It’s October, that means it’s officially spooky season. If you’re anything like me, it means it’s time to suspend your disbelief and tune into some tall tales for a little bit of spooky. Below I’ll share some of my favorite stories from Cannon Beach. I wrote about these stories a few years ago and I was surprised to see that many of them were picked up elsewhere since then.
The first story I want to share is one I’m sure many of you are familiar with. It’s the tale of the Bandage Man, who is said to haunt the stretch of Highway 101 near Cannon Beach.
The Bandage Man
The Bandage Man first made an appearance in the 1950’s. He is said to be the mummy of a logger that was hacked up in a sawmill accident, wrapped completely in bloody bandages and smells of rotting flesh. He is said to haunt a stretch of Highway 101, between the Highway 26 Junction to the north entrance of Cannon Beach and sometimes even as far down as Arch Cape. I also heard that he was an injured fire man, electrician, and the list goes on. What stays consistent in the story, is the bandages.
Like most folklore, the Bandage Man mostly targets teens in parked cars. On occasion he is said to target moving vehicles like opened top cars or pickup truck, he’ll jump into the back of the vehicle and then mysteriously vanishes before reaching town. Most of the time people do not become aware of his presence until his rotting stench reaches your nose. The Bandage Man feeds on dogs and small animals, and occasionally the unlucky person.
In the 1960’s pranks and tales of the Bandage Man were common place, but these days, most people haven’t heard this local urban legend. One source told me that the story was told to frighten tourists, but who is to say? It’s definitely taken a life of its own online.
The Lady of Cannon Beach
Back in the day, I slung some booze at ye olde Driftwood. On some dark dreary nights, we would share stories. Some are the usual, rants, but some were on the spookier side. I first heard the story of “The Lady of Cannon Beach” in 2005 from a local landscaper. Her tale is as follows.
It was around 11:00 p.m. on a warm night in the fall, maybe September. The landscaper was walking to her home on Adams (I think or maybe Washington) she was on Spruce by Harrison Street when she noticed a glowing white figure. The white figure appeared to be in a white dress and was gliding, not walking. She said the woman or apparition had no face, or at least a dark hole in place of the face.
My response, of course was, “and how drunk were you?” She swore she hadn’t been, but I dismissed the story as a hyped up drunken tale of late night adventures. The story began to bother me though, so I asked a long time local about it. He said, “Oh, that’s The Lady of Cannon Beach” as if I should have heard of her. He said that she’d been seen around Cannon Beach and the Presidential streets since the 1980’s or maybe earlier. No one knew where she came from, only that she would appear all in white gliding around one street or the other.
As much as I’d love to chalk this up to a someone playing a good joke on me – I mean, I do love a good ghost story. I could also attribute this sighting to pop-culture horror films like The Grudge and The Ring. Both of these films have terrifying female spirits and came out shortly before this “sighting” was first reported to me.
However, I thought I would share that while conducting research I found not one, but two articles published in 2013 and 2017 that make mention of a lady ghost in the Cannon Beach area! I was surprised. Looking further into this ghostly tale, I realized that the spirit of a lady in white is internationally universal. There’s one in pretty much every country. These ghostly ladies usually have some story of love lost, but the one here in Cannon Beach is rather vague. When did the story start? Is it just another case of an urban myth spreading around? Or just someone trying to scare a young bartender? You be the judge.
Fright in the Night
The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was a beacon for the Oregon coast from 1881 until 1957. During that time the lighthouse was manned by just a few men, no more than five at a time. Secluded, dark, and lonely, being stationed at the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was only for the hardy. Located between the towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach, it was an important part of navigation to and from the Columbia River.
In the 1930’s the U.S. Coast Guard took over management of the lighthouse and brought with them younger cadets to keep up good Ol’ Terrible Tilly. It was one such young man that told tale of a rather harrowing event.
During his first night on the rock, keeper, James Gibbs was feeling alone and maybe a bit in-over-his-head. The other keepers didn’t seem to keen on the new recruit. His imagination went wild with ideas that his fellow keepers might be escaped convicts, or even psychopathic murderers! He was shown to his bunk, which was more of a cell by his telling.
Despite his unsettled feeling he was able to settle in to sleep. It was a warm night, so he left his porthole window open.
In the night and in the dark, Gibbs heard a shuffling noise. Not in the hall, but in his room. Sh, sh, sh. The noise came and went. It was a killer, a knife glinting in the darkness. In a new place, after traveling, Gibbs wasn’t in his element. The shuffling noise continued until finally Gibbs felt something brush his face! He heard tale of a ghost, a spirit haunting the rooms of the lighthouse and here it was!
Gibbs lashed out, coming in contact with whatever it was. Knocking it away. He reached for the lamp by his bedside, but instead of a bloody spirit or a knife-wielding maniac, he discovered a goose with an injured wing. The conclusion was that it must have flown in through the open window.
What happened to the goose? Is left to Gibbs’ very entertaining story. He was a fabulous storyteller and historian. We hoped you liked the story as much as I did when I read it the first time. Happy Halloween!
Another tale from keepers of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. It must’ve been tough to be so secluded out at the lighthouse. It lies over a mile off shore and it can be tough getting to and from the lighthouse even during the best weather. Can you imagine a rather stormy night, or even a foggy one?
A ship cruising out of the fog. Yelling and screaming for your life to turn it away and then it just disappears? The ship was reported to be so real that the keepers could hear the sailors yelling out into the night. The sails torn and fluttering, even if there was no wind.
Many think that this ship is the ghost of the crew of the Lupata or Lupatia that wrecked right by the rock just before construction of the lighthouse was completed. The entire crew of the British ship Lupata were lost, with the exception of one of the crew member’s dog.
San Francisco, January 8, 1881 ~ A dispatch from Astoria says” “By the arrival of the lighthouse tender this evening from Tillamook Rock, the loss of the British ship Lupata is confirmed. Captain Wheeler, superintendent of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, arrived here this evening, and reports that on Monday evening, January 3, at about 8 o’clock, the weather being very thick and the wind blowing hard from the south-west, the workmen on the rock suddenly heard loud voices shouting, and on emerging from their houses saw the ship’s light just inside of the rock, and immediately after heard the command given, “hard aport.” Captain Wheeler ordered lanterns to be placed in the tower (as the light of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was lit for the first time just after this wreck) and as speedily as possible a large bonfire was started, which revealed a large vessel apparently not 200 yards form the east side of the rock, with a red or port light in sight about five minutes, when it gradually disappeared, those on the rock concluding that the Captain had back ship and successfully steered his vessel out of danger. This morning the fog had disappeared and it was found that the Captain, instead of rounding the rock to the westward, had run his vessel ashore on the reef running out from the Tillamook side, the topmast being plainly visible from 6 to 10 feet above the water. The shore line being a bold bluff of rock for considerable distance from the scene of the wreck, it is more than likely that ht wholesaled ship’s company were lost.”
It was later confirmed that all 16 souls aboard were lost, with the exception of a dog, which was quickly adopted by a local man.
~ As always, with love
Your resident nerd, Elaine Trucke
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