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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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.

Killer broke out of state prison during a conjugal visit at a nearby Motel 6

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.


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.

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? Probably because they didn't know. 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 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.


Goal of Oregon whale hunters: Grow fur coats, and put a man on the moon.

helping put a man on the moon, one dead whale at a time?

Whale oil is special stuff, and NASA needed it for the space program. So an Astoria group launched a whaling venture in the early 1960s. 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

Larry Sullivan: Boxer, politician, con artist, shanghai man

A prizefighter with a great head for business, friends in high places and absolutely no conscience, Larry Sullivan organized Portland's shanghaiiers into a cartel — causing international notoriety for Portland. (Part 1 of 2)

A view of the Portland harbor as it appeared in roughly 1904, the
year Larry Sullivan closed down his Portland boardinghouse
operations. This postcard is postmarked 1905.

Sometime around 1897, complaints suddenly started pouring into the headquarters of shipping companies in Liverpool and Hamburg from the captains in charge of their ships. It seemed something new was happening in the faraway American port city of Portland.

Apparently the local sailors’ boardinghouses operators — known as “crimps” — had suddenly started playing dirty. Once a ship arrived in port there, the sailors would all vanish — and the ship wouldn’t be leaving the city until its captain had paid thousands of dollars to the owner of the boardinghouse in which they were staying.

Though the skippers had always had to pay “blood money” bonuses to the crimps to get crew members, they’d never before had to pay so much, for so many men. It was costing the skippers a lot of money. And the few who protested quickly found it cost them plenty more; it seemed as if the entire city of Portland was in on the scam. Complaining to the police got a skipper, at best, nothing — and at worst, an expensive delay in port while legal matters were sorted out and possibly even a little time in the local hoosegow, usually followed by a sudden increase in the crimps’ fees.

The seaport town of Astoria as it appeared in the 1890s. Even after he
moved to Portland, Larry Sullivan maintained a sailors’ boardinghouse
in Astoria with his partners, the Grant brothers. (Postcard image)

All the captains knew exactly who was to blame for this dreadful new turn of events. It was the premier boardinghouse owner in Portland: Larry Sullivan.

“You cannot believe how these fellows are working,” wrote the captain of the German ship Alsterufer, in December 1900. “It almost seems as though they hold the whole law and authorities in their hands. Sullivan himself said to the German consul, ‘I am the law in Portland!’”

Larry Sullivan was an enigmatic Portland character who was far and away the most successful of Oregon’s shanghai artists — a clever con man with friends in high places, who also happened to be an active and successful brawler. It was he who engineered Portland’s reputation as the worst port on the world for a ship to visit, around the turn of the century. He did this by forging the city’s unruly collection of crimps into an exclusive business cartel, and by establishing political connections that gave his cartel the local political cover they needed to shake those skippers down.

A hard-fisted, clever con man

This portrait of Larry Sullivan shows him at age 43. It’s from the
program of the notorious Gans-Nelson boxing event he was
promoting at the time, in Goldfield, Nevada, shortly after he left
Portland. (Image: UNLV archive)

Lawrence Mikola “Larry” Sullivan was born in St. Louis during the Civil War, and came out to Astoria when he was around 20 years old. It’s not clear why he came to Oregon; chances are pretty good that he was running from something, since Oregon was at the time the jumping-off place of the West — the farthest corner of the country in which one could hide out without having to live in a hermit’s cabin.

Astoria’s No. 1 prizefighter … but not Portland’s

Larry was already an accomplished prizefighter when he arrived in Astoria, and quickly set about punching his way to the top of  the local boxing scene. At that time, prizefights were big stuff in Oregon towns; they were a public spectacle that folks came around from all over to see and place bets on, and top prizefighters were like rock stars.

The problem was, it wasn’t the sort of gig a fellow could plan to retire from. Much of it was done the old-fashioned way — with bare knuckles, under London Rules, which means each round keeps going until one of the boxers hits the deck. It’s a tough way to make a living.

The Portland waterfront as it appeared from the shore of East Portland in 1886. This was
Larry Sullivan’s stomping ground, and it’s a good bet at least one of the ships in this
picture left Portland with at least one crew member furnished, for a fee, willing or not, by
Larry and his men. (Image: The West Shore)

This wasn’t so much a problem for Larry in Astoria, where he was pretty much the best fighter in town and wasn’t getting beaten much. But when Larry moved to the bigger city of Portland, he suffered a couple painful defeats and at least one pyrrhic victory — a bloody 75-round marathon brawl — that has to have left him considering other options.

So Larry changed occupations. He joined forces with some friends from Astoria — brothers Peter, Alex and Jack Grant, whose father had been a pioneering shanghaiier there — and opened his sailors’ boardinghouse in a big old warehouse, deep in the North End.

Shanghai Larry

A street view looking toward the waterfront from Second Street along
Washington Street in downtown Portland, in 1886. Larry Sullivan’s
notorious boardinghouse was ten blocks to the left of the artist’s
viewpoint in this work, at Second and G (Glisan) streets. (Image: The
West Shore)

In the late 1800s, there were several of these in Portland, including Jim Turk’s place and, later, “Mysterious” Billy Smith’s joint on the East side of the river. Boardinghouse operators, or “crimps,” tended to be either professional boxers or simply excellent fighters, because the sailors they housed were often reluctant to fulfill their often-fraudulent contractual obligations to go back out to sea when it was time. Larry’s early training made him a great fit for his new career.

And it was an open secret that all crimps, when their boardinghouses were empty and a ship needed a man, took a bottle and some knockout drops and went looking for a rube to shanghai.

As a “boarding master,” Larry was successful almost immediately. What distinguished him from the rest was not so much his fighting ability as his political skill. Larry Sullivan is the one who figured out what a great political asset a sailor’s boardinghouse is. Sailors in the house are welcome to vote, sometimes over and over and over, and to go around from ballot box to ballot box and do it all again. The waterfront was full of transient guys with no local ties, who could vote as often as they liked without anyone ever being able to trace them.

Precinct Boss Larry

Larry soon was a part of state Rep. Jonathan Bourne Jr.’s smoothly rolling “free-silver Republican” political machine, delivering bales of votes for Bourne and his friends at every election. Bourne was also a member of the three-man Portland Police Commission, which means this alliance gave Larry law-enforcement cover — a key component in what he was about to do next.

By about 1897, Larry was ready to make his move. Through his political connections, he had the support of pretty much the entire local law-enforcement community. The harbor master, whom he’d jumped and beaten nearly senseless back in ’93, was now disinclined to give him trouble. Through his careful cultivation of the local district attorney, he had an even more vital ally there. And he had forged an alliance — a sometimes rocky alliance, but a working one — with the other powerful crimps in Portland and Astoria, and forced the smaller and newer operators out of business with his fists.

It was time to make the ship captains pay. And next week, we’ll talk about how he went about doing that.

(Sources: Blalock, Barney. Portland’s Lost Waterfront. Charleston: The History Press, 2012; Holbrook, Stewart. “Shanghai Days in the City of Roses,” Portland Morning Oregonian, 01 Oct 1933; Dillon, Richard. Shanghaiing Days. New York: Coward-McCann, 1961)