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 Three: 1975-1989

As a filming location, Oregon really started to come into its own in the 1980s, and many locals can point to key cultural touchstones that played out right in their home towns.

The historic Clatsop County Jail in Astoria, which was used in the scene in
which the bad guys break out of jail in The Goonies. Today, it’s the home
of the Oregon Film Museum. (Image: Ian Poellet)

In this third and final part of a 3-part series on iconic Hollywood films shot in Oregon, we’ll talk about six films rather than five. Our survey ends, rather arbitrarily, with the end of the 1980s, at the dawning of the Gus Van Sant era of filmmaking in Oregon (and particularly in the Portland area).

But first:

11. The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)

Walt Disney Productions. Starring Bill Bixby, Susan Clark, Don Knotts, Tim Conway.

This lightweight, feel-good Gold Rush Western comedy was Disney’s most lucrative hit of the 1970s, and it was genuinely funny. Critics didn’t quite know what to make of it — most of them clearly felt it was low-quality stuff, but I don’t think there was a single child who saw this movie and didn’t love it.

In this flick, a roving gambler wins a bunch of stuff in a card game, then discovers to his dismay that it comes with three orphan children. The kids subsequently find a huge gold nugget and suddenly everybody wants to adopt them. There’s a gang of "good" bad guys — the Apple Dumpling Gang, a pair of serial bumblers played by Knotts and Conway — and a gang of "bad" bad guys — led by the one and only Slim Pickens. To foil the "bad" bad guys, the kids have to help the "good" bad guys steal their nugget from the bank where it’s being held for safekeeping.

Several scenes in The Apple Dumpling Gang were shot in particularly picturesque parts of Deschutes County, near Bend.

This shot of Timberline Lodge, as “The Overlook,” is at the end of the
credit sequence for The Shining. (Image: Warner Bros.)

12. The Shining (1977)

Warner Bros. Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers. Oregon connection: Timberline Lodge.

The Shining is one of the great masterpieces of supernatural horror. Its initial reception was a little shaky, but history has been very kind to it and today it’s a vital part of pop culture.

The most significant connection to Oregon in The Shining is Timberline Lodge, which stands in for The Overlook Hotel — although most of the interior shots of the movie were done on movie lots.

In this movie, writer Jack Torrance takes a job as winter caretaker at a magnificent haunted hotel called The Overlook, which is closed and snowed in every winter. Jack’s son, Danny, has psychic abilities and starts having frightening visions. Jack gets crazier and crazier as Danny starts chanting “Redrum” and channeling a spirit named Tony, and eventually, egged on by the ghost of the previous year’s caretaker, Jack suffers a complete mental breakdown and sets out to murder his wife and son with a fire ax.

A screen capture from Animal House, from the parade scene in downtown
Cottage Grove. (Image: Universal Pictures)

13. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

Universal Pictures. Starring John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom.

This movie is to the University of Oregon what the exploding-whale story is to the town of Florence. That is to say, it’s an open question whether the fame of having hosted such an iconic event outweighs the notoriety.

The U of O wasn’t the producers’ first choice, but at every college whose campus had the right look, administrators took one look at the script, blanched, and ran for the door. But the U of O’s president, William Boyd, had been down this road once before. When he was a senior administrator at one of the California colleges, he turned up his nose at an offer to host a movie, and thereby lost the chance to provide the backdrop for The Graduate, which went on to become a timeless classic.

A movie poster for Animal House. (Image: Universal Pictures)

So, apparently not wanting to make the same mistake twice, he green-lighted Animal House.

The movie was filmed on and around the U of O campus. The scene with the dead horse was actually filmed on location in the real dean’s office in Johnson Hall; the famous food fight scene was shot in the Erb Memorial Union “fishbowl”; the house itself was a ramshackle place on East 11th Street, and some of the interior scenes were shot in the Sigma Nu house next door to it. The homecoming parade was in downtown Cottage Grove.

14. The Goonies (1985)

Warner Bros. Starring Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan. Set and filmed in Astoria and points south.

This movie, a Steven Spielberg story and one of the most successful productions of 1985, was a huge event for the city of Astoria; the storyline was set there, and it was filmed on location. In it, a gang of kids living in the “Goon Docks” neighborhood of Astoria sets out on an adventure following an old map claiming to lead to the lost treasure of “One-Eyed Willie the Pirate.” They end up in an abandoned seaside restaurant where a family of criminals are hiding out. Trying to escape from the bad guys, they stumble onto a cavern that leads to One-Eyed Willie’s hideout — but the criminals are hot on their trail ....

Except for the cavern scenes, almost the entire movie was shot in Astoria — a town that’s rather well known for pirate-treasure legends, it must be said — and at other spots along the northern Oregon Coast. The scene in which the bad guys break out of jail is filmed in the old Clatsop County Jail, which — 25 years after the movie was made — became the Oregon Film Museum.

This instantly recognizable image of downtown Brownsville as seen from
the end of the Calapooia River bridge appears early in Stand By Me.
(Image: Columbia Pictures)

15. Stand By Me (1986)

Columbia Pictures. Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland and Andy Lindberg.

The reviewers all call this movie a “coming-of-age story,” and they’re mostly right. The idea is, the narrator is remembering an adventure he and some friends embarked on back in 1959 — a quest to find the body of another kid who’d been hit and killed by a railroad train.

The movie is set in the quasi-fictional town of Castle Rock, Oregon — in real life there is, of course, a Castle Rock in Washington, but none in Oregon. In the movie, the town of Brownsville stood in for Castle Rock; the junkyard scene was near Veneta; and the railroad tracks along which the boys journeyed was the old Oregon Pacific and Eastern railroad line out of Cottage Grove. (By the way, when this movie was shot, the “Blue Goose” excursion steam train was still running on those tracks on weekends. Today the track has been taken up, and the railway right-of-way is known as the Row River Trail.)

16. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Avenue Pictures. Starring Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, Heather Graham.

This movie follows two couples who steal prescription drugs from pharmacies (this was long before prescription-drug abuse was a mainstream issue). Their leader, Dillon’s character, is highly superstitious, and eventually his luck runs out.

Drugstore Cowboy more or less marked the beginning of the Gus Van Sant era of filmmaking in Portland. It would be followed up with several more from Van Sant and would inspire a generation of filmmakers in Oregon (and in particular, Portland), who would power a surge of high-quality movies over the following dozen or so years — as well as a few more pedestrian ones.

Van Sant’s success wasn’t so much the start of Oregon top-shelf independent filmmaking as its coming to national attention. This resulted in a flurry of attention from mainstream filmmakers in the 1990s and early 2000s, and although cheaper locations like Vancouver, B.C., and Atlanta, Georgia, have captured much of that market, the Beaver State remains one of the country’s hottest hot spots for independent filmmaking today.

(Sources: Richardson, Anne. Oregon Movies, A to Z, www.talltalestruetales.com; Nashawati, Chris. “Building Animal House,” Entertainment Weekly, 09 Oct 1998; oregonfilmmuseum.org; imdb.com)

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