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When the Oregon Coast Is Stranger Than Fiction: the Unexplained (Part One)

Published 05/29/2020 at 6:54 AM PDT
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

When the Oregon Coast Is Stranger Than Fiction: the Unexplained (Part One)

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(Oregon Coast) – Some people collect hubcaps, stamps or figurines. For a time, I collected paranormal stories about the Oregon coast. It’s not that I swallowed this sort of thing. I’m almost exclusively a fan of horror and science fiction, plus I’m a true blue science nerd. So the “out there” stuff has like a gravitational pull on me, aside from the sheer beauty of these beaches. It all started with weird science, veered into ghost stories for awhile, now it’s back to more remarkable science. (Above: Yachats at night. Lots of weird stuff happens at night on beaches). See Oregon Coast Unexplained Part Two - Almost Paranormal.

Over the decades, I’ve encountered a lot of stuff I still can’t explain, and a lot of things that are simply mind-blowing. It’s like my own personal X Files, really. And there’s enough of them now that this retelling will happen in two parts.

Stranger Than Fiction Fact One: I grew up hating the coast. Yeah – me; author of four coastal books now (six more coming), and this unwieldy beast of a publication you’re currently reading (it’s got over 7,500 pages). It wasn’t until my early 20s when the Oregon coast began to capture my imagination. What really sucked me in was something I could never quite explain, and that set the tone for the place in my head.

Glowing Mystery. It was early 1987, actually a full moon and the second Friday the 13th in a row. A girl I was dating and I zipped out from Salem to Neskowin late at night to join some friends. It was 1 a.m., and we hit the beach to find a bonfire still burning, as if waiting for us. Awesome sauce. (In the distance: Neskowin at night as seen from Pacific City)

We sipped champagne out there and chatted beneath cloud cover so thick the moon was not visible, but you could still just barely make out the horizon. At one point, I noticed something puzzling in the darkness. There was a faint, undulating patch of red on the horizon, apparently on the water. It was as if something was glowing from beneath. It didn't look like anything was casting the glow from above, as the moon wasn't to be seen, and the moon certainly wouldn't have looked red. Whatever it was, it must've been huge, and it kept changing shape.

I thought I was seeing things but finally pointed it out to Christine, and we spent the next half hour staring at it, trying to figure it out, with kooky theories about UFOs and other wild guesses just flying. Just as we began running up the foredunes to the cabin to grab our friends, it disappeared. They simply laughed at us.

That visage in ‘87 nagged me, but someone had suggested it was glowing phytoplankton. It showed me there was more to the beaches than surf and sand, and boy was I in for a multitude of surprises.

Glowing Sand. Somewhere in the early 80’s, I heard about a weird phenomenon called “glowing sands” in a hidden cave in Lincoln City. This, too, captivated me for years and years, and I yearned to finally see this. Eventually I did some research on the subject, and discovered it was glowing phytoplankton named dinoflagelettes, which are bioluminescent, meaning they glow in the same manner fireflies do. (Photo: what dinoflagelettes look like).

Finally, in 1993, I spotted the dinoflagelettes on a dark beach in Newport. We'd all been drinking, and my friends were relieved to find out someone else saw it too. "I thought it was just the booze," one girl said. This was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Every time I’m on the beach at night I look for it. I can’t county how many times I’ve seen it, and it still makes me shout with glee.

Fast forward to around 1997 or so, I’m interviewing an expert on glowing phytoplankton from Florida named Dr. Edith Widder (she’s famous now). I ask her about my personal X-File at Neskowin. She said there is a brand of glowing phytoplankton that glow in red, but these waters are too cold for that.

The rest of her response still chills me to this day: "There's still much out there we don't know about."

Foam Going the Wrong Direction. It’s 1993 and I’m staying in Yachats for a few days in April, where you’re getting winter-like, crazed storms but also somewhat warmer temps. I’d begun slowly collecting paranormal tales for the fun of it by this time, but again it’s weird science that clubs me over the head. (Above: that day in Yachats - it doesn't do the sight justice).

I’m goofing around the Devil’s Churn, and the sea foam is intensely frothy. It’s creating giant, snow bank-like blobs that go flying onto the rocks. Then I notice something straight outta sci-fi: there are clumps of sea foam floating upwards, looking like snow going the wrong direction. They’re getting up to the highway and sometimes higher – a couple hundred feet at least.

My jaw drops. I almost get photos of it. This seals the deal on the coast for me: this place has much more than I thought.

Part two will feature a wee bit more of the paranormal goofiness that I sort of encountered over the years, and some more stunning science epiphanies. Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

See Oregon Coast Unexplained Part Two - Almost Paranormal.




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