Thank you very much for taking the time to read the first blog post I have ever attempted in my life.
I would like to take this opportunity in this, my first venture into internet writing, to thank the members of my publishing company for their hard work in making this all possible. I also want to thank my dear wife, Katie, for the countless hours she spent editing, advising, website creating and putting up with her rather impatient and demanding husband. I couldn’t have done any of this without her, and she continues to be a daily inspiration and a shining example of what humans who are far more attractive than I look like. Finally, I want to thank my parents. They planted the seed that grew into the little tree that is “The Spirits of Southeast Alaska” and this blog.
You see, my little ghost/history book was started well before I ever stepped foot in Alaska, beginning in earnest during the family vacations of my youth. Each summer we took a break from the monotony of city life and traveled somewhere we could reconnect to our surroundings and to each other. Sometimes we would spend a week full of sunburn and fun on a sandy beach. Sometimes we spent our time believing in magic again in one of Florida’s many amusement parks. Sometimes it was just a quick trip north of our Chicago home to the lake lands of Wisconsin. But the vacations most often taken–and by far my favorites–were the epic American road trips. We would pile into our old minivan, cram the back with camping gear and comfort food, and set off on the open road. As long as I wasn’t looking out my brother or sister’s window, which my siblings and I strangely agreed was forbidden (everyone has their limits), I was able to take in sights that instilled in me a life-long curiosity for the world we live in.
Our family would tour national parks, paddle down raging rivers, hike through rugged mountains and camp under starry skies. Many a night we would sit around the campfire, bellies loaded with sugar from s’mores, and listen to my father tell ghost story after ghost story. There were a few definite favorites we often heard, such as the story of the Lady of the Lake, who lost her child to a drowning during a terrible storm. She was so overcome by grief that she ended her own life in those waters, only to return on moonlight nights to search in vain for her baby. There was the story of the hunter and his beloved pet monkey, the envy of the hunter’s assistant. In a jealous rage one night, the assistant killed the monkey only to have it return from beyond the grave to wreak havoc on the lives of whomever he found. Finally, there was the H. G. Wells inspired tale of people living below the earth who would creep out from their labyrinths at night seeking food in the form of their distant human cousins. Needless to say, we did not sleep well on these camping trips, as every story told just happened to occur upon the ground on which we slept.
Campfire stories like those are perhaps as old as speech itself. A warning to children that not all who enter the woods are safe; that they must remain on their guard lest misfortune befall them. They are meant to entertain, to frighten, and, perhaps, to keep children who are loaded to the gills with sugar from running off into the woods like maniacs.
But not all ghost stories are born of imagination and myth. Some have credence. Some have the backing of a trusted eyewitness or even scientific evidence to support them. It was those stories that truly caught my young imagination. A must-do stop on every family trip was a ghost tour. In St. Augustine, Gettysburg, San Antonio, New Orleans–anywhere with a sense of the past–there was always a walking tour that took us through ancient streets and told us tales of real-life ghosts, richly woven into the historic tapestry of our surroundings. We were handed electromagnetic frequency detectors that were supposed to signal when ghosts were near and handheld devices that could record phantom voices. We were shown photographic evidence of spirits captured in the places we were standing. Though we never received signals from the spirits, and while none of the devices I held ever produced conclusive evidence, the sincerity of the guides and the facts they presented convinced me their words were true.
These tales were different than those of my father. There was none of the tongue-in-cheek humor, none of the thinly veiled fiction. These were real. Ghosts were real. I began reading everything I could on the subject of paranormal phenomena. Eventually, I got older and my fascination with ghosts faded, but my love of history and adventure burned on. So strong was the pull that I found myself looking for a career that would involve both, which is how I came upon archaeology. For more than a decade now, I have been lucky enough to work throughout the United States, trudging through farm fields, scaling mountains, boating down virgin rivers, all with one goal in mind: to find what those who came before us left behind and tell their stories—the stories history forgot.
In 2005, this great adventure I set out upon brought me to Alaska for the first time. A lifelong outdoorsman and an avid reader of the likes of Jack London and Robert Service, I had always dreamed of seeing the last, great American frontier. It has since become a home, a breeding ground for personal growth and creativity. It is where I found and fell in love with my beautiful wife, who was kind enough to edit this book. It is where I found friendships with truly like-minded people, dedicated to the same principles in life as I am. It is where I found myself. There is nothing like the challenges of true wilderness to put one to the test, to boil down all the trivialities surrounding daily life until all that is left is the clean, pure marrow of the soul. Nobody who steps foot on this great land can ever truly walk away. Alaska is a ghost, forever haunting my subconscious.
Of course, being that it is Alaska, archeology is typically a seasonal occupation, and often a poor paying one at that. To fill the financial gaps I have found myself working jobs that the little boy by the campfire could have never imagined he’d be doing someday. I have built log cabins cut right from the surrounding forest. I have guided people up into the wilderness of the coastal mountains and rafted them back to civilization. I even brought a sleepy, little mountain town its news via the local radio station. It is in this occupation that the idea to write this book was born. One fall, while working for KHNS, the sole radio station of Haines, Skagway and Klukwan, I conceived the idea of having local residents come forth with ghost stories for a special Halloween broadcast.
The response was overwhelming. Both my email account and my ear at the local saloon became flooded with people eager to tell me the strange things they’ve seen, the unexplained phenomena that happened to them or a trusted friend. In a short time, I had enough tales to fill an encyclopedia. Unfortunately, archaeology once again called me away from my Alaska home before the broadcast could come to fruition, but the stories lingered in my mind. During the long, lonely nights I spent protecting America’s cultural resources during the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I began writing the stories down, condensing them into the clean, pure essence of Southeast Alaska’s paranormal phenomena.
I tried to include not only the most viable of ghost stories in the book, I also included stories that help tell, in the most general of terms, the rich history of Alaska. It is important to me that the reader understands the historical background of these ghost stories, as without such information these tales are merely campfire s’mores, delicious but lacking any sustaining qualities.
It is my hope that this blog continues in the tradition my book began. As often as possible, I will post interesting and relevant articles, elaborations on the chapters of the book ruthlessly edited out by my publisher and dear wife without thought to my frail self-esteem, commentary on interesting historical events on the day they took place, and other such literary snacks to keep you munching on my words. Incidentally, if you haven’t purchased my book yet, it is available through numerous links under the Spirits of Southeast Alaska tab at the top of the page. Might I recommend purchasing the Amazon Kindle e-book, as you can start on it as soon as it downloads, save a few trees and put a few more dollars in my pocket than I would get from the paperback version.
And now for the most important part. This is where you come in, my reader. Should you have an interesting paranormal story from anywhere in the world you would like to share for possible inclusion in a later publication of mine or in this blog, OR, if you have any historical tidbit you would like further explored by this archaeologist and historian, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My sincerest thanks for sticking around till the end, and I look forward to producing content worthy of having you back.