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

Beavercreek Bomber: Give me
$1 million or the lights go out

Calling himself “J. Hawker,” David Heesh dynamited several high-voltage powerline towers, then threatened to keep it up unless ransom was delivered; the FBI busted him using a CB radio trick.

A front-page story in the Portland Oregonian on Oct. 18, 1974, shows the
damage bomber “J. Hawker” did to the BPA’s power towers. (Image:
Oregonian)

On a sunny late afternoon in the fall of 1974, in a remote woodsy area near the base of Mount Hood, five fiery explosions rattled windowpanes in a few farmhouses along Highway 26 near the community of Brightwood.

It was immediately clear what the coordinated blasts had been: an attempt to take down the power grid. The explosive charges had been set at the bases of five of the giant steel towers that carry high-voltage electricity generated at Bonneville and other dams on the Columbia River.

When the smoke cleared, three of the five targeted towers were down, and two of the explosions and subsequent sparking of broken wires had touched off small forest fires. These were quickly brought under control; the power was rerouted around the damaged lines; and Bonneville Power Administration officials started scratching their heads. Who was bombing their power lines? And why?

One thing they now knew for sure: Whoever was doing this was persistent and serious. Three weeks earlier, a helicopter on line patrol had found three heavily damaged towers near Maupin, apparently also targeted with dynamite. This wasn’t kids having fun; this bomber was on a campaign.

And if there were any lingering doubts about that, they vanished the very next day, when three more towers went down near The Dalles.

But BPA officials still didn’t know why.

Demand: One million dollars

The Bonneville Dam power house as it appeared shortly after it was built,
in 1932. This dam and others on the Columbia were the source of the
electricity “J. Hawker” sought to ransom. (Postcard image)

They hadn’t long to wait, though. The answer to that question arrived two days later in the form of a letter sent to the F.B.I.

“The extent of damages resulting from the demolition of five (sic) of your power-line towers Wednesday night is incidental,” the letter stated tersely. “Our primary objective was to impress upon any potential non-believers that we mean business. ... We have the men and equipment to keep as many towers down as is necessary to force compliance with our demands.”

Those demands were, essentially, one million dollars. And failure to pony up would, the extortionist added, lead to much more than $1 million in damage to other power towers and to companies that depended on the electricity grid for operations.

“If you are entertaining any illusions of apprehending our men, forget it,” the letter continued. “An attempt will lead to: Your delivery men will be killed. We will black-out the entire Portland area and vicinity, or both.”

The letter was signed by “J. Hawker,” an apparent reference to the “Jayhawkers” of pre-Civil-War Kansas. “Mr. Hawker” claimed membership in something called the “R.V.O.V.N.,” which stood for “Reorganized Veterans of Viet Nam.”

“Hawker” also wrote that the million dollars was not supposed to be seen as an ordinary extortion attempt, but rather as a demand for “just compensation from the government” for Vietnam veterans.

BPA: We will not pay

At the urging of the FBI, the BPA immediately and staunchly refused to give “Hawker” a nickel. But the company did immediately offer a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for the blowings-up. And, of course, the BPA stepped up patrols of its towers.

The problem was, those towers ran for thousands of miles across the most remote parts of the state. “Hawker” was attaching his charges to the towers using silver duct tape, so they were almost invisible until one got quite close — meaning helicopters were useless as patrol vehicles. Catching “Hawker” planting a charge would be a one-in-a-million shot, no matter how many law-enforcement patrols went out. And if they did find him, he would probably be armed and dangerous.

All they could really do was wait for him to make a mistake. So the city of Portland hurried to dust off its old gas turbine backup generators, and everyone waited for the bomber to make his next move.

Water supply threatened

A week later, “J. Hawker” seems to have gotten impatient. He released another letter in which he threatened to start a forest fire in the Bull Run Watershed, apparently intending to damage the city’s drinking water supply, unless that million bucks were speedily forked over. This might have worked OK, had not the skies opened up just after he mailed the letter. By the time “Hawker’s” threat to light Bull Run on fire arrived at City Hall, a full half-inch of rain had fallen on it.

Meanwhile, the F.B.I. had received yet another letter from “J. Hawker” — the fourth of a total of six he would send out. This letter included instructions for communicating with him through CB radio transmissions on Channel 9 in Morse Code. In an attempt to avoid having his voice identified, “Hawker” would use a duck call to painstakingly honk out his messages, and the FBI would respond in plain voice. (The FBI wouldn’t say, but they were probably pretending to negotiate delivery of the million-dollar ransom.)

The quacking duck

In any case, it was this duck-quacking protocol that furnished the FBI with its big break in the case. While monitoring the CB channel for the distinctive sound of “Hawker’s” waterfowl honks, an FBI agent just happened to hear a bunch of them while driving behind a blue-and-gray 1968 Plymouth in Southeast Portland. The driver of the Plymouth had his elbow out the window and a walkie-talkie in his hand.

Then, as the agent watched, the woman in the passenger seat turned, saw his official-looking car, and turned quickly to the driver, who instantly threw the radio down on the seat beside him.

Out of the 2 million people in range of the agent’s CB radio, what were the chances this one guy was the man he was looking for?

Actually, the chances were excellent. Agents had been communicating with “Hawker” for over a week. Over that time, they had triangulated his CB signal to a small quadrant of Southeast Portland and identified it as a mobile unit. When “Hawker” instructed the agents to contact him via CB radio at 1 p.m. that day, they’d flooded the neighborhood with FBI agents. “Hawker” hadn’t stood a chance.

Beavercreek Bomber busted

The Oregonian’s coverage of David and Sheila Heesch’s sentencing.
David, a.k.a. “J. Hawker,” got 20 years; Sheila, charged as an accessory,
got 10. (Image: Oregonian)

The agent pulled the car over and introduced himself to the couple driving it: David and Sheila Heesch, both 34 years old. They were a ways from home; they lived in Beavercreek, a woodsy rural hamlet about halfway between Oregon City and Molalla.

The radio, when the agent picked it up, was set on Channel 9. There was a duck call on the floorboard. And when the agent honked on it, it sure sounded familiar.

David and Sheila were utterly busted. And once the cops got a warrant to search their home, they found all the evidence they needed: They had found “J. Hawker.” And David didn’t bother to deny it, entering a guilty plea along with a full explanation to the public. He said he didn’t want people worrying that there might still be dynamite out there.
               
On Nov. 16, 1974 — just one month after the BPA tower blasts that started it all — David Heesch, the “Beavercreek Bomber,” was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Sheila drew 10 years as an accessory.

(Sources: www.fbi.gov; Portland Oregonian, 17 Oct through 19 Dec 1974)