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 The Weird and Wonderful Northwest

Salem, Oregon and her surrounding towns aren’t just about hiking, fishing, cycling, shopping and gourmet food.  Quirky, fun, and downright strange attractions and landmarks are prevalent throughout the region.
Silverton - only 15 miles from Salem - was once the home of “Bobbie the Wonder Dog”, a media sensation of the 1920s.

The collie-mix vanished during a road trip with his owners when he was chased away by a pack of local dogs during a fuel stop in Indiana. The couple called and searched in vain; but returned, heartbroken and without their pet, to Silverton. Six months to the exact day later, a bedraggled Bobbie reappeared in Oregon after a long walk back: 2,800 miles by himself in the dead of winter.  Word of his trek home swiftly spread from the Silverton Appeal to the national news. Today, Silverton honors Bobbie’s memory with a mural illustrating his epic journey, a statue at his doghouse, and an annual pet parade on the day in February when he returned to his family.

Fans of macabre fun will enjoy the Museum of Mental Health on the campus of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.  Formerly known as the Oregon Insane Asylum, the location for the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is now used to explore mental health treatment and its sometimes-horrific history.
“Since the Hospital opened its doors, efforts have been made to keep up with the most current thinking about treating mental illness,” states the website. Subjecting patients to sunlight, fresh air and peaceful scenery was believed integral to recovery - but so were strait jackets, shackles, electric shock, ice baths, sterilizations, and the occasional lobotomy.  Learn more in the Treatment Room through displays that examine protocols once believed best for the mentally ill that we now consider shocking and cruel.”

If Saint Francis had a garage sale, it might look like the Mount Angel Museum, the eccentric collection on the grounds of peaceful Mt. Angel Abbey only thirty scenic minutes from Salem.  On display are the spoils of obsessive private collections: musical instruments from around the world, early American stone age utensils, doorknobs, Samoan tribal items, bird skin art, Native American fishing tackle, and Mount Angel College sports trophies. Religious curiosities include holy medals, processional vestments, a “sick-call” portable anointing kit, a portrait of Christ made from 98,000 typed letters from Matthew’s gospel, and a replica crown of thorns fashioned from the very same type of thorns (probably) used by Christ’s tormentors, obtained from Mt. Olive near Jerusalem.

But wait, there’s more. Animal specimens include the world’s largest pig hairball, deformed farm animals, a whale rib, and a collection of North American mammals, taxidermied into action poses depicting life on the food chain.

Only 47 miles north of Salem lies Portland: the riverfront world-class city known for its cuisine, coffee, culture, charm - and a famous rep for weirdness.
Of the dozens of recommended destinations and activities, don’t miss these local favorites.

Powell’s City of Books is a landmark in downtown Portland’s Pearl District where one million volumes are shelved in nine color-coded rooms in a creaky, multi-story building that occupies an entire city block.

On the sidewalk outside you’ll see “Pod”, a kinetic sculpture. The three-legged oddity is thirty feet high and composed of stainless steel, bronze, titanium, and lead.  Don’t be shy - give it a shove and take a quick video.

No mention of Portland is complete without including world-famous Voodoo Doughnut, the happiest place in the city. Visitors from around the world - excited to purchase their first Fruit Loop encrusted, voodoo
doll-shaped, or other mutant doughnut - mingle in line with sugar addicts from the offices across the street simply waiting for their regular Bacon Maple Bar fix.

You’ve heard about “Shanghai tunnels”? Lo these many years ago, “crimping” was practiced in Portland’s rough waterfront bar section. A man who wouldn’t be missed (or who would, but good riddance) might be slipped a mickey or knocked unconscious at his boarding house, dropped through a secret trap door, and held in a miserable underground cell until purchased as a slave by unscrupulous sea captains and taken to work onboard a vessel to Asia - thus the term “shanghaied”.

Or so the story goes. There exists no factual data, but plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Portland was the shanghai capital of the world in 1890s. On a guided tour down into the tunnels through a steel panel in the sidewalk, you’ll see unique architecture, the holding cells, a “deadfall” trapdoor, and various artifacts of that terrible labor practice.

The story of Bobbie the Wonder Dog from Silverton comes to a conclusion in Portland. In 1927, three years after his celebrated homecoming, beloved Bobbie was laid to rest. You can visit his grave - where Rin Tin Tin placed the wreath at his funeral - at the tiny, touching pet cemetery behind the Oregon Humane Society. (Bring tissues.)

Category: 2018 Salem, OR