Urban Legends: Scary Mary at the Golden North Hotel in Skagway, Alaska

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

As the forty-ninth state of the United States, Alaska is often described by locals as being thirty years behind the contiguous United States—with the days of pioneers and people flocking to take advantage of the gold rush set so recently in the past, it’s not too far-fetched to see how life might be a little slower in the Last Frontier. This also means that the ghost stories that haunt the oldest buildings in the state of Alaska are a little bit more recent and sometimes seem a little bit more vivid.

The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush began in the Yukon in 1896, when gold was first discovered, this drew roughly one hundred thousand prospectors into the territory—all of whom decided they would strike it rich. Skagway served as the most direct route to the gold-fields, so most of the traffic flowed through this deep-water port. This, of course, caused the population of Skagway to explode nearly overnight, with a population going from approximately seven hundred residents in 1897 to over ten thousand in 1898, it made it the largest city in Alaska at the time. That rush only lasted about two years and the population dwindled back under two thousand. The times in which the Klondike Gold Rush was underway, created an atmosphere that was rife with chaotic ambition, corruption, lawlessness, disease, shattered dreams, and many untimely deaths. Built at the height of the gold rush in 1898, the Golden North Hotel provided accommodations and refreshments to nearly one thousand prospectors who passed through the city on a weekly basis. It was a breeding ground for ghost stories.

The Origin of Scary Mary

One of the most legendary ghosts in Alaska goes by the name of Scary Mary and her story begins with a Gold Rush expedition. Mary came to Skagway, Alaska as a blushing young woman, already engaged to a prospector that went by the name of Klondike Ike—she checked into the Golden North Hotel where she and Ike became engaged and were set to start their future together. The two lovers spent several days at the hotel before Ike had to return to his prospecting ventures over Chilkoot Pass. Mary’s fiancé, Klondike Ike, set off over five hundred miles to the gold-fields with tremendously high hopes that he would win them their fortune—unfortunately for both Ike and Mary, Ike never returned. Ever the loyal partner, Mary waited for Ike to return home to her—she locked herself in the room the couple had rented, lost in the abyss of worry for her lover, and waited. When the housekeepers of the Golden North Hotel finally broke down the door with concern, they discovered Mary in the wedding dress she had planned to be married in, dead and waiting for Ike to return to her, so that they may marry. In many of the stories, it is said that Mary ended up coming down with a fatal case of pneumonia while waiting for Ike in room 23—other stories imply that after months of waiting for his return, she simply locked herself in her room disallowed any company and refused to eat.

Golden North Hotel in Skagway, AK
Photography by Kira Picabo

First-Hand Experiences

Legends tell us that Mary still hasn’t checked out of her room at the Golden North Hotel and since her death arrived all-too-soon, that she has been checking up on guests in the middle of the night. Her apparition appears as a pale figure and is seen looking through the hotel windows, waiting for her lover’s return from the mountains. There have been reports of cold air pockets when walking through the hallways and a subsequent glimpses of white rushing past them—even more strange are the reports of the unfortunate guest who wakes up to Mary’s ghost hovering above their beds as if checking to be sure that Ike isn’t in bed with another woman.

Urban Legends: The Ghost of Kuhn Theater in Lebanon, Oregon

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Kuhn Cinema—a theater that is located in Lebanon, Oregon—was built in 1932 and was a prime spot for watching movies until the late 1980s. The theater, unfortunately, had to close its doors in the eighties. It then sat vacant, abandoned, and unused until the Pitts purchased the property in 2004 and then proceeded to renovate with the goal to reopen. Eventually, when the theater was reopened in 2005, it opened its doors to a sold-out crowd to a popular movie. Since it is reported to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl in a white dress, is then it possible that all the renovations were what caused the little girl’s apparition to come out of hiding? Ever since the reopening of the cinema, both movie patrons and theater staff have claimed to have experienced strange activity. The doors open and close on their own and then they hear the disembodied laughter of children echo throughout the theater.

Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon Oregon
Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon Oregon

A Haunted Cinema

What is it about a haunted location? What draws people to be interested in these relics of the past that seem to have a history that just won’t cease to want attention. Ghost stories are always interesting to come across—they’re a peek into the past, whether you believe in spirits or you don’t. It’s true, even skeptics enjoy visiting and investigating places that are supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of the past. They do this with the hopes–or possibly even the fears–that they can experience something they can’t explain. It’s only natural to be curious about what we can’t explain. So, if you decide to visit Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon, you might end up seeing more than just a movie.

In recent years, the theater was at risk of being demolished, so the community came together to save it and it has since undergone several small renovations—despite the changing of the theater, the renovations that it has undergone over the course of its existence, one thing has remained the same—the ghostly little girl in the white dress who came to see a movie and never left. Would you go to this theater to see a movie, or to have a chance to see the little girl in white?

First-Hand Experience

There have been employees and visitors alike who have claimed to have seen this unfortunately young apparition in different places throughout the building. It’s as if she likes to explore the premises and some of the witnesses say they have seen her sitting in the theater seats, the women’s bathroom, and even reported that she has been seen sitting at the top of the stairs near the projection booth. There are some employees who believe that they have felt her presence while they were inside of the projection booth manning the projectors; there they reported having felt pressure around their waist, as if a small child were hugging them from behind. Lights seem to turn on and off by themselves all through the building and when the employees close up the theater at night, they seem to all report hearing small child-like footsteps, giggling, and odd thumps that cannot be explained. If keys or other small objects go missing, they can usually be found, but they’re in an entirely different location from where they went missing. So, even though the young girl’s ghost seems to enjoy pulling pranks on people quite regularly, she doesn’t seem to be a malicious entity at all.

As far as how she died? Well, people say that she fell from the theater’s balcony way back when, which is how they say she died, but then again—they also say that the theater has never had a balcony. So how did her apparition come to be?

Urban Legends: The Gypsy Curse of Lafayette, OR

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

It’s said that the town of Lafayette, Oregon has been cursed since the 1800s when a woman was accused of witchcraft and then hung for her alleged crimes. Before her execution, she placed a curse on the town, saying that it would burn down three times–and it has since burned in its entirety twice–those who are wary of the curse she placed wonder when it will happen again! To this day, her ghost is seen roaming the town’s cemetery. Another version of the legend has it that in 1886, a woman and her son killed the woman’s boyfriend, her son was arrested and hanged for the crime–in this version of the story, while her son was being executed, his mother screamed that the town would burn down three times.

Here’s the real story…

Richard Marple, his mother Anna, and his wife Julia moved to Lafayette, Oregon from Corvallis in 1885. Despite the availability of jobs, Richard was unable to keep a job, so he turned to a life of crime–allegedly–but he was suspected of multiple robberies. Between 1885 and 1886, his mother Anna became involved with a local shop owner by the name of David Corker. Unfortunately, on November 1, 1886, Corker was found hacked to death by an ax and his store had been pillaged and town Sheriff Harris brought Richard in for questioning. While Richard was not a fan of Corker–even disparaging the man during his questioning–he maintained his innocence. Evidence of his guilt, including a bloody shirt, a bloody piece of paper, as well as tools that he could have used to break into the store were found at his home. Richard, not relenting, made a claim that the evidence had been planted at his home by the sheriff’s office to frame him.

Neither his mother nor his wife corroborated his alibi and stated that he had not been at home when the murder was being committed; Richard was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder on April 9, 1887. His mother, Anna, was indicted as an accomplice, but a lack of evidence resulted in the charges against her being dropped. By November 11, 1887 Richard was set to be executed by hanging next to the county jail and thirty people bore witness to his death. Sheriff Harris ordered that Richard be executed with a black hood over his head, and Richard desperately yelled one last thing out into the crowd, “Murder! May God judge you all!” Unfortunately for Richard, when the trap door was released, the knot slipped under his chin and instead of breaking his neck, he was slowly strangled to death over the span of eighteen minutes.

It is true that during Richard’s execution, his mother Anna shouted that the town would burn and never prosper–after his death, Richard was buried at the Oddfellow’s Masonic Cemetery in Lafayette. According to sources, Richard apparently confessed his guilt to a fellow inmate while his execution was pending and ended up implicating his mother, stating that she had become involved with Corker in order to gain his confidence. After Richard’s execution, his mother moved to Jackson County for the remainder of her life and was buried in the cemetery there. Several years after she moved out of the area, their home in Lafayette was destroyed and the bloody ax used to kill Corker was discovered. It’s not known whether Anna Marple was a witch or a gypsy, but since she was not buried in Lafayette, it is unlikely that she haunts any of the area’s cemeteries. The fact that she was reported to have cursed the town to burn down and it completely burned down twice may have been entirely coincidental. Fires were actually a commonplace occurrence that people had to face in the years before buildings were constructed out of less-flammable materials.

Urban Legends: The Haunting of Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, Oregon

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

When the Geiser Grand Hotel opened in 1889, it was originally known as the Queen City of the Mines–perhaps just as a nod to the Gold Rush that flurried on its doorstep. At the time of its conception, it boasted state-of-the-art technology, the third elevator built west of the Mississippi River. The four-story clock tower gave the area an air of sophistication, while the two-hundred-foot cupola gave the building more natural lighting that filtered through a stained glass ceiling.

Albert Geiser, a mining investor, purchased the property just after the turn of the century and rebranded the hotel as The Geiser Grand Hotel in 1902. In these early days of the hotel, the Grand was considered a place for wealthy men and women to make their presence known, including one Granny Annabelle, who made herself out to be a sight-to-be-seen. She would make her grand entrance from her residence in room 302, to her permanently reserved chair at the bar, from which she presided over the hotel.

Within the hotel’s basement, there are apparently subterranean windows that open up into underground tunnels that were created in the 1880s–this was during the time of the gold frenzy, and the tunnels led to brothels. They also gave passage to Chinese immigrants who at the time were not allowed to be on the streets at night, were handy during seasons of heavy snow, as well as for stashing booze during the Prohibition years.

The historic Geiser Grand Hotel of Baker City, Oregon is considered a landmark and a site of incredible paranormal activity, there have been reports of apparitions on many occasions and the hotel staff give ghost stories on Halloween. The hotel’s most famous ghost goes by the name Lady in Blue, who has been seen dressed in a turn of the century gown, walking up and down the main staircase. It is speculated that this beautiful Lady in Blue is actually Granny Annabelle, in her beautiful Victorian gown, where she forever ascends and descends the staircase before disappearing into the wall. Apparently she never had any intention of leaving “the most fortunate place in the country,” as the Geiser Grand Hotel was touted to be in 1906.

Geiser Grand Hotel, Baker City, Oregon
Geiser Grand Hotel, Baker City, Oregon

Haunted Facilities…

The hotel was built in 1889, destined to be extravagant living quarters for mine investors and wealthier people, the Geiser Grand hosts several apparitions on the premises. There have been several reports of a young girl, a 1930s woman wearing a purple dress, a saloon dancer from the 1920s, a former chef who appears headless, a cowboy and his girlfriend, as well as the Lady in Blue. One of the former owners, Maybelle Geiser, who lived in Room 302 is said to be incredibly haunted, with her ghost rearranging the guests’ jewelry and eating their complimentary snacks.

The current owner jokes that while the beds may be comfortable, you should expect to be woken up at least three times a night because of the apparitions.

First-Hand Experiences…

One visitor to the hotel reported having investigated the Geiser Grand a few times and had experienced the most activity in the bar; their report was that the overall experience was as if they had stepped directly into the 1800s, the rooms being magnificent and period-authentic. They were able to capture an EVP, experienced doors opening and closing, but was skeptical that all of the reports were true. A second guest reported having taken photographs of the entire hotel, except for their room, but upon reviewing the pictures they took found that there was a picture of their room–knowing that they did not take it themselves–and saw that there was the figure of an unidentified boy.

Paranormal investigation groups, S.P.I.G. and S.L.A.S.H. regularly take groups through the premises, where the customers were not made aware of the specifics of each haunting before they investigated the rooms. They reported having physical responses to particular rooms, including the library, and the basement, but were unable to determine the identities of any specific spirits.

The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.) who hosts the television show Ghost Hunters visits the Geiser Grand quite regularly, with the sole mission of gathering evidence to back up all of the claims that have been made. In an attempt to make the process as scientific as possible, they conduct double-blind studies with reliable equipment that doesn’t incite controversy or welcome criticism. During an interview, one of the newer team members, who self-identified as a skeptic, offered up their own experiences. He believed it could have been a coincidence, but also added that it was an experience that he would never forget–during his investigation, he heard the name Wayne several times over the span of a three-hour investigation. A few days later, while researching, he found the name Wayne in a news story–an eighteen-year-old Presley Wayne–who in 1998 had been named Nashville’s Performer of the Year and touted as a rising country music star. The night after his show at the Geiser Grand, young Presley Wayne was found dead, the victim of a gunshot to the head.

Oregon resident, Amy Venezia, travels the country as a professional medium and communicates with spirits regularly. She stayed at the Geiser Grand one Christmas Eve, where she reported experiencing a dark mass floating by her bed. Recounting her story, she felt it was an incredibly frightening experience.

I’m very accustomed to spirits and not scared of much, but this was a very old, strong spirit, a different type of entity, not a typical connection … I was frightened … The spirit was like a big dog that doesn’t know its size when it pounces on you. It was too much for me then. With time though, I see it’s taken me to a deeper level, and that is good. There’s no doubt that hotel is haunted

Amy Venezia, Professional Medium

Urban Legends: The Haunting of Hot Lake Hotel in La Grande, OR

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Featured Haunted Places

The Hot Lake Hotel, originally built in the mid 19th century at the hot springs in La Grande, Oregon. Shortly after being built, the hotel was converted into a hospital, which was unfortunately destroyed in a fire, then was rebuilt as an insane asylum and was inevitably closed down completely. Years after it was closed, it was renovated and turned into the official Hot Lake Hotel, and with the colorful history that it boasted its haunted legend was born. The ghost stories include various sightings of apparitions and strange clouds of fog that suddenly appear, as well as disembodied voices, source-less piano music.

Ten miles outside of La Grande, in Union City, lies the Hot Lake Hotel–the area referred to as Hot Lake was discovered in 1912 by Robert Stuart who was part of the Wilson Price Hunt party. Before being discovered by the explorers, Native American tribes would bring their injured or sick to the hot springs to be nursed back to health on the neutral ground. It wasn’t until the 1840s that the hot springs at Hot Lake became a resting place for families who were traveling along the Oregon Trail. The original hotel at Hot Lake was constructed in 1864 and faced the bluff, instead of the lake, and it had bathhouses, a post office, a dance hall, a barbershop, and even a blacksmith. While the history between its construction in 1864 and 1884 is unknown due to its isolated nature, it was finally put on the map created by the Union Pacific railroad, which linked the state with the transcontinental system and attracted visitors from all around the globe.

Hot Lake Hotel in 1920s
Hot Lake Hotel in 1920s (Image courtesy of the Oregon State Library)

In 1917, a man named Dr. Phy purchased the hotel and it took on a second purpose as a hospital on the third floor, with a surgery ward and recovery rooms for patients. It was renamed as the Hot Lake Sanatorium and eventually added modern x-ray facilities, was host to radiation therapies, as well as experimental treatments in the hot springs for various ailments. By 1924 the hospital/resort combination was attracting 124 new guests every day, with three hundred rooms, and dining facilities that served over one thousand guests. Its downfall came on May 7, 1934 when a fire broke out and all but the brick portions of the building were destroyed. The depression and debilitating fire caused the business to not recover for over seventy years, ownership changed hands multiple times, but every owner struggled to get the business back to its heyday.

With the second World War, the Hot Lake Hotel was converted into a pilot school and nurse training center, but when the war was finally over in 1953, the location was officially licensed for giving nursing care. It operated as a nursing home and an insane asylum until 1975 when it was closed; it was reopened as a restaurant, and country-western club for two years and then was promptly closed after the business failed. Dr. Lyle Griffith took over the location in 1983, with the establishment of the Hot Lake Company and operated a bath and massage business–an RV park was also built on the premises in 1989, but the business closed once again in 1991 and the building fell into major disrepair.

Haunted Facilities…

The reputation of Hot Lake Hotel, however, by this time had become one of extreme haunting–having such a history as a hospital and sanitarium, it’s fair to assume that quite a few people died on the premises. The years have lent to quite a few witnesses alluding to the haunting of the facilities, having heard and viewed things they could not explain all over the premises, including apparitions walking the grounds, strange voices, whispering, as well as footsteps within the hotel. One apparition, in particular, that is regularly reported is believed to be the ghost of a man who worked as a gardener and ended up committing suicide.

First-hand experiences…

A brother and sister drove to the state just to see the Hot Lake Hotel in 2000 and toured the facility on their own. They felt that the abandoned location was quite eerie, but did not report any real apparitions. The piano that is heard playing without a pianist was originally owned by Robert E. Lee’s wife and was then acquired by the hotel, it was placed on the third floor, and to this day the piano is heard playing itself. One of the owners, Donna Pattee, her husband, and their caretaker Richard Owens reported having several strange experiences while they lived on the second floor during the 1970s; they heard screams and cries coming from the third floor–previously the surgical floor, as well as watching rocking chairs moving on their own. The building was officially put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 2003, the Hot Lake Hotel was purchased by the Manuel family and they spent indeterminable millions of dollars to restore the property over the next seven years. They formally opened the gallery and foundry for visitors in 2005 and began offering tours of the location during the restoration process.