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Oregon Coast Lost Legends: Gold Mine, Sea Monster to Treasures Debunked, Coos Bay Skyjacker

Published 01/10/23 at 5:47 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Lost Legends: Gold Mine, Sea Monster to Treasures Debunked, Coos Bay Skyjacker

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(Oregon Coast) – Getting lost in history around these parts can be one seriously fun set of rabbit holes to venture into. Yet there's plenty of tales from these beaches that are along various degrees of truth to untruth, which themselves have been lost to time. (Above: Coos Bay's hometown girl gone bad in the '70s.)

Among them: the treasure of Manzanita, sea monsters at Seal Rock, an imploding whale and even a wild international skyjacking. The Oregon coast is no shirker to surprises.

Legend of Neahkahnie Gold Chest. For a good 100 years, there has been talk on the north Oregon coast about a possible treasure buried at Neahkahnie Mountain next to Manzanita. The sleepy little village has been host to innumerable diggers and searchers over the last century or so, hoping to find gold in them thar – well, that hill, anyway. Rumors and legends have abounded, including varied incarnations, but it's likely all a bunch of hot air.

Manzanita, photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection

It doesn't help that most of Neahkahnie Mountain and the hillside below it are either owned by the State of Oregon or in private hands, like the multitude of homes there. So no one can actually go and dig anyway – and that always brings out the conspiracy nuts and goofy internet sleuths.

So legends persist, like the 300-year-old Spanish galleon wrecking there (or anchoring there, in some versions), and then some group from the crew ascends into the dark hills to bury treasure. One version has it they buried an African slave in the box to scare off local tribes.

Adding to the fluster has been the mysterious rocks with inscriptions carved on them that were found on Neahkahnie. They're cryptic, to be sure. They've even given rise to other legends that Sir Francis Drake popped over here for a time (while another legend has him dinging around the future Depoe Bay area on the central Oregon coast).

However, according to Gary Albright (director of the Tillamook Pioneer Museum) in various interviews, he can trace this talk back to only about 1912 – not the days of Lewis & Clark as some have postulated. It came from a promotional booklet touting land to be bought in the area. See the Manzanita Virtual Tour

This is not unlike another treasure / shipwreck situation farther down the coast – which Oregon Coast Beach Connection will reveal in the coming months. And it's just like what happens next.

Seal Rock Sea Monster. In 1935, a run of articles appeared about a scary set of sea monsters inhabiting the rocks of what was then known as Seal Rocks – the little village south of Newport. Grand claims were made about awe-inspiring sightings that smacked of Jules Verne. Yet later historians (such as Newport's Lincoln County Historical Society) said all this was likely part of a publicity stunt by people hoping to sell more plots in the area. See the full sea monster story.

Imploding Whale of Heceta Head. Again, some legends were just forgotten by time, but this involves a whale in the Florence area that did the opposite of exploding, almost 100 years before the famed one. The story has it that a disgustingly rotted-out whale stranded near the lighthouse around 1912 or so. A lightkeeper at Heceta Head named Overton Dowell has his pretty young lady friend coming to visit from Florence (which was a major outing back then). So Mr. D. thought he'd impress his gal pal by standing on the whale carcass as she photographed him, looking all brave and debonair. The problem was, the stinky thing simply gave way under him and he fell into it with a mighty “squish.”

Overton was stuck in the yucky mess, and his lady – all dressed in serious finery of the times – had to help pull him out. Reportedly, she returned home with a fancy dress that looked like something out of Carrie but smelled even worse.

Did this really happen, though? Friends of Heceta Head Lighthouse have strong opinions on this legend. Before Exploding Whale, Legend of Oregon Coast's Imploding Whale

A Female DB Cooper from the South Oregon Coast? Indeed, that is the case.

In the late '60s, a young graduate from Marshfield High School named Cathy Kerkow hightailed it down to San Diego, where she met the love of her life, Roger Holder. Strangely, Holder, it turns out, had lived in Coos Bay as a young boy and they had met briefly as children.

In 1972, Holder and Kerkow had become radicalized and joined the Black Panthers. That June, they boarded a Western Airlines flight and hijacked it, demanding half a million dollars – which they eventually received. Then, they disappeared to Algiers, then moving to France. There, they were arrested in 1975 and eventually acquitted and freed. Within a couple of years, Holder returned to the U.S. to accept prosecution for hijacking.

Cathy, however, vanished. To this day, the Coos Bay native is wanted by the FBI.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection will have much more on this strange true crime tale soon.

Photo courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

Lost Gold Mine of Port Orford. A truly odd tale is really one of many in this area (including legends of a lost civilization and a weird meteorite), and yet it's hard to tell if this one was real in the first place or not.

In the 1850s, a group of soldiers became lost a ways east of the coastline and purportedly found a rich vein of gold near their encampment. Since they were still active duty, none could do any digging here, and any plans for return were seriously delayed by the Civil War.

Eventually coming back one by one, they could not find that gold mine, and since then hundreds have gone looking. See the Port Orford history story.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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