Monthly Archives: October 2014

Haunted (Vista) House

October at the Vista House is always an interesting month . . .

From the shift in weather and beginning of the winter winds, to the outside weather (rain) making its way inside, to the shorter hours that the building is open, everything changes.  And this last change, being closed more often to the public, means that the local “residents” of Vista House have more time to be in their building alone.   Besides the mice, one of these local residents is (I believe) the ghost of the building’s architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

Vista House_Haunted

Who resides at Vista House when all of the visitors go home?



Many staff who have worked in Vista House late night in the fall have reported feeling the presence of Lazarus.  I have felt it before, too.  However, I have never been scared of it.  It is a nice, almost nurturing, presence to me.  I feel that he is just there watching over his building.  Happy that we are there, too, keeping watch and taking care—which is why I think I don’t find it scary.  If I was causing damage at Vista House, it might be a different story.

One of the ways Edgar Lazarus makes himself known (other than just the “feeling” that he is there) is by playing with the elevator or “lift.”  The lift is situated in the basement level of Vista House—volunteers in the rotunda level push toggles and buttons to raise and lower the lift.  The control box at the main level desk is the only way to operate the lift.  That said, I have had times when the lift is completely powered off, I am in the building by myself in the hallway in the basement when the lift door will start to open and close.  Or times when I’m upstairs and can hear the lift door opening and closing even though I can see with my own eyes that no one’s hands are on the control.  At times, it is just the outside door opening and closing; at other times, both the inside and outside door start opening and closing.

Lazarus_portrait

Vista House architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

I have always attributed this lift movement to Lazarus.  When the renovations were made on Vista House in 2004, we kept everything original (or at least as originally designed) EXCEPT the addition of the ADA elevator or “lift.”  This was the only “modern” addition to the building.  I do not think that Lazarus is upset by the lift, more than he is interested in it.  I think Lazarus, being an architect with a quizzical mind, is intrigued by the lift—curious about how it works—and that he is simply playing with it.

I had always attributed the change in the temperature/weather as the sign that strange-ness was coming to Vista House.  However, upon further research, I recently found out that Edgar M. Lazarus died on October 2, 1939 after a bitter dispute over his fees for the design and construction of Vista House.

Is it just a coincidence that Vista House’s ghost-play starts in October?

Or does the spirit of Edgar M. Lazarus begin making his rounds each year on the day he died, taking up residence in Vista House—the building he is best known for and one he felt he was never fully paid for?

 

(Special thanks to Ranger Mo Czinger for this ghostly account.)

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Mystery Photo Answer

Did you figure out last week’s mystery image?  Do you still have a few questions?

Before I reveal the answer, let me show you two more photos and give you a few more hints.

 

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Material Hint: Look closely at the mid-right section of this photo. See the (dangerous) piece of flair woven into the object? It should help you reel in the answer.

 

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Object Hint: Take a peak inside this object — it has a soft lining of moss and lichen.

A few other things to mention:

  • This was found after ranger fell a hazard tree near Benson Lake — Benson is located near Multnomah Falls, between the Historic Columbia River Highway and I-84.  There is a lake, a pond, a creek, and the Columbia River nearby.
  • It was hanging suspended from a cottonwood tree branch about 20 feet up.
  • The dimensions of the object are 3 1/2″ wide by  5 1/2″ long.

Ready for the answer?!

Okay, here it is:  . . . We do not know.

That’s right.  We do not know.  Well, not everything at least.  We know that it is a bird’s nest.  And we know that it is constructed of fishing line and lined with moss, lichen, and a strand of carpet.  What we are not 100% certain of is its maker.  Our first three initial guesses out of the birds who weave nests were wren, bushtit, or oriole.  Bushtit nests look more like long hanging socks.  And while some wrens weave nests, the wrens in the Gorge are not great weavers, and this nest is a piece of art.

Our best guess for the maker of this nest is the Bullock’s Oriole.  These are common at Benson; they often nest in cottonwood trees near streams and waterways; they are marvelous weavers of hanging basket nests; and they’ll use hair, twine, or grass for a nest (or perhaps fishing line!)  Our only hesitation is that the nest seems a bit small for this medium-sized bird.  A quick search reports that the average Bullock’s Oriole nest is 4 inches wide and 6 inches deep — our is 1/2″ shy of each of those.  So it may be a smaller Bullock’s nest.  Or it may not.

And this is how naturalist studies often go.  A definitive answer is not always possible.  More research is often required.  And not the kind that is found on the Web or in a book.  No, the best research here will be done at Benson State Recreation Area during the Bullock’s mating season.

So, I’ll see you at Benson between this coming May and mid-July!

 

 

Mystery Photo Challenge: What Is This?

A few of the Gorge rangers were out at Benson State Recreation Area yesterday and found this gem.

Questions for the readers:

  • What is this?
  • What is it made of?
  • Who made it?
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View from the front.

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Close-up of the material.

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Object with a large paperclip for a size reference.

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Profile.

 

Post your best guesses in the comments field below, and we’ll get back to you next week with the answer!