A ‘dark mystery’ discovered in Norris

TVA stumbles on ‘creepy’ old tunnel on site of old lab

  • This view shot by a drone deep inside the hidden tunnel under the Norris TVA lab site shows a stairway that apparently originally led to the interior of the building overhead.

  • This is the recently discovered entrance to a mysterious tunnel under a building at the TVA Engineering Laboratories in Norris, taken from a video shot by a remote-contolled aerial drone.

No spooks, but creepy nonetheless, TVA says about an abandoned tunnel found recently at the site of the federal utility’s Norris Engineering Laboratories.

Researchers found the entrance to the tunnel during recent excavation for renovation and consolidation work at the facilities, and TVA reckons that the tunnel’s access had been buried for several decades – completely unknown to anyone currently working at the site.

In a news release titled, “Creepy Tunnel at Norris,” TVA said last week:

“Just in time for Halloween, researchers at Norris have uncovered a spooky tunnel replete with spider webs, dark corners and mice.”

The agency said it has found “no records or indication of [the tunnel’s] existence until now,” adding that “the tunnel measures 40 feet long and 10 feet wide, and is complete with spider webs, mice and dark creepy corners.”

TVA posted a video tour of the tunnel made by a drone, because “Access to the tunnel is currently prohibited due to environmental, health and safety concerns.”

“… However, through a collaborative effort with TVA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems program, we [were] able to explore the interior,” said Cindy Light, Norris Consolidation Project manager. “This drone footage is the first time anyone’s seen the inside of the tunnel since it was closed up, likely 30 to 40 years ago, if not more.”

The agency speculated about the tunnel’s origins:

“What adds to the allure is the mysterious purpose of this bygone catacomb,” the release said. “Was it associated with the historic Norris kiln? Was it utilized as a bomb shelter during Cold War-era relations? Or perhaps it was simply a passageway to the old refractory building, which was constructed in the 1950s.”

TVA said it plans to “investigate [the tunnel’s] purpose” and document plans for it “through consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office. But for now, excavation activities near the tunnel have been paused until a determination can be made on how to proceed.”

“When working in legacy space, especially a historic R&D site, there is always an element of the unknown,” Light said. “Discovery poses a real challenge to the project’s budget and schedule, but it’s also really interesting to be a part of as we are literally uncovering history while working to preserve it at the same time.”

See the full drone video tour of the Norris tunnel at tva.com/newsroom/articles/creepy-tunnel-at-norris.