When I proposed this article, I was jokingly thinking about all the times I walked back from work after 9PM and found myself alone in a dark hallway or two. The stale cold breeze, the ominous hum of machines and the sense of complete isolation that takes over with every turn you take. Why go to Halloween Horror Nights when we have a UCLA version right here on South Campus? The terrors that await you here might be a construct of your own imagination, but that is precisely what makes them the worst — you will never see the hallways the same way again once the fear creeps up on you, setting your imagination wild.
As an Astrophysics major, my life usually revolves around Boelter Hall, the Mathematical Sciences Building and the Physics and Astronomy Building, so I asked for more suggestions on my Instagram. While some responses reflected my personal list, others left me horrified — from buildings housing cadavers and ghosts of janitors past to doors that caution against toxic fumes and classified work; who knew we had so many mysteries haunting the area around the Court of Sciences? After much thought, I decided that I was too faint-hearted to venture into any of the Medical or Psychology buildings (no cadavers or scratches on the walls in my nightmares, please) and curated my list to explore the dungeons of the Physical Sciences buildings.
Here’s what I found on my ghost-hunting two-hour expedition on a Thursday night at 9PM, accompanied by my friend Vikram (I have a broken foot and need a fellow faint-hearted friend to suffer with me):
3. Signs of Humanity and The Hum of Machines: Geology Building, Young Hall and Knudsen Hall
After no human contact since we stepped foot inside the Geology Building, one of the most striking visuals in our expedition was when we encountered the odd dead end pictured above on one of the top floors. The lone chair in the open air within this closed-off space surrounded by brick and metal reminded us that the Age of Machines was upon us and humanity was probably long-extinct. If there were to be any signs of human life, it was this chair and the spirits of the people who once sat on it to escape their work.
Dead ends like this and surprising turns are a feature of the Geology Building, but we were able to make our way through to Young Hall through the basement halls, only to get lost among more machines.
Most doors are locked with passcodes, hiding secrets we will probably never know. Maybe there are creatures never seen before. The basement in Young Hall smelt like oil, chemicals and danger, so we quickly made our way over to Knudsen Hall to shake off the feeling that we were trespassing on biochemical research and making ourselves targets for the horrors yet to be unleashed.
Knudsen Hall was familiar to me and Vikram, with all its physics labs, as we are both students in the Physics and Astronomy Department. Most floors have door signs cautioning against lasers and high-energy equipment, with unfazed graduate students still working at nighttime, so the spook factor was relatively low despite the broken roof panels and dim lighting. Our illusion of safety (if possible when surrounded by high-tech experiments) was short-lived as we unearthed routes in the basement we both couldn’t dare investigate.
Where does this even go? Maybe I will feel brave enough to abandon humanity and embrace the metal after a Physics midterm. For now, the roar of machines was enough to alarm us into backtracking and moving on to the next target on our list.
2. Unlocking the Gates of Hell: Molecular Sciences Building
An unplanned location we stumbled upon in our hunt was the Molecular Sciences Building, and it quickly became apparent that it was a solid runner-up to hold the title of the ‘Most Haunted South Campus Hall.’ Endless, empty gray corridors with eerie yellow lighting and complete silence greeted us as we lost our sense of direction with no reception on our phones.
If anyone would like to argue that maze-like, dimly-lit halls are a feature that can be found in some of the other halls, and there is nothing off from the usual spook about the Molecular Sciences Building, let me show you the real sinister stuff. The Gates of Hell, right here, just one flight of stairs away from the end of a hallway:
I contemplated going downstairs (the gate was unlocked; perhaps the demons were calling me?), but Vikram convinced me against it. There is a chill in the air around this specific staircase and the silence is a constant reminder that if you are alone, there is a high probability that no one will find you there. Even going up the stairs is an invitation to dinner with phantoms. Brrr… I get goosebumps when thinking about the 10 minutes we spent there. I’m so glad we could discover an exit.
1. NO ESCAPE: BOELTER HALL
Was there even competition? Boelter Hall, with its labyrinth of gloomy, mystifying hallways extending to the web of corridors in the Mathematical Sciences Building and all the desolated Engineering Buildings, takes the top spot for being the most haunted of them all. This article starts at Boelter and ends at Boelter. Put a freshman in here and watch disaster unfold; trust me, there is no escape. Even seniors in engineering find themselves discovering a new hallway occasionally; no one is immune. If your explorer instincts kick in and you think moving towards the sound of nature is the best approach, think again because you might end up getting locked out here:
The middle floors lead everywhere and nowhere and the bottom floors are all metal and machines — Boelter is the perfect setting for all your worst nightmares and I speak from experience because they haunt me even when I am not there. Some argue that the Boelter roof is a getaway from the claustrophobic indoors, but take the wrong elevator and you’ll end up somewhere you are probably not meant to be. And yes, you will find more machines. They seem to follow you no matter where you go on South Campus.
Luckily, I work at Boelter and spend significant time on the Mathematical Sciences roof, so I know an escape route or two, before the Boelter Ghost can get you. Yes, that exists. Take a peek at the polaroids we have of it hanging out at the Science & Engineering Library on the eighth floor. It especially likes to lurk near the sneakiest machines.
After countless stairs and elevators, getting lost with no GPS to lead the way, and lots of suspicious-looking machines to keep us company, here is our advice, as adventurers who made it out alive at 11PM. If you’re one of the unfortunate few who find themselves wandering these halls as the hours inch closer to midnight:
And for some reason, if you do have to enter (with or without valid cause), hope the ghosts help you find an exit! So, those were some haunted halls on South Campus. Hope you enjoy a spooky season!