Secret passages on Microsoft main campus

They aren't really "secret passages" but they are definitely underutilized, and sometimes they provide a useful shortcut.

At the northwest corner of Building 50, there are two doors. One leads to a stairwell that takes you to the second floor. That's the one everybody uses. The other door is a service entrance that takes you to the cafeteria. If your office is on the second or third floor in the northwest corner, it's faster to use the service hallway to get to the cafeteria than it is to walk to the core of the building and take the main stairs.

There is a service tunnel that runs from the first floor of Building 86 (entrance next to the first floor cafeteria elevator) through the loading dock to the Central Garage, where you can continue to Building 85 or 84. This is not really any faster than the regular route, but it does have the advantage of being underground and mostly indoors, which is a major benefit when it is cold or raining.

What is your favorite secret passage at your workplace?

Comments (33)
  1. Tim says:

    My workplace is riddled with secret tunnels. Although, since they post a map on the website I guess the tunnels aren't THAT secret:…/tunnelMap.pdf


  2. Jeff says:

    There are two sets of nearly identical staircases in the building. Yet everyone uses the one near the elevator. If you want to save time and avoid the crowd, you can use the "other" staircase.

    We also have a double sided closet that can be used to enter the main area rather than going through the main door. This is much easier when the doorway is crowded.

  3. BOFH says:

    I currently work at an office in a swedish ex-DOD complex, and there are plenty of secret walkways through the subfloors, allowing you to pop up practically anywhere within the streetblock from discreet stairways.

    There is a colocation-facility within the complex too, and we are customers there. With the combined access of my office keycard and the colo keycard, there are very few places I can't enter.

    This is in Stockholm, and for those who don't know, the city is almost hollowed out by networks of military culverts, which allow you to quickly move from one edge of the city to the opposite, completely unseen.

    This cold war-era complex is part of the network, and I've only found two doors I can't open. One is obviously the underground passage to the public broadcasting building, and from there I know the passage continues to the central broadcasting hub at Kaknäs tower.

    The other door I can't open is at the other end of the complex, at the edge of the streetblock.

    Presumably it continues to the rest of the network.

    I always use the underground route to reach the restaurants further down the street, same with the post office, and the grocery store, etc.

    Before we moved to this address we were located at WTC Stockholm, and there a colleague found an excellent and very direct indoor access to Central Station from the WTC offices.

    It gave us a 100% indoor route to the office from the subway, very nice during swedish winters.

  4. Mike says:

    I work alone and have the "entire" building to myself, not discovered any secret passages :) Can you walk these passages and film them? I really did not have a clue the campus is that big (you read about it, but never been there it does not really register).

  5. Mr. Shiny & New says:

    There is a stairwell at the end of one hall at my workplace with a sign that says "Do not use this door".  Not everyone pays attention to the sign, but those who do are forced to use the other stairs at the far end of the hallway.  This staircase provides a shortcut to the lunch room.

  6. DWalker says:

    "Do not use this door."  Hmm.  Then there should be a WALL there, not a door.  I think of that every time I see a sign that says "This door must remain closed at all times".  Then you should replace the door with a solid wall!

  7. Doug says:

    When I was in school, I worked in the IT department. We had two offices, one on either end of the campus. This was in Buffalo, NY, so it was helpful to know all the inside ways to get around. To go upstairs through student records was always empty, but there were no vending machines.

    From what I understand, there were tunnels on the south campus as well, but they were shut down after student riots in the 60's. Plus they may not stand up to OSHA standards for confined spaces these days.

    My new job I haven't been around long enough to find any secret tunnels, but the not so secret ones are kind of fun. If it's nice out, its much faster to get to the next building by going outside, but I can instead go through the factory floor. Just have to be careful to not get run over by a fork truck. Also, the floor is a safety glasses required area, and they bins at the entrance are usually empty. That can be an inconvenience if you go outside to get there, but its raining when you need to come back.

  8. VIMH says:

    The closest thing we have to a "secret passage" at the incredibly small building I work in is an unmarked restroom that is largely unknown.  A nice retreat from the usual sounds and smells of the marked restrooms.

    @DWalker59: I think they are implying "This door must remain closed at all times… unless you're about to be killed by something behind you."  Just not enough room to print that, nor do I want to take the time to read that when the flames are nipping at me.

  9. Dave says:

    I work in a performing arts center.  I have a master key that gets me in almost anywhere.  Some of the shortcuts in the building would take me across a stage floor, so I'm alway's careful to note when there are performances going on.

  10. James Schend says:

    The closest thing my workplace (the Exchange Building in Seattle, 2nd and Marion) is to secret passages are the stairwells nobody uses. There are three stairwells in the building, but most people only use the one near the elevators and ignore the other two at the north and east edges of the building.

  11. Tim Smith says:

    Many years ago I worked at an office in Atlanta Georgia (USA).  Often during the late hours we would hear people use the back door to the building but there would be no sign of them a few minutes later.  Ghosts???

    One day, someone walked into our set of offices and told us to come here to see something cool.   We went down a long hallway to an unused sauna and shower area currently being used for storage including a four foot Santa Clause statue.  Our "tour guide" walked to the end of the room and reached into a closet.


    WTF!!!  The back of the closet opened up!  There was a small secret room behind the closet.  There was a small hold just above the rod in the closet where a push button for the magnetic lock sat.

    Inside this room was a broken rifle and a queen bed.  Beside the bed was a nightstand with magazines.  The magazines were those that would be normally purchased by a woman.  The name on the mag?  The female V.P. of the company.

    Needless to say, a week later the room was cleaned out of all evidence.  :)

  12. Mark says:

    The "big" building where I work has a network of tunnels underneath it that are general access for employees. When I've had to work in the building, and it's been rainy out, I use the tunnels for my daily run (the building is about a mile long). It's not really a secret though; we're supposed to use the tunnels to get to work locations rather than across the building floor.

  13. AC says:

    The headline reminded me of Hogwarts.

  14. Andy says:

    Rita Hayworth and I made a secret passage from my "office".

  15. Boris says:

    Nothing to speak of at work, but

    In my apartment building, there are two staircases and the ends of the hallway (in addition to the elevators at the main entrance). Both lead to doors that can only be used to leave the building, not to enter it. Also, the one nearer to my apartment cannot be used to access the first floor from higher floors, which is bizarre, but nothing secret so far. However, the reverse is actually possible, but not obvious. You can access the stairway from the first floor to go up. When you reach the end of the hall on the first floor there is an exit sign pointing left and a door on the right marked "refuse room". Once you enter this door, you are indeed in the refuse room. There is a door at the other end of this room marked "exit". After going through the door, you are in a small room with three other doors (besides the one you came from, which is locked, you cannot go back). The door to the right is marked "exit" and is indeed an exit, the same one you would end up at had you taken the staircase down from a higher floor. The unmarked door on the left is the entrance to the staircase. Presto. Useful when returning from the fitness room. They sure hide it well

    One of the buildings at the college I went to has the main entrance leading to the "plaza" level (I don't remember if that's what it's called) between the first and second floor. This is where all the lecture halls are. To access the bathroom everyone knows about from the outside you have go all the way to the end of the hallway. However, what most people don't notice is another entrance from the outside right next to the main entrance. This leads to the first floor and the first door to the right once you enter is the men's room (the ladies' room is much further away and is probably not significantly closer). Also useful to access some other parts of the first floor without taking the staircase from the plaza level halfway down the hall.

  16. Someone You Know says:


    Were you at UB? My wife went to dental school there, and we found a lot of scary tunnels linking the medical buildings on the South Campus.

  17. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    I went to a school located in a building started at the early 18th Century (arround 1720, I believe), and expanded in a dozen phases, the last one in the middle of the 20th Century (yes, it took over 200 years to get it to its current shape). AFAIK, it has one or two "secret" passages (i.e., uncharted and relatively unknown), and a lots of weird interconnections between the different parts of the building. Almost always, there are two or three possible routes to a given point. It's like a three-dimensional maze :-) .

  18. Laurent says:

    In a previous life I was a consultant and worked in Calgary for a while. Inspired by the movie Waydowntown, I spent an entire week without going out by staying inside the +15 network of walkways. At times, this required big detours, and it did limit my lunch and dinner options quite a bit, but what's that compared to the satisfaction of staying inside a whole week?

    In another previous life I enjoyed finding ways to stay inside the Paris metro network. You can walk from St-Michel to Cluny-Sorbonne via St-Michel-Notre-Dame, and from Saint-Augustin to Auber (or even Opéra) via Saint-Lazare, Hausmann-St-Lazare, and Havre Caumartin. The current map does show this, but I think maps from the time didn't show it. Certainly the signage inside the stations didn't encourage it. And it's still not obvious on today's map that you can walk underground from Gare de l'Est to Gare du Nord via Magenta, so there!

  19. James Schend says:

    @Mike: Wow I didn't know about roof access! I'm definitely going to try that!

    As for the stairwell, all of our company's floors have card scanners to unlock the doors, so that's not an issue for us.

  20. Mike Stewart says:

    @James Schend – I used to work in the Exchange Building (a stock exchange building built in 1929; what timing). The best "secret" passage is to take the stairs on the west end of the building all the way to the top. You'll find a locked door. It's not a very good lock, pop it with a pocket knife. You now have roof access overlooking the Sound. Nice on summer days.

    The reason no one takes the stairs is because they don't do you any good above the 4th floor. All of the doors are locked. I found this out by walking all the way to my office floor on 11th, only to have to walk all the way back down. Irked me to no end that I *had* to take the elevator every day.

  21. Billy O'Neal says:

    Wrong: It *was* a secret passage. Now it's a well known passage :)

  22. jwalantsoneji says:

    My current workplace is in Pune, India (Map link:

    It is huge in size; and due to construction going on all the time, there are many shortcuts not available for employee's use.

    The elevators at the back side of my building have less traffic; making it a kind of non-stop ride to my floor.

    Here's one huge building with several entrants; I use the a small entrants mostly to avoid lots of people and as a direct root to many shops in campus.

    Well, there are cycles available to commute faster.

  23. Phil Deets says:

    The worst one I can think of at work is the stairs for the Microsoft building 92 parking garage. There is a full glass window the size and shape of a door that leads right to the parking area, but there isn't a handle. You have to open the door that says "Fire and valve room" then move on to another door a few feet away to access the parking area. I didn't realize this the first time and couldn't figure out how to get back to my car.

  24. magical trevor says:

    Why I work is a door labelled "KEEP THIS DOOR LOCKED! DO NOT ENTER!"

    Behind it is a chute which leads straight down to another locked door at the bottom; it was used for stock distribution once.

    It is known as the Secret Death Slide.

  25. Robin Williams says:

    There are no secret passages in my office, but I work on the rock of Gibraltar which is full of not-so-secret tunnels.…/great-siege-tunnels-gibraltar.html

    Monkeys* to befriend AND tunnels to explore – you can see why I took the job…

    * Yes I know they're actually apes

  26. Will Hughes says:

    Where I work at the moment used to be a department store, and the building next to it the post office.

    For reasons unknown to me, there were underground tunnels built between the buildings.

    Now that our building has been converted to offices, and the post office to apartments and shops – the tunnel has been closed off from both ends.

  27. Richard Russell says:


    You've got that back-to-front.  The 'barbary apes' are actually monkeys.…/Gibraltar_Barbary_Macaques

  28. Jonathan says:

    Here in Israel, all buildings must have a bomb shelter on each floor. In my office building, each floor has a keycard-operated door, and (naturally) a bomb shelter (used as a conference room). For emergency purposes, the bomb shelters on floors 1 and 2 are connected by an opening in the floor/ceiling connected to a ladder.

    At one time, we had some visitors who resided in these 2 shelters. And naturally, they used the emergency connection to move, as it's faster, and requires no keycards.

  29. DWalker says:

    Tim Smith:  Are you the Tim Smith from Atlanta who I used to know?

    David Walker

  30. MC says:

    I don't have any from the office, because it's a former industrial building that was recently gutted and refitted as office space, but here are a few from my younger days.

    At my college, one of the buildings had a hidden stairwell at one end of the building which you could use rather than the main one at the center.  On the second and third floors it was at the end of a hallway to nowhere, and on the first it was behind a set of perpetually closed doors leading to the mechanical rooms, but before the locked door which actually granted access to the mechanical area.  The other end of the building had a stairwell too, but that one was both obvious, not being hidden behind doors or at the end of hallways, and less useful because the second floor was a one-way door as the emergency exit from the cafeteria.  Another building had a hallway hidden behind another pair of perpetually closed doors leading to a rear entrance/exit door.  This was only really useful during rainstorms.

    My high school had some good ones.  To get to my favorite, you had to go to the end of the long hallway to the art room, through the wrestling gym, and down another hallway of storage rooms.  From there you could up up three or four flights to another small hallway leading out onto part of the roof, where you found… a playground!  This was for the adjacent elementary school, which had a normal stairway to get there.  One of my friends knew a secret rear entrance that you could use to leave without the security guard seeing you (but only after 4 PM or so when the lights turned off).  There also were a bunch of (not really secret) basement hallways winding past the locker rooms that linked different areas of the building, but I found them confusing because you couldn't tell where you were going relative to the aboveground part of the building.

  31. steveg says:

    My work building has a brilliant D&D style secret door; all it needs is an S with a line through it. In the foyer one of the very tall marble wall panels is hinged. You lean on it (hard) and it swings open to reveal an entry to the service corridors and lifts. Everytime I go through there I hear the rattle of dice ("oooh I must have rolled a 1").

  32. Daniel Colascione says:

    Building 26's parking lot is more easily accessed through the parking garage entrance on 28th street (make a left on 156th heading south) than it is through the twisty maze of roads on the main campus that are all alike.

  33. Russell says:

    The secret room I know of isn't at work, but in one of my grandfathers previous houses. When he got some work done on the property about 25 years ago they found an old 'priest hole' which was used by (I think) catholics in the 1500's to hold prayer meetings in secret (they were being hunted at the time – correct me if I'm wrong, my historical knowledge is rubbish). The room hadn't been opened in a couple of hundred years and had been completely forgotten for at least that long. Sadly there wasn't anything of interest left in it, but the room itself was exciting enough for a 7 year old :)

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