Ghosts Are More Than Just the Spirits of the Dead

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore
Take a walk through a creepy forest
Photography by Jack Cain

What Are Ghosts?

Are they the benevolent spirits of our loved ones who have passed on? Or are they malevolent specters haunting the shadows, waiting for the moment to attack unwitting victims? Modern folklore says that ghosts are the souls or spirits of a dead person or animal that can often be perceived by the living. These apparitions vary widely in descriptions, whether they be completely disembodied sounds, translucent forms of a person who has passed, or wisps, orbs, shapes, and other realistic silhouettes. From firsthand experiences and stories passed down through the ages, it seems that these entities can be fully aware of their surroundings, or simply faded recordings tragically repeating moments from within their own lifetime.

There is a widespread belief in the afterlife, including the manifestation of spirits which is highly intertwined in the ancestor worship that has appeared in cultures across the world since before the written word. These beliefs have led to funeral rites, exorcisms, and attempts to contact those who have passed as a means to put the spirits of the dead to rest. Contacting those who haunt your halls can be done in a number of ways, most notably through a séance wherein participants use Ouija boards or mediums.

Disembodied spirits are identified not necessarily by their appearance as apparitions, but by the displacement of objects, strange or flickering lights, as well as an auditory presence—laughter or screams with no origin, footsteps when there is no one else around, ringing bells or other spontaneous music that comes from untouched musical instruments. Haunted locations are believed to be associated with possessing spirits who still have a strong attachment to the location from their own past, whether it be sorrow, fear, or distress due to a violent death. People can be haunted as well—not entirely unlike possession, but the person being haunted does not have their body inhabited by the spirit itself, instead, they are likely associated in some way to the unhappy experience that keeps the spirit tethered to the world of the living.

Ghosts walking down the road
Photography by JR Korpa

There are multiple types of spirits that are known to haunt the living, even in the modern age. First, is called the interactive personality—these are considered the most common of all and are often human in nature. Whether it’s your deceased Aunt Sally coming to tell you that she’s not happy that you took her vintage jade brooch or a person lost to history they’re not always kind apparitions. These personalities can make themselves known in a variety of different ways, whether visible or not, some can speak, make noises, touch you, or even cause odors reminiscent of when they were alive (i.e. a perfume they used to wear, or cigar smoke). Those who study and hunt for ghosts are convinced that these spirits retain their personality and can still feel the emotions that would have been relevant to them during life.

Not all of the commonly acknowledged apparitions go out of their way to communicate with people—if you’ve ever heard of the White Ladies, you know that most if not all of these women keep to themselves, by lingering mournfully in a cemetery, or an aging historical building. These White Ladies are described as being dressed entirely in white and can be heard sobbing, crying, or wailing over the painful loss that drove them to take their own lives. They’re not known to necessarily interact with their environment, so much as to be painfully aware of where they are and continue to wallow in the depth of grief that keeps them stuck where they died.

The term poltergeist would most likely conjure images of a swirling vortex and alternate dimensions resulting from disrespecting ancient burial grounds of Native Americans, but it’s not the most accurate portrayal. Poltergeist is actually one of the most common names for a ghost that can interact with their environment—except that instances of these spirits are more often associated with violent interaction with their physical environment. They can knock items off of shelves, open cabinet doors, slam doors, stack chairs, or generally displace objects from their original resting place. Not too surprisingly, poltergeists are the most terrifying because they give us the impression that if they can move things around us, then they can also take physical action upon us.

So, whether you’re experiencing unnatural phenomena throughout your house or are out hunting ghosts in an abandoned building, you may find that there are multiple types of entities that you come across. Ghosts are herein described as the spirits of people or animals that have passed away that may have an unordinary attachment to the world of the living–good or bad, it depends on the person they were in life. Due to the lack of documentation that has been proven to be authenticated, it’s unlikely that you will be able to capture viable evidence that would declare with finality that ghosts are real. It is, however, important to continue to try to document proof of the existence of ghosts, because otherwise, we may never know.

Phantom Hitchhikers and Vanishing Vagabonds

Categories
Indie Horror

Phantom hitchhikers, or vanishing hitchhikers are most popular as an urban legend, or ghost story within the continental United States–typically a young woman stranded on the side of the road who desperately needs to get home. This original story based on the phantom hitchhiker legend is a typical account of what is to be expected if you were to pick her up on the side of the road.

Upon a Lonely Road…

Lightning cracked, the electricity streaked across the sky in brilliant resonance, lighting up the dismal drowning mountainous landscape. The rain was suffocating his windshield, even with his wipers at their highest speed, he could barely see the road ahead of him. The man’s hands tightened around the steering wheel and his knuckles blanched as the road began to twist angrily down the lonely mountain road—walking in on his wife in the throws of passion with another man was just the start of his bad luck it seemed, now he felt as if he were going to careen off an icy road into a dark deep ditch. He sighed, his heart ached deeply and the song on the radio mirrored the depth of his pain. He truly didn’t know where he was going tonight, but it was better than where he had come from.

Phantom Hitchhiker on the road

The patter of rain against his windshield was deafening as he rounded another treacherous turn and he flicked on his high beams—it was at that moment he caught sight of a woman walking down the side of the road. His brow furrowed, she was dressed too poorly for the weather and there weren’t any homes that he knew of in the area, he couldn’t imagine the type of luck she had that would land her in the situation that she was clearly in. He slowed his truck to a stop just as he had passed her by, his blinker clicked steadily, matching the beat of the music that droned on in the background. He reached over and opened his door for the woman as she approached the cab, then shivered as the cold air pulled him into its tight embrace. His breath blurred his view of the woman as she stopped in front of him, “are you going towards town?”

“Yeah, I’m in no rush though, where are you headed?” The bedraggled woman slid into his truck and closed the door, her white dress had her soaked to the bone—he turned up the heater for her, then pulled off his own jacket, offering it up to her.

“I live downtown, if you don’t mind, I can give you directions?” The man nodded and she accepted his coat graciously and pushed her wet hair out of her face. He didn’t know if he ought to ask her what had led her to be on the side of the road at this hour, in such awful weather, but he figured that it really wasn’t any of his business, so decided against it. He pulled back onto the road and felt the awkward air that had taken over the entire truck. Her hands twisted uncomfortably in her lap, his coat hung limply over her pathetic and grief-stricken figure. There were no words that could be spoken now, anything he thought of uttering left his mind just as soon as his lips moved to speak the words. The road continued to be treacherous, but she seemed unbothered by anything, his eyes drifted to her face briefly, her lips formed an unconscious pout that drew him in.

He hadn’t noticed when she had gotten in that she possessed such beauty, but he didn’t linger on it long, the road finally evened out as they reached the bottom of the mountain and his mind wandered to other things. The woman maintained her painfully silent demeanor, her exhaustion was apparent and it was clear she wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

They made it downtown without incident, she only spoke briefly to tell him where to turn and finally they made it to their destination—he brought his truck to a stop in front of the house she had indicated and turned it off. He turned to wish her luck, but his eyes landed on an empty, drenched seat. He blinked, dumbfounded, she couldn’t have possibly have left without his notice—but in her place there was a small, damp leather-bound book. He picked up the book, then thumbed through it realizing it was her journal and somehow felt dirty, as if he had stolen her secrets.

The confusion that he felt in that moment would never match his need of an answer for what had happened—how she had suddenly vanished from his company, there had to be a reasonable explanation of what he had experienced. He stepped out of his truck and approached the house, uncertainty was the only thing he knew anymore, but perhaps she had just slipped away without his notice. He found his finger on the door bell and briefly entertained the idea of running from what he might find out here, but before he could follow through, a woman answered the door.

“Hello, can I help you?” The woman looked drained, as if the night had been a long and deeply harrowing experience for her as well.

“I… I just gave a young woman a ride here, she left her journal in my truck?” He handed her the book and saw a change in her expression.

“This must be a mistake… This can’t be,” her voice caught in her throat as she opened the journal’s cover, “perhaps you should come inside, I’ll get my husband.” The man stepped inside the home cautiously, he felt like an imposter, but he needed to know what was going on. The woman led him to their sitting room, where the walls were covered in pictures of what looked like family and friends. Just as he took his seat, his eyes caught a picture of the woman who had answered the door hugging the young woman who he had picked up on the side of the road.

“What’s going on?” He almost knew the answer, but he didn’t dare speak his own truth, “where is she?”

The woman whimpered under her breath and once her husband came into the room, she handed him the journal. “This man brought us Heather’s journal,” was all she could get out before she became noticeably upset and walked quickly out of the room.

The man began talking, trying to detail everything that had brought him to their house tonight—he didn’t care how wildly untrue it sounded, or if his crazy story made him seem like he was completely out of his mind. The husband listened intently, his face remained calm and there was an eerie ease that settled the man as he finished his story. “I’m sorry, I know how all of this sounds, I’m just a stranger—I—I can let myself out.”

The husband raised his hand to stop him, “no, please. I know what it sounds like, I know you probably feel like you’re going insane, but… you’re not the first person to try to bring her home.”

The man’s breath caught in his throat, “I—what?”

“Heather has been trying to come home on the anniversary of her murder for the last six years, but we’ve never gotten anything like this before,” the husband’s hands clutched the journal gratefully. “They never found her killer, but… this may give us some closure. I know my wife wasn’t able to say it, but we appreciate your time.”

The man’s heart was beating much too violently in his chest and he couldn’t stand it, he had to get out of here, he had to put some distance between himself and what had happened tonight. There were so many questions that he had, but he knew he could never ask them. The man got the name of the young woman from her mother and father, then made his goodbyes—he knew his next stop would be at the closest dive bar he could find. It would be too much to ask for this to all be a weird dream, but seeking numbness on his own from the bottom of a liquor bottle might make him forget about what he had experienced.

The next morning greeted him with a headache that mimicked the after effects of a concussion—he sat up from his uncomfortable position in his truck and rubbed his eyes to find that he had driven himself to a cemetery after he had left the bar the night before. He was grateful he wasn’t waking up to a tree through his windshield and was about to start his truck up and drive away before something strange caught his eye. His eyes narrowed and he stepped out of his truck, the gloomy, overcast day gave him something to be grateful for, no sun to shine in his eyes between the thumps of his throbbing head. He approached the tombstone that had captured his attention, and realized that what had drawn him there was the fact that his coat was draped so gently over this particular stone. It all came back to him at that moment, the hitchhiker, her parents—the lack of explanation of what had really happened—he picked up his coat and saw her name chiseled into the stone.

The Beleaguered Buckner Building of Whittier, Alaska

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

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.

The Haunting of Captain George Conrad Flavel House in Astoria, OR

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

About the House

The Flavel House in Astoria, while now a museum, was once a mansion that is haunted by the spirits of those poor souls of the family who once inhabited its walls. The phantom remnants of the Flavel family have made themselves known by speaking amongst themselves—which has been reported as disembodied voices—as well as practicing music in the empty rooms. A woman’s ghost has been sighted in the hallway, and Captain Flavel himself has been seen in his old bedroom before promptly vanishing.

The Interior

A Queen Anne style, two and a half story, 11,600 square-foot behemoth, the Flavel House sits on the corner of a fairly large plot of land—there is traditional woodwork around the interior windows, doors, windows, and staircase, all of which are Eastlake-influenced in design. The doors and window trim were made of Douglas Fir and were crafted by a master carpenter to look like mahogany and burl rosewood. There are six unique fireplace mantels within the house and they feature different imported tiles from around the world, an elaborate hand-carved mantel and a patterned firebox designed to burn coal. The first floor features fourteen-foot high ceilings, where the second floor’s ceilings sit at twelve feet high and are both embellished with crown molding and plaster medallions. The house was also fitted with indoor plumbing—incredibly state-of-the-art at the time—as well as gas-fueled lighting.

The first floor is dedicated to the public rooms, such as the grand entrance hall, formal parlor, music room—where the Flavel daughters held their music recitals—the library, dining room, and conservatory. The more private rooms on the first floor included the butler’s pantry, kitchen, and mudroom which were reserved for the housekeeping staff. The second floor was where the main bathroom, five bedrooms, and a small storage room or sewing room were. The attic floor is large and unfinished and houses the two plain wood bedrooms that were used by the Flavel’s domestic help. The four-story tower was made for the Captain to have a 360-degree view of Astoria and the Columbia River as a way for him to keep an eye on the local ship traffic coming through. There was also a dirt-floor basement that housed the large wood-burning furnace that kept the house warm.

The Carriage House was home to the family’s caretaker, and was also originally made to hold the family kept their carriage, sleigh, and small buggies—where it had three temporary holding stalls for their horses, a tack room, and an upstairs hayloft. In time it was transitioned to hold the more modern vehicles, such as the Flavel’s Studebaker sedan, and the family’s driver kept a room upstairs.

The Grounds

Not too long after the house was originally built, the family’s gardener, Louis Schultz, began planting trees, beautiful roses, as well as bulb flowers and shrubs—many of which were typical of a traditional Victorian garden. A number of the trees on the premises were officially named Oregon Heritage Trees—there is also a pond and a bench under the pear tree where Flavel’s daughters would sit in the shade. The entire house is considered a significant architectural and historical treasure for the entire Pacific Northwest.

The Timeline of the Flavels, Their Houses & Fate

1886

While the construction of the Captain George Conrad Flavel house was started in 1884, and it was finally finished in the spring of 1886. The Flavel House was built for Captain George Conrad Flavel and his family. The house was designed by German-born architect Carl W. Leick and the construction bordered between the Victorian and Colonial Revival periods. It was considered a prime example of Queen Anne architecture; one of the few remaining well-preserved examples in the entire Northwest. Due to the Captain’s long history and contributions to the community of Astoria, the Flavel family had long been considered the most prominent family in town.

The Captain had made his name and fortune as a prominent businessman through real estate investments and his occupation as a Columbia River bar pilot—becoming Astoria’s first millionaire—at the age of 62, he was finally able to retire in the house that he had built for himself and his family.

1887

The Carriage House was built on the south-west corner of the property.

1890s

Alex Murray, the family’s hired caretaker, called the Carriage House home while in the employment of the Flavels.

1893

Captain Flavel lived in the house for seven years with his wife Mary Christina Boelling and their two adult daughters, Nelli and Katie. Their son, George Conrad Flavel never resided within the George Conrad Flavel House, as he was already married and living in a house of his own. During his seventh year in the residence of the Flavel House, Captain Flavel passed away, leaving the to the family.

1901

Captain George Conrad Flavel’s son, George Conrad Flavel would build his house—the house that is now often referred to as the Harry Flavel House. George Conrad Flavel Junior had worked as a bar pilot for his father, becoming a Captain as well.

1922

When most of downtown Astoria was destroyed by a fire, the Flavel House was one of the only survivors.

1934

The Captain George Conrad Flavel House remained in the family until the great-granddaughter Patricia Jean Flavel gave the property to the city as a memorial to her family.

1936

The house was set to be torn down to establish an outdoor community property—the city ended up having financial difficulties and returned the property to Patricia Flavel—that same year, Patricia deeded the residence to Clatsop County, but with conditions. The understanding was that both the grounds and the house would be kept in good repair and used for public purposes.

1937

From the time the house was deeded the to county, until the end of World War II, the Public Health Department, Red Cross, and local Welfare Commission all had offices within the mansion.

1951

The Captain George Conrad Flavel House was officially added to the list of the National Register of Historic places, before which it was nearly demolished twice—once for a parking lot and again for a community park, but the townspeople rallied against the proposal and it began to be operated by the Clatsop County Historical Society in 1950.

2003

The Camperdown Elm, Sequoia Redwood, four Cork Elms, Bay Laurel, Pear, and Ginkgo Biloba trees on the premises were named official Oregon Heritage Trees in a state-wide dedication ceremony that was held on the grounds.

The Haunting at Captain George Conrad Flavels House

Truly, ever since the Flavel house was converted into a museum in 1951, there have been many reports of hauntings; phantom music and voices were heard on the first story of the house which was believed to have been a product of the Flavel sisters, as they were gifted musicians. The Library has always housed an unhappy and strange presence. There is an apparition of a woman who roams the hallway on the second floor, but she vanishes when approached—and a floral scent can be smelt at strange times in the bedroom of Ms. Flavel, when no one has been around. In Captain George Flavel’s room, his apparition can be seen, but he disappears into the floor once he has been noticed.

Van Gilder Hotel, Seward, AK

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

Location

The Van Gilder Hotel in downtown Seward, Alaska

Apparitions

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.

Physical Description

Location

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


Apparitions

Van Gilder Hotel
Van Gilder Hotel

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 Guthry-Baehm

Fannie is described as a young woman who has long blonde hair and wears a blue dress.

Origin

Location

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.

Apparitions

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.

Fannie Guthry-Baehm

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

Apparitions

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.

Fannie Guthry-Baehm

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!