Opal Whiteley
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After her true parents died, her guardians had taken her on a long trip, Opal wrote. "Then it was they put me with Mrs. Whiteley. The day they put me with her was a rainy day, and I thought she was a little afraid of them, too. She took me on the train and in the stage-coach to the lumber camp. She called me Opal Whiteley, the same name as that of another girl who was the same size as I was when her mother lost her."

This "foster-child fantasy" is common enough, although most grow out of it by adulthood, wrote E. S. Conklin, psychology professor at the UO, who studied Opal's case in 1920. Conklin, through heavy correspondence with many who knew the Whiteleys, concluded that her father had a "somewhat difficult personality, said to be changeable," and her mother "appeared to be cultured and refined," but also "would do strange things." Whether Opal inherited or was adversely affected by these character traits, he didn't say. But he was clearly satisfied that Opal's claim of adoption was a fantasy.

But the words in the book were real enough, as was their effect. Skepticism bred charges of fraud, and reporters rushed to Cottage Grove. Editors Bede and Sedgwick launched their own investigations, gathering letters and testimony from countless people. One 1920 letter to Sedgwick gives information on nearly thirty people he had inquired after. Bede in the meantime published the results of his investigations in a steady stream of articles, picked up by the national press (and later reworked into his 1954 book, Fabulous Opal Whiteley.) The Christian Science Monitor ran commentary in August 1920. Publishers Weekly kept tabs on her. Fred Lockley of Portland's Oregon Daily Journal published an interview with Grandmother Scott in Bookman magazine. By the time the Harvard Advocate chimed in with a parody of Opal's story, "Isette Likely," the Whiteley family had left town and changed their name. Soon enough, the book was out of print, and Opal out of the country.

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