Practically Paranormal: My Personal Oregon Coast X Files

Published 10/26/2015 at 5:22 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

By Andre' Hagestedt

(Oregon Coast) – Let me be quite clear: I'm not a believer in ghosts and UFO's. That sort of thing – especially the Ancient Aliens show – is some of the greediest con jobs in history. But, like Fox Mulder in the once-awesome X Files TV show (which, interestingly enough, is coming back for one season next year), I “want to believe.” At least when it comes to aliens. (Above: the craziest sunset I've ever seen, in Seaside, 2004).

Still, that stuff fascinates me – especially as a sci-fi and horror fan, and even the science geek side of me and the historical buff. So, when I became a kind of professional beach bum around 2000, it was only natural that my work as an editor for various Oregon coast publications would result in me collecting paranormal tales about these beaches.

Collecting these has been its own adventure: what I like to call my own “personal X Files.”

I'll never forget what first sent me down that road. It was 1987 and I was seeing a girl named Christine. It was a Friday the 13th - March to be exact - and a full moon, although it was overcast. Even more interesting: exactly a month before, in February, it was also a Friday the 13th and a full moon.

On that March night, Christine and I joined friends in Neskowin at their beach house. We arrive after midnight, and serendipitously, there was a fire burning on the beach - as if made for us.

We're drinking champagne on the beach, enjoying the fire, when I begin to notice something odd over her shoulder, on the pitch-black horizon. There was some vague, undulating, red glow, apparently on the water; and it appeared as if it was far, far out there. It was too dark to tell for sure. Christine and I talked, and for some 10 minutes or so I watched it behind her: changing shape, fading in and out and never getting very bright.

Finally, I mentioned it to her, and she saw it too. So, apparently I wasn't going crazy. We gawked at it together, completely puzzled. Was it a reflection from the moon above the clouds? No. It wouldn't be red. Was it a reflection from a boat? Possibly. But over the years I looked closely at every boat at sea I spotted at night and never saw a similar effect at all. It actually, more than anything, looked like it came from beneath the water.

Since then, I became increasingly fascinated by weird coastal tales or strange scientific facts. This experience haunted me, and I began to collect such tales like some people collect hubcaps.

A few years later, I heard about "glowing sand" in that secret cove at Road's End in Lincoln City. Some years after that, in 1993, I'm wandering the beaches of Newport at night with friends, and spotted odd, bluish/green sparks beneath our feet. At first I thought it was all the booze I'd guzzled earlier, but my friends saw it too.

Years later, while researching such coastal oddities, I discover it's bioluminescent phytoplankton that glows. It's almost rare in these parts, though I've seen it dozens and dozens of times now.

Rewind slightly to the spring of '93: I find myself staring slackjawed at what looks like snow going the wrong direction, drifting upwards to the highway from the Devil's Churn, near Yachats.

I pull over immediately, flipping out, and I take a few pictures of a tide so foamy that it resembles snow flurries flying at you and then going upwards. (And then who can forget that crazy, super warm December 26 later that year on the coast, with temps in the high 60's? Now that was practically paranormal all its own.)

In the late 90's, I discover the glowing phytoplankton and that freaky, snowy tide have a lot in common. In fact, they're pretty much the same thing. Sea foam, it turns out, is caused by how phytoplankton creates surface tension and thus bubbles in the water. That's right, there are so many of them they form all that foam you see.

In the meantime, other weird wonders crossed my path. There’s the green flash at sunset (above). This took me a few years to see it after learning about, but I've probably seen it six times or so since 2001. I only snagged photos of it three times.

I looked into that freaky "singing sands" phenomenon, where sand in the National Dunes Recreation Area and near Cannon Beach can make a singing or violin-like noises. I've encountered something similar, but never heard the actual singing sands.

And then there are all those Oregon coast ghost stories I collected over the years: those about the lighthouses, the WWII soldier walking Seaside's Prom, the screaming ghost at Gracie's in Depoe Bay and more. That was loads of spooky fun for quite a while, and for a few years I gave regular talks at Halloween on Oregon coast ghost tales. These talks resulted in their own adventures. (At right: angry red sky rainbow during a lightning storm in 2002).

I eventually abandoned these paranormal talks, at least partially because the really startling stuff happened in the real world of science. This was the serious adventure. Learning about how sunset is actually a kind of illusion. The scary facts about how many Oregon coast landmarks were part of some of the biggest volcanic eruptions ever – and even scarier, how they're related to a possible doomsday volcano scenario.

The stuff that I've seen personally has been mind-blowing. A sunset that looked like a Pink Floyd album cover. A shipwreck seen only once in 35 years. A rare event where a rainbow gets colored an angry red all over. Gobs of weird jellies washed up all up and down these beaches.

Oh, and that weird, red blob in 1987 remains a mystery - but one that spurs me on. About ten years later, I talked to a bioluminescence expert in Florida on the possibility it might've been what's known as "red tide": a form of phytoplankton that glows red. She said that was extremely unlikely, since that species couldn't survive in our cold waters. As she gave up on guessing what it was, her final words on the subject filled me with the same chill and wonder the X-Files TV series did in its heyday: "But there are a lot of things out there we don't know about." More about Oregon Coast Science.


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