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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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.

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? . 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.

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.


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

The life and death of a Portland gangster and his “moll”

It had been an accident, but small-time Portland crook Jimmy Walker had shot Rose City crime boss “Shy Frank” Kodat. Unfortunately for Jimmy, he picked the wrong friend to run to for help.

The front cover of ADAM Magazine for April 1955 carried this fictitious
scene, which — although the car shown is newer — probably looked a
lot like what happened when Jimmy Walker and Edith McClain got
taken for a ride in April 1933. (Image: ADAM Magazine)

Drug addict and convicted robber Ray Moore was in his cheap hotel room on the corner of 12th and Morrison one April day in 1933 when his burglar friend Jimmy Walker pounded on the door.

Jimmy desperately needed help. He told Ray he’d shot a man, and was sure he’d be “burned for it.” He needed to get out of town.

Ray said he’d help. He told Jimmy to check into the hotel and wait for him while he made some arrangements, and he grabbed his hat and he headed out the door.

Soon he was back, and introduced Jimmy to a friend and fellow ex-con — Larry Johnson, the man who was going to get him out of town. Soon it was all settled. Johnson’s friend was going to come by just after nightfall and pick Jimmy up and take him out of town. All he had to do was wait until it got dark.

Then Ray headed back out the door, leaving Jimmy at the hotel. He headed straight for the nearest jewelry store. He knew bad things were going to happen that night. He knew who Jimmy had shot. Jimmy hadn’t told him, so he hadn’t told Jimmy that he already knew. He also knew that, yes, Jimmy was going to be “burned” for it. When he was, Ray intended to be safely locked away where nobody could possibly think he had anything to do with it.

A photo montage that ran in the Portland Morning Oregonian the
day after the killing.

He found what he wanted at Zell’s Jewelers: a tray of watches behind a plate-glass window. Brazenly he smashed through the glass, grabbed the tray of watches, and hustled off down the street to hail a cab. He was under arrest a few minutes later, and his alibi for whatever happened later that night would be unbreakable.

Meanwhile, Jimmy was sending word to his girlfriend, Edith McClain, to let her know what had happened. Edith packed a small suitcase and hurried to join him.

Edith was the real source of the problem Jimmy was facing that day. She was, in the lingo of the day, a gun moll, and until a month earlier she’d been the steady girlfriend of an influential but low-key crime boss named “Shy Frank” Kodat.


Shy Frank was an aging safecracker, 50 years old, and he’d spent quite a few of those years doing hard time for burglary. For a guy like Frank, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Frank was a born networker, and prison was full of guys a safecracker could get to know and network with and make plans for when they got out again. And everybody liked Frank.

His most recent stint in the hoosegow had been a bad one, though. He’d picked up tuberculosis, which was slowly killing him with the help of kidney disease, and on top of that he had bad arthritis.

So Frank had announced he was going straight and devoting his remaining years to helping other crooks get their act together as well. He opened up a sort of informal halfway house for them, deep in the industrial district of northeast Portland, except that it apparently offered goods and services that a more traditional halfway house would not — including certain refreshments (remember, Prohibition was still on in early ’33) and the attentions of friendly ladies.

A 1920s picture of the Oregon State Penitentiary, from a hand-tinted postcard.
This postcard image from the 1920s shows the entrance to the Oregon
State Penitentiary, which played an important role in "Shy Frank"
Kodat's life .

The beauty of running a speakeasy/bordello as a charitable organization was soon clear. There were always seasoned professional crooks there, and Shy Frank could direct their professional activities without having to get directly involved. Plus, it offered a harmless explanation for the presence of so many known crooks under one roof.

So Shy Frank had a pretty sweet deal, except for the fact that he knew he was going to die soon. The trouble was, sometimes the ex-cons who came to stay at Frank’s place were more trouble than they were worth.

Case in point: Jimmy Walker.

Jimmy had come to Frank’s place fresh from the state pen, a small-time business burglar with a big-time attitude. Almost immediately he had horned in on Frank’s dame, Edith. Soon Jimmy and Edith were spending a lot of time together, and Frank’s blood was boiling, and other guys in Frank’s place started worrying about how it would end.

Finally one of the other roomers accused Jimmy of stealing his watch. Shy Frank eagerly seized the excuse to kick Jimmy off the premises. Jimmy left, had a few drinks, came back and got in a screaming row with Frank. Frank, who tired quickly because of his T.B., soon retired from the battlefield and stomped off to his bedroom to rest, leaving Jimmy there, apparently alone in an office or den.

Well, it’s no surprise what happens when you leave a burglar alone in a room belonging to somebody he doesn’t like. Jimmy apparently got right to work. Unfortunately, one of the first things he found, probably in a desk drawer or something like that, was Shy Frank Kodat’s .38 Special — loaded and ready to go.

And then somehow, apparently by accident, Jimmy popped off a round, right there in Frank’s house. The bullet zipped through the wall, entered Frank’s bedroom and lanced into his back as he sat there on the edge of his bed.

Jimmy’s ears must have been ringing, but apparently he could still hear Frank screaming in pain as other boarders ran to see what had happened. Jimmy knew as soon as they figured out he’d shot Shy Frank, accidentally or no, he was a dead man. They loved Shy Frank. They did not love him. He dropped the gun and ran for his life.

And that’s how Jimmy Walker ended up hunkered down in a cheap motel, Shy Frank’s girlfriend by his side, waiting for darkness and a ride out of town.


A factory photograph of the 1929 Studebaker President 8, the car in which
Jimmy Walker and Edith McClain got taken for that proverbial ride.
(Image: Studebaker Corp.)

The ride arrived right on schedule. It was a big maroon seven-passenger Studebaker President with two men in it. One, in a wine-colored suit that almost matched the car, helped Edith into the back seat, and then the other one let the clutch out and with a discreet murmur from the luxurious car’s straight-eight engine, they glided away into the night.

Early the next morning, logger L.W. Morgan was driving to work on Dutch Canyon Road just west of Scappoose when he saw what he thought was a drunk man passed out in the ditch. He stopped to look.

This advertisement for the Studebaker President 8, which appeared
in American Motorist magazine in 1929, shows the size of the car
compared with the size of the heads of the people inside it. (Image:
American Motorist)

It was Jimmy Walker. And he wasn’t drunk. Neither was Edith McClain, who lay nearby.

Ray Moore, it seemed, had double-crossed Jimmy, and Shy Frank’s friends had taken the opportunity to take him and Edith for a ride — gangland style. It had ended with four shots, fired from Shy Frank’s .38 Special: two shots for each of them.

Police didn’t have too much trouble putting the pieces together, but hard evidence was in short supply because nobody would talk. Eventually the driver of the big maroon Studebaker, a hotel operator named Jake Silverman, was convicted of manslaughter for the job, and served three years for it. Everybody else walked free.

Shy Frank survived both the gunshot wound and his T.B. for years, finally getting sent back to prison on bootlegging charges in 1942.

(Sources: Chandler, J.D. Murder and Mayhem in Portland, Oregon. Charleston: History Press, 2013; Portland Morning Oregonian, April 23-24, 1933)