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.


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.


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 filmed in Oregon, Part Two: 1965-1975

By the early 1960s, word started getting out in Hollywood about Oregon's virtues as a place to shoot on location. Productions made here during these eventful years follow changes in popular culture in an almost spooky way.

The movie poster for Shenandoah, shot on location in Lane County,
Oregon. (Image: Universal Pictures)

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on iconic Hollywood movies shot in Oregon. Last week, we looked at the era from the dawn of filmmaking through the 1950s. Today, we’ll talk about movies made between 1960 and 1975.

Of course, this is not an article about popular cinema as a mirror of popular culture. But it’s hard to miss the social changes these pictures showcase. The nation that produced Shenandoah, with its faint stirrings of uneasy anti-war sentiment still wrapped up in classic Technicolor-era Western form, was profoundly different from the nation that welcomed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, just 10 years later.


6. Shenandoah (1965)

Universal Pictures. Filmed near Eugene and Marcola. Starring James Stewart, Doug McClure, Glenn Corbett, Katharine Ross.

This remarkable Civil War movie was shot in various places around the Willamette-McKenzie-Mohawk delta, roughly centered on Springfield. This area bears a striking resemblance to the Shenandoah Valley, where the story takes place. The Mohawk Covered Bridge, on Paschelke Road near Marcola, played a prominent part in the movie.

The offical movie trailer for Shenendoah. (MP4 can be downloaded here)

On Anne Richardson’s “Oregon Movies A to Z” Website, a Fall Creek resident named Joe Dairy remembered this particular project. “We found out they were filming this movie at our next door neighbor’s ranch,” he wrote. “They filmed the scene on the bridge where Jimmy Stewart slaps a young soldier. We would ride our bikes to the shots, and our dog interrupted a few scenes by running on to the campfire set and scratching his fleas.”

“We did not know who Jimmy Stewart was but this guy asked us about fishing the creek so we took him fishing with us in our front yard,” Dairy continued. “Our dad spotted us and asked if we knew who the guy was fishing with us. We just shrugged and said no, just a nice guy from the film crew. He said, “Why, that’s Jimmy Stewart.”

The title card for Shenandoah, a scene along the banks of the Mohawk
River. (Image: Universal Pictures)

Shenandoah tells the story of a successful Virginia farmer’s unsuccessful attempt to keep the Civil War from affecting his family.

Although the movie came out well before anti-Vietnam War sentiment really stirred in American popular consciousness, it shows a dawning sense of moral ambiguity about armed conflict. There are no good guys or bad guys in this movie, and the moral of its story seems to be futility. This is particularly interesting given that Jimmy Stewart was a World War II combat veteran — a bomber pilot, in fact.

The title card for Paint Your Wagon, shot on location in the
Wallowas near Baker City. (Image: Paramount Pictures)

7. Paint Your Wagon (1969)

Paramount Pictures. Starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg.

This extravagant production was the last dying gasp of the American musical. It was shot almost entirely on location on a picturesque little meadow in the Wallowa Mountains, about 45 miles out of Baker City.

In the movie, a rough-and-ready mining town with no women is suddenly blessed with the arrival of a Mormon man with two wives. Winkingly misogynistic hilarity ensues as the Mormon is convinced to auction off his surplus wife, and two other townspeople decide to share her, since if one man can have two wives — well, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, right?

The meadow in which the town of “No Name City” was constructed for
Paint Your Wagon, in the Wallowa Mountains. (Image: Roger Medlin/

Many locals remember a small colony of footloose, extravagantly bearded hippies camping in the park in Baker City during the production, offering their services as extras. This picture was about a bunch of hard-living miners in the 1849 Gold Rush, and Baker County in 1969 was not sufficiently rich in scruffy-looking people to keep the movie supplied; however, word had spread up and down the West Coast, and for the duration of the shooting, the average hair length of Baker County men probably quadrupled.

While the film was being shot, Clint Eastwood enjoyed fly fishing in nearby rivers, and Lee Marvin spent a lot of time drinking with locals in area taverns.

The movie poster for Sometimes a Great Notion, shot in Lincoln
County. (Image: United Artists)

8. Sometimes a Great Notion (1971)

Universal Pictures. Starring Paul Newman, Henry Fonda and Lee Remick.

This moderately successful flick, directed by Paul Newman, was one of two movies made from the work of Oregon literary icon Ken Kesey. It was released to generally good reviews, but subsequent history wasn’t particularly kind to it.

Except in Oregon, that is. Especially in the timber towns of Oregon, where people who knew the timber industry were impressed by how right Newman got it.

And MOST especially in the towns of Lincoln County where this flick was filmed — where hundreds of people had stories of hanging out, drinking and shooting the breeze with the cast and crew of the film.

In this movie, a loggers’ union has called a strike against the local big timber operator and all the gyppo operators are expected to stop work in support, but one stubborn gyppo-logging family refuses.

The movie poster for Rooster Cogburn, shot in Deschutes and
Curry counties. (Image: Universal Pictures)

9. Rooster Cogburn (1975)

Universal Pictures. Starring John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn.

This light-duty Western didn’t get much respect when it was released, and it hasn’t made up much ground since; however, its lighthearted tone has defused most of the criticism. It was filmed almost entirely in Oregon — mostly in Deschutes County, but also on the Rogue River.

The movie itself is a sequel to True Grit (1969). In it, the aging, hard-drinking Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Wayne) has been stripped of his badge for excessive use of force. Then he’s called upon to earn his badge back by bringing a gang of bank robbers who have hijacked a wagon load of nitroglycerin to justice, with the help of a murdered preacher’s adult daughter (Hepburn) seeking justice for her father. Hilarity (and, of course, exploding nitroglycerin) ensues.

10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

United Artists. Starring Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield.

This movie is probably the most well-known Oregon film, and there’s plenty of things about it that make it straight-up creepy. First, it was filmed on location in and around the Oregon State Hospital — then as now a working mental hospital. That means there were actual crazy people in the building while the filming was being done; many of the extras in the movie are actual hospital inmates. Richard Levine of The New York Times tells a chilling story of a press junket in which he and other reporters were escorted around the state hospital and stumbled onto a group of hospital staffers trying (successfully) to resuscitate an inmate who had apparently “coded” after an unscheduled application of electro-convulsive therapy — apparently a punishment for some disciplinary infraction. (Here's a link to that story at nytimes.com.)

In this movie, a slippery con man named McMurphy wangles his way out of a prison sentence by getting himself declared insane. What he thinks is a deliverance from the prison work crew turns into something worse as he finds himself stuck under the power of the evil Nurse Ratched. McMurphy makes lots of trouble, leads an inmate rebellion and ends up in a race to escape from the joint before something medically awful can be done to him.

Coming attractions

Next week, in the third and final part of this three-part series about iconic Oregon movies, we’ll start things off with another movie from 1975 — one that seems a world away from the dark, subversive Cuckoo’s Nest: Disney’s sunny, perky, love-it-or-loathe-it Apple Dumpling Gang.

(Sources: Richardson, Anne. “Shenandoah,” Oregon Movies, A to Z, www.talltalestruetales.com; Portland Oregonian, May 19, 2012; Levine, Richard. “A Real Mental Ward Becomes A Movie ‘Cuckoo’s Nest,’” The New York Times, April 13, 1975; city-data.com; imdb.com; Oregon.com)

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