Formerly the English building until 1995 when that department moved into the new Lansdale Language Center, this worn   building now serves students in police sciences, pre-law, corrections, and social services. Although superficially renovated after the English department moved out, this somewhat dreary two-storey building still reflects its long use dating back to 1962.

Although the building offers a number of classrooms and faculty offices, the most notable feature of the Criminal Justice Center is a working courtroom used for misdemeanor cases. When the court first opened in 1995 it saw cases for felonies as well but the practice was halted in 1999 when suspected murderer Jeremy Bell managed to take hostage a student court secretary. After a five hour standoff in which Bell and hostage Nicole Allen were barricaded alone in the courtroom, deputies risked storming the room to find Bell dead and his hostage comatose. Although Nicole Allen eventually recovered and finished her degree, she claims amnesia of the event due to traumatic stress.

Although the building offers an elevator to the upper floor, most faculty and students prefer to take the flight of stairs located near the front entrance. Maybe it’s due to the relatively cramped size, the peeling paint, or the series of groans and rattles each time the elevator creaks from one floor to the next, but many people claim to get an unsettling feeling from the time the elevator doors close to the time they open again. Particularly imaginative English majors used to claim that the groans and rattles didn’t come from stressed metal but something wanting in as the car passed through spaces more metaphysical than what could be described between floors. The practical Criminal Justice majors that followed scoff at the idea as drug-fueled hallucinations from hippy English majors. Still, few use the elevator.

 

This five-story brick building built in 1949 was named after a Russian scientist who defected to the US and made the college his home. Although Dr. Abrimov’s defection to Pinebox was celebrated at the time, within five years he had created a reputation for a level of belligerence that matched his astronomical intelligence. Even his colleagues joked that perhaps he hadn’t defected but rather foisted upon the US. The scientist’s laboratory was moved from the top floor to the second basement, where he continued his research until his death–officially ruled a lab accident–in 1961.

The somewhat grungy and ill-lit lecture halls in the Abrimov Sciences building still service undergraduate classes in Chemistry and Biology. Although the learning labs were renovated in the 1980s, the facilities barely meet modern safety requirements. By contrast the two basement levels were completely renovated in 2004 thanks to a Homeland Security grant. Today researchers look for ways to rapidly react to potential bio-terrorism vectors. Although ETU administrators insist that nothing harmful is kept in the basement levels, only faculty researchers and trusted graduate students are allowed on those floors.

As part of ongoing efforts to change the university’s image as a party school, in 1994 former President Patterson authorized the creation of a university-sponsored daycare for children of faculty, staff, and adult students. The daycare, named Tiny Wings, opened two years later on the ground floor of the Education building. The daycare was staffed by full-time, licensed caregivers as well as part-time Education students seeking hands-on experience.

From the very beginning, Tiny Wings eschewed typical babysitting and instead emphasized educational curricula. Toddlers were taught rudimentary sign language before they even learned to speak, jump-starting their communication skills. From that early foundation, Education researchers gained valuable insight into learning development by trying a variety of teaching techniques and subject matter on older toddlers.

Within two years, Tiny Wings had earned a reputation as the best daycare in town; a nurturing place for happy, smart children. Unfortunately, their stellar reputation led to a long waiting list for vacancy and grumbling about favoritism. To alleviate the problem, in mid-1998 Tiny Wings was moved from the Education building to larger accommodations in the former Forestry Sciences building, which had been scheduled for demolition. Meanwhile, construction began on a new, state-of-the-art daycare facility.

With construction of the new building more than 80% completed, the university abruptly shut down Tiny Wings. Neither the staff nor parents made a fuss over the closure, and within a month the incident was largely forgotten. This may be due in part to those who would talk–the staff and parents the staff quickly finding new jobs in other cities. Oddly, nearly all the parents of children who attended Tiny Wings found reason to leave Pinebox as well.

For a while the new construction sat incomplete, but was eventually remodeled and completed as a student coffee house/lounge that remains open to this day. The Forestry Sciences building, Tiny Wings’ final home, proceeded with its demolition ahead of schedule.  The former building is now a parking lot.

Since closing Tiny Wings in 1999, the university has left daycare in the hands of the surrounding community. Most folks have forgotten about Tiny Wings, considering how much time has passed. A lot of time. In fact, some of the little tykes who were there when the whole thing shut down would just about be old enough for college…

Welcome back to another installment of the Campus Tour. Put on your walking shoes, limber up, and please remember to stay with the group at all times. We’re not responsible for accidents resulting from your wandering off the tour path. Today we’ll be touring a trio of campus auxiliary buildings.

Shickman Concert Hall– This tall, oddly shaped building is high in the front and low in the back and serves as a concert and speaking hall. Many guest speakers have noted the unusual acoustics on the stage, allowing them to almost distinguish whispering voices coming from somewhere in the stage’s wings.

Edmund Dale Memorial Building (Military Sciences, ROTC) – This building was erected in the 1950s during the Dixiecrat movement and named after one of the area’s most well known military figures, a Texas Ranger who fought in the Mexican and Civil Wars. The many entrances to this large, single-story building offer easy access to an indoor gun range, armory, classrooms, and a small gym with changing rooms and showers. Morning and afternoon ROTC physical training takes place at the adjacent drill field, which offers bleacher seating for Drill Review. Even further to the east, an infamous obstacle course known as the “meat grinder” awaits the next batch of cocky victims.

Dr. Patrick O’Brien Administration Building– This oddly shaped building was built back in the 1930s and is two stories tall. The building is known for its maze of hallways and small, dark offices. Students and staff alike have claimed to wander the narrow hallways of the second floor in search of an exit for nearly an hour. The Student Services office is found on the first floor, where the line of students awaiting assistance is practically a building fixture.

Welcome to another edition of Campus Tour– your behind-the-scenes look at the people and places you can encounter in Degrees of Horror. This week I’m taking the tour off the beaten path, and off campus. The thing about fighting the forces of darkness in a “real world” setting is the need for supplies. Buffy and Willow went to “the Magic Box” for supplies of an arcane nature, but what about all those wooden stakes? As a student in East Texas, just where do you get your hands on a silvered dagger or body armor on short notice? My answer (in part) was Vanderhorn’s Workshop.

Paul Vanderhorn

Paul Vanderhorn’s mobile home and workshop lies at the end of a gravel road 100 yards off highway 96. At first glance, the property bears a strong resemblance to a junkyard. The cast-off frames of lawnmowers, weed wackers, and less identifiable machinery litter the yard like abandoned carcasses. Yet sheltered from view by the workshop, target range of punctured targets and mangled mannequins hint at something deeper.

Vanderhorn’s reputation as a wizard at small engine repair keeps his workshop busy and the bills paid, but his enthusiasm for renaissance reenactment earns him many a sideways glance from his conservative neighbors. When he isn’t fixing chainsaw engines, this modern blacksmith can be found tinkering with armor and weapon designs. Inside the shop, swords, crossbows, pikes, and maces sit in various states of completion alongside dismantled chainsaws and lawnmower engines. The eccentric tinkerer even has a working catapult.

Vanderhorn isn’t blind to the paranormal activity in Pinebox’s, but age and a bad knee keep him out of the fight. Although he may repeatedly warn characters of the dangers in meddling with the things that go bump in the night, he still looks favorably upon anyone willing to stand against the darkness.