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Salem’s real haunted houses are buried underground, says Linfield historian

Retired Professor John Ritter is combing through cobwebs and dark tunnels, exploring underground Salem, Ore., by flashlight. News programs across the globe followed his exploits.

Ritter and Rebecca Maitland, creative director of Salem’s Reed Opera House, are exploring the underground tunnels that connect Salem’s downtown business district.

They’ve discovered an antique bank vault, a gold drop where miners cached treasure, an old grocery front, a café mural, rusting elevators and empty shafts where people lived.

People could go from one building to the next without being seen, a convenience for men who patronized speakeasies, drank bootleg liquor and smoked opium. As Ritter says, “Salem used to be a rockin’ little town.”

Ritter hopes to uncover Salem’s former Chinatown, now hidden by walls.

A Statesman Journal story and video about Ritter’s explorations was picked up and embellished by newspapers and TV shows across the nation and overseas. Regional news coverage was provided by  Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB); The Oregonian; KGW, KATU, KOIN and KVAL television, and dozens of newspapers in Oregon and Washington.

Viewers could spot a Linfield jacket on several broadcasts.

History studies at Linfield College