Stories From The Oregon Film Trail – How Are The Oregon State Museum Of Mental Health, The Oregon Dept. of Corrections & Depoe Bay Harbor Linked?

Film Tourism is growing, becoming a more robust niche sector of cultural tourism every year, and remarkably Oregon has hundreds of incredible locations that have starred in films, TV series, and high-profile commercials since the silent movie days of 1904.  In order to build upon this growing tourism niche, the Oregon Film Trail has been slowly rolling out Trail stops over the past two years (currently at 33) all highlighting the State’s important contribution to the film and TV industry and (seemingly unlikely) community partnerships all across Oregon. As the Trail has been quietly growing, one community at a time, so too are the partnerships and collaborations that have been finding new ways to connect through the shared history of filmmaking in Oregon.  Examples of two such partnerships that both celebrate locations for the iconic film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health and the “World’s Smallest Harbor” Depoe Bay – now both stops on the Oregon Film Trail.

Oregon Film caught up with Dennie Brooks, Oregon Museum of Mental Health Board, Education Co-Chair, and Location Coordinator of the Film’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and Laura Furguson, Depoe Bay Chamber Executive, to ask how being on the Oregon Film Trail might be helping with the Museum’s mission and tourism respectively, and their new connection.
Dennie Brooks: “Part of the Hospital’s history was the filming of the iconic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975. The Governor’s Office partnered with the State Hospital and Fantasy Films from 1973-1975 to successfully meet the goals laid out by Superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks and the Producers at Fantasy Films.
Their shared goal was to tell the story of the use and abuse of power and to create conversations to address issues in the care of the mentally ill. Their goals included how the process of making the film was to respectfully engage the Hospital and the outlying community. A prime example was the 90 patients who were hired to work in every department in the film company.
The Museum, located in the Hospital’s Historic Kirkbride Building, has hosted over 30,000 visitors from all over the world since opening in Oct 2012. The Museum is dedicated to Bearing Witness and Giving Voice to those who lived and worked at the Oregon State Hospital in its rich 138-year history. A high percentage of visitors are drawn because of both the film and Ken Kesey’s 1962 book. The Museum hosts and supports hundreds of educators and their students, middle school through professional training, with the “Cuckoo” story as part of their curriculum.
The “Bromden” character is the focus of many high school classes that study the 1962 Ken Kesey novel.  As a Native American, Bromden’s story is one of the dominant culture’s treatment of Native Americans. Certainly, a part of our history that needs telling. In most of Oregon’s professional nursing training programs, the “Nurse Ratched” character as seen in the film is examined. Nursing students challenge themselves to find the Ratched in themselves.

The hydrotherapy machine along with other “on-screen” props from the film, visit the Museum of Mental Health in Salem, Oregon.
Central to both characters’ stories is society’s need to both create and discriminate against the “other”. To this day those with mental health challenges are treated as “other”. The Museum has created a safe place to hold and encourage discussions about honoring all voices. Students and educators, seeing the effects of isolation and shame, report a post-visit increase in openness and acceptance, and support for each others’ experience.
We at the Museum have deeply appreciated the support from the Governor’s Office of Film and TV and the Oregon Made Creative Foundation. They understand our mission and believe in the importance of the discussions we stimulate. The Film Office chose to highlight the Film and Museum at the Portland International Airport. They have been instrumental in holding 2 benefit showings and Q&A in Portland and Salem. With this recent project of the Oregon Film Trail, they generously helped support us* with the placement of three markers, one at the Museum, one at the Dome Building (now the Oregon Department of Corrections HQ) where the opening scene of “Cuckoo’s Nest” shot, and the third in Depoe Bay where the fishing scenes were filmed.
During the placement of the marker in Depoe Bay on December 19, 2019, we all saw the community’s excitement with being part of this shared history. The community is planning further work with the Museum in post-covid times. The goals set by the Hospital and the Film company in 1974 continue in the partnership with the Office of Film and TV and the Oregon Made Creative Foundation.
Today, the Museum enjoys a creative partnership with the Governor’s Office of Film and TV  and his helping highlight ongoing conversations around mental health in Oregon and fundraising efforts for the museum.

Depoe Bay Chamber Executive, Director Laura Furgurson, was enthusiastic when approached about being a stop on the Oregon Film Trail.  The sign would feature at the beautiful and historic harbor of Depoe Bay and part of the draw was to link to the other two “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest” signs in Salem.  Furguson stated, “Our locals and visitors love the Oregon Film Trail sign that commemorates the filming of this important movie and was a great experience for our community. Even before the sign was put up in the harbor, many visitors asked about the filming locations and shared fond memories of watching the movie, while recognizing local sites. Along with our rebranding and digital marketing efforts over the past 2 years, this partnership with Oregon Film has literally helped place Depoe Bay on the map among film buffs and encouraged others to wander the Depoe Bay harbor. Over a year ago on December 19, 2019, like true Oregonians, a large crowd of Depoe Bay community members braved the intense wind and sideways rain to unveil the City’s first Oregon Film Trail sign.  Regional dignitaries and the Depoe Bay Chamber Director uncovered the new sign and said a few words to thank Oregon Film, the City, and the community for their support. After running inside Dock Side Charters to take cover, long-time residents enjoyed treats from local restaurants and shared stories of the filming in 1975. Jack Nicolson, his fellow actors, and the film crew regularly frequented Gracie’s Sea Hag restaurant and bar, which to this day highlights photos of the actors stopping by for their famous clam chowder, a shot of whiskey, or long-time tradition of the bar’s lively ringing of the bells (bottles and glasses). They also hung-out with locals at two harborside establishments, the old Spouting Horn Restaurant (now Depoe Bay Brewing) and Bayside Tavern (once a land-office business and now Bayview Thai Kitchen).

State Rep David Gomberg, Mayor Robert Gambino, Chamber Executive Director Laura Furgurson unveiling the Oregon Film Trail sign during a rainstorm.

The filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took place in the World’s Smallest Harbor, which was voted Best U.S. Harbor in 2020. The current Dockside Charters’ location was where Randle and his fellow patients chartered a fishing trip for his long-awaited journey. The commercial crabbing vessel, the Hyak was shown in the film, while the Jimco II, owned by local Fred Robison, shuttled the camera crew. In the early 80s, the Hyak sunk off the coast of Waldport Oregon, 28 miles south of Depoe Bay. The Jimco II was destroyed in 1992 during Hawaii’s Hurricane Iniki.  Though both boats are gone, there are photos from the filming proudly displayed in the Dockside Charter’s harborside reception lobby.  One uncredited actor in the film was a locally caught salmon that was refrozen multiple times and used day-after-day during the filming. Now, that’s a smelly, but true fish story!”

In partnership with, Oregon Film, Salem Cinema, and the Museum of Mental Health, the Depoe Bay Chamber/Discover Depoe Bay had planned to host a Cuckoo Fest in 2020, but plans were postponed due to COVID restrictions. They are aiming to hold the event in October or November 2021. To learn more check… in September 2021 or to help with the event email [email protected].

  • These signs were paid for in part by funding and grants from Travel Oregon, The Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Travel Salem, Salem resident Erik Andersson, and the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Oregon Made Creative Foundation.
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