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

Iconic movies shot in Oregon, Part One: 1908 to 1952

As a place to go shoot pictures on location, Oregon has become pretty popular in the last few dozen years. But the Beaver State's contribution to early cinema, though more sparse, was surprisingly influential.

A vintage movie poster for Buster Keaton’s “The General,” a 1926
silent movie shot, in part, near Cottage Grove. (Image: United Artists)

In the past 25 years or so, Oregon has come into its own as a place to make movies.

The iconic projects have come thick and fast, especially in the last few years. The last 15 years of the century saw The Goonies, Stand By Me, Drugstore Cowboy, Point Break, Free Willy (twice), Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Postman, Ricochet River and Men of Honor filmed here — along with dozens of others. And the 21st century so far has brought us Pay It Forward, Elephant, The Ring (twice), Fahrenheit 9/11, Into the Wild, Twilight, Coraline and more than 100 more — including such unforgettable classics as “Kindergarten Cop” and “Jackass: The Movie.”

And of course, we can’t forget the burgeoning television business, highlighted right now by “Grimm” and “Portlandia.”

But Oregon’s relationship with the movie business goes back much farther — back to a time when parts of Oregon were wilder than much of Alaska is today.

I’ve cherry-picked 15 of the most influential of these early Oregon movies, and I’m going to start presenting them (in order from oldest to newest) this week. It will take three columns to do that.

These are, in my opinion (and of folks responding to a question I posted last week on the Offbeat Oregon History Facebook page) the most important movies, but there are more — lots more. For a definitive list, look up http://oregonfilm.org, or plan a visit to the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria.

1. The Fisherman’s Bride (1908)

Selig Polyscope Film Co. Filmed in Astoria. Cast and crew info unavailable.

The Fisherman’s Bride was, as far as I’ve been able to learn, the first movie ever filmed in Oregon; it was shot in and around Astoria. It’s a classic love triangle, with two young fellows — a good boy and a bad boy — battling over a lovely bachelorette. The girl chooses the good boy and they set a wedding date. But the bad boy plots his revenge by arranging to have the good boy kidnapped and shanghaied off on a deepwater sailing ship just before their wedding. This plan is, of course, foiled, and our hero gets to the church on time.

The interesting thing about this flick, other than its status as the state’s first, is that it was not a period piece. While it was being shot, guys like Our Hero really were being shanghaied out of Astoria, for real, with some regularity. Melodramatic though the whole thing sounds today, something like it may very well have happened in real life during the time the film crew was there shooting this movie.

2. The General (1926)

The art from a movie poster for "The General." (Image: United Artists)

United Artists. Shot in various places including Cottage Grove. Starring Buster Keaton and Marion Mack.

This was one of the most important movies of the silent era, and a real study in contrasts. It crushed Buster Keaton’s independence as a filmmaker, but it cemented his reputation as a comedic genius. It was widely regarded as a failure, yet its revenue margin was about 50 percent in the black — which is saying something, because it was phenomenally expensive to make. It culminated in the most expensive scene of the silent era — in which a burning bridge collapses under the weight of a full working steam locomotive, sending the whole works crashing into the Row River just southeast of Cottage Grove.

It’s that scene the The General is most remembered for in Oregon.

The story takes place during the Civil War. “Johnny Gray,” a Southern railroad engineer, has his beloved engine, The General, stolen by some Union spies — with his girlfriend aboard. Johnny gives chase in another locomotive, steals back both train and girl, and tries to make it back to the Mason-Dixon line while the Yankees give chase. Along the way, of course, there’s plenty of Buster’s trademark style of physical and expressive comedy.

The filming of The General’s culminating scene brought locals out from miles around to watch, and about 500 Oregon National Guard soldiers were hired as extras. The event is commemorated with a mural on the side of the Cottage Grove Hotel today.

The wrecked locomotive was left in the river after the film was made, and became a popular visitors’ attraction for Cottage Grove; it was salvaged for scrap iron during World War II, but there are still a few train parts in the riverbed today.

3. Rachel and the Stranger (1948)

A vintage movie poster for “Rachel and the Stranger,” a 1948 movie
shot in the Springfield-Eugene area. (Image: RKO Pictures)

RKO Pictures. Shot in Springfield-Eugene area. Starring Loretta Young, William Holden, Robert Mitchum.)

This fascinating film deals with some Old West topics that few movies want to touch — the experience of women, for one thing, and the indentured-servitude system of temporary enslavement.

In the story, a widower moves out west in the late 1700s with his young son; deciding they need a woman around the house, he buys the contract of an indentured servant named Rachel. He marries Rachel so that people won’t think he’s “living in sin” with her, but he shows no romantic interest in her until a handsome stranger comes to the area and begins to woo her. There is, of course, an Indian attack along the way as well.

Rachel and the Stranger was shot in the Springfield-Eugene area — at a stockade that the crew built along the McKenzie River, several scenic settings along the Mohawk, and at a rustic-farmhouse set built near Fox Hollow Road outside Eugene, among other spots.

4. Bend of the River (1952)

A vintage movie poster for “Bend in the River,” a 1952 movie
shot in the Columbia River Gorge and on Mount Hood. (Image:
Universal Pictures)

Universal Pictures. Shot in Deschutes County, Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood. Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson.

“Bend of the River” is the first of two Westerns shot in Oregon featuring possibly the most universally beloved movie actor of all time: Jimmy “George Bailey” Stewart. It’s also adapted from a historical novel by the late Bill Gulick — a historian who, despite his unfortunate decision to hang his hat across the border in Walla Walla, ranks among the very best popular scholars of Oregon history.

In this movie, set just after the Civil War, two gunfighters with checkered pasts are seeking a new start in a Westward-bound wagon train. When the wagons arrive in Oregon, they learn that a gold rush has broken out, and the man they bought their winter supplies from plans to renege on the deal, meaning the settlers will starve. The two men seize the food, fight off the supplier’s goon squads and head for the settlement. On the way, one of the two succumbs to the temptation to steal the food, and the other — Jimmy Stewart’s character — has to fight him to save the settlement.

Portions of this movie were shot above timberline on Mount Hood, and a significant percentage of the movie was shot in Deschutes County. But arguably the most striking scenes in the film were the ones filmed on the Columbia and Sandy rivers — gorgeous scenes showcasing Mount Hood, Rooster Rock and Crown Point, and featuring a pair of working sternwheelers. In fact, the last steamboat race on the Columbia River took place in a promotion for this movie, when the sternwheelers Henderson and Portland charged up the river from Portland to Rooster Rock. (Both of these sternwheelers were designed as towboats, so neither one was built for speed; however, their skippers gave it their best. The Henderson won, but blew a gasket in the process.)

Next week we’ll continue this survey of iconic pictures filmed in Oregon with the other Oregon-based Jimmy Stewart movie, “Shenandoah.”

(Sources: Internet Movie Database, imdb.com; columbiariverimages.com; Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television at oregonfilm.org; Blankenship, Megan. “On the Set in Eugene,” The Artifact, July 2009)