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Kooky, Quirky Rumors of Oregon Coast a Glimpse Into Its History

Published 05/18/22 at 4:35 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Kooky, Quirky Rumors of Oregon Coast a Glimpse Into Its History

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(Oregon Coast) – Lots of paranormal stories abound on the coastline, weird slants on local history about Sir Francis Drake or Lewis & Clark, to the silly non-science about radiation, talk of “UFO boxes” once and even just plain wrong information about what movies were filmed here. There's plenty that's goofy and amusing along these shores in its past, especially the wacky rumors. (Above: no, Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock is not a manmade construct)

Get ready for an amusing jaunt through Oregon coast history.

Ghost at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Yes, there's the longstanding tale of Muriel from Newport's Yaquina Bay Lighthouse – which has its own amusing ghostbusting end (it was discovered to be from a ghost story written in the early century). But the legend of the ghost at Yaquina Head's lighthouse is truly funny.

For decades, this one circulated: a sordid tale of drunk irresponsibility by a lighthouse keeper who shirked his duties because he was passed out, so supposedly a very flu-ridden keeper named Higgins had to climb the steps to tend to the light in a bad fever. There, the tale goes, he fell to his death.

Indeed there was a Higgins there, at least according to the Bureau of Land Management around 2005 or so. But in the late '90s, they received a letter from a descendant of Mr. Higgins who said he never died in the lighthouse. He moved to Portland and died of old age there in the '30s.

So much for one Oregon coast ghost tale.

Cannon Beach's Bandage Man. Here's a good fireside tale to scare the kiddies.

The spectre of Bandage Man in the Cannon Beach area goes all the way back to the mid century at least, but he's really a like a low-budget version of the mummy. And there is sizable evidence it was secretly created by a group of mischievous teens in the '50s.

It all starts with an ambulance carrying a man completely bandaged up, and then a rockslide covers the emergency vehicle. The driver is killed but the bandaged man has disappeared, and then suddenly starts showing up to terrorize cabins in the woods, old roads, and Bill's Tavern – only on nights with lightning, of course.

One tale has the Bandage Man actually hopping on a truck going down the highway and nearly killing the driver with fright.

This is where truth starts to meld with fiction, however. Bandage Man was apparently better known in the '60s, and numerous locals remember one awful but hilarious prank that involved the wrapped-up legend. A group of teens were sitting in the back of a pickup truck being driven by a friend, and they convinced him to suddenly stop. They got out and had another friend hop back on who was dressed up in mummy-like attire. They began screaming “Bandage Man!” and it didn't take long for the driver to notice the famed apparition in the bed of his pickup. It took even less time for him to peel out, speeding around the area and trying his best to knock the Bandage Man wannabe out of the back.

Sea Monster of Seal Rock. The mid '30s were an interesting time for tourism on the Oregon coast, and sometimes people would go to oddball great lengths to get their destination a little ink.

Thus the tale of the Seal Rock sea monster, from a newspaper article in 1935. Or at least that's the theory about the tale.

Some part-time locals began talking of one or more sea monsters flopping around what was then known as Seal Rocks, supposedly seen as giant, slithering serpents. The article describes a terrible noise from the sea lions in the area, and when a group went outside to investigate they caught sight of something that rivaled Nessie. They were described as 40 to 60 feet long with a head about three feet wide. It – or they – puttered about the surf for a half hour before being seen heading south.

Those witnesses were folks staying in the area, however, not locals. But it's believed they invented the tale to drum up tourism in tiny Seal Rock. More on the Seal Rock monsters.

Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock is Manmade. Occasionally – or at least this used to be true – some locals in Cannon Beach would prank visitors or newcomers with this wacky tale. Of course, this hoodwinking would take place in bars and there'd be more than a little booze involved on both sides.

The tall tale involved was that Haystack Rock was actually made by humans. Oregon Coast Beach Connection knows of one instance where the listener was almost convinced. Perhaps the inspiration was that there are some whimsical drawings you can find in books from local artists that show a wooden scaffolding in the vague shape of the rock, and parts of the outer “rock” layer over that.

It's an amusing prank. By some accounts, the joke has been played on visitors since the '70s.

The reality of how Haystack Rock came to be is a bit frightening, and it goes all the way back about 17 million years or so. It was the product of a lava flow so huge and powerful that it spread across hundreds of miles to the west, and at one point burrowed into the ground and came back in a kind of re-eruption. That re-eruption is Cannon Beach's Haystack Rock.

Secret Government Facility in Coast Range. Oh, the Van Duzer Corridor outside of Lincoln City: it's been the source of many an odd paranormal yarn since the '70s. UFO's, people driving while controlled by some other entity, even Ninja sightings were all part of the lore – plus that rumor for awhile that there was a secret government base in the hills. Yup, some were convinced there was a kind of Area 51 in the woods.

In the late '90s is when the rumor had spread the most: and it showed up in quite a wide array of incarnations, especially among Lincoln City folks and a bit in Salem. The rumor was a couple of former Salemites had spotted a secret facility deep in the forest, but some Lincoln City locals talked about it as well, along with claims of strange lights on Highway 18. The term “black site” was even thrown around on occasion, along with the UFO chatter.

In reality, the strangest thing on that Oregon Coast Range highway is the driving habits of some. It turns out, there was a kind of water testing station near Cascade Head run by the state, and it was fenced off to keep out vandals. This is supposedly what led to this black site facility rumor.

There is, however, a tiny ghost town along one of the trails near Lincoln City – really just a couple of buildings from old settlement. Also, Mt. Hebo – closer to Pacific City – did indeed have a large radar installation as part of Cold War defense systems.

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