Birch Hill Cemetery, Fairbanks, AK

Date of Discovery/Date of Establishment & Haunting

Sightings of apparitions within the Birch Hill Cemetery have been happening since the 1930s.

Name & Location

Birch Hill Cemetery houses at least one apparition, the most notable of which is the White Lady.

Physical Description

Gwich'in Elder Grave at Birch Hill Cemetery
Gwich’in Elder Grave at Birch Hill Cemetery

The Birch Hill Cemetery is a prominent geographical feature in Fairbanks, it rises on the north slope of the city and faces the Steese Highway. It is a peaceful cemetery that is surrounded on three sides by dense woods and the overlooking hill to the city displays seven planters that are in the shape of the Big Dipper–the symbol on the Alaskan flag. It is a very unsuspecting location for a haunting, it’s a beautiful location.

The White Lady appears in an early 1900s era dress and a fancy hat–something that would have been worn during the early pioneering days of Fairbanks. Aside from the White Lady, the apparition who appears most often, there have been reports of a little girl and a little boy who haunt the cemetery on their own.

Origin

The Birch Hill Cemetery officially became the main cemetery in Fairbanks after the Clay Street Cemetery began to quickly fill up–it covers approximately thirty-two acres of the southwest side of Birch Hill and there are still plots available today.

Mythology and Lore

The White Lady has been sighted since 1938 when the cemetery was officially established, along with two apparitions of children.

In 2001, Fairbanks paranormal investigator by the name of Jessie Desmond obtained an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), but states that they are not necessarily “the result of intentional voice recordings.” He also stated that Paranormal Explorers of Alaska (PEAK) uses this particular cemetery for training and to see if they can capture more information about Birch Hill Cemetery’s resident ghosts. They occasionally capture orbs in their pictures and would hear movements that have no known origin.

In May of 2012, Jessie Desmond collaborated with Neelie Lythgoe and Tony Hernandez members of Investigators of the Paranormal in Alaska (IOPIA) from the Anchorage region; it was during this investigation that they were able to capture a few EVPs as well as a picture of what they believe was an apparition.



Is there anything we missed about Birch Hill Cemetery? Let us know in the comments section below!

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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.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

The Haunted Heceta Head Lighthouse of Florence, OR

Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, Oregon
Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, Oregon

In a PBS special called Legendary Lighthouses, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is referred to as a haunted lighthouse—stating that nearly everyone who has stayed at the lighthouse since the 1950s has experienced paranormal activity. These experiences include things like disembodied screams, items moving or disappear and the reappearing on their own, as well as the shadow of an old woman’s ghost in an attic window. Along with the older woman, it is said that her daughter also haunts this scenic lighthouse.

The History of the Heceta Head Lighthouse

This Queen Anne styled cottage with a red roof overlooks the rocky cliffs and violent waves of the Pacific Ocean and has done so for more than a century. Originally built in 1894, when the lamp was first lit, to the early 1960s, the men who kept the lighthouse running, and their families called this cottage home. During World War II it served as military barracks and was used as a satellite campus for Lane Community College in Eugene from 1970 to 1995. Since 1995, it has been run as a bed and breakfast with room enough to fit fifteen guests comfortably.

Ghostly Experiences at the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage

Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers Cottage
Photography by Jrozwado

Some of the experiences that have occurred on the premises have been the apparition of a gray-haired woman who appears wearing a late Victorian-era dress; a wispy gray figure has also appeared floating down the hallway. The sounds of sweeping and furniture being moved occur at night and they come from the locked and otherwise unoccupied attic. These occurrences in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage have given this location the reputation of being one of the most haunted places on the West Coast.

For the last four decades, the main apparition—or presence—has been known as Rue, ever since a group of the Lane Community College students broke out their Ouija Board and began to ask questions. Apparently the board spelled out, “R-U-E,” and the name stuck. While “[Rue] doesn’t ever do anything scary or harmful or threatening,” current manager Anderson reports, “it’s more like she’s watching over the place. Watching the house and looking for her daughter.”

Anderson has heard many versions of many stories over the years that she has managed the property, to the point where she wonders if they even know the truth, and says that “it’s just [their] version [of the story].” The only story that they do endorse as the truth is the theory that Rue was the wife of one of the lighthouse keepers, but records can’t confirm that due to the fact that the wives and children of the keepers were never documented. Anderson believes that Rue had two daughters and that one of them had drowned—they are uncertain whether she drowned in the ocean or in a cistern, but that there is an unmarked grave up on the hillside that had been long left undisturbed and consequently was overgrown.

Although Rue left the Heceta Head Cottage after her daughter died, it is said that she came back after her own death to look for her daughter. When checking into the bed and breakfast, there are many guests that request the Victoria room, where the keepers of the lighthouse and their wives were said to have slept. Others are drawn to the Cape Cove Room, which contains a closet that houses the stairs leading up to the locked attic. Still other guests prefer not to know at all.

Possibly the most frightening encounter with Rue that was ever reported appeared in the Siuslaw News in 1975—a workman was cleaning one of the windows in the attic when he noticed an odd reflection in the glass. When she turned to see what was behind him, he saw the apparition of an elderly woman wearing a late-Victorian style gown—he fled the house and didn’t return to the cottage for several days and refused to ever go into the attic again. Even when he accidentally broke one of the attic windows, he opted instead to repair the window from the outside and the broken glass was left on the attic floor. That same night, the caretakers of the house were woken up to the sounds of scraping sounds in the attic and reported that it sounded as if someone was sweeping up broken glass, but they had not yet been told about the broken window. The next morning when they went to investigate, they found that the glass had been swept into a neat pile.

Other stories include one from a guest when sleeping in the Cape Cove room, she was awakened at 4:30 in the morning to what felt like a presence climbing into bed beside her and staying for a couple of hours. She said she felt concerned about the experience, but she was unharmed and in an odd way felt honored that she had the opportunity to experience it. Despite the lack of truly negative experiences, the manager of the bed and breakfast, Anderson, refuses to spend the night there anymore.

One of her employees, a housekeeper and food server named Beth Mozzachio, said she often feels a presence while she’s working and specifically reported making the bed and then noticing a depression has formed, as if someone recently sat there. Mazzachio knows that if she ever saw an apparition of Rue that she would be terrified, but believes that because she takes care of the inn and makes it look nice that Rue doesn’t bother her much.

The Anna Byrne Chronicles: Chapter 01 – The Haunting of Heceta Head

We’ve discussed the Heceta Head Lighthouse before in our Encyclopedia of Supernatural Horror, where we aimed to discuss the facts of the location–in this article we’ve tried to go a bit further with witness experiences. We have even created an original horror fiction where our character visits Heceta Head–so check out The Anna Byrne Chronicles: Chapter 01 – The Haunting of Heceta Head.

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

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

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?

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Featured Haunted Places

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

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.