Heroes and rascals, shipwrecks and lost gold: Strange but true stories and secrets of Oregon's wild past | Offbeat Oregon History While doing some cleaning-up around the Odd Fellows Hall in Scio, a local girl found a tiny coffin with this partial skeleton inside. Whose? We'll probably never know ... (Story No. 204, Oct. 14, 2012) The ever-elusive D.B. Cooper peeks into the page from behind his signature shades. The story of his skyjacking exploit starts with episode 237, from June 2, 2013. Meet Kitty Kat, the wealthiest feline in the state of Oregon and landlord to the City of Tangent. Kitty Kat, until he died at a ripe old age in 1995, owned City Hall. (Story No. 163, Jan. 8, 2012) This crazy-looking speedboat was the invention of Portland wizard Victor Strode. The city commissioned a harbor patrol boat based on his design, but it didn't work out. (Story No. 201, Sept. 23, 2012) The Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho -- yes, THAT Osho) as he appeared when he lived in Wasco County with his followers. That's also him in the white Rolls-Royce surrounded by followers, in a scene from Rajneeshpuram. (Four-part story starts with Column No. 73, May 9, 2010 This is the roof of the Franz Bread Rest Hut at Pixieland, the Oregon Coast's ill-starred answer to Disneyland, which opened in 1969 and went out of biz in 1974. The Rest Hut consisted of a giant fiberglass loaf of bread sticking out of the top of this giant fiberglass hollow log, the whole thing towering over a log-flume roller coaster ride. It's probably the most campily awesome example of the proud display of crass commercialism that was Pixieland. (Column No. 52 - Dec. 6, 2009)
2012 articles About Offbeat Oregon 2012 articles 2011 articles 2010 articles 2008-2009 articles About me Store (the Finn J.D. John Centre for Crass Commercialism and Filthy Lucre)
z

you just might ALSO
enjoy ...

A screen capture from an episode of ABC's legendary 1970s show "Happy Days." Because the show is set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisc., "The Fonz" is actually breaking the law in this scene; pinball was outlawed in Milwaukee at the time.

Graft, corruption, racketeering, and ... uh, pinball?

Until just a few dozen years ago, pinball was illegal, and the mobbed-up characters who supplied the games played for keeps.


The front cover of the May 1946 issue of 44 Western Magazine shows a scene vaguely reminiscent of the downtown gunfight between feuding newspaper editors in 1871 Roseburg.

The Roseburg "newspaper war" that was settled with a gunfight

The owners of rival papers escalated their war of words when they went for pistols on a downtown street one morning in 1871.


An artist's sketch of what D.B. Cooper may have looked like, from an FBI bulletin sent out shortly after the skyjacking.

The legend of cool-cat skyjacker
D.B. Cooper:
What happened?

The man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted into legend, and 40 years later the case remains unsolved ... but there are plenty of theories.


The front cover art of "For Men Only" Magazine showed a scene that bore some resemblance to the scene on the day Dave Tucker robbed the bank of which  he would, 32 years later, be named Vice-President.

The bank robber who became vice-president of the bank he robbed

After he got out of prison, Dave Tucker spent 30 years rebuilding his reputation in his hometown of Joseph, and it seems he succeeded.


A detail from the movie poster for the 1915 racist move 'Birth of a Nation,' which inspired and propelled the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the years just after the Great War.

The Rise and Fall of the House of Klux in Oregon

A slick marketing campaign and a taste for political power marked the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, which spread through Oregon like a racist virus — and then collapsed.


This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

"I can make a
six-shooter sing 'come to jesus'!"

Meet Robert Gordon Duncan, the pioneering Portland shock-jock who was the first person ever sent to prison for cursing on the air, in 1930.


This cover illustration from "Masked Rider Western," published in 1950, bears an uncanny resemblance to the events that kicked off Vigilante rule in Crook County.

When prineville was ruled by masked vigilante riders

In Crook County, the early 1880s were like a Louis L'Amour novel. And it all started with the lynching of an innocent man.


The classic melodrama villain, with sleek silk hat and waxed handlebar mustache, in the act of evicting the poor widow and children from their freshly foreclosed family homestead. Except for the mustache, Oregon's longest-serving 19th-century senator fit the trope with remarkable precision.

Senator John H. Mitchell: Oregon's own real-life Snidely Whiplash

He abandoned his family, changed his name, moved to Oregon, bilked widows and orphans in two big real-estate swindles ... and was promptly elected to Congress.


The skull of the skeleton found in the Odd Fellows hall in Scio, which is now at Oregon State University. The skeleton was that of a hard-working man who died sometime between 1860 and 1890.

Mysterious skeletons of Oregon: If these bones could talk ...

A long-dead dry-land homesteader ... a medical specimen in an Odd Fellows lodge ... what are their stories? We'll never know.


Oregon inventor Victor Strode’s revolutionary boat, the 'aerohydrocraft,' made the front cover of the March 1931 issue of Popular Science. The design didn't prove a useful one for the City of Portland, though, and the larger model the city commissioned to function as a harbor police boat didn't work out.

Buck Rogers-style police boat didn't work out for city of Portland

A local inventor developed the "aerohydrocraft" design in the early 1930s. But when the city built one as an ambulance boat, it flopped.


The remains of the barque Peter Iredale as they appear today, jutting out of the beach sands on Clatsop Spit at Warrenton as they have since 1906. In 1960, the wreck nearly was lost to a man who claimed he owned it.

How the Oregon Coast almost lost the Peter Iredale to a scrap-metal shark

An Oregon City man claimed he'd inherited the rights from his father, and demanded to be allowed to cut it up and haul it away. He almost got away with this little swindle.


Commander Dave Scott salutes the U.S. flag, which has just been planted on the surface of the moon. A small piece of Oregon lava rock, carried to the moon by Scott's fellow astronaut Jim Irwin, lies within this photo, next to one of the many bootprints. (Image: NASA)

There's a piece of lava from central oregon in this photo, on the moon.

It was left there by astronaut Jim Irwin at the request of a friend from Bend — who gave him a sliver of Oregon lava to leave on the moon's surface. And so he did.


The Motel 6 on Mission Street in Salem as it appeared in the mid-1970s, when Carl Cletus Bowles made his run from its back door. Don't laugh, at least not too loudly ... two innocent people would die before Bowles was back in prison.

During a conjugal visit at a cheap motel, the prisoner escaped

It had to be the most awkward prison-break scenario in the history of the universe. But it really did happen. Here's the story.


James Lappeus, former Portland Chief of Police. He eventually was fired over allegations that he'd offered to 'accidentally' leave the jailhouse door open for a convicted murderer if his wife paid a $1,000 bribe.

gambler, swindler, gunfighter, liquor man ... oh, and also police chief.

James Lappeus came to Portland to open a saloon and "theater." Despite his checkered past — or maybe because of it — he was named city marshal and, later, Chief of Police. Here's the story.


This postcard picture of Cannon Beach was created in 1966, which means just off to the left of the frame is a beach with a fence around it and "no trespassing" signs.

HOW OREGON ALMOST LOST PUBLIC ACCESS TO ITS BEACHES

A Portland real-estate guy found a loophole in the law and claimed a patch of beach for his own, and his friends in the state Legislature tried to keep it that way. Here's the story.


A color lithograph of George and Kate Ann Williams’s Victorian  mansion, located at 18th and Couch streets downtown.

This spooky-looking Portland mansion was home of a 'starvation cult'

A prominent Portland socialite led a sect called "Truth," with the motto "Pray and Be Cured," that required 40-day fasts. It vanished after its leader starved herself to death during a 110-day fast. Here's the story.


The archway monument leading up to the Wallowa County Courthouse,  built in 1936. The bronze plaque on the inside left of the arch includes  the name of murderer and horse thief Bruce “Blue” Evans.

A monument in honor of a horse thief and mass murderer?

Bruce "Blue" Evans led the gang that slaughtered over 30 innocent Chinese miners in 1887. So why is his name celebrated on a monument to Wallowa County Pioneers? . Here's the story.


Title screen from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Mel Blanc, the legendary Looney Toons voice man, grew up in Portland.

The voice of Bugs Bunny went to high school in Portland

Legendary Hollywood voice man Mel Blanc's teachers weren't too impressed with his voice talents, but Oregon radio listeners and cartoon fans sure were. Here's the story.


The gravestone of Ame, who despite having died 10 years after the Civil War, was still considered a slave.

sHE DIED AROUND 1874. SO WHY DOES THE GRAVESTONE SAY SHE WAS A SLAVE?

Ame came over the Oregon Trail from Missouri. But when the North won the Civil War, her status as a slave didn't change. Here's what happened.


Ray V.B. Jackson in a booking photo from the Oregon State Pen, in 1896. Four years after this photo was taken, he was teaching grade school in Silver Lake.

Is this the face of oregon's first serial killer?

Like an "angel of death," ex-con Ray V.B. Jackson just happened to be at the scene of at least five Central Oregon homicides. What are the odds? Here's the story (in two parts).


Vaudeville's famous Klondike Kate became a Central Oregon legend

central oregon's most fabulous homesteader ever.

Homesteader Kitty "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, retired from the bright lights of Vaudeville, often wore full costume just to weed the garden. Here's the story.


Early Oregon 'holy roller' cult ended in murder, suicide, insanity

THE holy-roller "NAKED LADIES' CULT" IN CORVALLIS and waldport.

It started out as a church seeking perfect holiness and Godliness. It ended in murder, insanity and chaos — and, yes, rumors of naked ladies. Check out the full story (in two parts).


Florence's famous exploding whale: A highway engineer didn't know how much dynamite to use, so he guessed ... and guessed wrong.

Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Tawdry love triangle ends in murder and a kiss from a corpse

Lulu Reynolds was having a torrid affair with her music teacher. Her husband was an ex-Cavalry scout who carried a .38 in his jacket pocket. It wasn't the kind of thing that usually ends well. It didn't.

A drawing of the Reynolds family in court during Charles Reynolds’
murder trial. Reynolds sits flanked by his 16-year-old son John and his
19-year-old daughter Etta; their stepmother Lulu, heavily veiled and
very weepy, sits some distance away. (Image: Portland Morning
Oregonian)

On June 20, 1907, a retired military man named Charles Reynolds was hurrying home as fast as he could — with a .38-caliber revolver in his pocket.

Charles was an old U.S. Cavalry man in his 50s who had moved to Portland with his wife, Lulu, and his two grown children from a previous marriage. Charles had married Lulu in Colorado five years before, and she was less than half his age ... which may account for some of the drama that followed after the Reynoldses moved to Oregon.

In Portland, the Reynoldses were part owners of a bathhouse on the corner of Second and Washington, and lived in a large house about 15 blocks away, which Lulu managed as a boardinghouse.

They’d moved to Portland from Milton-Freewater, where they’d owned and operated a hotel. Lulu, with a powerful interest in music and a dream to become a great songwriter someday, had met a music teacher and band leader there named George Herbert Hibbins — whose stage name was “Professor Herbert.” Lulu and the “professor” had rather hit it off. And when the Reynoldses moved to Portland, deprived of the opportunity to see one another, they’d started writing letters.

Sexting, 1907 style

The headline in the Portland Morning Oregonian on June 22, 1907,
announcing the dramatic events that ensued after Lulu saw the
lifeless body of her lover in the coroner’s office.

At first, the letters were nothing out of the ordinary for a teacher and his pupil: friendly talk, song lyrics, suggestions for making a particular melody better. But by early 1907 they must have been getting a little racier, because when Charles found one it was necessary for Lulu to lie to him about whom it came from. She told him it was from an old admirer from Colorado who didn’t know she was married and therefore unavailable, and that she had set him straight. And he seems to have accepted this — at the time.

But by spring, Professor Herbert’s letters had gotten positively torrid, and Lulu’s replies not much less so.

Meanwhile, Professor Herbert had been making plans. He had bought a small farm near San Diego, with which he proposed to (with apologies to Johnny Horton) make for his Lulu a honeymoon home.

Now he planned to come to Portland so that, in person, he could convince her to elope with him thither. His plan was for the two of them to divorce their respective spouses (yes, he was married too), move to San Diego and live a life of peace, harmony, music and marital bliss — or, at least, that’s what he told Lulu when he arrived.

Lulu found a nice room for Professor Herbert to rent, in a nearby building with a discreet side entrance into which she could sneak to spend time with him while her husband was away working at the bathhouse, and she started regularly slipping away to see him. There he wooed her ardently and shamelessly. He bought her an engagement ring worth well over $100, kissed it and placed it on her finger.

Suspicion grows

Meanwhile, Charles was growing increasingly suspicious. Lulu had become cold and distant. And when he asked his two children — Rita, 19, and John, 16 — if they’d seen anything strange, John told of a strange man who was visiting regularly while Charles was away. He’d actually seen Lulu with her arms around that strange man’s neck, kissing him.

Then, about two weeks into June, Lulu finally worked up the courage to ask for a divorce. Charles, greatly alarmed, launched a campaign to win her back. Nothing seemed to be working. Finally, he took her up to the Council Crest Amusement Park for a day of fun … and interrogation.

“He tried to treat me kindly, and asked for one of his old-time kisses,” Lulu later testified in court. “Then when Mr. Reynolds continued to question me I got angry and threatened to go home. Then he noticed the ring. He asked where I got it. I told him, because I was angry, that maybe he would know some day.”

Subtlety was not, it seems, one of Lulu’s strong points — a fact that became even more clear a day or two later, when Charles noticed a strange picture on Lulu’s bureau — a picture that looked a lot like a certain music teacher he’d met once or twice back in Milton-Freewater.

“Don’t talk to him any more, sweetheart.”

It all came to a head on a Wednesday afternoon, when Charles called Lulu on the telephone to ask her to come down to the bathhouse and she refused to come.

But then, as he was arguing with her, Charles heard over the telephone line the faint but distinctive sound of a man’s voice in the background.

“Don’t talk to him any more, sweetheart,” the voice said.

Charles said not another word. Onto the hook went the telephone receiver, and out the door went Charles, his right hand wrapped tight around the butt of his .38.

The shooting

It takes some time for a fifty-something man to run 15 blocks up hill, so Professor Herbert certainly had plenty of time in which to stage a strategic retreat. But it doesn’t seem to have occurred to him. He and Lulu continued their leisurely preparations for a stroll in the park, and just as they were about to step out, the master of the house arrived, gun in hand.

“I’m onto you,” Charles shouted at Professor Herbert — and opened up on him. Three shots; three hits. Charles was good with a pistol.

Professor Herbert ran down the street and staggered into a drugstore, where he was put in a bed and tended to, but one of Charles’ bullets had cut through his intestines. In 1907, that meant certain death from sepsis. By 1 a.m., he was dead.

Charles was utterly unrepentant when the police arrived and arrested him. According to the Morning Oregonian's report, assuming a “dramatic attitude” and pointing to a photograph of himself in the uniform of an 1870s U.S. Cavalry scout, he’d declaimed, “Do you see that picture there? I was with General Custer for a long time as a scout, and do you think that now, when my home was in danger from a despoiler, I would show the white feather? I will stand by my home.”

But, Lulu claimed, there’d been no danger and no despoiler, just an innocent musician collaborating with an equally innocent wife to write a piece of music — a wife whose good name he himself had despoiled by assuming, in his jealous rage, that she was an adultress. Professor Herbert, with his last dying breaths, concurred. And authorities were disposed to believe them.

Until, that is, Lulu was asked to come to the coroner’s office to identify the body. At which point, something really extraordinary happened.

Kissing the corpse

“Unable to conceal the love she bore Herbert, she cast herself upon his lifeless body and kissed his cold lips passionately,” the Oregonian’s reporter recounted with breathless avidity. “Realizing then that she had laid bare the secret of the tragedy, she made a complete confession before a Coroner’s jury, denying the ante-mortem statement of Herbert, who had lied with his last breath to shield her name.”

Well, as you can imagine, the ensuing murder trial held Portland enraptured. Lulu’s love letters (rather zesty ones by 1907 standards; she called him “dearie” a lot) were published in the newspaper for all to see.

Charles’ defense was distinctly sketchy — a variant on the same “stand your ground” legal concept that has recently come under fire in cases like the George Zimmerman trial. But when it was time for the jury to decide, it took them just 30 minutes to find Charles innocent on all charges.

(Sources: Chandler, J.D. Murder and Mayhem in Portland, Oregon. Charleston: The History Press, 2013; Portland Morning Oregonian, June 20 to Sept. 19, 1907)