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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Vance "Pinto" Colvig, from Jacksonville, was a pioneer in animated cartoons and a gifted show-biz man.

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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.

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The tawdriest love triangle in the history of the universe.

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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.

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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.

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Mysterious skeletons of Oregon: If these bones could talk ...

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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.

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How the Oregon Coast almost lost the Peter Iredale to a scrap-metal shark

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There's a piece of lava from central oregon in this photo, on the moon.

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During a conjugal visit at a cheap motel, the prisoner escaped

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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:

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)

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