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 second pressing of The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" record, on the Wand label. This bodgey, lo-fi monophonic recording, with its inscrutable lyrics and driving yet languid style, got thousands of parents worried about possible obscene lyrics, and was even banned in Illinois.

Bad recording job led to an F.B.I. investigation for Portland band

No one could understand the lyrics in The Kingsmen's recording of 'Louie Louie," but many tried ... and some of them had rather dirty minds.


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

Hank Vaughan: Becoming the West's most successful rustler

The Oregon frontier's most colorful almost-outlaw spent a dozen years dodging posses and slipping in and out of the Indian reservation with stolen horses and cattle. Some of his exploits are still being talked about today.

The painting on the cover of this July 1950 issue of Exciting Western
shows the scene that most of us think of when we hear “rustler” —
two desperados caught in the act of stealthily changing the brand
on a stolen cow. While Hank Vaughan did this sort of thing, his
method was to drive the stolen cattle deep into the wilderness first,
and he’d never do just one cow at a time.

When Hank Vaughan was sent to prison back in 1865, more than one person breathed a sigh of relief.

Although only a lad of 16, Hank had already tried to kill four men with his six-shooter, and with one of them he’d succeeded. Hot-tempered, hard-drinking and quick on the draw, Hank was an unpredictable terror of the “Billy the Kid” type. Had he not been sent to prison, it’s extremely unlikely Hank would have seen his 18th birthday; he would most likely have died at the hands of an angry mob, something that had very nearly happened already.

But the Hank Vaughn who, at the age of 21, walked out of the Oregon State Penitentiary a free man (his mother having successfully lobbied the governor for a pardon) was different. He was more sober, more mature, far more competent — and quite a bit more dangerous. Prison had taught him the skills he’d need to survive another 25 years in the Oregon country.

Hank was, first and foremost, a horseman — quite possibly the most gifted horseman in the history of the state. So he naturally went straight back into the business of horse trading — and, of course, horse theft.

Hank’s M.O.: A respectable outlaw

Shortly after his release from prison, Hank developed what would become his regular routine: Using money made either by running stolen stock or leaning on family and friends, he’d set up a prosperous and ostensibly legitimate horse ranching business as a front. He’d run that business with diligence and competence, and it would thrive. But by night, in the backcountry, Hank would be prowling the land, looking for stock to rustle and quietly adding it to his herd.

A small cattle drive in progress, traveling through the small Central Oregon
town of Hardman, in 1962. Hardman, now a ghost town, was once known
colloquially as “Dogtown” to locals. In Hank Vaughan’s day, cattle drives
involved much larger herds than this one. (Image: Ben Maxwell/ Salem
Public Library)

This was in the heyday of the open range, all over the West. That meant there were vast expanses of unfenced land that cattle and horses would just wander across, and occasionally ranchers would take their animals on long drives to markets or to better food supplies. When they did this, a few of the animals would always stray off from the herd, melting into the woods one or two at a time. Cowboys would ride through a day or two later collecting the strays, but they often wouldn’t find them all. The way this was supposed to work was, when they were found, the animals would be recognized by their brands and returned to the rancher who’d lost them.

But it didn’t always work out that way. Especially when the person who found the animals was Hank Vaughan — who was known to actually follow cattle drives closely so that he could gather up the strays before the cowboys following the drive could round them up. Hank also was known to cut a few animals out of herds when he found them unsupervised.

Operating on the border of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Hank would then lead the stolen animals into the reservation and mingle them with the Indians’ herds. It was a beautiful swindle, and worked nicely for a long time.

Of course, this wasn’t the sort of thing that a fellow could do forever.

Hank’s Pilot Rock escape

One day Hank was gambling and drinking in a saloon in the Central Oregon town of Pilot Rock when a group of stockmen walked in, fresh from having tracked a group of their strays straight to Hank’s corral, and confronted him with the evidence.

Jon and Donna Skovlin, in their book, describe the scene that followed: Hank very coolly told them he didn’t know what they were talking about; then he leisurely picked up his poker chips and strolled toward the bar to cash them in, riffling them as he walked.

Halfway there he abruptly released his grip on the poker chips, whirled round to face the stockmen, and froze. They realized his gun was out, cocked and pointed straight at them. There was a split-second of silence, followed by the cacophonous clatter of the poker chips hitting the floor. Hank had turned, drawn and was ready to shoot, all in less than the time it took a handful of poker chips to fall three feet.

The shocked stockmen backed away, hands in the air. Hank backed away too, toward the door, and then ducked through it and ran for his horse.

Hank’s horse was always the best in town. Through his own operations and through his thefts, he was able to basically take his pick, and he always picked the best. Today that attention was going to be crucial, because as soon as his pistol was no longer pointed their way, the stockmen were running for their own horses and shouting for a posse to gather together and go catch him.

A sheepherder drives a flock down the old stock road near Pilot Rock. The
bluffs in the background of this photo are the ones Hank Vaughan rode his
horse off of to escape an angry posse in the late 1870s. (Image: Gifford
Collection/OSU Libraries)

Out of town Hank galloped with the posse just a few hundred yards behind. He was making for a big bluff that overlooked the town — not a cliff per se, but it might as well have been; the ground sloped away at a good 75 to 80 degrees.

When they saw where he was headed, the posse slowed a bit and fanned out, seeking to cut off Hank’s avenues of escape. Their plan was to pin him against the edge of that bluff, from which he’d have no alternative but to surrender or be shot.

What they didn’t know was that Hank had planned for this moment. He’d scouted a line down the bluff and practiced it with his horse until the animal was perfectly comfortable taking it.

And so, as the posse closed in, they saw Hank’s horse leap off the bluff like Pegasus taking off.

Rushing to the rim, they looked down through the dust, expecting to see horse and rider in a broken pile of flesh and bone at the bottom of the bluff, and instead saw Hank’s horse galloping away at the foot.

There was nothing for it but to go back to town and recover as much of their property as Hank had left behind.

It was the events of that day — played for high drama in an almost Vaudevillean way — that cemented Hank Vaughan’s reputation as a masterful horseman and terrifyingly swift gunfighter. Hank’s flair for the dramatic served him well; many a future opponent, having had such a clear demonstration of his skills, opted not to risk challenging him because of it.

Not that all of them would. Hank was involved in at least a half dozen gunfights over the following dozen years, including two that left him fearfully wounded and one that resulted in some premature obituary notices in local newspapers.

Hank spent those years drifting around the dry country of the Pacific Northwest, buying and stealing and selling horses and cattle. He had a hideout deep in the Wallowa Mountains to which he’d drive stolen stock, there to wait for their skin to heal over the old, legitimate brands before rebranding them and driving them out and selling them in Boise. Today, that hideout is known as Vaughan Basin.

But by 1883, Hank could see the writing on the wall. The open range was closing up. The future would belong not to the cowboy and his riata, but to the farmer and his plow. So following a marriage to a Umatilla Indian woman named Martha Robie, Hank prepared to lead the country into this transition to a more settled life on a 640-acre wheat farm near Pendleton.

It wouldn’t be all that settled, though. Not with Hank Vaughan involved.

We’ll talk about Hank’s life as a hard-partying gentleman farmer in the third and final part of this series, next week.

(Sources: Skovlin, Jon and Donna. Hank Vaughan: Hell-Raising Horse Trader of the Bunchgrass Territory. Cove, Ore.: Reflections, 1996; Gulick, Bill. Outlaws of the Pacific Northwest. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton, 2000)