Top 5 Secrets of Harvard University

Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of the most prestigious and well-known institutions of higher education in the world. Established in 1636, it has a rich history and a reputation for academic excellence, influential alumni, and significant contributions to various fields. However, there are many fascinating aspects of Harvard that are not widely known. In this article, we will explore five lesser-known secrets of Harvard University that contribute to its unique character and enduring legacy.

The Hidden Tunnels and Underground Passages

  1. Harvard University has a network of hidden tunnels and underground passages that connect various buildings on campus. These tunnels were originally constructed for practical purposes, such as providing easy access between buildings during the harsh New England winters and facilitating the transportation of goods and services. Over time, these passages have become part of Harvard’s lore and mystery.

History and Purpose

Construction: The tunnels were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, primarily for heating and utility purposes. They house steam pipes, electrical wiring, and other infrastructure components.
Accessibility: While most of the tunnels are off-limits to students and the public, they are occasionally accessible during special tours or for maintenance work.
Myths and Legends
Secret Societies: There are rumors that some of Harvard’s secret societies and exclusive clubs use the tunnels for clandestine meetings and activities.
Historical Artifacts: Some believe that the tunnels contain hidden artifacts and remnants from Harvard’s past, adding to their mystique.

  1. The Widener Library’s Hidden Room
    The Widener Library, Harvard’s main library, is one of the largest and most comprehensive libraries in the world. It houses over 3.5 million books across its vast collection. However, one of its most intriguing features is a hidden room dedicated to its namesake, Harry Elkins Widener.

The Story Behind the Room

Tragic History: Harry Elkins Widener was a Harvard alumnus and book collector who perished on the RMS Titanic in 1912. His mother, Eleanor Elkins Widener, donated a significant sum to Harvard to build the library in his memory.
Memorial Room: As part of the donation, Eleanor requested the creation of a special room to house Harry’s personal collection of rare books and manuscripts. This room is known as the Widener Memorial Room and is located within the library.
Access and Contents
Restricted Access: The room is typically closed to the public and is accessible only to select staff and special guests.
Valuable Collection: The Memorial Room contains some of the most valuable and rare books in Harvard’s collection, including first editions, manuscripts, and other literary treasures.

  1. The Statue of Three Lies
    One of the most famous landmarks on Harvard’s campus is the statue of John Harvard, also known as the “Statue of Three Lies.” Located in Harvard Yard, this statue is a popular attraction for tourists and students alike. However, it is surrounded by misconceptions and inaccuracies.

The Three Lies
Inscription: The plaque on the statue reads “John Harvard, Founder, 1638.” Each part of this inscription is misleading:
John Harvard: The statue does not actually depict John Harvard. The sculptor, Daniel Chester French, used a student model because no verified likeness of John Harvard existed.
Founder: John Harvard was not the founder of Harvard University. He was a benefactor who donated his library and half of his estate to the institution, which led to the college being named after him.
1638: Harvard University was founded in 1636, not 1638.
Traditions and Myths
Good Luck Tradition: Despite the inaccuracies, it is a tradition for visitors to rub the left foot of the statue for good luck.
Historical Significance: The statue remains an iconic symbol of Harvard and a testament to its storied past, even with the factual discrepancies.

  1. The Secretive Porcellian Club
    The Porcellian Club is one of Harvard’s oldest and most exclusive social clubs. Founded in 1791, it has a long history of secrecy and exclusivity, making it a subject of intrigue and speculation.

History and Traditions

Founding: The Porcellian Club, also known as “The Porc,” was established by a group of students seeking a private space for socializing and intellectual discussion.
Secrecy: The club is known for its strict confidentiality and secretive nature. Membership details and club activities are closely guarded, and members are sworn to secrecy.
Notable Members

Influential Alumni

Many prominent figures have been members of the Porcellian Club, including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and businessman Henry Cabot Lodge.
Clubhouse and Symbolism
Clubhouse: The Porcellian Club’s clubhouse is located on Massachusetts Avenue, across from Harvard Yard. It features a distinctive facade with a pig (the club’s symbol) above the entrance.
Symbols and Traditions: The club’s emblem is a pig, and its motto is “Dum vivimus vivamus,” which means “While we live, let us live.” The Porcellian Club continues to be a symbol of Harvard’s elite social scene.

  1. The Unofficial Houses and Secret Rooms
    Harvard’s residential system includes 12 undergraduate houses, each with its own unique culture and traditions. However, there are also unofficial houses and secret rooms that add to the campus’s mystique.

The “Secret” Rooms

Hidden Spaces: Throughout Harvard’s buildings, there are hidden rooms and spaces that are not part of the official floor plans. These include secret study rooms, hidden libraries, and concealed meeting spaces.
Historical Uses: Some of these rooms have historical significance, having been used for secret meetings, wartime planning, or as retreats for scholars.

Unofficial Houses

Currier House Secret Basement: One of the most well-known unofficial spaces is the Currier House basement, which is rumored to have hidden rooms and passageways used by students for secret gatherings.
Other Houses: Various other houses are said to have unofficial rooms that are known only to a select few students and faculty members, contributing to the sense of mystery and exclusivity.


Harvard University is renowned for its academic rigor, illustrious alumni, and rich history. However, it is also a place filled with secrets and hidden gems that add to its unique character. From underground tunnels and hidden rooms to secret societies and mysterious statues, these lesser-known aspects of Harvard provide a fascinating glimpse into the storied institution’s traditions and culture. Whether you are a prospective student, a current member of the Harvard community, or simply an admirer of its legacy, these secrets highlight the depth and complexity of one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

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