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The O in Oregon is for Oddity:
Exploring the wacky and weird attractions of Oregon
By Jenn Lackey

Oregon is an odd, quirky place. Nestled in the Northwest corner of the U.S. we’re a state mainly known for foresting issues, extreme ballot measures and high unemployment. We’re also known for Bigfoot, UFOs and a plethora of unique, odd and haunted happenings. So if you’re looking to experience a piece of the paranormal here are a few roadside attractions that will suit your freaky fancy.

The Oregon Vortex & The House of Mystery

Located off in the woods beside the small, gold mining town of Gold Hill Oregon between Ashland and Medford near the Rogue River, the Oregon Vortex has been a roadside mystery spot attraction since 1930. John Lister, a mining engineer and local scientist claimed the 2.5 acres of property was a vortex, defying the laws of physics and creating strange occurrences such as balls rolling up hill and illusions of people growing smaller and taller.

The forested property among sloping and slanted hills, also includes the “House of Mystery”, a slanted wooden shack built in 1890, which was part of the Gold mining company that once operated on the land. The house is used to demonstrate the “unusual conditions” of the area and can be seen at the attraction’s website:

In 1960 Lister sold the property to the Cooper family after Lister died in 1959. The stories told, say Mr. Lister’s findings and “notes” were burned after he cryptically said, “The world is not ready for this.” The Cooper family bought the property in 1961. Maria Cooper, a former psychiatric social worker was still in high school when her father bought the place. When her father became ill in the late 1970s, she took over the Vortex and has kept it alive since.

Without question the area is mysterious, some argue the spot is a vortex similar to the Bermuda Triangle. Others claim it’s simply a place of optical illusions and odd magnetic fields found in other places of the world. Russ Donnelly, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon studies vortices for a living and says the Oregon Vortex is not a vortex at all. A vortex is a fluid or gas circulating around a core, where the pressure is lower inside than out, says Donnelly. In a recent New York Times article about the Oregon Vortex, Michael A. Grizzel, a chemical engineering and biotechnology researcher at the University of Maryland points out, ''You can find scientific survey maps of the United States and the planet that show both magnetic and gravitational anomalies.”

Regardless of the reasons behind the Oregon Vortex’s strangeness, the future is uncertain for this widely known paranormal site. Maria Cooper is retiring and she has put the Vortex up for sale, she says it’s time to move on and pass the Vortex on to another. The asking price for the property is in the area of $3 million, a steep price for paranormal lovers. So hopefully whoever buys the property will keep the mystery alive and maintain it as one of Oregon’s favorite odd spots.

Bigfoot & Oregon Caves National Monument

Oregon Caves National Monument has always been a popular family summer attraction in southern Oregon. Now it’s known for one of the more credible and most recent sightings of Bigfoot, despite the recent claims that Bigfoot is a hoax.

Bigfoot sightings have been recorded in the United Sates for more than 200 years. Long before white men stepped foot in the Northwest, Native Americans spoke of the legend of Sasquatch, otherwise known as Bigfoot. According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, Indian tribes across North America have more than 60 different terms for Sasquatch. Sightings of the 7ft. to 8 ft. tall, hairy and smelly creature may be far and few between, but they’re often consistent.

In July of 2000 Oregon Caves National Monument made national headlines when a credible source came forward with his Bigfoot encounter. Psychologist Mathew Johnson and his family sighted the creature while hiking in the woods near the Oregon Caves.

In a San Francisco Examiner article Johnson revisited the site with reporters and the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and told his story. Johnson first encountered the smell, a horrible combination of rotting fish and vomit. Then he heard the sound. It was a deep, distant grunting “Whoa” repeated slowly several times. At first Johnson didn’t know what to make of it, until his wife and two kids heard the grunts too. Then Johnson saw the creature. “It was over on the left side of that tree, watching my kids,” Johnson said, crouching as he pointed downhill toward the trail. “I was watching it watch my family.” He then bolted out of the area concerned and frightened for his wife and kids.

Johnson’s story is considered highly credible for several reasons. For starters he is a psychologist so we can assume he is sane. Not only did his entire family experience the smell and heard the creature’s primal grunts; Johnson is a large man himself, towering close to 7 ft. tall. He played basketball in college in Anchorage, Alaska, and he’s familiar to the outdoors and wild life. He hiked a lot in Alaska and once encountered a Grizzly Bear, and he insists what he saw on the trail was no bear.

McMinnville’s Hotel Oregon annual UFO Festival

In addition to Bigfoot encounters Oregon is also known for UFO sightings. This month marks McMenamin Hotel Oregon’s 5th annual UFO Festival, and 54th anniversary of the first pictorial documented UFO sighting in the U.S.

May 11, 1950, McMinnville farmer Paul Trent’s wife was finishing a long day’s work and spotted a strange, elongated object in the early evening sky. At first she thought it was the Air Force conducting some kid of experiment. The object was noiseless and created a wake that rustled her dress. She dashed into the house to get her husband and a camera.

After Mr. Trent snapped several pictures of the object and developed the photos he shared them with friends and one of the photos was displayed in the local bank. Soon a reporter published the photos and the photos were later published in LIFE magazine. Within weeks the FBI and Air Force interviewed the Trent family and the photos vanished as effortlessly as the UFO.

Seventeen years later as interest in UFOs increased, skeptics sought out the original photograph and found it in a news wire photo archive. Supporters of Trent’s claims, said he had no financial gain or motive to make up the story and the Condon Committee investigation in 1969 left the matter unresolved. Skeptics argue the photo contains shadows that reveal it could have only been taken in the early morning light. Regardless of whether or not it’s true, ufologists consider the image as one of the most credible existing photographs and without question, it’s one the most well known UFO images.

The McMinnville Hotel Oregon festival is now the second largest UFO festival in the nation. The festival consists of Alien abduction workshops, led by abduction expert Bud Hopkins, a showing of the 1950 McMinnville UFO sightings and the 3rd annual costume parade through downtown McMinnville.

McMenamins Brews up More than Beer

The McMenamin brothers of Portland, Oregon are no strangers to odd happenings. Perhaps no one has more experience with haunted buildings other than the McMenamins known for restoring old buildings into hotels, pubs, restaurants theatres and music venues. They are the fourth largest producers of micro brewed beer in the region and own more than 40 businesses. Several of their establishments are on the National Historic Register and are known to be haunted.

The Edgefield and the White Eagle are the most well known haunts and attract ghost hunters and believers seeking paranormal experiences from all over the world. Other local McMenamin haunts include Hotel Oregon, the Bagdad Theater, Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, and the Crystal Ballroom.

McMenamins does a great job of capitalizing on the histories and experiences people have had in these places, especially the White Eagle, one of Portland’s oldest bars. Established as a saloon in 1905, by polish immigrants Bronislaw Soboleski and William Hryszko, the White Eagle was meant to be an aid station and meeting place for Polish immigrants. As the area where the White Eagle sits became more industrialized, it became a meeting place for laborers of the nearby docks, rail yards and factories that popped up along the Willamette river.

The early turn of the century was a turbulent time for booming Portland and legend has it that the upstairs portion of the White Eagle became a brothel and the saloon became a place to get a stiff drink during prohibition. In 1926 a jealous lover supposedly murdered a prostitute, known as Rose. In 1955 a man known as Sam who lived in one of the upstairs rooms was found dead after he became ill.

The legend goes both Rose and Sam still linger in the White Eagle. In the 1970s, the White Eagle became a popular music venue, which McMenamins reestablished in the 1990s. Recent activities reported by McMenamin employees include doors opening and closing, vibrations, and toilet paper being thrown in the ladies bathroom. The most disturbing occurrence happened when a waitress tumbled to the bottom of the stairs leading from the kitchen to the basement, several stories say she claims to have been pushed.

Recently McMenamins has renovated and reopened eleven of the upstairs rooms of the White Eagle as a hotel, and it’s considered a paranormal hot spot. It has been marketed as the most haunted Rock-n-Roll hotel in the Northwest via Hauntings Productions This past Valentines Day, Hauntings Productions hosted a stay at the White Eagle with folks from the Pacific Paranormal Research Society who gave details of the inhabitances haunting the place. According to Raymond Latcoki, director of Hauntings Productions, several of the guests experienced strange sensations and witnessed orbs, or celestial bodies of light.

Upcoming Attractions

Raymond Latcoki is an avid fan of the paranormal. Year around he runs Hauntings Productions that is usually open only 30 days of the year during the month of October. He promotes Portland’s oldest Halloween haunted house attraction, The 13th Door, and he is the promoter for Portland’s first and only Hearse club. Soon he hopes to use one of his recently purchased hearses to conduct ghost tours in Portland.

Obviously Oregonians are open to weird and wacky events, so it looks like he’s in the right place.
When I asked Raymond whether or not Oregon happened to be a more haunted state than other places in the country he said, “I think everybody in the Haunting industry runs into this, but there are haunted places all over the country. I think people in Oregon are little more open to it. For instance there are a lot of other places that people just don’t want to talk about it.” Let’s hope that never changes.