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Link to Web site for Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town z

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THE dumbest
would-be pirates
in the history
of piracy.

Their plan: Hijack a passenger steamer (that's it, in the thumbnail above), run it aground and sneak off into the bushes with 3 tons of gold. Do I need to mention that it didn't work out? Here's what happened.

U.S. Coast Guard cutter Algonquin.

save a sailor's life, go to jail.

In the early years of Prohibition, a Canadian rumrunner entered U.S. territorial waters to save the lives of nine castaways — and got caught and sent to jail anyway. Here's the story.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog

Bobbie the wonder dog's 2,400-mile odyssey.

Left behind in Illinois, the big collie dog walked home to Silverton, Oregon. It took him six months. Here's Bobbie's story.

A modern reproduction of a classic Concord Stagecoach.

a few legends of buried gold and treasure ...

Some of them might even be true. Here's a selection of them — as far as we know, the loot from any of them has never been found.

This crater marks ground zero in the Roseburg Blast. It's about 60 feet across.

a nuclear strike
in downtown roseburg?

No; it was "just" an exploding dynamite truck. But the mushroom cloud was big enough to fool a passing airline pilot. Here's the full story of the legendary "Roseburg Blast."

Part of the historic entry to Portland's Chinatown.

THE secret chinese gold carrier, dressed as a bum, and the woman he rescued.

To avoid getting robbed and murdered, Chinese couriers dressed as beggars while carrying thousands of dollars in gold from the fields. This is the story of one of these men, and the woman whose life he saved.

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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).

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THE SHIPWRECK VICTIMS WHO THOUGHT THEY WERE GONERS ... UNTIL A TRAIN SHOWED UP.

Usually when something steams out to sea to rescue shipwrecked sailors, it's not a railroad train. Here's the story of the one (and probably only) time it was.

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Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...

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Far-out guru "enlightens" Central Oregon.

What happens when a colony of acolytes of an East Indian guru move in, then try to take over Wasco County? Check out the four-part story of the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram ...

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this oregon youth went on to save half a billion lives...guess who?

A local Willamette Valley teen-ager named Bert Hoover, an orphan sent from Iowa to live with his uncle, went on to save millions of lives and become a singularly ill-starred U.S. president.

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oregon's most spectacular shipwreck ever.

The steam schooner J. Marhoffer was almost brand-new when, burning fiercely from stem to stern, it piled onto the rocks near Depoe Bay. It's the remains of this fiery shipwreck that gave Boiler Bay its name ...

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the gallant rescue of portland's floating brothel.

Maritime madam Nancy Boggs kept her bordello on a barge floating in the river, until a police raid cut it loose. But the captain and crew of a sternwheeler came to save the day. Here's the story.

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take off to the province of oregon, eh?

Few people know how close Oregon came to officially becoming a British possession under the treaty that ended the War of 1812. Only the presence of a handful of scattered, starving survivors from Astor's fur enterprise prevented it. Here's how.

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timberline lodge could have been a glass skyscraper

Calling the plan a "profit-making eyesore," a Forest Service manager nixed 1920s plan for a modern steel-and-glass structure with an aerial tramway. You can read about it right here.

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pixieland: an edgy, vanished amusement park

Built in the late 1960s as a "fairy-tale history of Oregon," the amusement park lasted just a few years before slipping into receivership. Today, all that's left of this odd and uniquely Oregonian story is a dilapidated guardshack.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Legendary Oregon wrestler got pinned by a heavyweight real-estate dream

Olympic gold medalist and OSU legend Robin Reed might have been the best wrestler of all time; throughout his 20-plus-year career he was never once pinned. But his plan for the "Delake Rod and Gun Club" was more than he could pull off.

Vacant and unoccupied Delake Rod and Gun Club as seen in 1960.
The vacant Delake Rod and Gun Club building as it appeared in January
1960. (Salem Public Library, Ben Maxwell collection) [Larger image:
1200 x 830 px]

In late May, 1978, the wreckers went to work on Lincoln City's most eligible Haunted Mansion: the sprawling, Timberline Lodge-shaped husk of what was to have been the Delake Rod and Gun Club, on the shore of Devil's Lake.

It couldn't have really been haunted, of course. To be haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing), a house needs to have been occupied at some point, and this one never was. No, the only ghosts in this sportsman's palace were the dreams of a fellow named Robin Reed — former shipyard worker, newspaper editor, real-estate agent and Olympic gold medalist, and quite possibly the best amateur wrestler of any weight in American history.

Reed was an Arkansas native, but his wrestling story started after his family moved to Portland — and it was almost an accident.

Stumbling into his destiny

Robin Reed pinning a teammate at Oregon State (then OAC) in the 1920s.
Looking cool and professional, Robin Reed pins an opponent at Oregon
State University, then known as Oregon Agricultural College, in the
1920s. (Image: OSU Athletics) [Larger image: 1200 x 856 px]

"I needed gymnasium credits to graduate from high school, but I didn't want any gym because I was already getting all the exercise I needed operating an air hammer at the shipyards," Reed once said. "I was only 125 pounds and could barely hold onto that hammer, so that was all the gym I needed."

So he went for wrestling instead — and quickly found he was a natural.

By 1921, he was already a legend, attending college at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) and winning wrestling matches at the collegiate level. By 1924 he had three National Freestyle Wrestling championships under his belt and had earned a berth on the U.S. Olympic team — and had still never once been pinned.

Quest for Olympic gold

The entire U.S. Olympic wrestling team traveled to Paris for the games on the same ship. En route, of course, they did what they did best — and Reed did it better than any of them. Reed pinned every member of the team but one, whom he battled to either a draw or a pinless victory, depending on who you asked. One of the men he pinned would go on to take the gold in the heavyweight class in Paris.

So, in the 134.5-pound class, would Reed. And there are those who believe if he'd been allowed to wrestle in every weight class, the U.S. would have swept the gold medals that year.

"He had a genius for knowing how to handle the human body in wrestling," one of his former coaches told authors Jeff Welsch and George Edmonston. "He was tremendously flexible and quick. He had great balance, was a keen competitor, and his ingenuity was so remarkable that he would figure out a way to beat you."

But he was definitely not someone you wrestled with for fun. He was notoriously nasty on the mat.

"He is generally regarded as the most feared and punishing wrestler of all time," Mike Chapman writes, "a man who would break an opponent's arm if the mood struck him to do so."

Coaching the Beavers, wrestling with the pros

On his return from the Olympics, Reed coached the OAC Beavers for a couple years, bringing them to a national championship in 1926. But in that same year, he was accused of cheating at a tournament, and OAC dropped the wrestling program entirely in response.

Reed spent some time in professional wrestling, but was never very happy with the flashy show-biz image of the pros — no Macho Man Randy Savage, he. So in the mid-1930s, he quit to get into real estate development.

Robin Reed, real estate man

Reed had a plan that was perhaps a few dozen years ahead of its time. He'd build a mammoth lodge on the shore of Devil's Lake. It would be like a hotel — complete with lobby, lounge, swimming pool and casino — but the living quarters would be condominiums, not guest rooms. He called it the Delake Rod and Gun Club.

It took Reed a couple years to get the project under way. The Depression took a large divot out of his timeline. Finally, in 1938, ground was broken on the huge building.

Reed styled his creation after Timberline Lodge, built just a few years earlier and already something of an icon for the state. It featured three giant stone fireplaces built with stone blocks salvaged from the ruins of the Polk County Courthouse, which had burned earlier.

But the following year, Hitler invaded Poland. The U.S. started gearing up for the war its leaders knew was probably coming, and the markets started to tremble a bit. Reed also found he was having trouble selling the concept of a condo-hotel. Progress slowed to a crawl.

The dream begins to die

Then World War II broke out, and Reed's project was dead in the water as resources and workers were concentrated on the fight. By 1942 he was facing legal hassles over the whole thing, and after the war ended construction never resumed. Reed moved on.

So there the Rod and Gun Club sat, vacant, gaping and full of nothing but echoes, the salty air turning its cedar siding grayer every year as the decades rolled by.

Finally, in 1978, wrecking and salvage crews moved in and started taking the massive structure apart. Within a few months, it was all gone.

1978 was also the year Reed was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame — and also the year in which, on Dec. 20, he died.

The only wrestler who'd never been pinned

Throughout his wrestling career, Reed was famous for his willingness to wrestle opponents of any weight, up to and including heavyweights. He was also known for winning. Not once in his entire 19-year career did Robin Reed lose a wrestling match. This is a record that only one other Olympic wrestler — Japan's Osamu Watanabe — has ever matched, and Watanabe's career was much shorter.

But in the arena of condominium development, well, Reed did get himself pinned once — by a super-heavyweight dream.

(Sources: Widing, Roy. "Robin Reed/The Case of the Vanishing Mansion," www.oregonbiographies.com; Welsch, Jeff and Edmonston, George Jr. Tales from Oregon State Sports. Champaign, Ill: Sports Publishing LLC, 2003; Chapman, Mike. Encyclopedia of American Wrestling. West Point, N.Y.: Leisure Press, 1991. Thanks to Peter Bellant for the story tip.)