Bad things happened at a cabin near little lava lake one cold winter.
The brutal butchering of three trappers at a desolate cabin in the dead of winter, 1924 and a psychotic axe attack on two college students in 1977 make up two of many examples of brutal unsolved mysteries across Central Oregon. In the spirit of Halloween, we bring you the shortened, but highly gruesome accounts, straight out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. Cue flickering lights and creepy laughter.
Lava Lake Murders (winter of 1923/1924)
Ed Nichols, 50, Roy Wilson, 35, and Dewey Morris, 25, were found brutally butchered near their cabin at Little Lava Lake in April of 1924. The three men were trappers and had been living in an isolated cabin on the lake for the winter months.
Friends and family of the men ventured to the cabin in the spring. Upon arrival they did not find the three men jovially presenting their winter winnings as they had expected, but discovered only a blood-stained hammer in the trapper's shed. Foul play was afoot, dear reader.
They soon discovered a patch of blood in the snow, a few inches down, and upon further investigation found a front tooth and some human hair mixed in the slush.
Once the ice melted, the party was able to extract the bodies of their friends from the lake where a hole had been cut in the ice and the bodies deposited in the dead of winter. The bodies were wrapped in muslin, and “fiendishly butchered.”
Claude McCauley, a freelance writer, described the scene in gruesome detail.
“Ed Nichols, still had his glasses on, the ones he used for reading. A shotgun, fired at close range, had carried away the lower part of his right jaw and part of his chest. A watch in his coat pocket had stopped at ten minutes after nine. Roy Wilson’s right shoulder had been almost entirely shot away by a charge of shot, and there was a bullet behind his right ear. Dewey Morris had been wounded in the left elbow by a charge of a shot and a hole a little larger than a silver dollar had been crushed through his skull at the back of his right ear.”
As motives were discussed, blame landed on a former Elk Lake Lodge employee known as Lee Collins, who had once threatened to “get even” with one of the trappers over a petty dispute.
The sheriff found that Collins’ real name was Charles Kimzey, and that he was wanted in the county for assault and armed robbery. Kimzey had escaped from the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1915 and had a long history of brutal crimes behind him. In 1923, Kimsey hired a cab driver to take him from Oregon to Idaho and in a remote location, overpowered the driver, poisoned him, and threw him into an abandoned well.
Bulletin writer Don Burgderfer called Kimzey, “a person so despicable that no crime was beyond him, not even a triple murder.”
Despite the $1,000 reward offer, it took five long years to track Kimzey down. In 1928, he was found hiding out in Kalispell, Montana. However, insufficient evidence left Kimzey unprosecuted for the cold-blooded crimes at Lava Lake.
Burgderfer called the murders, “one of the most ghastly unsolved crimes in the annals of Oregon’s history.”
The murders remain officially unsolved.
Cline Falls State Park Axe Assault
At around 11:30 p.m. on June 22 1977, two young women camping at Cline Falls were viciously attacked by an unknown assailant with an axe.
According to state police, “The assailant drove a vehicle over a curb, down a dirt slope and between a pair of picnic tables to the tent.”
Using his vehicle, the attacker ran over the women’s tent, set up near the Deschutes River, then proceeded to hatchet his victims ruthlessly with an axe.
The incident left both women in serious condition at St. Charles Medical Center. Avra Goldman, 20, was in critical condition upon arrival at the hospital suffering from serious head injuries that would eventually lead to permanently impaired vision. Terri Lee Jentz, 19, suffered head injuries, a broken right leg and two broken arms; one of which was severely hacked by the axe.
"I hear my friend scream sharply, 'Leave us alone,' and then I hear a blow,” said Jentz years after the attack, “Then I hear six more, just like that.”
Blow after blow were dealt to the girls. Then, as suddenly as he came, the assailant was gone, never to be prosecuted for his macabre crimes.
Boo Isaak was the first to drive through the Cline Falls area on that night, and saw a blood soaked Jentz stumbling towards his vehicle. In her book, Strange Piece of Paradise, which chronicles the attack and her recovery, Jentz describes that there was so much blood, she can still draw up the sharp iron smell of it as though the attack were yesterday.
Because the attack was so unexpected and isolated, the aggressor was able to escape, leaving investigators with no description of the car, no eyewitnesses, no sign of the weapon and no fingerprints.
As weeks went by, The Bulletin’s headlines expressed the desperation of the case, “No new leads in Cline Falls assault case,” "Police expanding hunt for suspects,” and a final article “Someone knows.” This piece reads, “Someone in this part of the state either knows or has a strong and probably correct suspicion of the name of the young man who attacked the two Yale students.” The writer urges the attacker or anyone with a suspicion of his or her identity to come forward with their information.
After the attack, Jentz father vowed that when his daughter recovered, “She’ll never set foot in the state of Oregon because it’s safer in downtown New York or Chicago.”
There are a lot of blood stained hands in Oregon, and enough rural space to hide their crimes. You could easily pass one of these guilty psychos on the street. They could be your co-workers, acquaintances or even your neighbors. So lock your doors this Halloween, and above all else, beware crazies in the wilderness.
Haunting on Main Street
Bend’s downtown crawls with the paranormal
McMenamins Old St. Francis School
700 NW Bond St., Bend
Guests at the hotel have reported hearing children running and laughing upstairs, in the one story building.
Thomas McCann House
440 NW Congress St., Bend
Also known as The Congress House, this gothic mansion was built for vice President and general manager of Shevlin-Hixon Lumber Company, Thomas McCann, in 1915. There have been ghost sightings in the upper windows and legend has it that several families have moved into the home and befallen tragedy like untimely deaths or other unfortunate circumstances.
Des chutes County Historical Society Museum
129 NW Idaho Ave., Bend
Historical Society employees will confirm that the museum downtown is haunted by the ghost of carpenter George Brosterhous. During the construction of the building in 1913, George fell through the hole that the staircase of the building now occupies and was killed on impact. He now resides as a friendly poltergeist in the building.
The O’Kane Building
115 NW Oregon Ave.
Built in 1916 by Hugh O’Kane, one of Bend’s first businessmen, the O’Kane building has had reports of ghostly smoke, weird lights, and footsteps and voices inside the building. On the ground floor in a restaurant people have reported a ghostly voice shouting names and orders. The basement of the building is said to be haunted by an old man.
Pilot Butte Cemetery
Reports of ghostly blue orbs in the cemetery at night have been reported and recorded in photographs.
Interested in more haunted history in Bend? Take the Deschutes Historical Museum’s annual Historical Haunts of Downtown Walking Tour for scary stories about the dark past of our town, brothels, brutal deaths and more. Thursday 25-Saturday 27, 4 p.m and 7:30 p.m. Meet at the Museum 129 NW Idaho Ave.