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

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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

Cayuse tribe’s world-beating ponies are now very rare

Legendary “Cayuse pony” breed gave Indians far more endurance and speed than settlers' mounts, a fact that cost gambler and horseman Joe Crabb most of his ready cash on “The Day Pendleton Went Bankrupt”

Cayuse Tribe members ride the track at the Pendleton Round-Up,
probably sometime in the 1920s. (Image: Lee Drake/ UO Archives)

Joe Crabb was a gambling man — that much, at least, we know. And in 1871, he’d put his money down on an absolute ironclad sure thing.

It was a horse race, and Crabb was a horseman. He was matching his own best animal, a magnificent thoroughbred, against a smallish spotted pony belonging to Howlish Wampoo, the chief of the Cayuse Indian tribe.

The race was a big event in the Pendleton area, and everyone had turned out to watch it — shopkeepers and cowboys from the town as well as people from the Walla Walla, Nez Perce, Umatilla, Cayuse and other tribes.

The non-Indians seemed especially excited that day as they lined up to bet heavily on Crabb’s thoroughbred to win the race. Crabb himself ponied up (sorry about that) his entire wad — $1,500, or the equivalent of about $30,000 in modern greenbacks — plus his silver-mounted saddle and spurs.

But then, those bettors were confident they weren’t going to lose that money. It would be like taking candy from a baby. Crabb and his friends were betting on a sure thing. You see, the night before this big race, a few of them had slipped over to the Indian camp and found Howlish Wampoo’s horse. They’d then borrowed the animal and brought him back to town for a little test run.

The horse, they’d found, was fast — an excellent saddle horse, as would be expected. But in a head-to-head race with Crabb’s champion, the Indian pinto was overmatched. It looked like the next day’s race would be a day of victory for Crabb’s horse and of dismay for Howlish Wampoo & Co.

Two Cayuse war horses, decked out in full ceremonial regalia, probably
for the Pendleton Round-Up during the 1910s. (Image: Lee Moorhouse/
UO Archives)

One imagines the white guys grinning with anticipation as they stealthily returned the Indian pinto to the corral and slipped back to their camp. Once there, they no doubt got busy scrounging up every spare cent they could get their hands on. There would be money to be made the next day, money gained by betting on the equivalent of a fixed race. How could they lose?

Well ...

Historian William Lyman recounts, in his book, what happened the next day, as told to him by pioneer O.M. Canfield:

“Howlish Wampoo accepted the bets with seeming reluctance and Indian stoicism,” he writes. “When the horses were brought out, Crabb saw with some suspicion that the spotted Indian racer looked a little different and stepped a little different from what he did the day before. As he told Canfield in relating his experience, he ‘ felt a sort of cold chill go down his back.’ But it was too late to back out.”

The race was a four-mile sprint: two miles out to a stake, and two miles back again. At the signal, the two horses launched themselves, and it was immediately obvious that Howlish Wampoo’s horse was not the same animal the white guys had kidnapped the night before. In fact, as they later learned, the pinto they’d pinched had been the champion’s half-brother — and had been deliberately set out unguarded in an obvious location for the night.

They had been had. And they couldn’t exactly blame Wampoo for swindling them — after all, he could put whatever horse he wanted in his corral. He had done nothing but lay a cunning trap just in case they might try to cheat, and they’d stepped right into it.

“He (the horse) went like a shot out of a gun and reached the goal post so much ahead that his rider turned back to run again with Crabb’s champion, and then beat him into camp,” Lyman writes. “The Indians made an awful clean-up on the white men’s bets. Howlish Wampoo, with just a faint suspicion of an inward grin on his mahogany countenance, told Crabb that he might have his saddle and spurs back again, and enough money to get home on.”

Pendleton bettors lost so much money on this race that the event became known for years afterward as “the day Pendleton went bankrupt.”

Never again would anyone in or around Pendleton sell a Cayuse Indian pony short.

The Indian tribe that Howlish Wampoo led is not very numerous today; it’s one of the smallest of the confederated tribes on the Umatilla reservation. But in the mid-1800s, they were one of the dominant tribes in the Pendleton-Walla Walla area. They were the tribe that sparked an Indian war with the famous Whitman Mission massacre (which, it must be noted, sprang from a misunderstanding rather than any general disposition to hostility; it was a panicky reaction to the outbreak of deadly German measles in the tribe).

The Cayuse were absolutely legendary as horsemen — both as riders and as breeders. In Central and Eastern Oregon today, half-wild horses of any breed are still sometimes referred to as “Cayuse ponies.” But technically, that name belongs to a specific breed — a world-beating breed that the horsemen of the Cayuse tribe developed themselves.

The breed that made the Cayuse famous — and Joe Crabb poor — was a short but powerfully muscled animal, usually roan colored and often with noticeable spots. How the Cayuse pony was developed isn’t clear; most sources say they were probably bred from Spanish Barbs and French Percheron draft horses — but all admit that’s at best an educated guess.

As for the ponies’ abilities — especially in the area of endurance — they were the stuff of legend.

“The Indian pony can cover distances of 110-130 kilometers, from dawn until dusk, without stopping,” Colonel Philippe Regis de Trobriand of the U.S. Army wrote in his journal in 1867, “while most of our horses are exhausted after 55 to 65 kilometers.”

Although serving in the U.S. Army, De Trobriand was actually French, so he counted in kilometers rather than miles; but the real impact of his account is in percentages. If we can believe him, the Cayuse pony could run literally twice as far in one day as the average U.S. Army horse.

In modern times, Cayuse Ponies have become very rare. According to Rachel Berry of Oklahoma State University, there are just a handful of them left, mostly in California. As of the mid-1990s, historian Jeff Edwards, owner of Edwards Antiques and Gallery in Porterville, Calif., was scrambling to save the breed from completely fading away. I have not been able to find any newer news as to the success or failure of Edwards' plan.

But then, it’s a pretty good bet that among the Cayuse people themselves, tucked away somewhere on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, some full-blooded descendants of these fabulous ponies are still quietly munching on bunchgrass, perhaps waiting to step out at next year’s Pendleton Round-Up.

(Sources: Skovlin, Jon and Donna. Hank Vaughan: Hell-Raising Horse Trader of the Bunchgrass Territory. Cove, Ore.: Reflections, 1996; Lyman, William D. Lyman’s History of Old Walla Walla County, Vol. 1. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1918; Arthus-Bertrand, Yann. Horses. New York: Artisan, 2008; Berry, Rachel. “Cayuse Indian Pony,” Breeds of Livestock Project, Oklahoma State University, ansi.okstate.edu)