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ANY QUESTIONS: What's the story behind the McAlester Annex and the escaped monkey?

Monday, February 3, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:09 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 13, 2014
Designed in 1907 and built in 1908, McAlester Annex was used as an animal pen for MU's School of Medicine. It is now research space for the Department of Psychological Sciences.

Have a question about goings-on around town?  This is part of a project called "Any Questions?" that takes on community curiosities and tries to address them. Submit your questions to submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com or fill out the form below.

When Joe Dillard, Missourian reader and From Readers contributor, told us he was curious about the history and story behind MU's McAlester Annex, we didn’t think the answer would lead us on a tangent about escaped monkeys.

Although there are different variations of this bizarre chapter of MU's past, we were able to nail down some of the basics.

Here’s what we do know

McAlester Annex is a small brick house located north of McAlester Hall near Peace Park at MU.


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The design was created in 1907, and the building's construction followed in 1908. Its primary use was as an animal pen for the School of Medicine, according to previous Missourian articles. McAlester Annex was also known as Animal House, Dog House and Red Campus Animal House, according to MU in Brick and Mortar, a project showcasing the university's construction history.

So wait, what about the monkey?

It's not necessarily surprising that the annex research lab would have nicknames, but further digging led us to a collection of articles from the Missourian dating back to 1943, revealing a slightly more colorful history. Headlines include "Monkey Remains Undisturbed at Top of 60 Foot Tree" and "Elusive Monkey is Hiding Among Pipes Between Buildings."

The main idea

A monkey that was used for medical experiments escaped from its home in McAlester Annex. Faculty members were notified in an attempt to capture the animal, but their efforts were unsuccessful as the monkey jumped from tree to tree while they followed it with a ladder. The chase continued, and after a hopeful but unfruitful inspection of the steam tunnels underneath campus, the search ended.

The monkey, the myth, the legend

This is where the details get fuzzy. The monkey was seen by students and faculty for five days during the 1943 chase but then was never seen again. In our research, we found a Facebook page that dubs the missing primate as the "Mizzou Steam Tunnel Monkey."

Although we have no way of knowing if this is true, the page claims that "The steam tunnel monkey ghost continues to haunt the Mizzou campus. Students often talk of strange chattering coming from below. In the month of May, just after finals as the students start to leave, sometimes you can even seen the outline of a little monkey rising from the steam."

Present day

McAlester Annex is currently used by the Department of Psychological Sciences as the Working-Memory Laboratory, and no animals are known to be housed in the building.


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Supervising editor is Shaina Cavazos.


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