Field Notes

Did The Goonies Really Save Their Homes?

 Every ‘80s child knows the legend of The Goonies: eccentric friends and goofy gangsters brave Spielbergian death traps to unearth pirate treasure beneath a charming town. Good memories, gang, good memories. 

But could foreclosure really threaten the entire Goon Docks...yet still be thwarted by a pocketful of jewels? Sure, we know why The Goonies saved their homes, but it’s time to figure out how Mikey Walsh and friends turned a foregone foreclosure into a modern-day fable.

What’s threatening their homes?

We know developers plan to replace the Walsh home with a country club after tomorrow’s foreclosure, because local fink Mr. Perkins stops by to drop off paperwork for Mr. Walsh’s consideration and patronize The Goonies. But how does this endanger the entire Goon Docks? Does Perkins hold the loan? His papers say “Final notice,” but even if he bought the loan from the bank, mortgage terms transfer with the sale. Nobody can force The Goonies to pay off their loans early. 

So why is foreclosure a challenge for happily employed curator Irving Walsh? Oregon state law gives delinquent borrowers the right to reinstate the loan five days before the sale, and Mouth says it’s their last weekend before eviction. Irving must have been served a notice of sale four months earlier and fallen way, way behind on his payments. 

Okay, but Troy says there are fifty(!) more houses to tear down after the Walsh home. Surely a quarter of the town can’t be this hard up. Did the entire Savings & Loan Crisis of 1986 originate in Astoria, OR?  

Salvation hinges on whether Brand and Mikey’s dad can “get his next 400 paychecks by tomorrow.” Since Mikey tells Data that “my dad’ll fix it,” it seems that Mr. Walsh is the landlord for other homes’ rentals, but has failed to manage his finances—calmly going about his dayjob while his life unravels. 

The Walshes probably own a few of the neighboring plots of land, renting to Mouth and Data’s parents at low cost, while the remaining homeowners have already sold to the developers. Mikey’s house must be essential to the country club’s expansion if Perkins makes an offer in pre-foreclosure. His development firm can’t afford to lose a geographic chokepoint at auction. “The foreclosure,” he smugly tells Bill, “is a definite.” 

Demolishing fifty homes to build one country club seems like a loss no matter how high its club fees, but maybe the guy just loves golf. Whatever his deal, the house is definitely between a rock and a sand trap. But can it be saved with the timely plundering of the gems? Only if The Goonies really have a right to claim them.

Who owns this treasure, exactly?

Though not technically wrecked, One-Eyed Willy’s ship The Inferno is likely the oldest abandoned ship in Oregon’s swath of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Willy anchored it in Cauldron Point, had his men construct traps for years, then slew them all before dying himself at the mouth of his own gauntlet. Not the greatest plan, but: bosses, right? 

Though the Inferno likely preyed on English ship, Spain had exiled Willy, so he did have incentive to raid their precious-metals trade route to China. England may have merely tried to steal from thieves. Or Willy plundered both? 

Regardless,  there’s zero chance he had a privateer commission, so Spain would have to prove it’s recovering its property—like it recently argued with $17 billion at stake off the coast of Colombia. (In current real estate, that’s approximately 113,333 Walsh houses!) But that wreck was a naval galleon. Stolen loot devoid of records is much more dubious. You lose, Europe! 

As for Uncle Sam, the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act didn’t become law until 1988, so in 1985 The Goonies are lawfully engaged in wrecking: “taking valuables from a shipwreck which has foundered or run aground close to shore.” And even better, the maritime law of finds says The Goonies can keep everything they found! Huzzah!

…Or so it would seem, because this ship has immense historical value. (Willy was, after all, the first Goonie) If it’s on “lands owned or controlled” by the U.S. the American Antiquities Act of 1906 bequeaths custody to the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, or War (replaced by Defense in 1947). Those cabinets only greenlight third-party recovery to public institutions like museums and schools. 

If the Inferno is on federal lands, The Goonies lose the treasure to the government. If it’s not, they lose it to the land’s owners. At best they’d receive 50% of its  value in salvage commission, before lawyer costs to demonstrate the many personal risks they endured during recovery. But they’re just as likely to be fined $500 for violating the Act, while field officers snatch that pirate booty. It belongs, as another Spielberg character once said, in a museum. 

But what if the feds are real cool about it?

Hey, let’s say the government doesn’t lay claim to Willy’s ship o’the damned. Here’s how: with the Inferno in an underground grotto whose entrance is frequently below sea level (even if the ship itself isn’t) the question of purview (Navy? Army?) is challenging. Maybe the government thinks it’s a bad look to steal the last hope of plucky homeless kids who caught murderers. Or maybe...

...the entire caper happens in a state park, where Oregon law has dominion. The final scene was filmed at a California state park and the hideout scenes were shot 26 miles away in Ecola State Park—really far for kids on bikes (even though Mikey namechecks Cannon Beach in a deleted scene). We can’t precisely place the fictional “Cauldron Point” where the Inferno resides, but two data points say it’s a state park facing a seemingly open sea. The best candidate is Warrenton’s Fort Stevens, a peninsular state park about 11 miles from the Walsh residence. 

Or, if you take note of the dawn sunlight on everyone’s faces in the final scene, there’s no way they’re standing on truly west coast. The grotto may be in a fictional bluff on the Columbia River: likely near Tongue Point—just a couple of bikeable miles from the Walsh residence and close enough to town that the wishing well is a reasonable stop for a stirring “This is our time” speech. Plus, it gives weight to Willy’s reputation as a Goonie if his hideout is right off the Goon Docks. 

In either location, we can assume The Goonies keep their treasure after three months of publicly seeking the owner. The court might waive the waiting period because these are plainly artifacts, and the bank will likely grant the Walshes an extension to liquidate the booty, since maintaining a borrower is more profitable than foreclosure. Are they in the money, honey? 

So, so close, but it depends yet again…

How much of the neighborhood can they really save? 

The docks are in a pricey predicament, so let’s load an up-front reward for the Fratellis. Information leading to capture of escaped convicts typically earns snitches a few grand, but it can reach tens of thousands for a murderer, and The Goonies actually delivered three criminals into the hands of law enforcement who’d only lost one. That’s got to be worth $50,000. 

Now account for the FBI agent in the freezer, plus his missing partner. Rewards compound when a murder victim is a law enforcement officer, so it’s not weird to guess the Walsh home is already saved by $150,000 in reward money. However, with the body found before HQ even knew he was missing, it could be as low as $10,000. Better hedge our bet with the gems. 

Much of the pirates’ wealth sailed itself off into the horizon, never to be claimed. Could a marble bag’s worth of jewels and gold really save at least three homes? We’re talking at least a quarter million in 1980s real estate here. 

According to this Redditor in the jewelry industry, yes! While a precise value is hard to gauge, just eyeballing it places the loot’s worth well past what’s needed—even before you chart its historical value. The Walsh Home, the Goonies’ homes, heck, maybe even the entire Goon Docks is safe!  

They did it! Holy truffle shuffle, they actually did it! Nobody thought they could, but they saved their neighborhood at the buzzer! Goonies never say die!