Just in time for Halloween, we explore a spooky space that lurks beneath Plano.
If you watched the latest season of “Stranger Things,” you’ll remember the Upside Down that lurked beneath the local mall. It turns out Plano has its own creepy underworld, hidden under the massive parking lot of Collin Creek Mall.
When developers built the mall back in the early 1980s, one of their biggest challenges was how to accommodate Spring Creek, which ran through the property. They decided to build three culverts, or concrete tunnels, each of them almost a half mile long. The creek’s waters flow through the culverts from 15th Street to Plano Parkway. (You can spot the north end of the culverts behind the Big Lots store on 15th Street.)
In the 1980s, many Plano residents whispered rumors that the tunnels were “haunted” and a lure for local Satanists. Certainly, they’re dark and creepy enough to get the imagination going.
Those who’ve braved the space report that, when you enter a tunnel, you can see light at the other end – but it’s deceptive. The further you proceed, the darker the tunnel becomes, with the end seemingly getting further away rather than closer. Deep inside the structure, adventurous urban spelunkers have encountered a small “room” deep inside the structure.
Eric Kuhns is one of those urban explorers who has seen the room.
“You see what looks like bloody hand prints and satanic symbols,” he said. “There’s an inscription in one spot that says, ‘He is watching you.’ It’s pretty creepy.”
Even though they were technically off limits to the public, the tunnels were a popular hangout for teens during the mall’s heyday. Some longtime residents remember riding their bikes down in the tunnels. One reports “getting lucky” there a few times, whereas another says, “I’m glad those tunnels can’t talk.”
Hava Johnston, founder of the 8,000+ member Facebook group called “Collin Creek Mall: An Era Gone By,” remembers the tunnels well. “As kids we drank beer and told spooky stories in the tunnels, and no, we shouldn’t have, but it was all in fun and most of us all turned out alright,” she said.
City crews converge on the dark culverts several times a year to remove accumulated silt and debris and to clear a path for the water as well as for periodic inspections of the structure. Like the mall, the culverts are aging, so the inspections are especially important. In the past, crews have installed metal ribs to reinforce the ceiling in the walls where they were starting to cave-in.
Recently, Centurion American Development Group launched ambitious efforts to demolish part of the mall and rebuild it with shops, restaurants and a variety of homes at the location. It’s too early to know what will happen to the tunnels. For now, they remain one of Plano’s best kept secrets – the “haunted” tunnels of Collin Creek Mall.
Excerpted from the upcoming book “Hidden History of Plano” by Mary Jacobs, Jeff Campbell and Cheryl Smith (History Press, coming March 16, 2020).
Hear more tales about Collin Creek Mall and other spooky stuff from Plano Podcast.