San Francisco Chinatown Secret Tunnels
Posted 07 November 2011 - 01:13 AM
Walking through the streets of Chinatown, one will notice each structure has a staircase that descends to a basement. I wonder if there are still any so called secret tunnels behind these basements that merchants and landlord don’t even know about it. According to former San Francisco Police Chief Jesse Cook, who served as a sergeant in the Chinatown Squad, he wrote in his 1931 SF Police and Peace Journal, that there is no such thing as secret tunnels in Chinatown. He explains:
“True, you could go from one cellar to another, but that is all. In order to deceive the people, the Chinese guides would take them in on Grant Avenue, between California and Sacramento Streets, going down into a cellar. From this they would go downstairs into the next cellar, and so on, sometimes going into six or seven. These basements, however, were all connected with the stores on Sacramento Street. Should you go from any one of these basements toward Sacramento Street, you would, of course, come to the cellar of some Sacramento Street store, and all you had to do was to go up one flight of stairs to Sacramento Street. The guides naturally would not allow anyone to do this. They would bring the people back the same way that they came and tell them that they had been down six or seven stories. The people of course believed them, but at no time were they ever over one story below the street.
The Chinese Theatre was also a good place to take tourists. The guides would take them in the entrance on Washington Street and from there down into the basement. This basement led down into another cellar where the guides would tell the people that they were now two stories under the ground. At this time they would show them the Chinese actors’ dressing rooms and sleeping quarters. Had the door at the end of the room been opened, the stage of the theatre would have been seen. The people had been told they were two stories under ground, however, and they believed it.
The nearest thing to an underground passage that I ever saw was in 1905 when with Captain Matheson, then a patrolman, I went through a passageway leading from Spofford alley into the basement of Old Tie Loy Lottery Company on Waverly place. There were fourteen doors in this passageway, each door leading into a room so constructed that it appeared as though you were going down into the bowels of the earth. In reality you were only going down into the basement on Waverly place." (http://www.sfmuseum....hist9/cook.html)
The interconnected basements can still be seen in Chinatown if one is interested. Next time visiting, you can go to Ming Lee Trading Inc located at 768 Jackson Street. This is a grocery store that allows you to descend into its basement and then exit from another building next door.
As far as the secret tunnels goes, it still remain as an urban legend. However, the SFMTA will expand its transit route to Chinatown and begins its excavation in the near future. Hopefully, this 100+ year old myth can be solved by that time. If you want to know more about these secret tunnels, please check out my internet radio show here http://www.openskyra...pic.php?t=1163. Show is in Cantonese. Enjoy!!
Posted 08 November 2011 - 12:20 AM
Posted 18 December 2012 - 12:07 PM
Posted 23 December 2012 - 07:21 AM
Edited by DreamWeaver1337, 23 December 2012 - 07:21 AM.
Posted 01 March 2013 - 07:41 AM
I wish i knew this early as i was vacationing there 3 years ago.
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