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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

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

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

The Klondike Gold Rush

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

The Origin of Scary Mary

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

Golden North Hotel in Skagway, AK
Photography by Kira Picabo

First-Hand Experiences

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

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haunted Facilities…

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

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

First-Hand Experiences…

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Venezia, Professional Medium
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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Urban Legends: The Legendary Shanghai Tunnels of Portland, Oregon

The city of Portland, Oregon is known in modern times as America’s most “livable cities,” but it wasn’t all too long ago that the seedy underbelly cause it to be one of the most dangerous port cities on the west coast—possibly even the entire world. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the ports of Portland saw all of the criminal traffic that filtered through from the ships that docked with supplies—every time a new ship hailed the arrival of the opportunity to make money. Drinking, prostitution, and general criminal activity reigned supreme due to this exceptionally active port.

The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland are talked about all over the world—they’re often said to be one of the most haunted places in all of America—and their dark, creepy nature draws in the skeptics and phobophiles (someone who loves dark, nightmarish, and macabre things) alike. The tunnels are located under the streets of the old town and the tunnels were in constant use for nearly a century, between 1850 and 1941 with illegal activity including human trafficking and prostitution. So many people died in these cheerless, filthy tunnels which visitors believe have left the ghosts of their tormented spirits behind. Nowadays, tourists are led through these dreary tunnels; many investigating the possibility of hauntings, where they hear disembodied voices, moaning, and screaming.

The Shanghai Tunnels of Portland

Downtown Portland has more of a draw than the simple shops and restaurants that tourists tend to enjoy visiting, in fact, there is something that lies just below their feet that they might not even be completely aware of. The 150-year-old tunnels that connect the basements of the city’s oldest buildings to the Willamette River and Portland’s own Chinatown are known across the world, but at the same time, there is a mystery and ambiguity to them. It’s said that the tunnels were originally built by Chinese workers during the time when Chinatown was the center for trade business. They were designed for transporting goods from cargo ships to the inner city so that the crews of the ships could avoid the hassles of traffic within the inner-city—this was excellent for the businesses of Portland because many of them used their basements to store their goods, which meant their deliveries would be sent directly to their storage space.

The Criminal Underground

Shanghaied Sailors

Once a small town, the port of Portland was quite large and was able to host several ships—these ships would have sailed for long periods of time to cross the Pacific Ocean before they would be able to unload in Portland. This long travel time meant that they had quite a bit less downtime after their months at sea and would spend most of their time in bars and saloons, drinking or fighting. Some of them took this downtime as an opportunity to abandon their career at sea, because of their increased fear of death by disease or injury. This abandonment of their post meant that ship captains would be left with a post unmanned and an inability to leave port without filling this position—the shadier of these captains would use crooked tactics to “shanghai” replacement sailors, capturing them through the tunnels and paying $50 a head for each man.

The way it was made possible, is that any man looking to make a quick buck would watch men who were drinking alone, then creep into drug their drinks—after the lone-drinker was sufficiently drugged or unconscious, they would be abducted and carried through the series of tunnels that led to the waterfront. These poor unsuspecting men would awake once they were at sea, with no way to escape and having been sold to the ship’s captain as slave labor—the only choices they had were to work or die of starvation. While it may seem as if it’s no more than a cautionary tale, but these stories are backed up by real evidence and are trusted as fact.

Cannibalism

There have also been some incredible tales regarding the shanghaied victims—disturbing tales of ship crews eating some of them—with trapdoors and pits within the tunnels filled with corpses. There is particular reference to the local legend of Bunko Kelly, the Kidnapping King of Portland, as being the first local reference to the plague of cannibalism.

Human Trafficking and Prostitution

Eventually, men traveling alone became wary of Shanghaiers and as a consequence became more difficult to abduct—instead these Shanghaiers began kidnapping women instead, since solo women who frequented drinking establishments were easy prey. Many such women had trapdoors opened out from under them and they would fall into the tunnels without any possibility of getting back out. These women were abducted into prostitution rings and ended up being held as groups in cages over long periods of time, which gave them enough time to secure buyers outside of Portland.

The Mob and Prohibition

During the days of prohibition, the Shanghai tunnels became an underground expressway—they would be used to transport shipments of liquor and spirits from ships on the Willamette River to bars, hotels, and taverns all over Portland. Bootleggers used the tunnels to conduct their illegal activities away from the eyes of police and prying eyes, but law enforcement would regularly raid bars making the day to day operations impossible for bar owners. In an effort to get around those difficulties, they would stash their liquor supply deep in the tunnels in order to avoid arrest for maintaining a supply of alcohol—this led to hidden doors being installed within bars so that when they were raided, there was an escape route until the police officers would leave the premises.

The Hauntings in the Tunnels

Unsurprisingly, these tunnels and their history of abduction, abuse, and corruption has caused them to be of huge interest to historians as well as the supernatural and paranormal investigators as well. To be honest, there is no better venue for ghosts than the musty, neglected, underground sites of this century-old criminal underground. The Northwest Paranormal Investigations teams have declared the Shanghai Tunnels to be the most haunted location in all of Oregon—and the Cascade Geographic Society regularly offers the “Shanghai Tunnels Ghost Tours,” as well as the “Heritage Tour.”

First-Hand Experience

In 2013, Ghost Mine hosts Kim Lunman and Patrick Doyle decided to conduct a ghost hunt inside of the tunnels due to the sheer number of reports of paranormal activity. Many visitors have shared that while on tours they have experienced ghostly encounters both in and around the tunnels—it’s common for them to report the sounds of people crying, moaning, and screaming while in the tunnels, but there are also experiences from the locals. In the nearby tavern and pizzeria, there have been reports of hearing, seeing, and smelling odd things during their visit to the business.

Dark Dreary Tunnel
Photography by Casey Horner

Experiences of Claustrophobia in the Cinema

While these movies might not exactly be about Portland’s infamous Shanghai Tunnels, they are great horror movies that give us that claustrophobic feeling and send chills down our spines. We invite you to check them out and let us know what you think!