Weird Summer Tales: Three Astonishing Stories of Oregon at Its Most Bizarre

These are beach reads—whether or not you were lucky enough to escape to the beach.

Have you noticed something strange? There’s no mistaking it, really. This summer in Portland feels a little…off.

Gas is five bucks a gallon. Half the people you know caught COVID, and nobody noticed. Some days, the corner coffee shop simply doesn’t open because it can’t find enough workers. Oregonians are smoking less weed.

And there’s an object alien to Oregon looming in the sky. A bright, shining orb that just won’t go away.

A week of heat just pressed down on this city like a waffle iron, trapping residents in the dozen square feet of refrigerated space next to their window AC units. Just twice before has Portland suffered six consecutive days of temperatures above 95 degrees. Last week, we had seven.

It’s enough to make anybody feel a little crazy. So here’s what we propose: Let’s get even weirder.

This week’s edition of WW is dedicated to tales of the bizarre and unlikely. In the following pages, we take you to an island inlet in the Willamette River where law enforcement holds no power over nomadic mariners. We talk to the man who spent 16 years searching for the Goonies’ treasure ship—and may have found it in an Oregon sea cave. And we have an excerpt from the Portland book that uncovers the true author of an acid diary that terrified generations of teenagers.

These aren’t WW’s usual stories holding elected officials accountable or unpacking public policy gone wrong (though you can still find plenty of that by flipping back to page 8). In fact, the stories you’re about to read don’t have much in common except that they share the one thing that delights readers and reporters alike: a good secret, revealed.

These are beach reads—whether or not you were lucky enough to escape to the beach. We hope they serve as a pleasurable reminder that no matter how odd this town seems, the reality is stranger than you imagined.

Chapter 1: The Secret of Toe Island Cove

Chapter 2: Cave of Wonders

Chapter 3: Fear Diary