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March 13th, 2013 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Coastal Columbarium

Is it true that the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse holds cremated remains?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
     
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In a list of Oregon “factoids,” I found the following: “The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, built in 1880, is currently used as the final resting place of up to 467,000 cremated individuals.” Any truth to this?

—Dana L.

Depends on what you mean by “truth.” There are “up to” 467,000 powdered stiffs at the site in much the same sense that this reporter’s net worth is “up to” $1 billion. In both cases, the actual number is more like 30.

That said, there are indeed cremains on Tillamook Rock, thanks to a group of investors who, in 1980, bought the decommissioned lighthouse (and the rocky island promontory it sits on) and turned it into the “Eternity at Sea Columbarium.”

(A columbarium, as I’m sure we all learned in goth kindergarten, is a building where cremation urns are filed away in little niches, like a giant spice rack for dead grandmas.)

For two decades, people who thought it would be pretty bad-ass to be interred on a site that looks like the laboratory of Dr. Weird from Aqua Teen Hunger Force could fork over a sum in the low four figures to reserve a spot as one of Eternity’s “honorary lighthouse keepers.”

But don’t start making your final arrangements just yet. The columbarium lost its license to practice, um, dead-person storage in 1999. Regulators were put off by the seabirds nesting in the building, and that the deceased were being stacked on cinder-block bookcases like you had in college. A 2005 attempt at reinstatement went nowhere.

My call to Eternity’s last known phone number yielded only a computerized voice asking me to leave a message for “professional offices.” While there’s something poetic about the idea of heaven’s phone going straight to voice mail, it seems more likely that Eternity is now just history.


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