The Disappearance & Death of MSU Student James Dallas Egbert III
James Dallas Egbert III was only 17 years old when he died on August 16, 1980.....Thirty-seven years ago this week.
While growing up in Ohio, he was deemed a child prodigy and entered Michigan State University at the age of 16, majoring in computer science.....he was also an avid player of the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons. After observing other MSU students sneaking into the steam tunnels underneath Olds Hall and other campus buildings (termed as going "tunneling"), Egbert would leave his dorm room at Case Hall and sneak his own way into the tunnels to play a live-action version of the game.
Dungeons & Dragons was Egbert's main outlet...when he wasn't engulfed in playing the game, he became depressed and lonely and turned to drugs. Also, the fact that his parents pushed him to succeed added extra pressure...as well as his confusion over denying and accepting his homosexuality.
Then, on August 15, 1979, Egbert wrote a suicide note, went into the steam tunnels and attempted to overdose on quaaludes.....but all it did was make him sleep for a day. When he finally awoke, his probable embarrassment made him decide to disappear, seeking refuge at the homes of different acquaintances.
Nobody knew where he was; his parents hired an investigator, students and authorities searched the steam tunnels but to no avail. After a few weeks of hiding throughout East Lansing, Egbert hopped a bus headed for New Orleans.
Egbert again attempted suicide - this time with cyanide - which also failed. He then went to Louisiana and decided he'd had enough. In September 1979 he contacted his parents' investigator, who went to Louisiana and put Egbert in his uncle's custody.
On August 16, 1980, Egbert shot himself, this time completing his death wish.
The investigator who was employed by Egbert's parents was William Dear, who wrote the book "The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III" in 1984.
Egbert's story was also sensationalized in the Tom Hanks movie, "Mazes and Monsters."