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Little Waldport is Big on Weird Oregon Coast Legends, History

Published 09/20/22 at 4:25 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Little Waldport is Big on Weird Oregon Coast Legends, History

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(Waldport, Oregon) – One sleepy little central Oregon coast village has a lot more to its past than you might imagine. Waldport, sitting sort of between Newport and Yachats, is a place with not much going on, except its pristine beaches, close access to Seal Rock and the Waldport Heritage Museum. But peer into its past and you get an eyeful. (Above: light orbs at Lost Creek near Waldport, photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Waldport's history includes some striking moments, like its connections to singer Pat Boone (which is in turn connected to a wacky business story on the Washington coast), the landing place for a massive shipwreck, and a disturbing UFO cult. There's also the curious tale of a whale that become an enormous tourist attraction, and the strange legends of a sea monster at Seal Rock.

In August of 1969, Waldport had its first grand hotel: the Pat Boone Inn opened up in the Bayshore district. With crooner Pat Boone as an investor and a kind of frontman, the place had high aspirations. Yet financial woes and some amount of intrigue hit pretty quickly.


Bayshore Inn around 2000

In about a year's time, a company called The Bayshore owned the place and Boone and cohorts no longer were a part. It's unclear what happened on the hotel end, but about that time the Dunes restaurant there – owned by a famed Oregon chef – also entered some legal iffy zones. By 1970, they were getting sued by the state for taxes and not paying employees.

The hotel side was forced by the state to sell, due to unpaid mortgages. The hotel soon changed its name to The Bayshore Inn, and it's been various names and incarnations since – as has the restaurant side.

In the meantime, Boone had also invested in a burgeoning resort at Ocean Shores on the Washington coast, which was becoming a haven for the rich and famous by the time the Pat Boone Inn opened up. The resort there was glittering for a time, but then the economic downturns of the '70s punched a hole in that success. Millions of dollars were lost as the holiday spot went bankrupt, and Ocean Shores didn't come into its own until sometime in the '80s. Full story: Waldport's Pat Boone Inn: Oregon Coast Finance Tale That Reached Ocean Shores, Washington

Back on the central Oregon coast, the Bayshore Inn saw something disturbing happen there in 1975, although no one knew it yet. An oddball cult showed up, talking about UFOs and managing to recruit about 20 locals. Most disappeared without word to family or friends, and even the FBI was called in to search for some eventually.

By the early '90s, those coasties had thankfully left the cult – which actually got its start in the early '70s in Gold Beach on the south Oregon coast. Those remaining committed a mass suicide in California, by then known as the infamous Heaven's Gate cult. See Heaven's Gate Suicide Cult and its Connections to Oregon Coast

Then there's the kooky tale of Tillie the Whale. For a long time, there was a famed whale skeleton out in front of a motel on Highway 101 near Waldport, which is still remembered by some to this day. It lasted from the '30s to about the early '70s.

Yet its beginnings actually may have been vaguely related to the famed Exploding Whale of Florence in 1970. Tillie's bones came from a 50-foot whale that landed in Waldport in 1938, quickly causing an enormous stink. It really began choking area residents, as it was late summer. Finally, a meat company from Albany showed up and snapped up the meat of the whale, leaving the bones to a motel owner later on. See Oregon Coast's Tillie the Whale History a Kooky and Dramatic One for the full story.

For a brief period, officials thought seriously about blowing it up. It turns out, Warrenton on the north Oregon coast had dealt with just such a whale in that manner, and word was it didn't go that badly. However, some reports indicate it did: see Warrenton Had an 'Exploding Whale' 30 Years Before Central Oregon Coast. This, on its own is quite a revelation. Florence did not have the first exploding whale.


Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection

If you want legendary drama, there's always Bizarre Oregon Coast History: Crazed Chaos of the Shipwreck New Carissa, which sat around Waldport for a bit.

Actual legends – and weird ones at that – involve rumors of a sea monster at Seal Rock. In 1935, only three years before Orson Welles' famed mass hysteria-inducing radio presentation of “War of the Worlds,” a local newspaper in Newport wrote about a couple living in the burgeoning village known then as Seal Rocks who claimed they'd seen more than one sea monster. It was a report that could've been straight out of a Jules Verne novel.

However, there's something suspect about that claim, and even then nothing much came of it. See Strange Oregon Coast History: Legend of Seal Rock Sea Monsters

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