Mount Hood stands tall in north Oregon. It towers over everything around it. Mount Hood is a volcano. It is 11,249 feet tall. Mount Hood is the tallest point in Oregon. It can be seen from 100 miles away. It could erupt someday. But chances of an eruption are very small. The volcano is considered by many to be dormant.
As you drive up to Mt. Hood coming through the city of Rhododendron, you will pass a large mound before driving past an overlook of a valley. The large mound may be easy to miss, but it has a strange local superstition surrounding it.
One place on Mount Hood is thought to be important. Locals warn that it must be treated with respect: Silent Rock. Silent Rock is on Highway 26. It is between the small towns of Rhododendron and Government Camp.
Whenever you pass this mound, named “Silent Rock”, you must be absolutely silent; stop talking, radio turned off, some people even hold their breath so as to be as silent as possible. The legend goes that if a sound is made while passing Silent Rock, misfortune will ensue. This could be anything from breaking a ski pole, to breaking a leg, to a car breaking down, or even a bus falling down into the valley below.
No one is exactly sure where this superstition came from, although there are several different ideas. One of the most believed stories is that a truck lost control right after passing the rock, hit several cars, and all the vehicles involved fell down into the valley, causing several deaths.
The silence is a sign of respect for those killed in the accident, and those with a lack of respect are punished. Another story that is widely believed follows the same sort of lines, although instead of a massive car accident, it is the death of a construction worker. Other stories are harder to believe, although are still very popular.
The first of these is that the Native Americans of the area used to throw their enemies off of the rocks with stones in their mouths so that they couldn’t scream.
Other stories say it was early settlers that did this same practice to the Native Americans.
Another story states that the highway was built on an old Native American burial grounds, and is therefore haunted.
The least mysterious story involves an annoyed bus driver who made up the story so that the children on the bus would be quiet for a few moments.
Ryan Ward grew up in the area. He has heard many stories about people who make noise driving by the rock. “My brother thought it was a joke. One time he turned up the volume on the music. He just started yelling as loud as he could. I kept telling him to shut up. He just laughed. “Very soon, his car stopped working. He just barely got to the side of the road. The car engine shut off. It turned out the car was out of gas. But he’d just filled the gas tank that morning. He was freaked out.”
Amy Velo remembers a school ski trip in 8th grade. “There were 40 of us on the bus. When we got to Silent Rock, some thought it would be funny to make noise. But most of us were quiet. “We skied that day. Every one of the kids who made noise ended up with a problem. One kid broke a ski pole. Another lost one of her new gloves. And one girl threw up on the chair lift.
Another story says that a construction worker was killed there when the road was built. So Silent Rock is to show respect to him. Other stories are harder to believe. One claims that Native Americans who lived there would throw enemies off the cliff. They put rocks in their mouths. The rocks kept them from yelling on the way down. Other stories say settlers doing the same to the Native Americans instead.
Opinions differ on the reason behind the belief that it is bad luck to make noise in the vicinity of Silent Rock. Legend has it that when road crews blasted rocks to put through the original road, falling rocks either disturbed a holy burial ground or killed a Native American youth, depending on which version the teller of the tale prefers.