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a warped photo of TMU's Kerr Hall changed to look like The Backrooms
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The Backrooms of TMU: Files from a student who survived Kerr Hall

By Hannah Mercanti

In 2020, my first year at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), school was completely online. 

Despite the unprecedented shift, I moved into a near-empty Pitman Hall, one of the campus residencies, and lived on campus for the year with a small number of other students. 

Pretty much all in-person services at the university were closed. The impending doom radiating from the pandemic and the stress of being a first-year journalism student had put quite the damper on any Frosh Week plans or welcome activities, so I languished in boredom and silence in my empty four-bedroom apartment.

One thing did save me, though. The ability to wander through the few buildings that were open kept me from losing complete touch with reality. It helped to form a little bit of a connection with the community I was supposed to be becoming a part of in my first year.

During my explorations one day, I noticed a big, imposing building—with a door cracked open. I slid in and began to walk, my mind racing with possibilities. Would there be a wall of windows like in the Rogers Communication Centre (RCC) or something modern like the massive foyer of the Sheldon & Tracy Levy Student Learning Centre? So far, it resembled neither—there was just a staircase and faceless walls so beige they were oppressive.

I realized soon after entering that I had made a huge mistake. I had been walking for about 10 minutes in one direction and it seemed as if nothing around me had changed. It was almost as though I was walking on an invisible treadmill. I could tell I was moving further and further underground as the windows diminished and the ceilings got lower. 

Of course, I’m talking about Kerr Hall. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve entered and exited out of the same doors of that haunted building. Sometimes, to this day, I get cold sweats on mornings I know I need to pass through the building.

The Kerr Hall complex is made up of four buildings—the North, South, East and West halls. The complex has quite a few dead ends which means, to get between buildings in the complex, you sometimes have to take the stairs and switch floors first, which makes it very easy to get lost.

As I tentatively made my way through the bleak halls, I noticed an immediate lack of “you are here” signs or anything that allowed for a sense of direction. 

The aforementioned staircases were all indistinguishable from each other and everything slowly began to morph into what seemed like an ever-changing labyrinth rather than a harmless university building. Initially, I chalked it up to a bad sense of direction. But now, my opinion has changed.

I’m convinced that Kerr Hall is an extension of The Backrooms.

The Backrooms are an (allegedly) fictional location originating from a 2019 thread posted on 4chan, a popular imageboard website. Online, it’s commonly described as an extra dimensional, liminal space people can become trapped in that seems to go on forever. 

I’m not the first person to draw this connection. One user on the TorontoMetU subreddit made a post titled, “POV you’ve set just 1 foot in Kerr Hall,” with an iconic photo of the backrooms attached. 

The top reply reads, “First time I went to Kerr Hall I got lost and couldn’t find my way out lol.” Validating? Yes. But, the consistency and frequency of people getting lost in Kerr Hall make me think it is more than just a case of bad architecture, but something altogether more sinister.

These days, I tend to stay away from the complex whenever possible. But duty calls, so I headed over on a dreary Thursday to snap a few pictures of the hall—which continued to look creepier every day. 

After some expert iPhone photography, I patted myself on the back for a job-well-done and headed in the direction of the exit staircase.

But it was…gone? I looked around and the building’s usual signs and posters were gone. The red lockers lining the walls seemed to go on for miles. The air took on a sudden, unspeakable chill. Had I, in my effort to expose Kerr Hall, accidentally become a part of it? I started to sweat under my coat and began to walk in panicked circles.

Eventually, another human—a gracious theatre student—found me shaking in my boots and pointed me in the correct direction towards the RCC bridge. 

Still, to this day, I believe my theory still stands: The Backrooms are real. However, you don’t get there by phasing out of reality by chance. You get there by checking your schedule at the beginning of a semester and seeing you have a class in Kerr Hall.

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