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Old film may hold clues to Boise's Chinese tunnel lore

An unidentified reporter in this 1960s film clip talks about the purported Chinese tunnels in Boise. But there's no sound to the old 16-mm film so the State Archives is looking into getting the sound restored to see what new light could be shed on the lore of the tunnels. (Idaho State Archives)

A cannister containing the old 16-millimeter film has been on the shelves of a secure vault at the Idaho State Archives for who knows how long.

Social media buzz about the 15-minute film from the 1960s prompted archivists to take another look.

But does it appear to shed any new light on the lore of the tunnels: a purported underground network beneath Boise built by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century?

"There's the story going on for years about alleged Chinese tunnels. But there's no smoking gun," said David Matte, state archives administrator. "It's a journalist doing a story many years ago about the possibility of Chinese tunnels."

We've been unable to independently confirm the identity of the reporter in the film.

But the film only tells part of a story.

There are pictures but no sound.

And the state is looking into what it might cost to have sound restored to the film.

"It takes sophisticated equipment," said Matte. "There are two vendors in the Los Angeles and Seattle area who we'll be talking to to see if they can make a version with the sound. It'd be interesting to see what journalists were saying about the tunnels back then. And we know it was filmed underground so it will be interesting to learn what they were saying about those particular tunnels."

So be it fact or fiction, there's no doubt the plot thickens in the intriguing story of Boise's Chinese tunnels.

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