How do you panic the Internet with modern fables? There’s a house in Damascus, Oregon that many claim holds a mysterious secret. The drive onto the property is gated. Before the gate is a pair of stone pyramids, only a few feet in height. The gate itself is flanked by lions, and beyond is a statue of an Egyptian god, perhaps Sekhmet.
This residence is called the Temple of Oculus Anubis by many. Websites like Disinfo and Esotericana proclaim it the potential lair of a cult. After establishing that the home is private property, That Oregon Life acknowledges “a lot of broken links to very puzzling images,” but then fails to cite a single one.
They do cite a story ripped out of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and posted as a first-person experience on Reddit sub r/nosleep as potential evidence. To their credit, they’re careful to mention that it’s a subreddit where users try to scare each other with horror fiction.
There are further claims that the business to which the house is linked, an optometry supply company called Oculus, is somehow part of the Heaven’s Gate cult whose members committed mass suicide in 1997. Only a single screenshot exists to perpetuate this—a screenshot which is not corroborated by the business page itself. There’s no way to tell whether it was changed or simply never appeared that way in the first place. Curiously enough, the company’s website is now listed as Disinfo, the site that in large part helped perpetuate these claims. That alone should raise red flags when such listings are so pliable, yet the Heaven’s Gate claim is repeated again and again, from website to website, without any hard proof of a connection.
There are also claims the business is linked to the ominous sounding Circle of Isis, yet even these amount to assertions that the house was built a year after the Circle of Isis came to Oregon, as well as both using Egyptian statuary. That’s it. These claims wouldn’t exactly hold up in court.
Now, there may also be confusion with the use of the word “Isis.” Please don’t confuse the acronym for a 16 year-old terrorist organization with the Egyptian god who has existed in a polytheistic religion for 3,000 years, or even a New Age religious offshoot that has been registered for the last 40 years. Don’t mistake ancient Egyptian religious icons for a fundamentalist Islamic rebellion, especially when the two religions are diametrically opposed to each other.
Yet even following these tangled paths to their ends, mysterious claims about the Circle of Isis reveal a New Age non profit that does such nefarious things as selling Egyptian “statuary, belly dance supplies, and…candles and oils.”
Yet there is absolutely something more going on here. Details like this don’t just come together on their own. They are accumulated into a narrative by someone wanting a story to go viral.
A Google image search on “Oculus Anubis” reveals a car that’s driven into a slough. This spurs claims that the property has double fences taller than a person and a moat, as in the image. Never mind that the photo is from a different That Oregon Life story about a crash in Portland at 17th and Willamette.
Many sites feature images of the alleged tunnels underneath this house in Damascus, Oregon. The above is one of the most popular, shared by Patriot News and Keep Portland Weird. Yet these images are repurposed from Wiki and Google images of the catacombs at the Serapeum of Alexandria, Egypt. A supposed daring midnight raid into an Oregon cult’s secret underground lair is really some tourist photos of Egypt lifted from Wikimedia. This isn’t “a gate to hell in Damascus,” or an “Illuminati Underground Satanic Fortress” as Keep Portland Weird claimed, and certainly not a series of “child trafficking/abuse” tunnels as Patriot News conjectured. They are images of catacombs in an archaeological site located 7,200 miles from Oregon.
One of the most interesting of these recurring images features several geodesic domes built under pyramid frames. Built to house dozens, they are the most damning evidence that this house in Damascus, Ore. holds the potential to shelter a cult. The image is discussed in many threads as being part of the Damascus property. In fact, it is an image from Clearlake, California, about two hours northwest of Sacramento and nine hours south of Damascus. You can see it from Google Maps’ aerial shot of the area. You can see it again here at the Buddha Maitreya the Christ website, a business that has more argument toward culthood than the private residence in Oregon.
A Google Maps image of the Damascus address in question—which will not be shared here for privacy reasons—shows nothing more out-of-the-ordinary than a large swimming pool in back of a mansion. Much of it is tree-covered, as is most of that region of Oregon, but there are certainly no giant domes. The only pyramids present are shorter than the average person and appear as those twin statues before the front gate.
The evolution of this story shows how completely unrelated details can all be fused together into a conspiracy theory. Users are very trusting about taking these stories at face value without researching their veracity. If you do a Google image search on the Temple of Oculus Anubis, you have everything you need to support the initial stories being spread: a fancy gate and Egyptian-esque statue, strange looking domes built under pyramid frames, underground corridors. Everything holds together at first glance, until you delve into the diverse places from which all these elements have been drawn. Domes from California, catacombs from Egypt and a river slough from Portland all factor in.
The only part that’s true, the very unexciting element that readers are left with, is that some eccentric private citizens have a fancy gate and a religious statue that connects to their heritage beliefs or spirituality. If the gate were adorned with more conventional iconography, would anyone even think twice about it? Would websites spread rumors of a suicide cult or accuse a family of child trafficking then?
What do you think? Are stories like this dangerous? Are we pointing too many fingers these days?