Thursday, December 2, 2021

HGB Ep. 412 - Haunted Anchorage

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Moment in Oddity - Mycenaean Bridge of Kazarma (Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers)

Between the Acropolis of Mycenae and the plain of Nafplio, the Mycenaean civilization built 17 bridges that earned them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The most well known is the Mycenaean Bridge of Kazarma, which dates to 1300 BC. This is the oldest preserved bridge in Europe. It is located in the village of Arkadiko in Greece and is one of the most important monuments of the civilization. The bridge features a single arch and was built from large raw limestone boulders and there is no binder. The construction method is known as Cyclopean Masonry. The bridge is completely stable and has lasted for hundreds of years due to the weight of the limestone boulders and their symmetrical placement towards the vertical axis of the bridge. The sophisticated layout of the bridge featuring curbs, along with the military road network, have led historians to believe these were made specifically for chariots. This world record breaking bridge is not only still functional, but it certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Suez Canal Opens

In the month of November, on the 17th, in 1869, the Suez Canal opens. The Ottoman governor of Egypt, Muhammad Sa'id Pasha, came to an agreement with then former French consul to Cairo, Ferdinand de Lesseps, in 1854 to build a canal 100 miles across the Isthmus of Suez. The construction began in 1859 under the Suez Canal Company. In the beginning, forced laborers had to dig out the canal by hand, but eventually European workers brought steam shovels and dredgers. The canal was completed four years behind schedule - and you complain because your kitchen remodel took an extra couple of months. When it was completed, the Suez Canal connected the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. The inaugural ceremony was attended by French Empress EugĂ©nie, wife of Napoleon III. The Suez Canal Company was formed and granted the right to operate the canal for 99 years after completion of the work. Later control of the canal would switch hands between Britain and Egypt and faced a shutdown during hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Peace talks in 1975 reopened the Suez Canal. Today, dozens of ships navigate the canal daily, carrying more than 300 million tons of goods a year. 

Haunted Anchorage  

Alaska is a land just ripe for hauntings. Darkness cloaks the land for much of the year and thick pine forests spread across the expanse. There are legends that have filtered down through the various cultures and time periods, passed around by the Inuit, the gold miners, the trappers, the explorers or the soccer moms. Anchorage grew from a tent city to a major American city. The city has experienced much history and this may be why several locations here are rumored to be haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Anchorage, Alaska!

The Alutiiq People were the first to live at the Cook Inlet. They arrived via large kayaks around 5,000 years ago. Several groups of Alutiiq followed them over the next 3,000 years. The Chugach Alutiiq were the last of that group and they left the area in 500 AD. The Dena'ina Athabaskans came through the mountain passes and they migrated throughout Alaska based on the seasons, usually wintering near trading junctions. The Ahtna tribe was also in the area. The first European to arrive was Captain James Cook. He was seeking the Northwest Passage and ended up in the inlet between two landmarks he would name Mount St. Augustine and Cape Douglas. He anchored his ship there and called it Anchor Point for that reason. This would eventually become Anchorage. Cook went on to map the Alaskan coastline. He named many of the areas and they still have those names today.  

Alaska would become an American territory in 1867 when U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward brokered a deal to purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Many people called this "Seward's Folly," but he was laughing later when gold was discovered in 1888. Alaska became an organized US territory in 1912. Surprisingly, the area surrounding Anchorage wasn't any good for mining because there are no significant metal minerals. So the city actually grew from a need for the railroad. This railroad construction began in 1914. The workers built a tent city as they worked on the railroad. A couple hundred families from northern states in the continental US were offered land and a chance to be part of an agricultural community in Anchorage. Many didn't make it for long and left, but some thrived and those farms still are around today.

One of the business men in Anchorage was Simeon Esia, who was known as Basdut or Chief Ezi. He was a respected Dena'ina Athabascan Indian elder who was born in 1870. He was one of the last recognized chiefs of upper Cook Inlet. Large ships in Anchorage needed to get their supplies across the water to the smaller communities of Cook Inlet, so Basdut started using a small boat to deliver those supplies. He became a rich man, but not because of that business. His son told the story that floods came to their area often and one time a store drifted on to Fire Island, bringing with it a safe that got buried under the sand. Basdut's wife was the daughter of a powerful medicine man and he told Basdut to go out onto the sand with a pole and prod where he told him. Basdut did that and found the safe filled with twenty-dollar gold pieces. He packed that gold home in several loads. He held a feast for his community after this called a potlatch. This is a true historical account, but there are many legends connected to the Inuit people of Anchorage.

Inuit legends have been used both to entertain and to instruct. Inuit mythology embraces the belief that their are multiple worlds that are a part of our planet. Worlds exist inside the Earth - very similar to Hollow Earth Theories that still exist today. Worlds lie beneath the sea and in the sky. These indigineous people have shaman or what they call angakoks that are able to journey to these worlds in dreams and trances. Some of these places are a part of the afterlife as well. A prominent Inuit legend tells the story of the Sea Goddess Sedna, who is also known by the names Taleelayuk, Nuliayuk and Taluliyuk. This is a creation myth and Sedna becomes the ruler of the Inuit underworld known as Adlivun. How she comes to this position is interesting. She apparently was a giant and the daughter of the creator-god Anguta. Sedna is not a nice girl and has a pretty bad temper. She eventually attacks her parents and so Anguta takes her out in a kayak and throws her overboard. Sedna clings to the side of the kayak, so Anguta cuts her fingers off and she sinks down to the underworld. Her fingers turn into seals and walruses. Inuit hunters depend on Sedna's goodwill to give them success in hunting for food. They offer broken knives, bones and pieces of meat into the sea for her.

Qayaq is a legendary hero who is a wanderer using a kayak or dog sled to travel. He encounters bears, sea monsters, giants, spirits and cannibals along his way. Qayaq has supernatural powers that he uses to defeat these creatures. He has lived a long time and had many lives. The legend of Lumiuk tells the story of a young boy who was abused and lost his sight. He seeks refuge in the sea and is befriended by a loon. The loon tells him to hold onto his back and he pulls the boy through the water. The loon instructs Lumiak to keep his eyes open and when they emerge from the water, the boy can see.

There are many supernatural beings that are part of the Inuit myths as well. Scaly, human-like creatures that kidnap children and drag them into the sea are known as Oallupilluk. The Mahaha is a demon that terrorizes its victims by tickling them to death. The Inupasugjuk are giants who kidnap humans and Ijiraat are shapeshifters that can change into animals of the Arctic. Their giveaway is their red eyes. And the Taqriaqsuit are shadow people that are heard more often than they are seen. Along with the legends of the land are stories of hauntings. Here are some of the places that are reputedly haunted in Anchorage.

Oscar Anderson House

The first wood-frame house in Anchorage was built in 1915 at 420 M Street and it still stands today as a museum. This was built by Anchorage resident Oscar Anderson, the town's first butcher. Oscar had arrived from Sweden, stopping first in Seattle and making his way to Seward and finally to the settlement on Ship Creek. He was a pioneer here being the eighteenth person to arrive. In his account he wrote, "Everyone talked about the new settlement starting across Cook Inlet from Knik. I had to find a way to cross over, which was no easy matter, as there was a lot of ice on the Inlet and no one wanted to risk it. Finally, a 19-year-old youth who had a boat volunteered to row me across. It was no pleasure trip. At one point, the boy fell in the water. We pulled onto a large block of ice. I took out some dry clothes from my suitcase and we changed his clothes. After that, I had to finish rowing." He lived in it until 1974 when he died at the age of 91. 

The house has been restored to its 1915 appearance. Oscar's widow, Elizabeth, moved to Washington after selling the house and she was thrilled when she heard stories that people believed the house was haunted. Oscar had loved this home and she said he would never want to leave and the paranormal activity proved that. The first people to report activity were a young couple who moved into the house right after Oscar died. They heard disembodied footsteps coming from upstairs. Later, they couldn't open the door to his old room. Eventually they wedged it open enough to see that a chest had slid in front of the door, blocking it from opening. Adam wrote on TripAdvisor, "I went there years ago. It's a nice little house, some interest'n old stuff. When I was taken up stairs I shot a photo from one room into the other room. I did not see anyth'n when I was there but when I got my photo, there was an image of a man about the size of Oscar."

Snow City Cafe

Snow City Cafe is located on 4th Avenue and opened in 1998. This is a breakfast, lunch and brunch place. The Anchorage Ghost Tour kicks off from this spot. Rick Goodfellow, who founded the tour, says of this location, "The short story is that a very prominent woman of her day, in 1976, was killed by a car bomb. She was a travel agent, and in those days, there was no Snow City. Her office was where Snow City is today." This woman now haunts the location and according to Goodfellow, she is friendly. She likes to pull pranks during food prep and plays with turning off and on the water. 

Briana Goldman was a Front of House Supervisor at Snow City and she had an experience with the female ghost. She said, "There's so much daylight at that time of the year, but I came in about 20 minutes early that day. I was just like, yes, it's beautiful, I can get some things done early. And then I hear someone laughing. I heard a cabinet close in the back, by the bathroom. And I was just like, 'Is someone here?'" There was no other employee at the restaurant and she was really creeped out.

The Hotel Captain Cook

Kelly took the Ghost Tours of Anchorage tour and they stopped at the Hotel Captain Cook. The hotel was built in 1964 by Alaskan governor Walter J. Hickel. An earthquake had leveled much of Anchorage and Hickel saw this as an opportunity. The hotel originally had only one tower, but a second and third tower were added in the 1970s. The hotel has 546 rooms and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. This is usually the second stop on the ghost tour and Goodfellow believes that there is a spirit at this hotel that is very territorial and that territory encompasses...the ladies' restroom, of course. As Goodfellow tells it, "The operations manager told me why there's one stall that's always locked: It's because there was a suicide in there shortly after that tower, Tower 2, was opened. She gets into bad moods sometimes. Over the course of Ghost Tours, I've seen her go from very quiescent for months, until she's very active night after night after night." People have even passed out in the restroom, near the stall.

The story goes that a woman was really upset about something and took a gun with her into the posh and elegantly decorated restroom. Out of the several black stalls in here she chose the last stall on the left - how fitting! This stall is now permanently latched because it is reputed to be quite haunted. The female spirit usually appears as a woman in white. Not only has her apparition been seen in that bathroom and particularly in that stall, but there is a great sense of unease in that stall. Some women have become violently ill when in the restroom and others have fainted. The stall walls have been shaken violently and women have been touched, sometimes feeling as though something is grabbing their ankles. After a few too many of these more violent experiences, management decided to make the stall off-limits and that is why it is latched.

Historic Anchorage Hotel 

This hotel was built in 1916 at the corner of 3rd Avenue and E Street, so it is over 100 years old. This was a posh place with meals served on fine china with beautiful linens and real silver utensils. By 1936, the hotel needed to expand to accommodate all the tourists traveling to the city of Anchorage. The Anchorage Hotel Annex was built at that time across the alleyway on 3rd Avenue. To connect the two buildings, a sky bridge was constructed. Celebrities and dignitaries stayed here including Wiley Post, mountain man Bob Marshall, artist Sydney Lawrence who actually lived at the hotel and had his studio in the lobby and Will Rogers. The boom time dissipated over time and the original structure was sold and razed. The Annex building still operated as a hotel, but over time it fell into disrepair and changed names frequently. New life was breathed into it in 1989 when it fell under new ownership. Extensive renovations were done and it was reopened as The Historic Anchorage Hotel.

The hotel embraces its reputation of being haunted. Ghost stories have been told about the hotel for years. Pictures are said to come off the walls and fly across rooms. The curtains seem to move on their own. One of the ghosts here is believed to be Anchorage’s first Chief of Police, Jack Sturgus. Just outside the hotel, he was found shot in the back by his own gun. This happened on February 20, 1921. He never got justice and perhaps that is why he remains. There are other spirits here and the hotel even keeps a log to track guests' experiences.

Our Lady in White is seen here and she is, of course, in a wedding dress. The story here is that she was set to wed in the 1920s, but he jilted her the day of the wedding. Apparently, he struck it rich in the gold fields and took off. She hanged herself in her wedding dress and is now said to walk the hallways. The front desk has often gotten complaints about children running around in the hallways making a bunch of noise. Every time the staff has gone to find the kids, they find none. They usually find that no one has registered with any children with them. Another child ghost has been reported hiding in a closet in 2011. The guest claimed they opened the closet door and the child smiled at them and then disappeared. The children could be connected to an outbreak of influenza in 1938 that killed a large group of children. They died in a building that had been nearby. Some people think they might have played at the hotel and that's why they returned here. 

One time hotel manager, Terri Russi, was working the front desk when she witnessed a shadowy figure in a white dress reflecting in a mirror that was in front of her. She spun around to see what had just walked behind her and there was nothing but a picture behind her. But she knew she saw a figure pass behind her. She also had a shared experience with a guest that was reported in The Anchorage Daily News in 2004, "Later on in the week, a boyfriend of an employee passed the time with a self-guided tutorial on how to tie a tie. He was seated in a chair next to the narrow lobby fireplace, with Russi, again, behind the front desk. As he practiced, a framed picture of notable Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence spontaneously catapulted itself from the mantel across the room, shattering a glass coffee table on impact. Russi was stunned. Assuming it was an earthquake, she looked around to see what else was shaking. The chandelier was still. The room was quiet. The man turned to her, his untied tie hanging from his neck, and casually suggested, 'Maybe it's your ghost.'" Another male ghost likes to latch onto certain guests and then follows them around throughout their stay.

Anchorage has a long history, much of which is filled with legend. It's not surprising that the city has places connected to ghost stories. Are these places in Anchorage haunted? That is for you to decide!

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