Rumors of Miller's 'Doom' dispelled|
Thursday, April 29, 1999
A mini-whirlwind of post Littleton anxiety touched down in Aberdeen
Word about an Internet "Doom" game using the Miller Junior High floor
plan became grist for a good-old fashioned game of "Telephone."
In the slumber-party version, one person whispers a phrase - "My sister
likes cats," for instance - into the ear of the person next to her ...
and so on around the room. The last person blurts out what she
heard, such as "Nine zippers hikes to Kansas."
It can be pretty funny.
This week, it got pretty scary before the facts emerged.
Miller Principal Jerry Salstrom was at the end of the telephone line,
fielding calls from concerned parents about a supposed bomb threat and
evacuation at the junior high.
As in the party game, the original message lost a lot in the
Salstrom said he was a bit befuddled when his vice principal informed
him that callers were saying the school had been evacuated.
This was news to Salstrom, who had spent the morning observing a fairly
serene art class. The vice principal, likewise, knew nothing of
such an event.
In fact, there was no evacuation.
The Aberdeen High School student who had created the Web site and
helped a friend with the Doom game years before was also confused
Tuesday afternoon when Salstrom called him into the principal's office
"I don't think he'd ever been called into the principal's office in his
life," Salstrom said Wednesday.
Asked if he knew why he was there, the teenager said he had no
idea. He never suspected he was being interrogated about
something he'd put onto his personal Web site years before,
according to Salstrom.
The youth is not in trouble, Salstrom emphasized, adding that there was
nothing sinister about his actions. The floor plan originated a
few years back as part of eight-grade multi-media student project to
create a virtual tour of Miller.
It had been Salstrom's idea.
But in the wake of the Littleton massacre, where a Web site featured
hateful messages and an annotated floor plan of Columbine High School
was discovered among one of the shooter's belongings, anxiety is high
among teachers, students, and parents.
The junior high principal asked the student to remove the site from the
Internet to alleviate concern.
The student complied immediately, telling Salstrom he hadn't even
touched the site or the game in at least six months.
Spread like wildfire
While the news of the game had spread like wildfire through the
community this week, the game has actually been on the Internet since
January 1997. In fact, the computer club at AHS played the game
"I'm not even sure if anyone saw the site or knew the background of
it," Salstrom said. "They just started spreading
rumors. That kind of hysterical reaction doesn't help."
"I think it's kind of unjustified," said the other teenager
involved. His junior high project four years ago is the reason
the Miller map exists. "People are catching the paranoia
Apparently, the anxiety began to percolate after an Aberdeen resident
searching through Techline's member pages discovered the high school
student's Web site. It featured a version of the popular game
"Doom" played out in a computer simulation of Miller Junior
That person called The Daily World, and a reporter called
Salstrom. The junior high principal immediately logged on to the
Web site with another teacher and they recognized what it was: Remnants
of the eighth-grade project from almost four years ago - before the
schools were wired for the Internet, and before the outbreak of school
shootings in America.
The principal said the virtual tour was meant to be a sort of
orientation tool for incoming seventh-graders. One of the youths
caught up in this week's anxiety had enlisted the other to help on the
project during winter break in 1995.
The project was on display at a science fair in Hoquiam that
And just like any homework project, Salstrom said the student got to
take his work home when he finished.
The two students said the virtual tour was originally created in the
Doom format, through that wasn't their first choice of
programs. They pointed out that because their creation is an
added level, it could be played only by computer-users who had a
registered version of Doom on their computers - not those who simply
downloaded the game.
The students, like many computer aficionados, were fans of the computer
game - a detailed cartoon video game with a theme basically not unlike
Nintendo's Mario Bros. or thousands of other status-gathering,
villain-conquering animated games - except they usually feature better
The big difference? Doom is an "open-code" game that can be
downloaded from the Internet or shared with friends. It allows
enthusiasts who understand a bit of computer code to go in and create
their own new "level." That means the game can go on forever if a
The game can also be networked via modems, serials or local area
networks to allow several players to compete against each other from
all over a school or all over the world.
The students said they think it's funny people pick on Doom so much, as
there are many more violent computer and video games on the
No menacing threat
Salstrom said he and the teacher at Miller agree that the former
students had no menacing intent toward the junior high. The
principal said that when he tried to log on to the site Wednesday
morning after talking with the student Tuesday, "it was already
The possibility of the site being used as a strategic device for an
attack on the school had never occurred to the student - and probably
never would - and probably never would have occurred to anyone except
for recent events, Salstrom added.
The principal said he was impressed with the cooperation throughout the
community in getting to the bottom of the controversy. Salstrom
said he feels that with better communication between the community,
parents, and the school, they are more likely to avoid tragic
"The best thing about this is the cooperation and sharing that
happened," Salstrom said. "It took a day to work through it, but
DAILY WORLD WRITER