NEWS YOU CAN USE
Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast
travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway,
Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe
Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.
in Ghost Hunting on Oregon’s Coast
St. ramp in Lincoln City
– Some people collect hubcaps, figurines or stamps. I collect
paranormal stories about Oregon’s coast.
that I swallow this stuff – it’s just that it fascinates
the hell outta me. It’s certainly a whole new level to Oregon
tourism, I’ve discovered. And well, I have had a few things
happen I can’t really explain.
Doing this research
has been an adventure all its own as well, filled with startling,
strange discoveries, memorable moments and interesting twists in
all sorts of ways.
It all started
about 20 years ago, when I was in my early 20’s, and I was
dating this girl whose family went out to Oceanside quite a bit.
Stranger than fiction already: I actually grew up hating the Oregon
coast. But this one trip to Oceanside with this girl’s family
had me entranced with the place. I got my mother hooked on it as
well, and she took me and my brother out there once or twice, which,
in turn, got me even more hooked.
one of these trips with my mom, my girlfriend and I read this book
about Oregon ghost stories, including this one about “bandage
man,” – some goofy tale about a bandaged specter who
terrorized folks on dark roads around Cannon Beach. Really, it was
a silly story that was sort of a low-budget version of the mummy,
but it had me scared late one night when I took a walk in Netarts,
next to Oceanside. Here I was, 22 years old, and all of a sudden
the idea of “bandage man” frightened me into high-tailing
it back to the motel.
I had what I call my own "personal X-File." A couple
years later, in 1987, I was dating this amazing beauty for about
a month - exactly a month, actually. It was the second full moon
and Friday the 13th in a row. This was weird enough. But Christine
and I were celebrating our one-month anniversary together (we had
hooked up on the prior full moon/Friday the 13th).
She and I joined
a group of friends at their beach cabin at Neskowin about 1 a.m.
We immediately hit the beach, and serendipitously, we found a big
bonfire still burning - as if waiting for two star-crossed lovers.
We chatted beneath
cloud cover so thick the moon was not visible, but you could still
just barely make out the horizon. At one point, I noticed something
odd in the darkness. There was a faint, undulating patch of red
on the horizon, apparently on the water. It was as if something
was glowing from beneath. It didn't look like anything was casting
the glow from above, as the moon wasn't to be seen, and it certainly
wouldn't have looked red. Whatever it was, it must've been huge,
and it kept changing shape.
I thought I
was seeing things, but finally pointed it out to Christine, and
we spent the next half hour staring at it, trying to figure it out,
with theories about UFO's and whatever just flying. Just as we began
zipping up the foredunes to the cabin to grab our friends, it disappeared.
They simply laughed at us.
This got me
thinking about the coast in a whole new way. Over the years, as
my obsession with the coast grew, and “The X-Files”
came on TV, I periodically wondered about what I’d seen that
night in 1987. I paid attention to fishing boats on the sea, and
realized these definitely did not create this oddity.
the early 80’s, I heard about a weird phenomenon called “glowing
sands” in a hidden cave in Lincoln City. This, too, captivated
me for years and years, and I yearned to finally see this. Eventually
I did some research on the subject, and discovered it was glowing
phytoplankton named dinoflagelettes, which are bioluminescent, meaning
they glow in the same manner fireflies do.
1993, I spotted the dinoflagelettes myself on a dark beach in Newport.
It was one of the biggest thrills of my life.
It was suggested
once that maybe what I saw in Neskowin was those little glowing
critters. Somewhere around 1997 or ’98, I’m interviewing
this expert on glowing phytoplankton from Florida, and I ask her
about my personal X-File. She said there is a brand of glowing phytoplankton
known that glow in red, but these waters are too cold for that.
The rest of
her response still chills me to this day: "There's still much
out there we don't know about."
So, by 1997,
I became engaged with discovering more ghost stories. At the time,
I had a wacky, cutting edge website called the Oregon Coast Alterna-Guide,
which had a paranormal/weird science section to it. Periodically,
people would email me their weird tales of the coast. Someone told
me about glowing balls of lightning floating around Coos Bay. Someone
supposedly discovered “crop circles” in the sands of
Hug Point near Cannon Beach, which they attributed to beings who
lived under the Earth (whatever that meant).
and 2000, I did a number of interviews with people on this subject.
I heard a tale about a UFO sighting in Astoria. Indeed, that whole
town is full of strange tales about hauntings in numerous spots,
like the old fire engine house and plenty in the Liberty Theater.
Then again, this is the oldest town west of the Mississippi. Two
horror flicks latched onto it recently and filmed there: “The
Ring II” and the Lovecraft tale “Cthulu” was recently
I heard about
a supposed sea monster at Cape Kiwanda (probably just the result
of people going missing in the raging, monstrous surf of the area).
I was told of coffee pots that go flying in a restaurant in Seaside,
and the mysterious footsteps of someone walking behind a kitchen
door when there’s no one there. There’s the old tales
of buried treasure and a mysterious Spanish Galleon in Manzanita,
with one version purporting the crew buried their African slaves
alive with the treasure to keep the natives away.
There were the
strange, nebulous tales of the Van Duzer Corridor – between
Salem and Lincoln City – sort of Oregon’s version of
the “Extraterrestrial Highway,” with talk of lights
in the sky or people appearing in the roadway and then disappearing.
One rumor has a pair driving through the winding, twisting roadway
and feeling as if their car was being controlled by some unseen
force. Another tale, according to my old friend Jason Frank, has
two Seattle friends telling him they spotted what looked like a
secret military base while hiking in those woods.
City’s visitor center sells a videotape of ghost hunters rummaging
around town, looking into the famed “ghost ship” of
Siletz Bay, and there are numerous seriously chilling moments where
they deal with ghosts in the firehouse on the north end of town
and with a really ticked-off ghost at a Depoe Bay restaurant.
Then there was
the bone-chilling interview I had with famed photographer Steve
Terrill about the ghost at the Heceta Head lighthouse. While I laughingly
remark that this yarn has shades of the old "Ghost and Mrs.
Muir" TV series, Steve was thoroughly lucid and convincing
on this one. He and photographer Steve Gaddis were staying at the
lighthouse B&B, when they had various encounters with the “lady
phantom of the house,” including spotting someone in Gaddis’
room window, when there wasn’t a soul in the B&B. The
family there considers her a member of the family, and this tale
actually has the most witnesses of all the ones I’ve researched
on the coast.
credible yarn comes from Wheeler, from Winston Laszlo, owner of
Hotel. He's encountered several things in that old building
he couldn't really explain. Sometimes, he said, he believes he sees
someone in the corner of his eye, only to discover there's no one
was looking in a mirror in the hotel's public area and saw the reflection
of a man sitting in a chair behind him. Winston says he turned around
to look at the man, whom he didn't recognize as a guest, and there
was no one there.
A pair of ghost
hunters even came to the visit the place and took photos of what
they believed could be "spirit orbs" just outside the
basement area. Winston still has copies of these.
however, are the oddball ones that are easily debunked or obviously
silly. Like the story about the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport,
which purportedly had the ghost of an assistant lighthouse keeper
named Higgins bumbling around the place. I called lighthouse authorities
once to interview them about that, and they told me they had recently
received a letter from a descendent of the man, saying he had never
died in the lighthouse but had moved to Portland and eventually
died there of old age.
The other, somewhat
hilarious, part of this one has the TV crew of the Hardy Boys show
filming there in the 70’s, smothering the inside of the lighthouse
with cobwebs and other props, but leaving the place in such a mess
that the organization in charge of the lighthouse at the time had
to sue the Hollywood team to get them to come and clean it up.
Bay: home of the "Wheeler Moment"
In recent years,
I, too, have come across a phenomenon I can’t explain, but
have certainly experienced it. Called the “Wheeler Moment,”
it’s a legend that has to do with the Nehalem Bay area and
how unarticulated thoughts and wishes just somehow seem to come
true – or odd little coincidences just seem to happen there
with startling regularity. Everyone has these: where you’re
thinking about needing something, or wanting to talk to someone
about something, etc., and then somehow, serendipitously, something
just falls in your lap to help you along in some way. But in Wheeler,
indeed much of the bay area, it happens a lot more often. I spend
a great deal of time in Portland and towns up and down the coast,
and this place, I strenuously maintain, is very different. Newport’s
Nye Beach area has some of the same thing going on. Click
here to read more on this.
going the wrong way, Cape Perpetua, 1993
In the meantime,
in and around all this fascination with – and research on
– the paranormal tales of the coast, I’ve seen dozens
of crazy natural things on the beaches. Sea foam so frothy it flies
upwards in huge chunks, looking like flurries of snow going the
wrong way. The summer of 2004 was so full of glowing phytoplankton
sightings it was amazing. Whales and their baby calves cavorting
in a bay near Depoe Bay. Huge bundles of unidentifiable objects
washed up after storms. Strange, hidden spots with an unmistakable
mystical, spiritual vibe. And of course, there have been plenty
of freaks in the local bars – both natives and tourists. The
list goes on.
led me to the inescapable conclusion there’s so much more
to Oregon’s coast than finding a nice beach or a bowl of clam
chowder. There’s a whole other dimension to this coastline.
Even after 10 years of obsessively gathering every possible detail
about this shoreline, I’m grateful I’m still making