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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 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.

Categories
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.