Corvallis History with a Twist: Spectres of Benton County, Season Two

Celebrate National Historic Preservation Month this May by participating in Spectres of Benton County Past – a clue hunt and mystery adventure game where ghostly spirits explain the historic nature of each local Benton County resource you visit.  

“We are very excited to offer this unique program in partnership with Conundrum House again,” said Inga Williams, Community Development at the Benton County Historic Resources Commission (HRC). “Spectres is historically factual with a twist of fiction.”  

Season Two of this free-for-all-ages adventure kicks off May 7 with the mystery starting where Season One left off – at the Whiteside Theater. Clue hunters have a week to investigate, in person or virtually, with new episodes and historic locations to explore launched Saturdays, May 14, May 21, and the grand finale on May 28. The grande finale is an in-person event with the location to be revealed in May. 

The multi-layered stories of these places are told through historical voices – the spectres who supposedly (in fact or fiction) inhabit the locales – coupled with engaging puzzles. Williams wrote about Spectres of Benton County being “created through the fantastical imagination and technological wizardry of Adrienne Fritze and Mark van der Pol of Conundrum House, a local Corvallis business dedicated to the art of fun through games.” 

In the Spectres experience last year, players explored five historic sites – the Benton County Courthouse, the Grange on Greenberry Road, the Van Buren Bridge, and Kidder Hall at Oregon State Umiversity, and ending at the Whiteside Theater.  

Season One will be relaunched on April 23, the week prior to the annual Oregon Heritage Conference. 

Oregon Heritage Conference

The 2022 Oregon Heritage Conference is an annual event where those involved in preserving Oregon’s heritage gather. While it had long been planned to take place late April in-person in Corvallis, as a pandemic-related precaution, it has been changed to virtual. 

At the Conference, Conundrum House founders Fritze and van der Pol, will join Benton County HRC commissioners Williams, Jay Sexton, and Nancy Taniguchi on a panel discussing last year’s event in a session called “Magical Mystery History Clue Hunts: Bringing History to Life for Today’s Families & Younger Generations.”  

The decision to relaunch Season One virtually was made so conference goers could still attend, even though they aren’t in town to visit in-person. Benton County residents can register on the website to receive a link accessing all of the game information from the first season, and be alerted to the next season starting in May. 

Learning Through Play 

After years of creating murder mystery dinners, scavenger hunts and running a business where people come to enjoy games, Fritze and van der Pol have a deep understanding of how people enjoy learning while playing.  

This expertise taught them to offer the three different ways to access the clues – through paper, QR codes, and the website. Fritze explained that older people tend to like the worksheets with the clues which are placed in boxes at the sites, others use their phones accessing clues through the QR codes, and remote people can utilize the website to follow along. 

The game site notes: “This game on this website is work of fiction, and while actual events, people and locations are referenced, certain liberties have been taken with timelines, locations, characters and events.”  

An example of fiction based on facts is the spectre for the Van Buren Bridge. While the character is based on a true story, that character is not a known ghost. Another example is the Whiteside Theater, featuring two ghosts – of which there have been many reported sightings. Fritze even has a photo of the theater stage with a strange white light on one side…even though the entire seating area was in the dark. 

Fritze says, “The partnership with HRC has been amazing. It has allowed us to combine some rich history in the county where we live with our joy of creating games resulting in a clue hunt adventure where people can have fun learning history. And last year, people had a ton of fun following the clues to each place or at one spot.” 

To join in the free programs, sign up at the Spectres of Benton County website. 

By Stacey Newman Weldon 

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