Heroes and rascals, shipwrecks and lost gold: Strange but true stories and secrets of Oregon's wild past | Offbeat Oregon History 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 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)
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The tawdriest love triangle in the history of the universe.

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


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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:
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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.

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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).


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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.


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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).


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Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

The mysterious skeletons of Crater Lake National Park

Oregon's only national park is a surprisingly dangerous place, and a number of people have died there. Several of these left only bones behind to help us understand what caused their death.

This scene from the 1945 Warner Bros. film “Tarzan and the Amazons”
shows Tarzan’s monkey friend Chita finding a wrecked airplane with a
skeleton slumped inside. (Image: Warner Bros.)

Crater Lake, Oregon’s only national park, has a worldwide reputation for scenic beauty, which it richly deserves.

But the park has another interesting characteristic, and it’s one that few of the millions who have flocked to the park over the years have realized:

It’s lethal.

With fairly depressing regularity, visitors to the park fall off cliffs, get caught in snowstorms and crash their cars into deep ravines. Airplanes and helicopters fall out of the sky. And as if that weren’t enough, far more homicides have played out there than you might think.

Of the fatalities at Crater Lake, some of the most interesting — and mysterious — are the ones that left skeletons behind.

The phantom flyer

In the summer of 1970, a man named Dave Panebaker got a job as a seasonal ranger at Crater Lake. Over that summer, he heard about an interesting but little known sight in the park: A dark-blue Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter that had crashed there a month or two after World War II ended.

A Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter flies over California in 1943. This is the
type of aircraft that Ensign Frank Lupo fatally crashed in Crater Lake
National Park. (Image: U.S. Navy)

The old Navy fighter had hit hard, and everyone assumed the pilot was long dead. One of its machine guns was embedded in a cliff face, and the blue wing with its white star insignia was clearly visible through the underbrush. It was a relatively short and very do-able hike to go see it. So Panebaker, on his day off, pulled his boots on and set out.

But Panebaker got lost while searching for the crash site. Rather than just continue hiking and hoping for the best, he sat down on a log to think through his options for what would most likely get him back to civilization.

And while he sat and thought, he suddenly got the feeling somebody was watching him.

He looked up and locked eyes — or, rather, eye sockets — with a human skull that was staring at him from under a nearby log.

This old linen postcard shows the spooky-looking island known as the
Phantom Ship in Crater Lake. (Image: Postcard)

I have been unable to find any description of how Panebaker reacted in that moment, but it was probably a pretty dramatic scene. After all, it happened at a moment when the young ranger had just realized he’d gotten lost in a fairly dangerous wildland, and he was already fighting the urge to panic.

In any case, Panebaker did find his way back out of the forest a short time later, and he brought the skull with him.

“The chief ranger wasn’t too happy with me when I talked to him in his office and pulled the skull out of my pack and put it on his desk,” Panebaker recalled later, during an oral-history interview. “A Whidbey Island naval investigative team came to the park a few days later.”

The Navy authorities identified the skull using dental records. It was 22-year-old Ensign Frank Lupo (no relation, as far as I’ve been able to learn, to the teleplay writer who co-created “The A Team” and “Riptide” and produced “Walker, Texas Ranger”).

Lupo, a New Jersey native, had been part of a squadron of seven Hellcats flying from Redmond to Red Bluff, Calif., in December 1945. The seven of them had been struggling a bit with the weather, and the cloud ceiling was at about 6,000 feet — less than 2,000 feet above the rugged terrain they were overflying.

The ceiling steadily lowered until the planes were at 500 feet above the treetops. Then snow and mist closed in and the pilots could no longer see the ground. They were flying with instruments now.

When they emerged from the fog, there were only six of them.

The Navy returned Lupo’s skull to his still-surviving mother, who finally, 25 years later, got to bury her son.

The skeleton crew

This scenic postcard of Crater Lake on a clear winter day shows one of the
ways the lake can be dangerous; its waters reflect the sky so cleanly and
clearly that pilots can become confused and disoriented, losing track of
their true elevation. (Image: Postcard)

On February 26, 1975, Jean Nunn drove to the airport in Klamath Falls and dropped off her husband, Dave, along with her daughter and grandchild. Dave was flying the two back home to Salem in his blue Cessna 182. Two 17-year-old student pilots, Jim Pryor and Matt Perkins, were coming along for the ride to pick up some flight hours.

The plane landed in Salem as planned, and then Dave, Jim and Matt strapped themselves back into the Cessna for the short flight home to Klamath Falls.

Jean, feeling a little chilled, went to bed early that night.

She woke up early, too. Very early.

“I woke up at 9:30 p.m. with the sensation of a hand on my leg,” she recalled in a 2007 interview with Lee Beach of the Klamath Falls Herald and News. “I looked at the clock. I knew. I called the airport and told them the plane had gone down at 9:20 p.m. and he had died at 9:30. They confirmed they had lost the plane off the radar at 9:20 at 11,000 feet.”

Jean may have known, but nobody else did. Search parties hunted for the wreckage in vain. People speculated that it might have gone down in the lake.

Then, seven years later — on July 5, 1982 — a hiker just outside the park boundary, near Huckleberry Campground, spotted what looked like the badly mangled wreckage of a small airplane. Approaching, he found three skeletons slumped inside the cabin.

Jean had been right.

Investigators soon confirmed it was Dave, along with Jim Pryor and Matt Perkins, by looking in their wallets. Inside Dave’s, they found a folded piece of paper on which he had written, “Lose not thine airspeed, lest the ground rise up and smite thee.”

Decades later, Jean published a book about her spiritual journey through the trauma of losing her husband. It’s titled “We Fly Away.”

The Photographer Vanishes

This photo ran in the Eugene Register-Guard a year after Charles
McCullar vanished. (Image: Eugene Register-Guard)

In 1974, 19-year-old Charles McCullar left his home state of Virginia for an extended vacation — a hitchhiking and bus-riding tour of the country. Leaving his beloved Volkswagen at home and taking his camera equipment, he hit the road. Charles was a dedicated photographer and he had some really good stuff — good for 1974, anyway.

Late January of ’75 found McCullar in Eugene, Oregon, staying for a few weeks with a friend. Then he left on a short excursion, hitchhiking to Crater Lake to take winter photos, planning to come back to the friend’s house two days later.

He never did.

The FBI got involved. Charles’ father dropped everything and flew to the West Coast and spent the whole summer camped at Crater Lake, searching and searching for his son.

No trace. 

No trace, that is, until a full year later, at the end of the season. Two hikers took a wrong turn and ended up in a little-traveled canyon, where they found an old dirty ripped backpack with a car key in the side pocket — the key to McCullar’s Volkswagen back home.

Park rangers got a horse patrol out right away, and after just a few hours they found what was left of Charles. And here’s where the story gets a little weird, and more than a little sinister.

Charles’s body was found a full 12 miles from the trailhead, and on the day he disappeared, there were seven and a half feet of new snow on the ground. If you’ve ever broken trail in skis or snowshoes, you know what’s wrong with that picture. How did this kid cover 12 miles in 102 inches of fresh powder? It’s simply not humanly possible. That much powder would be impossible for even a snowmobile to get through.

The second weird thing was the condition of the skeleton. There were foot bones in the socks, but Charles’s jeans were empty except for the broken-off ends of his shin-bones sticking up. The jeans were unbuttoned. And the rest of him was gone, as if melted away. They found the crown of his skull about 12 feet away; nothing more.

They never found a shirt. They never found his coat. They never found his boots, either. Just an empty pair of pants sitting on a log, with socks and foot-bones inside.

Now granted, people do weird things when they’re hypothermic. Like decide they’re too hot, and strip. Or maybe even pull off their boots and slog around in the snow in their socks.

Also, the fact that only his feet were there isn’t too surprising. Food is rare in the high Cascades in wintertime. Charles probably got a whole family of foxes through the winter.

But the two really unusual things here are the location, and the missing clothes and boots.

Oh, and one more thing:  Charles was there to take photographs, right? He had some pretty sweet equipment for 1974. None of it was ever found. No money was found, either.

If only those broken-off shinbones could’ve talked to us … what do you think they’d say?

I bet they’d say something like this:

 “I hitched a ride with this creepy guy who stole my camera equipment and money and shot me in the head. Then on a clear day in the dead of winter he hauled my body into the remotest part of Crater Lake, took my shirt and boots off and set me up on a log and left, figuring the animals would destroy the evidence by spring. And hey, I guess it worked, because the cops ruled my death to be from natural causes. My dad doesn’t buy it, though.”

Yeah, OK, so that’s one theory. But really — nobody will ever know. Except, maybe — if I’m right — maybe one person knows.

(Sources: Farabee, Charles. Death, Daring and Disaster: Search and Rescue in the National Parks. New York: Taylor, 2005; Klamath Falls Herald and News, 12 Apr 2007; Eugene Register-Guard, 18 Jan 1976; craterlakeinstitute.org)

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