(This post is the start of a new, ongoing series which will run from time to time. It adds a new dimension, if you don’t mind the 50s allusion to the otherworldly.)
Montavilla Man, the Beaumont Rambler, Jack Tabor/Tabor Jack, the Woodstalker, the Penny Man, Heel and Toe Boy, Catcher-in-the-Rain, and the Sunnyside Lion – all supposed child abductors (or worse) in Portland over the years, some going back to the 1800s. Bogeymen are nothing new; they fill some need in us that goes beyond cautionary tales for children, a need for something bigger than life, something more mysterious than life…death, in a word. Spooky death is even better, of course.
Long before Grimm filmed its TV monsters here we had our own legends and they still ring bells in our minds, because what is the worst possible thing that can happen to someone? It must be to lose someone and never find out what happened, and if it is a child, well – don’t we get so desperate that we start to think maybe aliens did it? Isn’t that easier to believe than human serial killers? But there are so many stories (some even involving aliens) that it’s hard to discount them all. Just like a lonely single guy who sits at home doing the Carl Sagan odds on how probable it is that there’s a girl out there for him (far more probable than intelligent life in the universe, surely), we play the game of “Every one of these can’t possibly be a murder or a runaway, can they?” Some percentage is unexplainable by normal means, right?
And the disappearances keep on happening. Sometimes children, sometimes adults; sometimes animals – and who can say for sure what happened to the cat I mentioned here? Ask the Portland police about Grimm and they will laugh, but ask them about unsolved disappearances or unexplained remains and they get more serious with you, because these are real things.
And some of them are really strange. Let’s think about the figurative Fuller Brush With Death Man here (there is no such character), because he never goes away in the city, and in the country he’s always there as a sasquatch or just a Blair Witch generic figure hulking in an abandoned cabin in the Siskiyous with mysterious twigs tied together and dangling around the property. He serves a purpose, just like little men with big eyes who come from out there; everybody has a button that can be pushed.
So – I’ll be bringing up some cases from the Portland P-Files for you. And speaking of little men with big eyes, did you know that Portland has a permanent landing pad for flying saucers? I believe it was constructed in 1947, the same year Arizona started to become the main tourist destination for ETs, but the city is remarkably vague about this. It’s smack dab in the middle of Mt. Tabor Park. Here’s a picture of the thing:
Robert Riley was Portland’s mayor then, and it was under his watch that this landing site was built. This was before the big spate of UFO sightings that came out of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1950s and at the time there was a lot of talk about its purpose. The city still denies the stories, but as good X-Files fans, how can we believe those people? A bit prescient, given that The Day The Earth Stood Still wouldn’t even come out for three more years! There are stories that a previous mayor, CA Bigelow, had to resign in 1930 because of an incident that happened here and was hushed up. Of course, there were “other reasons”; there always are. Tall tales, they always say, just tall tales. Why, there are even people who will tell you that there are tunnels between downtown Portland and the Willamette river that press gangs used to hustle drunken bar patrons through, and the next day they woke up on the crew of a merchant ship bound for Peru.
You think that pad’s a peculiar object? Let’s take a look at some other images and I’ll tell you some other tales about our city. Are they just rumors or truth? One of my favorite characters in House Of Cards says, “You might say that; I couldn’t possibly.”
Coming up next in the series: disappearances, with photos of actual places. But for now, I’ll leave you with this surveillance camera shot of the Oaks Park Ripper, the only known picture of him.
Stay young and monstrous.