Date of Establishment & Haunting
This hotel was built in 1916; the alleged haunting, however, took place after the death of Fannie Guthry-Baehm between 1947 and 1950.
Name & Location
The Van Gilder Hotel in downtown Seward, Alaska
Fannie Guthry-Baehm is said to be one of the resident ghosts that call the Van Gilder Hotel; she is one of many except she’s the only one that people have identified.
A three-story reinforced concrete building with a full basement, on the exterior it is a white and maroon, unassumingly elegant building that is ripe with old Alaskan history.
“The first two floors contain twelve office suites with hot and cold running water and lavatories in every suite. The hall partitions and doors are of non-transparent glass. The third floor is being fitted up for lodge purposes and will be second to none in Alaska.
All exterior doors and windows are to contain wired plate glass. The windows are the celebrated Whitney windows and the building will be heated by an “Ideal” down draft boiler 3750 feet capacity, with a Honeywell automatic temperature regulator. The radiators are of the “Peerless” screw nipper type.
On the whole the building is one of the finest in Alaska. It is one of three fine concrete buildings which have just been completed but it is the largest of the three. Mr. Van Gilder deserves a tremendous lot of credit for giving a building like this to Seward. He came in a stranger and seeing that Seward must grow he set to work unostentatiously to erect The Office Block. It is an enforced concrete building eighty-four by thirty-four feet in dimension. On the first and second floors it has twenty-seven rooms. The basement is large enough to house the whole plant of the Gateway and on the third story, in addition to all the rest, are splendid lodge rooms.
At present there are 31 rooms available for rental. Six more rooms make up the manager’s apartment and lobby. The basement contains seven rooms and two bathrooms.”
News Account: Description of the building when it was opened in 1916
There is a lone unidentifiable man is said to appear only as wisps and orbs, but there have also been sightings of two men wearing bowler hats standing behind the front desk, as well as three children running from room to room giggling when there were no guests in the hotel.
Fannie is described as a young woman who has long blonde hair and wears a blue dress.
A well-known historic building in Seward, Alaska–the Van Gilder Hotel was initially built as an office building, then underwent the conversion to apartments, and finally a hotel. Between being built 1916 and 1921, the building originally played host to the Masonic and Odd Fellows Lodge on the third floor, but after the two lodges constructed their own buildings, the third floor got turned into a ballroom. Once the building made the transition to a hotel, the third floor became the space for hotel guests.
In the last hundred years, the building hasn’t changed much from the time it was built to now, save for some upgrades to keep the building up to code through the years. Changes to the interior were cosmetic, but they only aid in keeping one of the oldest hotels in Alaska feeling authentic to its origins.
There are apparently several reported apparitions that call the Van Gilder Hotel home, but only one is known by name. The rest have been seen, but are unidentifiable.
According to local lore, in 1947 a woman named Fannie Guthry-Baehm was said to be shot in the head by her husband; the stories told around town were that her husband was a violent drunk and shot her in a whiskey-fueled rage. Although even some of the locals are not exactly sure about when she was killed–but they know it was between 1947 and 1950, but according to sources, it is more often believed to have been 1947. The details of the room in which she died are also unclear, some sources say room 201, while others say it was room 202 or 209, however, former staff of the hotel insist it was actually room 202.
An eyewitness account suggested in 2001 that at exactly 1:21 am they were awakened to the whole building shaking and windows squeaking right before they heard someone running up the stairs, followed directly by someone running down the stairs. When the customer asked the staff if there had been an earthquake, but was told that there hadn’t been–that what the customer had actually experienced was the ghost of Fannie Guthry-Baehm reliving her murder.
Mythology and Lore
The spirits of the Van Gilder Hotel don’t appear as often in sources that allude to their existence as Fannie, but accounts from the housekeeping staff make it clear that there are a plethora of ghosts who spend their afterlife within the walls of this historic hotel.
The book was written by Jonathan Faulkner The Ghost of Fannie Guthry-Baehm (2010) and set the murder as a mystery piece and at face value poses as a tale woven with historical facts. There is one passage in the book that gives what is alleged to be an eyewitness account.
At about 12:30, just after midnight early on the morning of the 13th of July, the room was beginning to get dark, as it was summer in Alaska. As I rolled over, out of the corner of my eye, I saw what I perceived as a woman in a dressing gown with long light-colored hair. I could not tell if it was blond or gray, but my sense was the woman was not old and gray. She appeared tired as she moved from the corner of the bed ‘through’ the dresser and to the door. She paused and went ‘through’ the door and out of the room.The Ghost of Fannie Guthry-Baehm (2010)
According to housekeeping staff, Fannie has a tendency to sit on freshly made beds and leave a butt print, she’s also known to move cleaning supplies, tools, as well as opening and closing doors and windows. Many people have reported seeing her while they were sitting in chairs in the hallways, as well as people who have woken up to find Fannie sitting at the foot of their bed.
Modern Pop-Culture References
There is some controversy about the validity of the only known publication made about Fannie Guthry-Baehm’s murder–although we’re waiting to hear back from the family, we’re under the impression that the book falsely represented many of the details about the life and death of Fannie.
Books & Literature
Is there anything we missed about the Van Gilder Hotel, Seward, AK? Let us know in the comments section below!
Author. Artist. A little bit Alaskan. Mary lives with her dog in a rural cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. They explore the bounty of the Alaskan wilderness during the summer and cozy up in their log cabin during the winter.