S.E. Schlosser,
Spooky Oregon
(Globe Pequot Press, 2009)

The beautiful state of Oregon boasts a unique and striking topography, with sights such as the stunning Painted Hills, lava beds stretching back thousands of years and the John Day Fossil Beds, which contain fossils of plants and animals dating back as many as 44 million years. The rich heritage of Oregon also includes many interesting folktales passed down from generation to generation.

In Spooky Oregon, author S.E. Schlosser ventures to this Pacific Northwestern state to investigate the lore of the land, bringing us tales of Native Americans, Bigfoot and hardy pioneers heading west on the Oregon Trail. The legends of Oregon come to life under the talented pen of Schlosser, whose unusual way of relating the "tall tales" of the region is distinctive in the realm of storytelling. She crafts each tale into an appealing short story that brings us right into the experience of the subject as he or she encounters something very out of the ordinary.

I was originally disappointed in the first few stories, but many others save this collection from mediocrity, and several will probably be reread more than once. The first of my favorites, "Rivals," takes place in Sisters. Here we watch as two siblings, who have competed against each other their entire lives, eventually discover that they do indeed share a bond that is so strong it even supersedes death. I wiped a tear or two while reading that one.

In "Tresspassing," Bigfoot goes on a murderous rampage in the Cascade Mountains, while, in "Close Encounter," he sets a fallen hiker back on his feet in Willamette Forest. At Crater Lake, we follow "Destiny," a young Native American woman who watches as the sky lord and the king of the underworld do battle for her hand in marriage, and at Fort Clatsop, a "Time Slip" allows a modern-day visitor to take part in one of the Lewis and Clark expeditions. We also read tales of the gold-rush miners of the 1860s and the hardy folk who trekked west in wagon trains to start new lives in the newly settled West.

Schlosser often writes in the first person, sometimes in the third, in order to bring us into her version of how the legends took place. She creates characters who recount the legends as they happened, rather than reverting to the "it is often said" formula and telling the stories from afar. No, this is not a collection of "true" ghost stories. It is a collection of folklore gathered by Schlosser during her visit to Oregon. Most of the stories are well-crafted and unique and will appeal to those interested in seeing a different side of Oregon.

book review by
Lee Lukaszewicz

1 September 2012

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