. Very dirty, very dark! We went wandering from N Block during the night (entrance was a manhole-type cover in the cleaner’s cupboard). Hoped to get into the Last Resort bar for a few free beers but ended up in S Block next door. Would’ve been bloody quicker and cleaner just to have walked outside. As for the tunnel from Keele Hall to the village, rumour has it that it was created either when the hall was first built or around the time of the Templars and some history graduates at Keele swear blind it exists. I’m not so sure – it doesn’t make any sense. Oh, by the way, don’t bother trying to find out about it in the library – believe me the books on Keele fail to mention the tunnel, Keele’s most famous resident (Aleister Crowley), the satanic ritual carvings on the trees in the woods and the murdered woman found dumped in the pump house in the 70s
From what I recollect from discussions with various golden oldies, there were indeed and probably still are “tunnels”. Apparently they were service access to reach plumbing and pipes underground. They were always dirty and unpleasant and very narrow, obstructed by the pipes and their fittings – nothing like the ones you see in Science Fiction films!
John Easom ( international alumni officer )
As webmaster of this website I get a lot of questions about the tunnels. So I decided to ask Dr Chris Harrison (Keele History Dept and local history expert) about the tunnels and he said:
“The auditorium, located at the back of the library, was constructed by Ralph
Sneyd (the re-builder of Keele Hall) as a Gothic folly in the mid-C19.
The tunnels were and in some cases still are the means by which “district
heating”, produced in the Chemistry Boilerhouse and the Horwood Boilerhouse,
was conveyed to Keele Hall, the Library, the science buildings and Horwood
It was possible to get into the tunnels then penetrate the science buildings
and library at night undiscovered.”
Incidentally, earlier whilst exploring the tunnels in the Horwood site we found that we could get under the floor of Robert Rayne’s house. If we gently tapped on the underside of his floor his dog would go berserk being much more sensitive to vibrations than Robert who was oblivious of the cause!” Peter Worsley (1962)
There is network of tunnels beneath the gardens of Keele Hall. It was originally constructed as a hideout when the Royal Family had a brief stay at the Hall (Bolshevist activity being a big fear at the time.)
It was expanded and reused during WWII, when the area was used an army camp for foreign soldiers (Free French, Polish etc.) and the Hall was used to house code-breaking staff and machines. Incidentally, if a student is caught in or trying to get in the tunnels, it means instant expulsion.
There is supposedly a ghost in Keele Hall – frequenting the areas of the Philosophy and English Departments – of a lady with no hands. It’s apparently a Lady Sneyd, whose husband disapproved of her vanity and cut off her hands to stop her preening herself. unsurprisingly, it worked – she bled to death.
One of the urban myths which never seems to die out is that the library building at the University is sinking due to the weight of books that it contains, I did think that there may have been a grain of truth to this story as there had at one time been extensive coal mining in the area and this rather than the weight of books may have caused subsidence. However I did come across the following information which does seem to disprove the myth:” The Library follows no particular style of architecture, but was designed to fit in with the overall style of the campus. The height was limited by the need for anti-subsidence measures, which also included special foundation work and slip-joints in certain areas. So there is no truth in the old chestnut that the ‘Library is sinking!”
One urban myth that is definitely true is the Levitation experiment which took place in the 1970s and is as follows: On 28th October 1970 about 300 students carried out a bizarre protest at the Clock House. They surrounded and attempted to levitate the building 300 feet into the air by psychic power and the force of their “spiritual unity”. In those heady days some averred that they managed to raise the building “about six feet, give or take six feet.”
I’m not sure how true they are but another couple of myths are as follows: Chancellors building is built in 3 different sections because it’s built over mines and the theory was that if the ground was to give way then only part of the building would fall down which would save money, oh and lives too!
Keele became a state in the 1980s. Keele students sent of a letter of state recognition to every nation in the world, it got one response, from Cuba. This one response meant that Keele University became its own seperate state away from the UK, literally within the borders of Keele Uni was a completely seperate country…This lasted all of 3 days until HM Army invaded Keele University and conquered the state to get it back into the UK. Apparently there were APCs rolling up and down the union road (going past the library!)