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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Beleaguered Buckner Building of Whittier, Alaska

The Buckner Building stands in Whittier, Alaska—the gateway to Prince William Sound—as a relic to a forgotten past. It is tucked away in the hidden port town of Whittier, a town that can only be accessed by boat, plane, or through a single train tunnel that moonlights as a passage way for big rigs, and automobiles. The bay area that surrounds Whittier is solely deep-water ports that stay ice-free year round and the railroad port is one of two, all-weather ports that supplied Anchorage with military necessities and during times of war was of key importance in order for it to stay functioning and safeguarded. The climate that the port operates under is one of nearly constant cloud coverage, which is beneficial in the respect that it protects the port and its facilities from air strikes. With all aspects of this port town taken into consideration, Whittier was possibly the most perfect place to have a military base of this caliber.

The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska
The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska Photography by Mary Farnstrom
The Buckner Building in Whittier, AK
The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska
Photography by Mary Farnstrom

The Construction and Function of the Buckner Building

Early in the course of World War II General Simon Buckner, the commander of the defensive forces of the state of Alaska was highly concerned that the state would be vulnerable to air attacks. Buckner also believed that the best type of facility would be one that autonomous, with its own power plant, sufficient storage space, and bomb-proof. The Cold War began two short years after the end of World War II and in 1953, six years into the second red scare, the construction of the Buckner Building was completed, and having been cast in place by reinforced concrete on a bedrock of slate and greywacke the building was on stable ground not susceptible to seismic shifting from earthquakes, or from thawing of any remaining permafrost.

The building was once listed as one of the largest in the state, it stands six stories tall, is approximately 500 feet long and between 50-150 feet wide (depending on which part of the floor plan it is)—all of this adds up to around 275,000 square feet of space. This massive concrete building was built in seven sections, each section having been separated by eight-inch gaps—as a means to have the structural flexibility to ride out large magnitude earthquakes and concussive forces.

In its heyday, The Buckner Building once housed the entire city of Whittier, Alaska—within its walls were also all of the relevant services were located. There was a small hospital, a 350 seat theater, four-lane bowling alley, six-cell jail, church, bakery, barbershop, library, radio station, rifle range, photography lab, commissary, officers’ lounge, as well as a mess hall, and innumerable sleeping quarters for military personnel and their families.

The Earthquake of 1964

In March of 1964, Alaska was hit by the most powerful earthquake in the history of North America (second most powerful throughout world history)—registering at a magnitude of 9.2 and lasting a full four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, the Great Alaskan earthquake caused multiple ground fissures along south central Alaska, but it also collapsed structures and caused multiple tsunamis—all of this resulted in an estimated 131 deaths. Whittier itself was not immune to the natural disaster, with thirteen people dead and damages to private and federally owned property that were over five million dollars. The Buckner building itself was also slightly damaged, although the structural integrity was not compromised due to the foundation upon the bedrock—the rest of the town received considerably more in damages due to the unconsolidated sediment that it rests on.

The Abandonment of the Base

The building was in operation until 1966, when the military finally pulled out of the Port of Whittier, the building was then transferred to the General Services Administration; after being vacated by the military, however, the ownership of the building changed hands several times. At one point Pete Zamarello, a man dubbed as the “Anchorage Strip Mall Czar”, obtained ownership of the Buckner Building with ideas of turning it into the state prison—but his deal with the state fell through and it was purchased by the citizens of the new City of Whittier in 1972. By the 1980s, the building had fallen into disrepair, windows and doors were missing, so the building began to decompose—being exposed to the elements allowed water to begin accumulating, and the building itself being in a constant state of freeze and thaw.

By 2014, nearly every inch of the building, inside and out, had been vandalized—the floors were covered in at least an inch of water, and was riddled with asbestos, mold, and mildew—suffice it to say it was no longer a safe environment for people to go exploring in. The problem was, was that there was hardly any regulation in place to keep people out of the building—so they began to crack down on trespassers on the property.

The city of Whittier came under the ownership of the Buckner Building in 2016 when the building officially went into foreclosure, it was at this point that a fence went up around the building to keep trespassers out. While the Whittier Department of Public Works and Public Utilities has done work on the property, and the city continues to express their desire to maintain it in order to preserve history, the Alaska Department of Environment Conservation has recommended demolition. While there have been many discussions to demolish the building, it has been ruled as being cost-prohibitive—this is due to the sheer amount of asbestos that is in the building and that the only land route in and out of Whittier. This route is through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a two and a half mile railroad tunnel which allots thirty-minute windows for cars to travel through at certain times during the day—the only other option to remove debris would be on ships.

Having been abandoned for over forty years has taken its toll on the interior—where the ceilings are falling in, the light fixtures are and some parts of the exterior of the building which is tagged and degraded. The Buckner Building does still stand as of July 2020—it stands as a crumbling, darkened, cracked, and adulterated monument of an era of military and government ambition that has not since returned.

A Look Inside the Abandoned Buckner Building

Is the Buckner Building Haunted?

While this enormous abandoned building in Whittier looks incredibly spooky against the typically overcast, grey dreary skies of this hidden port town, there are also rumors of the building being haunted. While this writer’s personal investigation didn’t result in the capture of any evidence of the paranormal, other people have reported encounters and experiences that they have been more than happy to share. The Buckner Building is closed to the public, so going into the building itself is a no-go unless you want to risk health complications (mercury, lead, and asbestos poisoning is possible), injury, death, or–most likely, a hefty fine from the local police. Locals of Whittier are pretty vigilant to keep people away from and out of the building, but it doesn’t mean people haven’t ventured in to get an up-close and personal experience inside of these reportedly haunted walls. There are believed to be multiple presences within the building, although there are no records to explain these hauntings.

Due to the dilapidation of the building, the first basement is only accessible through a hole in the wall now, where the second basement is now only accessible through a hole in the floor. These two rooms are said to house an entity of “pure evil,” and people are warned to stay away from the area completely, especially the stairwell that has red, detached wiring hanging from the ceiling. Far southwest stairwell, the second corridor on the second floor, the jail, and the third floor are all haunted by apparitions–in particular, an entity that is witnessed hanging from water pipes on the second floor, and a little girl who is seen wandering the third floor crying. Room three to the right of the mental ward of the hospital, within the corridor right before the jail is reported to be especially haunted, to the point that the entity within will only allow certain people to enter the room. If this entity does not accept the person trying to enter, the door will slam shut before they can enter and seems to be locked from the inside.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Demon Dog of Valle Crucis, North Carolina an Urban Legend

My day job is working as a pest control technician for an awesome company here in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Come to find out, I have a haunted site on my route. (Yeah, I know. What are the odds that the horror author gets the route with a haunted place or even better a place haunted by a demon dog?) I have included pictures in this article that I took the last time I was in this area. This local legend of the demon dog of Valle Crucis has been around since the late 1800s.

The story was birthed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Valle Crucis, North Carolina around 1860. A few people were found dead in the nearby woods by an apparent animal attack. Instead of looking for a rational explanation of what happened, the local minister claimed he saw a “demon dog” kill these people. I’m not bashing ministers or any religion or denomination, for I myself an am ordained minister, but given the time period should we be surprised?

This urban legend has gone on for several generations, but the most popular story has to do with two young men who were students at App State. They were traveling down the road next to the church one moonlit autumn night. A large, shadowy figure leaped our from behind one of the tombstones from the church’s graveyard and appeared in front of their vehicle. The driver swerved to the side of the road to avoid slamming into whatever had stepped in front of them. According to witnesses, he slammed on the breaks and eased his vehicle to the shoulder.

Cemetery in Valle Crucis at St. John's Episcopal Church
St. John's Episcopal Church and gravestones

The two friends peered out the window into the darkness. The figure took shape under the moonlight and they were shocked at what they saw. A massive dog, the size of a full grown man, stood in the road staring at them. it was covered in shimmering black fur and had large, yellow teeth. It’s eyes were glowing red and did not reflect back the light like a dog or cat’s eyes will sometimes do at night. One of the young men turned to the other and said, “Do you see that?” His friend replied, “No, and neither do you.”

Sign in front of tombs at St. John's Episcopal Church

The dog eased towards the vehicle and growled. The driver took his foot off the braked and slammed on the gas. The vehicle sped down the dark, mountain road, hugging the curves as hard as it could without flipping. Sixty miles and hour…Seventy miles an hour…the driver did his best to keep the car under control. He glanced in his rear view mirror and had the shock of his life. The demon dog was keeping us with the car. No, it was gaining on them.

The driver mashed the accelerator even harder. The car sped over a the bridge where the streams in Valle Crucis meet to form a cross (the name in Latin means Vale of the Cross). The dog stopped following them and then vanished.

St. John's Episcopal Church sign established in 1862

The frightened friends drove into Boone and stopped at a local diner, which was the only place open late at night. They tried to let their nerves settle down but it wasn’t happening. They knew neither of them were going to get to sleep for a while. They also knew they had experienced something terrifying and supernatural. The two men shared their story and the urban legend of the Demon Dog of Valle Crucis was cemented into North Carolina folklore forever.

There are other stories surrounding this quaint little cemetery at St. John’s. Some have reported seeing the apparition of a woman wondering around the graves. Others have reported sounds of gunshots and a weeping female, all of which cannot be connected to any known event.

Is the legend of the Demon Dog true? Is this a case of lycanthropy maybe?

When I was out there, I called and whistled for the demon dog several times. I walked among the graves and tried to see if I could get him to come out. He was either napping or had better things to do. I got back in my truck and drove away. I looked in my review, and to my disappointment, there was no demon dog chasing me.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore NA

The Ghost of Deer Island

Deer Island sits just offshore from the coast of Mississippi. It’s maintained by the Mississippi Coastal Preserve and it’s 400 acres are home to the great blue heron as well as ten different rare or endangered species. If seen from the nearby beaches of historical Biloxi, one would hardly assume this undeveloped paradise for boating and beach recreation is also home to some of the state’s most haunting urban legends – The Ghost of Deer Island.

Deer Island Biloxi bay

One of the legends tells of a supernatural occurrence from centuries prior. The “Firewater Ghost”, as it became known, was a mysterious blue light that people would see roaming Biloxi Bay between Biloxi and Ocean Springs. One sighting, from back in 1892, describes a luminescent ball hovering about a foot over the water’s surface. It’s believed to be a restless sentry protecting the bay.

Legend of the Headless Ghost

The most famous urban legend from the area concerns a headless ghost that haunts the island. As the story goes, two fishermen happened upon the island back in the 1800s. They explored and decided to camp for the night. Later that evening, while tending to their fire, they heard rustling noises coming from the bushes. They assumed the raucous was caused by wild hogs, but when it didn’t let up they went to investigate. Imagine their surprise when a headless skeleton jumped out of the palmetto bushes and chased them all the way back to their boat! They returned to the spot the next morning, but the creature had vanished without a trace.

Skeleton hand reaching in the dark

This particular story was first documented in a 1922 article written by local author and historian A.G. Ragusin for the Sun Herald. His primary source for the article, appropriately titled “Headless Ghost Haunted Deer Island In Olden Times”, was Captain Eugene Tiblier, Sr., who had lived in the area his entire life. But he also had the story verified by other fishermen who had visited the island and experienced similar sightings. In all instances, the men were confronted with a terrifying bone man before narrowly escaping his clutches, and this infamy has earned him the title of “Ghost of Deer Island”.

Fact or Fiction?

This legend of a headless haunt appears to originate from an even older source. According to an old pirate tale, a pirate captain once steered his ship to Deer Island in order to hide a large amount of treasure. Once the gold was buried, the captain asked for volunteers to stay behind and guard it. One of the crew members volunteered, not realizing that this participation would involve cutting off his head so that his ghost could guard the hidden riches instead (the captain assumed his eagerness was due to the fact that he wanted the treasure for himself when everyone left). His head was hung in a tree and his body laid to rest nearby, allowing his ghost to be sole protector of the loot. 

Haunted Treasure chest in sand

Despite the grisly account, and the few eyewitness accounts from long ago, there hasn’t been much in the way of recent sightings. But the legend is still entertaining, and it remains a favorite piece of lore for the area. And who knows? The alleged treasure has never been found and could still be out there. Perhaps one day soon a happy go lucky tourist, sailor, or fisherman will cross the wrong spot at the wrong time and come face-to-skeleton with…the Ghost of Deer Island.

Sources

https://www.sunherald.com/living/article39639327.html

https://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/biloxighost.html

https://theresashauntedhistoryofthetri-state.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-headless-skeleton-of-deer-island.html

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Ghost of McMenamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon

Other than perhaps the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland, Oregon—the Grand Lodge located in Forest Grove, Oregon is known as one of the most haunted places in the state.

History of the McMenamin’s Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge sits on approximately thirteen acres of park-like land, which has an old school brick lodge sitting right in the center. The Grand Lodge was originally constructed as a Masonic Lodge in 1922, featuring the iconic white columns, marble accents, tons of natural light, hardwood floors, and fireplaces. When the McMenamin’s restored the building, they filled it with furniture, added stained glass, original ironwork, and artwork by local talent. This historical monument to rich splendor, it boasts more than just guest rooms and a very nice restaurant with bars; it also features a spa, a soaking pool, a billiards room, and a movie theater. Other than these lavish features, the main building has multiple parlor rooms with fireplaces, comfortable couches, and a table to play board games. Aside from the main building, there is a Children’s Cottage—which exists because the adult residents of the lodge preferred that the Mason’s orphans to live in separate quarters—and a Masonic Museum, for the days in which it was used as a Masonic Lodge.

The Haunting of the Grand Lodge

Every bedside table in the Grand Lodge comes with complimentary earplugs because there is no room in the entire lodge where people didn’t complain about unidentifiable noises in the night. One particular guest reports that they had a set of keys that inexplicably disappeared—at first believed it to be absent-mindedness—then they all-but turned over their entire room in search of them only to discover that they were still nowhere to be found. The keys reappeared miraculously on their bedside table, which only the night before was completely bare. They reported their experiences to the lodge’s staff, they were told they were one of several of such similar reports—they were even allowed to borrow a binder that was full of witness statements to learn more about all of the ghostly experiences that had occurred inside of those walls.

Over the years since renovation, staff and guests have both reported having seen a woman with white hair and wearing a patterned dress with slippers. This particular apparition has been described in such a way that it matches the large portrait of a woman that hangs on the premises. They believe that this ghost is the spirit of a woman who lived there for many years and died just before her hundredth birthday and that her name was Anna.

Another Haunted McMenamin’s Location

So it’s true that the McMenamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove is supposedly haunted, but what you may not realize is that there is another McMenamin’s location that is haunted as well! The White Eagle Saloon—the other McMenamin’s location—is home to a couple of apparitions, the ghost of an old housekeeper and Rose, the prostitute that was killed by one of her lovers.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Ghost Soldier of Battery Russel, Fort Stevens in Astoria, OR

In the Historic Fort Stevens State Park, you can probably expect to run into the ghost of a soldier who patrols the area at night with a flashlight. There have been so many stories recounting the encounters that witnesses have had with this fallen soldier, who, when approached ends up disappearing into thin air.

The History of Battery Russel in Fort Stevens

It doesn’t really matter if you have a love for history, architecture, relics of the past, or the supernatural—Battery Russel seems to have it all. While this battery is no longer an active site, it was once of enormous importance in the defense of the Oregon coast during the Second World War. Fort Stevens was originally built around the time of the Civil War—this was when Battery Russel and other ramparts were constructed. It wasn’t until nearly one hundred years later that these ramparts and other structures of Fort Stevens were revived in order to fortify the defense of the Columbia River from a possible invasion during World War II.

Located on-site at the far end of the battery is the Pacific Rim Peace Memorial, which commemorates the American and Japanese soldiers that were involved in the attack on Fort Stevens and called for everlasting peace between these two countries. Despite its importance in the defense of the Columbia River, it was never a favored station of the soldiers who ended up there; it got the unfortunate name of Squirrelsville, due to the fact that many soldiers didn’t want to stay there, possibly because of the quickly built soldiers quarters, and because of the rotations in and out every few days. It wasn’t until after the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II that Battery Russel was manned full-time.

The Attack on Fort Stevens During World War II

In 1942 on June 21st, at 11:30 pm, an enemy Japanese I-25 submarine attacked Fort Stevens, it had somehow gotten through the mouth of the Columbia River and resurfaced just ten miles offshore. It began its attack by firing haphazardly towards the fort. Fortunately for the soldiers who manned Battery Russel, only a few of the submarine’s missiles landed near to their station, they held their ground and their fire—while the missile fire didn’t injure anyone, it did scare the local population. This led the local communities to set up a citizens patrol, they strung barbed wire up and down Clatsop Beach and even through the Wreck of the Peter Iredale. Oddly enough, this unsuccessful attack was the only action that Fort Stevens saw during the Second World War. This also made it the only mainland military base in the United States to be fired upon since the War of 1812 in which Canadians burned down the White House.

The Function of Battery Russel

One of nine batteries at Fort Stevens, Battery Russel was active for forty years, from 1904 to 1944, where Fort Stevens itself was in active service for eighty-four years, from the beginning of the Civil War all the way through World War II. It was named after Brevet Major General David Russel who fought during the Civil War. While it once protected the mouth of the Columbia River, it was one of three forts that created the Triangle of Fire—the other two being Fort Columbia and Fort Canby in Washington. This three-sided defense made it nearly impossible for enemy boats to go undetected into the Columbia River.

Battery Russel, Fort Stevens in Astoria, Oregon
Photography by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

While there are many batteries at Fort Stevens, Battery Russel is one of the few that is open to the public to explore—literature is available on location that educates anyone, who is willing to look into a piece of our past, about the purposes of each of the rooms, as well as the history of the battery itself. There are two levels to this particular battery, the lower of which contains old ammunition rooms, offices, guardrooms, as well as storage facilities. The upper level is where the old gun pit is located, it housed two 10-inch disappearing guns; these guns would retract from view while soldiers reloaded, which provided ample cover from attacking enemies and each gun required a thirty-five man team in order to run.

Even though Battery Russel is an entirely unsupervised location it is well maintained, people are free to explore the historic battery; there is no electricity, so visits during the day are well-light by natural sunlight, but the lower level can become quite dark, so you’re better off carrying a flashlight if you insist on exploring for ghosts.

The Haunting of Battery Russel

The haunting that is described at Battery Russel isn’t exactly one to be feared—because the well-intentioned ghost soldier doesn’t mean any visitors harm, in fact, he was stationed at Battery Russel in defense of the nation and its people. The unidentified army soldier has been seen by many visitors to the Fort, where they report him showing up in several different places in the battery. If the tales are to be believed, this uniformed soldier walks the area—he’s seen wandering around the park, the campgrounds, and more often than not, the concrete battery. Those who have encountered him in the campground report the crunching gravel as he passes the area outside of your tent.

Another commonality between separate encounters is that the apparition of this soldier is that he simply disappears after being spotted. One recollection of an encounter told to the Oregon Coast Beach Connection, was that the witness was walking along the Seaside’s Promenade one night when he saw the army man in a uniform that was reminiscent of the forties. The two men nodded to each other, but when the witness turned to inspect the dated uniform, the army man had mysteriously vanished. To be sure that he hadn’t psyched himself out, the witness even went into the nearby hotel lobbies and asked the reception clerks if an army man had come into their lobby, but after having no luck in locating where the man had gone, the witness was convinced what he had seen was a specter.

Other legends that have popped up about this mysterious soldier are centered around the old guardhouse which is located in a now-residential neighborhood. Residents in the area have caught plenty of, what they believe to be, spirit orbs on camera, while others claim that they have seen him pacing the yard where the museum now stands. Whether this apparition is holding a flashlight and walking the grounds, or he’s holding a knife within the battery itself, no one has ever reported feeling any malicious intent from the spirit.

What is truly curious about this haunting is that no soldiers actually died at Battery Russel, Fort Stevens during World War II, but seeing as it was active during the Civil War, it is believed that he could have been a soldier that passed during that time.