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The Monster of Manzanita and Other Fright Night Sights on Oregon Coast

Published 08/08/20 at 4:44 AM PDT
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

The Monster of Manzanita and Other Fright Night Sights on Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – Is there such a thing as pre-karma? Can you get punished in kind for wacky stunts perhaps years before you’ve done them?

If so, I honestly wonder if that’s my lot. After all, the long string of clown pranks I’ve played on friends in Portland in recent years (and even in Cannnon Beach) really gained steam at The Clubhouse bar near me for a time. Then came the moth pranks on my dear friend Becky who works there, and the other antics targeting bartendresses Keely and Ashlie with their phobias. Most recently the clown pranks emerged again, this time at the nearby Dutch Bros, where two girls got especially wide-eyed and one oh-so-gleefully told me her “heart rate elevated.”

OK, so I’m an occasional menace of a humorist. Did this cause a karmic pay-it-forward thing in previous years, as I explored the Oregon coast and got a few jolts in the night? Whatever the case, the frights have turned out to be vastly amusing tales.

Case #1: the Monster of Manzanita (photo at top). It’s the summer of 2005, just before Oregon Coast Beach Connection was born, and I’m (again) wandering the beaches of Manzanita after dark in a questionable state of sobriety. Thank you drinky-poo’s at the San Dune Pub and elsewhere.

This is about 3 a.m., and I discover a brand new kind of terrifying visage. Somewhere in the dark of this black beach, silhouetted against the lights a motel casts on the waves, is a strange, dragon-like shape. I edge closer and closer, inspecting it ever more intently. I get the chills just a bit.

I quickly fire off some shots of it and run away – it does not give chase. Upon examination of the little digital screen the creature appears to have set the world on fire behind it. OK, that’s probably my drunken photo technique (actually it’s on purpose, a trick I learned shooting live bands).

Sure enough, some twisted, demonic shape juts upward from the sand, in a kind of ready-to-pounce position. I illuminate this creepy creature with the light from my camera, and its features become clear: a long, thin and craggy body, with a head somewhere between a horse and an evil giraffe. There’s probably a horrific number of teeth lurking in various rows inside that pointed snout. Surely there are.

The following day I head back to the beach and I see it clearly now in broad daylight: someone has ingeniously stuck two driftwood logs together. To this day I’m still not sure if they intended to make it look like a creature or not.

Case #2: Scary Running Man. Early on a summer’s night in Seaside, with haze causing the beach to glow in odd ways, I’m taking night photos of the ethereal scene. It’s gorgeous and surreal, and I’m thousands of feet from anyone else. Or so I thought.

Standing next to my tripod in the dark, taking exposures that are minutes long, you tend to zone out and become unaware of things. All of a sudden, a large figure in the dark starts running my direction, and within seconds I realize this guy is coming right at me. Great. I’m about to get robbed of my nifty camera gear, and just like in space, in Seaside’s nether beaches no one can hear you scream.

Scream I do, like a little girl. He’s got a light on his head, I see now, and as I reach for my wallet, ready to surrender it to him, I scream “What the hell do you want!!!”

He quickly freaks out, apologizes profusely, and then explains he was engaged in some kind of beach hide-n-seek game with his son. He’d seen my flashlight and thought I might be the kid. Holy crap.

I think at this point he was now more scared than I was: he was bounding away as fast he could. Within seconds, although still shaking, I burst out laughing at the whole misunderstanding. That guy’s got an awkward tale to tell.

Case #3: Screams in the Dark. On my way home from the central Oregon coast one night, I stop at Lincoln City’s D River access to take some last-minute night shots. Two girls arrive in the empty parking lot and head for a walk on this murky beach, and as they get just past the seawall they suddenly scream. In the midst of that, I thought I heard something else creepy as well, some third voice.

As they came back 10 minutes later, I asked them what happened and they explained there was a giant sea lion just below me (I’m at the seawall), and it roared at them as they came close. I’d been there 20 minutes already and couldn’t see him in the dark.

Taking one of my digital cameras a I lit up the scene and sure enough, this pinniped behemoth was about 20 feet from where I was. He let out some disgruntled noise as I illuminated him. I took a couple of flash shots of the big guy, then called the local Marine Mammal Stranding Network to report it.

Back in Portland, the following day or so, I interviewed Jim Rice, head of the network in Newport. He said a volunteer had checked on the creature but it had already gone. Rice told me they knew which sea lion it was, and for some reason it simply wanted a little R ‘n R on dry land for awhile.

The girls were a bit lucky, however, as all it did was grunt a warning at them. There are times they get aggressive towards passersby, and they’ve got a nasty bite.

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