The Corvallis Story with a Twist: Specters of Benton County Season 2

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

“We are very pleased to once again offer this unique program in partnership with Conundrum House,” said Inga Williams, community development manager at the Benton County Historic Resources Commission (HRC). “spectra is historically factual with a touch of fiction.

Season 2 of this free-to-play adventure for all ages kicks off May 7 with the mystery beginning where Season 1 left off – at the Whiteside Theatre. Clue hunters have a week to investigate, in person or virtually, with new episodes and historic locations to explore launching on Saturdays May 14 and 21 and the grand finale on May 28. The grand finale is an in-person event with the location to be discovered in May.

The multi-layered stories of these places are told through historical voices – the specters who are believed (in fact or in fiction) to inhabit the places – paired with gripping puzzles. Williams wrote about Benton County Specters being “Created through the fantastic imagination and technological wizardry of Adrienne Fritze and Mark van der Pol of Conundrum House, a local Corvallis business dedicated to the art of having fun through games.”

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

The first season will relaunch on April 23, the week before 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 come together. While it had been planned for a long time that it would take place at the end of April in person in Corvallis, as a precaution linked to the pandemic, it was 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 about last year’s event during of a session titled “Magical Mystery History Clue Hunts: Bringing History to Life for Today’s Families and Younger Generations.

The decision to relaunch Season 1 virtually was made so that conference attendees could still attend, even if they weren’t in town to attend in person. Benton County residents can register on the website to receive a link to all game information from the first season and be alerted to the next season starting in May.

Learn 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 like to learn through play.

This expertise has taught them to offer the three different ways to access the clues: paper, QR codes and website. Fritze explained that older people tend to like the worksheets with the clues that are placed in boxes at the sites, others use their phones to access the clues via QR codes, and remote people can use the website to track.

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

An example of fact-based fiction is the specter of the Van Buren Bridge. Although the character is based on a true story, this character is not a known ghost. Another example is the Whiteside Theatre, featuring two ghosts – of which there have been many reported sightings. Fritze even has a picture of the theater stage with a weird white light on one side…even though the entire seating area was pitch black.

Fritze says: “The partnership with HRC has been incredible. This has allowed us to combine a rich history in the county where we live with our joy of making games resulting in a clue-hunting adventure where people can have fun learning about history. And last year, people had a lot of fun following the clues at each place or place.

To participate in the free programs, register at Benton County Specters website.

By Stacey Newman Weldon

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