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Cannon Beach's Bandage Man a Spooky, Goofy Oregon Coast Lore for Decades

Published 10/25/2019 at 6:23 PM PDT
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

Cannon Beach's Bandage Man a Spooky, Goofy Oregon Coast Lore for Decades

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) - Perhaps the most famous and infamous of Oregon coast ghost tales is Bandage Man, who has made numerous appearances in books for decades now. Locals seem to point to most of the tales popping up in the ‘50s and ‘60s of a bandaged and bloodied figure haunting the roads near Cannon Beach and its forests, even its bars. He’s even become more famous than Muriel, the ghost of the girl that supposedly haunts a Newport lighthouse (a tale that’s been thoroughly debunked for awhile).

Ghost tales are an interesting way to learn about history, especially the Oregon coast. If you look into Bandage Man further, you find out there was an “old road” part of Highway 101 just outside of Cannon Beach and its northermost junction, where the road veered off to the east a bit before returning to 101. That was straightened out into its current formation sometime in the ‘60s or so.

Even more revealing: that old, dark road was called “Bandage Man” Road by the locals, and it was apparently a rite of passage for kids who just gotten their license to drive it at night.

I first learned of him in a book of regional spook stuff back in the mid ‘80s, and even at age 23 and 24 it scared the hell outta me. Not long after, I was hanging out on a dock at Netarts (a long way from Cannon Beach) late at night, and somehow got freaked out about the possibility Bandage Man was lurking in the forest behind. Crazy times.

Bandage Man’s legends seem to go back to the ‘50s, but other accounts take him back to the ‘30s. He’s really a low budget kind of version of the mummy: he lurks in Cannon Beach forests and roads, covered in bandages and smelling of rotting flesh. Apparently mostly showing up on nights with heavy lightning (go figure), one tale has him smashing a window at the old Bill’s Tavern and grabbing someone’s dog for lunch.

Cannon Beach Surf shop has this t-shirt available for purchase

His origin story: one (and the main) version has it he was a logger severely injured and rather “chopped up” as the Cannon Beach History Museum recently put it, then whisked away by ambulance all covered in bandages. The ambulance fell victim to a landslide, and supposedly when they came to rescue the vehicle – he was gone.

There are myriad versions of this, including lore that he was an electrician and from various other trades. Mostly though, he’s a logger. According to the museum, he first started popping up in the ‘50s, but I’ve read tales that speak of him farther back.

In any case, in true campy horror movie style, his modus operandi is mostly harassing teens parked in cars.

“On occasion he is said to target moving vehicles like opened top cars or pickup truck, he’ll jump into the back of the vehicle and then mysteriously vanishes before reaching town,” the museum recently wrote on Facebook. “Most of the time people do not become aware of his presence until his rotting stench reaches your nose.”

This is where the tale takes some surprising and hilarious turns. There’s a wild tale of a Bandage Man prank in the ‘60s on the north Oregon coast that’s become legend on its own. Or is it just part of the Bandage Man lore?

Funny how stories change, morph and even disappear.

At one point, around 2008 or so, I heard about a gnarly prank one group of north Oregon coast high schoolers played on a friend back in the ‘60s or so. There was a bunch of them in the back of a pickup truck, and at one point they hopped out and had a friend hop in dressed as Bandage Man. The driver went bonkers, doing cookies in the gravel to try and get the faux spook out of the truck.

Sadly, as I write this and doublecheck with old coastal friends on the prank, this one gets lost. Some don’t recall the Bandage Man legend at all, others claim this prank was a real Bandage Man visitation. Indeed, one Facebook page for locals in Clatsop County recounts a version of this over and over. A young couple from the local high school had pulled over at a famous makeout spot and were interrupted by booming knocks on the truck window, discovering a bloodied and bandaged face smooshed up against the glass and a bloody stump with a hook reaching for them.

This one and other similar encounters were told frequently in the ‘60s, according to a lot of locals.

About 2009, I was chatting with a local man at Cannon Beach’s The Bistro – whose name I cannot recall, and I can’t find him now. So this isn’t true reporting here. But he intimated he and his friends had had something to do with the genesis of the Bandage Man tales. He was vague about it, but seemed to want to tell me about this at some future point in time. It’s entirely possible he was pulling my leg, however.

I didn’t chase it. I’ll never know. And there’s so much hearsay in all this it’s uncomfortable to write about. But this is a ghost tale, after all. Ever seen the Washington Post do a breakthrough tell-all on a ghost?

What’evs. The tales have stood the test of time and seem to have found new uses. Cannon Beach Surf still has t-shirts that utilize the kooky north Oregon coast mummy to preach against illegal camping in cars around town. Hotels in Cannon Beach - Where to eat - Cannon Beach Maps and Virtual Tours

More Cannon Beach History in the books:

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