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The Sealed Labs of Pfahler

Pfahler Hall Night and Day

Equally beautiful in both the mid-autumn sunshine (left) and all lit up at dusk (right), Pfahler Hall is one of the science buildings on campus that has had quite a few rumors of unsolved mysteries - the sealed radioactivity labs being one of them.

Of all the buildings on campus, Pfahler Hall is one of the most well-known. With a tower that lights up like a rainbow at night, this structure houses the Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Chemistry, and Environmental classes and, during the unavoidably awful exam periods, is known by its nickname as ‘Failure Hall’. However, midterm and finals weeks aside, many people have a great deal of affection for the building – with its fun geological displays, ample supply of whiteboards, and friendly residents, Pfahler Hall is a very welcoming space. But as we discovered when first introducing concepts of varied perspectives regarding haunted locations, older buildings and basements tend to excite people’s imaginations and the unique viewpoints related to the Hall cause it to become a very interesting place when you’re out looking for ghostly memories. To put it in the words of the school’s newspaper The Grizzly, “Pfahler basement after hours? I wouldn’t want to be caught there alone”[1]. That sentiment is not uncommon, and with the early nights of autumn and the popularity of spine-tingling media on campuses (such as the hit show Stranger Things, which also features a creepy storyline and an area characterized by layers of mystery), it isn’t surprising that people feel somewhat unnerved by the science building’s basement. Adding to this unease is the legend of the sealed radioactivity labs that are housed underneath the main staircase – “There used to be labs down there, but you can’t get to them now, they’ve been closed off” is the passing comment that keeps curiosity about this location alive. Why were they sealed? What experiments took place there? How many people know they exist/existed? Why does only a single sentence preserve their memory? These were the questions that filled my mind after hearing about the labs, and as I dug into the history of the Pfahler Hall of Science and its relationship with radioactivity, I was able to catch sight of the layers of perspective that have gone into building the Ursinus campus into what it is today.

-L. Jarvis

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[1] Johnny Myers, “Something wicked this way comes,” The Grizzly (Ursinus College, PA), Oct. 26, 2017.

The Sealed Labs of Pfahler