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 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.

the most awkward prison-break scenario — ever.

The bad guy, a convicted cop killer, simply walked out the back door of a Motel 6 during a conjugal visit. Here's the story.

Jim Wright, at the stick of his Hughes H-1 Racer, flies a low pass over the airfield at Cottage Grove State Airport - which has since been renamed Jim Wright Field in his honor.

the heroic pilot who had to choose who would die in crash-landing.

Jim Wright built a perfect replica of one of history's most important airplanes, and for a time, all was good. But one day he was forced to choose between landing it in a crowded field of tourists, and dying in a giant fireball. Here's what he did.

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.

Boats of the Astoria fishing fleet, with the help of both wind and incoming tide, race away from the dangers of the Columbia River Bar in this postcard image from around the turn of the century.

When fishing was so deadly, one in 15 didn't survive the season.

They drifted downstream in heavy 24-foot boats with their nets out ... and prayed the tide would turn before they got sucked out onto the bar. 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.


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.

An illustration of the scene in the Davis Hotel when detectives saw a hand suddenly  reach out from under the bed, grabbing for a pistol hidden there, from the Portland Morning Oregonian.

Railroad Murder mystery solved with the victim's help

The thieves, cornered in a boxcar, shot their way out, mortally wounding a railroad "bull." But the dying man was still a pretty good shot. 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? Probably because they didn't know. Here's the story.

Jonathan Bourne Jr., the rascally and creative political mastermind behind the 'hold-up session.'

The legislature's notorious 40-day drunken party

Lawmaker Jonathan Bourne Jr. knew if the state House convened, it would elect his opponent. So he held things up for six weeks — with a Bacchanalian bender. 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.

Three Rocks Beach, Camp Westwind, the mouth of the Salmon River and Cascade  Head as they appear today.

Is there pirate loot buried at this YWCA youth camp?

The discovery of a giant skeleton in the 1930s suggested that the old Indian legend of a pirate ship sinking in the Salmon River might be true ... or maybe not. Here's the story.

This is not a picture of the Sunshine; it's a lumber schooner of a similar type, the Wawona. The Sunshine, on her way home from her maiden voyage to San Francisco, vanished and then reappeared, upside down, 200 miles off course.

Gold was gone when schooner washed ashore ... empty

The fate of the Sunshine's passengers and crew is unknown ... did somebody wreck the ship on purpose?. Here's the story.

One of Conde McCullough's bridges -- the steel one linking Oregon City with Gladstone. he's better known for the Oregon Coast bridges.

Sammy Davis Jr. used to regularly play portland clubs.

Many consider him the coolest member of the Rat Pack. Sammy caught his big break while he was in Portland. Here's the story.

The steamer Telephone, fastest boat on the river in the 1880s and possibly the world -- until it burned to the waterline one day.

riverboat captain had to choose: save passengers, or save his boat?

The steamboat Telephone caught fire at the widest spot in the Columbia; the decision must not have been too tough, because Captain U.B. Scott didn't hesitate for a moment. Here's what happened.

The gravestone of Ame, who despite having died 10 years after the Civil War, was still considered 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).

Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Rusty derelict turned out to be historic Liberty Ship lifeboat

What looked like a rotting-away hunk of scrap steel was a rare artifact of Portland's World War II shipbuilding industry — but the discovery was made just a few days too late.

The rusty hull of the World War II Liberty ship lifeboat, photographed
on the beach in February 2011. (Image: Mike Malone)

In February of last year, Mike Malone of Zigzag put his boat into the Columbia River at St. Helens and headed upstream.

On his way past Sauvie Island, Mike decided to put ashore and investigate a curious derelict tri-hull boat that he’d noticed there many times before, while he was trolling for spring Chinook salmon along that part of the river. It was lodged high on the bank by Collins Beach, apparently washed there by the flood of 1996.

The tri-hull was huge and weird-looking, something like a flying saucer made of ferro-cement with three fins on the bottom of it and a flying bridge at the back. “When this thing was on the water, it must have been a bizarre-looking sight,” Mike said.

The data plate on the lifeboat identified it as a 24-footer, built in June 1944.
(Image: Mike Malone)

But there was something else there, too — something even more interesting than the tri-hull, although it didn’t look that way at first.

It was a rusty old steel rowboat, long and deep and double-ended.

“I’ve seen it many times over the years as I fished for springers (spring Chinook salmon), and most or all of that time it was upside down, partially buried in the sand,” Mike said. “However, when I was there last February, it had just been flipped over and dragged towards the vegetation line with a piece of heavy equipment.”

Now that the boat was right-side-up, Mike could see that it was a steel lifeboat. And there was now a manufacturer’s plate visible.

Workers at the Globe American Corp. factory get a batch of lifeboats ready
to go. The rails along the bottoms of the lifeboats are for mariners to hang
onto if the lifeboat should swamp and roll over. (Image: The Rotarian)


The tag also told Mike the lifeboat was 24 feet long and had been built in June 1944.

1944, eh? Mike, a serious history buff, took a second look. Could this rusty hulk have a World War II story associated with it?

When he got home, Mike got on the computer and looked for info on the mysterious lifeboat. He learned that the Globe American Corp. was a small manufacturer of kitchen ranges and heaters. When the war broke out, its general manager, Alden Chester, came up with the idea of retooling the works to make lifeboats for the Liberty Ships that were already pouring out of shipyards — including the one in Portland — at a rate of three or four a week. Despite having no experience building boats, Globe developed a prototype, got the contract and soon was cranking out fully-appointed 24-footers at a rate of one every two hours.

Finding one of these on the beach, 70 years later, was an amazing discovery. This junky old derelict was indeed a veteran — and was, moreover, one of the last surviving pieces of Portland’s role in the phenomenal Liberty Ship story. Most of the Liberty ships are gone now. There are just two still afloat — the Jeremiah O’Brien, berthed in San Francisco, and the John W. Brown in Baltimore. All the others — more than 4,000 of them — have been cut up for scrap or are rusting away in remote boneyards.

“After studying up on Liberty and Victory ship lifeboats, I realized that the lifeboat on Collins Beach is a rare World War II naval artifact!” Mike said. “In fact, searching the web led to no other Liberty Ship lifeboats.”

Mike wondered what the story of this particular lifeboat was. It had been built in the summer of 1944; could it have seen action? Plenty of Liberty ships took torpedoes and bombs in the last year of the war, and their crews rowed away from sinking ships in Globe lifeboats. Could this have been one of them?

He contacted the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. They were very interested in the boat. So Mike got on the phone and found the government agency responsible for Collins Beach on Sauvie Island, and got hold of the area manager.

“The area manager was happy to write a letter transferring ownership to the museum,” Mike said. “They had no idea of the lifeboat’s heritage, and considered it to be a piece of abandoned junk. The manager asked me to work with his maintenance director to help load the lifeboat onto a trailer for transport.”

But when Mike called the maintenance director, he learned that just a few days after he’d found and photographed the boat, it had been hauled off the beach, squashed into a ball and trucked away to a scrap yard.

It was gone.

“It was pretty disappointing to have to give this news to the museum in Astoria,” Mike said. “It still makes me sick to think about how close I got to having the lifeboat donated to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, only to learn I was too late!”

The news isn’t all bad, though.

“After I posted the story on iFish, a member of that site e-mailed me saying that he knows where a similar lifeboat is abandoned on another island in the Columbia.,” Mike said. “One of these days I am going to follow up on that one.”

(Sources: www.ifish.net “Life in General” forum board; The Rotarian magazine, April 1942; correspondence with Mike Malone)