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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Actor Justus Barnes takes a shot straight into the camera at the end of a 10-minute silent Edison Films production called 'The Great Train Robbery,' the filming of which started in November 1903 – two months after Bill Miner’s gang tried to rob the train just outside Portland. It’s hard to miss the similarity between Barnes’ character and Bill Miner.

How Bill Miner learned to rob trains ... he learned the hard way.

But his botched Portland job appears to have inspired an iconic 1903 movie called 'The Great Train Robbery' a month or two later. Maybe he even watched it later ... in prison.


A scene from the Disney movie "Saludos Amigos" (1943), a sort of cartoon-character tour of South America. This scene is from the Argentina part, with Goofy dressed as a gaucho. In this cartoon and most others, Goofy was voiced by Pinto Colvig.

Goofy was from Oregon. Also Bluto, Grumpy, Sleepy, Bozo, dozens more.

Vance "Pinto" Colvig, from Jacksonville, was a pioneer in animated cartoons and a gifted show-biz man.


Earle Leonard Nelson, a.k.a. The Dark Strangler, as he looked a week or two before his execution in Canada. Nelson's hanging ended a cross-country and international murdering spree in which he murdered dozens of women.

When the 'Dark Strangler' preyed on Portland landladies

His M.O. was simple: While a woman was showing him a room or house for rent, he'd strangle her, take her jewelry and flee.


A breathless headline that appeared in the Portland Morning Oregonian after Lulu Reynolds revealed her clandestine lover's guilt in a particularly dramatic and creepy way.

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.


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.

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).


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Bad recording technique led FBI to investigate “Louie Louie”

Portland band The Kingsmen recorded the song quickly and cheaply, and the words they were singing were unintelligible. But when the song became a hit, fans started guessing at the lyrics ... and some of them had rather dirty minds.

The Kingsmen at their gold-record ceremony for “Louie Louie.” From left
to right: Norm Sundholm, Mike Mitchell, Lynn Easton, Dick Peterson and
Barry Curtis. (Image: Millie Bessey/ RILM)

In the summer of 1963, Ken Chase, the program manager at KISN Radio in Portland, had a problem. Two years earlier, in Seattle, a group called The Wailers had recorded a version of Richard Berry’s 1957 hit single, “Louie Louie,” and it had gotten very popular. It was getting played a lot on Portland radio.

But all that airplay was happening on rival radio station KGON. KISN was not authorized to play The Wailers’ song.

So Chase asked the house band at the dance club he owned if they’d be up for recording a version of the song.

Chase’s house band was a group of five Portland teenagers who played a sort of rough-hewn party music in the “Mersey Beat” British-invasion style popularized by bands like The Beatles and The Zombies. They called themselves “The Kingsmen.”

Recorded on the cheap

Somewhat oddly, after helping the group get set up with an hour of time at a recording studio on the corner of Northwest 13th and Burnside, Chase left it to the band to pick up the tab for the $50 session. Band members pitched in equally to pay the fee.

The second pressing of The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" record, on the
Wand label. (Image: thedailypipe.blogspot.com)

The poorly-mixed, lo-fi, monophonic result, pressed on a 45-rpm vinyl single and hastily released under the “Jerdan” label, fixed KISN’s competitive problem. It also inspired a two-year-long FBI investigation and catapulted the five young Portland lads to national stardom.

The quality may have been terrible, but the song was catchy, and the Kingsmen had substantially transformed it. That their version was something new and special was immediately clear. However, other aspects of the song were not so clear — most notably the singing. Vocalist Jack Ely was doing his best to sound Caribbean despite not really knowing what a Jamaican accent sounded like; his braces had just been tightened, further weirding out his pronunciation; and producer Ken Chase, hoping to capture the energy of a live performance, had dangled the mic from the ceiling so that Ely had to more or less shout upward at it.

The result was a clean, catchy beat-music ditty with utterly unintelligible lyrics.

A few months went by. Then an influential DJ in Boston got his hands on a copy, played it, shook his head with disbelief and presented it to his listeners as the “Worst Record in America.” It caught on.

Ironically, a somewhat better known Portland band, Paul Revere and the Raiders, recorded a version of Louie Louie in the same studio under the tutelage of another producer from the same radio station (KISN). Their version was much cleaner, better mixed and generally superior. But it wasn’t really in the then-pistol-hot “Mersey beat” musical style, and of course it lacked the distinction of “Worst Record in America,” so it didn’t get nearly as much attention – although Paul Revere and the Raiders went on to become by far the more successful band.

Vague lyrics and dirty minds

As The Kingsmen’s song went nationwide, a number of people started wondering what exactly those lyrics were. The record wasn’t distributed with a lyric sheet, and most people had no way of getting their hands on one. So naturally, as fans do, some of them started playing the record very carefully, trying to decipher them.

Some of these would-be lyrics transcriptionists turned out to have rather dirty minds.

Soon local governments, having heard the rumors, were banning The Kingsmen. Then the governor of Indiana banned it, making headlines nationwide. And by early in 1964, outraged letters were coming in to the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.

“My daughter brought home a record of 'Louie Louie' and I, after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words,” wrote an angry parent in a letter to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, which found its way into the FBI’s file. (The FBI redacted the letter-writer’s name.) “The lyrics are so filthy that I cannot enclose them in this letter … I would like to see these people, the 'artists,' the record company and the promoters prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Bait and switch with dirty words?

A side-by-side comparison of the official lyrics of "Louie Louie" with one of
the sets of obscene lyrics, apparently compiled by a fan. The curse words
have been redacted from this image, but they appear in plain text in the FBI
file. (Image: FBI)

For the FBI, it was easy enough to get a copy of the lyrics and listen to the record. Sure, they matched up. But by that time, the suspicions of parents all across the country had been aroused. Now the theory was that those rascally Kingsmen were actually singing the nasty lyrics, keeping them vague and muffled so that nobody could prove anything, and publishing the clean ones that Richard Berry had originally written with the song.

“We became aware of a dual set of lyrics, and that without a doubt, someone had masterminded an ‘auditory illusion,’” wrote a member of the Flint, Michigan, Junior Women’s Club in a letter to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. “Our prosecuting attorney with whom we consulted said, in his opinion, there was nothing legally that can be done since he believed you cannot prove which set of lyrics they are singing. This seemed rather irrelevant since they were capitalizing on its obscenity, and when every teenager in the county ‘heard’ the obscene (words), not the copyrighted lyrics.”

Another set of fan-generated lyrics for "Louie Louie," shown side-by-side
with the original for comparison . The curse word redacted in red in this
image appears in plain text in the FBI's file. (Image: FBI)

Anyone familiar with the hasty, bodged-together conditions under which the song was recorded probably found such “mastermind” suspicions pretty amusing.

Your tax dollars at work

The FBI continued to investigate the song for two years, amassing a 140-page dossier on the matter. In the meantime, the two founders of The Kingsmen, Lynn Easton and Jack Ely, parted company in a fairly acrimonious dispute over who got to be the group’s lead vocalist. For several years Ely, who’d sung the vocals on “Louie Louie,” fronted his own band (“Jack Ely and the Kingsmen”) while the original Kingsmen — with Easton handling the vocals — continued playing concerts with Easton lip-synching to Ely’s pre-recorded performances. Legal action followed, and Easton had the upper hand because his mom had registered the band’s name; so a year or two later, a judge ordered Ely to change his band name and Easton to quit using Ely’s pre-recorded voice.

A third, considerably inferior, set of fan-generated lyrics to "Louie Louie,"
from the FBI file. (Image: FBI)

That hurt the remaining Kingsmen at first, since concertgoers were mostly there to hear “Louie Louie,” and with a different vocalist the song sounded like a different band. But the band did go on to score several other hits, including a version of “Money (That’s What I Want)” as well as “Death of an Angel” and “The Jolly Green Giant.”

Fifty years after “Louie Louie” was performed, Los Vegas artist Tim Bavington unveiled a glass-and-acrylic sculpture that now hangs on the wall in the new Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland. It’s a brilliantly colorful 10-foot-tall wall of wiggly neon lines, intended to represent the sound waves of the chords to the song.

As Oregonian writer Sara Hottman wryly noted in her feature story about the sculpture, that brought The Song that Launched a Dozen FBI Agents back full circle — there on the wall at the Federal Building, it’s now “back in front of the feds.”

(Sources: Hottman, Sara. “The Kingsmen’s infamously innocent ‘Louie Louie’ …”, Portland Oregonian, 25 Jul 2013; http://vault.fbi.gov/louie-louie-the-song; Love, Matt. Citadel of the Spirit. South Beach, Ore.: Nestucca Spit Press, 2009)