A Merced resident claims he walked and crawled through a man-made underground tunnel beneath downtown Merced 77 years ago.
Ron Moe, known to most of his peers as Coach Moe, 83, recalls his first trip under one tunnel at the age of six.
Moe remembers being asked by his mom if he wanted to go for a run at night, to which Moe agreed. Moe was taken to a kitchen area of a business where a large double meat freezer was shown to him by a man. The freezer contained a secret compartment, which revealed a door.
Moe’s instructions were to go inside the tunnel and deliver a wrapped bottle, which he believed to be alcohol.
His first attempt didn’t last long. He turned back after 10-15 minutes. He said that the tunnel was too dirty, with mud and rats.
Moe would go into the tunnel for the second time a couple of days later. He managed to reach the end of the tunnel on his second attempt. Upon arrival, Moe found a door and knocked on a wooden floorboard. A man answered and handed him a token in exchange for the bottle.
Over the course of a few years, Moe took at least 21 trips through the same tunnel and collected a token on each trip.
Moe was eventually able to cash in those tokens at the bank, and to his and his family’s surprise, those tokens were worth some money.
To this day, there is no documented evidence of the existence of the tunnels. However, it is believed there was more than just one and that most tunnels collapsed due to poor foundations.
It has been thought that the entrances to these tunnels were sealed and destroyed during the reconstruction of older buildings over time.