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You can help solve mysteries at the museum

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Local historians bring grusome mysteries to light


Ken and Kris Bilderback work to make history fun, but can murder, suicide and mysterious deaths actually be fun?

Audience members can be the jury.

The Bilderbacks will present five cases of death, law and social change on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the The Washington County Museum’s special Museum After Dark program “You’re the Jury! Dial ‘M’ for Murder in Washington County.”

“It may sound gruesome,” said Ken Bilderback, a former newspaper reporter who now writes Washington County history books from his home near Gaston. “But there are a lot of surprise twists and some heart-wrenching endings.”

The Bilderbacks will present five cases to illustrate how the county’s legal system, from forensic science to changing social customs, has changed since the 1800s.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the law and especially jurisprudence — how our laws are made and enforced,” said Bilderback. 

While mining old newspaper archives for interesting nuggets to use in his books, the Bilderbacks have discovered more than enough incidents for the museum program on mysterious deaths. “We could probably do three or four shows because we have so much material.” 

Two of the five cases they plan to discuss at the special 21-and-over museum program are ones they’ve already written about in their three local history books, “Creek With No Name,” “Fire in a Small Town” and “Walking to Forest Grove.”

Three others will be new to readers of the Bilderbacks’ books and the cable series, “Hidden Cemeteries of Washington County,” which they produce for Tualatin Valley Community Television.

This presentation grew out of the museum’s monthly Crossroads Lecture in July the Bilderbacks presented on hidden cemeteries in the county. The museum’s most common calls are about cemeteries, he said.

The audience will act as jury for the five cases the Bilderbacks will present before they reveal how each case actually concluded.

Was it murder? Suicide? Death by cow? 

Wonder why three women in a prominent politician’s life died mysteriously within a short time of each other? How did Washington County last public hanging go and did you get an invitation?

The Bilderbacks will tell all and the museum staff will unearth rarely seen artifacts from the museum’s collection.

Scott Palmer, founder and artistic director at Bag&Baggage Productions, will speak briefly on the company’s newest production, “Dial M for Murder,” which opens the next night in downtown Hillsboro. Light refreshments and adult beverages will be available.

Museum After Dark will start at 6:30 p.m. and is for ages 21 and older. The museum is in the Hillsboro Civic Center Plaza Building, 120 E. Main St. in Hillsboro. 

Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and free to museum members.