A collection of twenty stories showcasing the supernatural legends and unsolved mysteries of Southeast Alaska, with a focus on the region between Yakutat and Petersburg, where the author has lived his entire life, writing, teaching, guiding, commercial fishing, and investigating ghost stories. Each chapter is rooted in Bjorn’s own adventures and will intertwine fascinating history, interviews, and his reflections. Bjorn’s writing, sometimes poignant and often wickedly funny, brings to mind Hunter S. Thompson and Patrick McManus.
Chapters touch on legends such as Alexander Baranov, Soapy Smith, James Wickersham, and the Kóoshdaa Káa (Kushtaka) to lesser known but fascinating characters like “Naked” Joe Knowles and purported serial killer Ed Krause. From duplicitous if not downright diabolical humans to demons of the fjords and deep seas and cryptids of the forest, Bjorn presents a lively cross-section of the haunter and the haunted found in Alaska’s Inside Passage.
|Publisher:||Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Lifelong Alaskan Bjorn Dihle is a writer who’s been published in the magazines Sierra, Alaska, Desert Companion, Coast & Kayak, Adventure Kayak, North of Ordinary, Earth Island Journal, High Country News, Birdwatching, Alaska Sporting Journal, Hunt Alaska, and Fish Alaska.
He writes a weekly outdoors column for the Juneau Empire newspaper (“Off the Beaten Path”), a column for Hunt Alaska Magazine (“Red Gold”), and has a bimonthly column for Fish Alaska Magazine (“Cautionary Tales”).
When not writing, Bjorn works as a wilderness and wildlife viewing guide, an instructor for the University of Southeast Alaska's Outdoor Studies Program and at the Mental Health Unit of Bartlett Regional Hospital. Haunted Inside Passage is his first book.
Read an Excerpt
The story begins with founding of Sitka, one of the most beautiful and interesting small cities in North America. Situated at the ramparts of the rugged mountains of Baranof Island and looking out toward the big ocean, it's considered the second capital of Alaska. Kodiak was first. The Shee Atika' Tlingit were the masters of the area, including the sea otter pelt trade, when Alexander Baranov showed up with his fleet of Aleut hunters in 1799 to try to establish the small settlement, “New Archangel,” nearby. The Tlingit attacked the fort and massacred its inhabitants in 1802. Two years later, Baranov returned with a flotilla of nearly 1,000 men, mostly Aleut hunters. Before attempting to reestablish New Archangel, Baranov paraded his force through much of Southeast Alaska to strike fear and respect into the different Tlingit clans. In late September of 1804, after a series of failed negotiations and hostilities, the Russian began bombarding the Tlingit fort near Indian River just outside of where downtown Sitka stands today. After several days, and many casualties on both sides, the Tlingit made a long and difficult exodus through the woods and mountains to the other side of the island.
There is a cloud of controversy and, at least on my part, almost disbelief surrounding Alexander Baranov. How does a humble Russian merchant who, supposedly largely out of boredom, decided to try his hand in the Siberian fur trade and became bankrupt after an attack by Chukchi Natives, end up, mostly by his own devices, building a Russian Empire in Alaska? He was in his mid-forties when he signed on to the Russian-American Company. He never saw his country or Russian family again. The twenty-eight years he spent securing a foothold for Russia and dominating the fur trade were filled with adventure, violence, and dramatic cultural change. Aleut hunters employed by the company traveled all the way down to California in search of sea otters. Baranov married a Kenai Native and had two children, to whom he was reportedly a good father and for whom he had much affection. Shortly before he was relieved of his post, Baranov sent his son to be educated in Moscow and watched his daughter marry a Russian lieutenant. En route back to Moscow, he died on April 16, 1819, aboard the Kutuzov. He was buried in the blue waters of the Pacific.
Baranov Castle was said to have been the Russian administration building for all of Alaska. One of the earliest bits of documentation of a ghost haunting the castle came from writer, adventurer, and first female board member of National Geographic Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore. She wrote in a guidebook to Alaska and the Northwest that, “Two young officers of the U.S.S. Adams and the purser of the Idaho manufactured a ghost story to meet the demands of the first pleasure travelers in 1883, who insisted that the deserted and half-wrecked castle must be haunted. A Lucia di Lammermoor, condemned to marry against her will, killed herself, or was killed by a returned lover, in the drawing-room, the long apartment on the second floor, north side, adjoining the ball-room, where she walks at midnight.”
The Baranov Castle possessed a lighthousethe first ever built in Alaskaand its keepers reported it was haunted. One modern-day lighthouse keeper told me virtually every lighthouse is haunted. It's not hard to imagine the ghosts of those lost to sea attracted to a beacon in the darkness, kind of like a moth drawn to a lightbulb. There are a variety of legends circulating around the origin and nature of the ghost. The most popular is that Baranov sent his daughter's lover away to Siberia, told the poor girl the boy had died and forced her to marry someone she despised. On the day of her wedding she killed herself. Another story is that the exiled lover came home, found the princess with another man and murdered her. Since one or the other tragic end, her ghost periodically manifested, filled the castle with the smell of roses and scared the lighthouse keepers.
It's a great story, but Baranov was governor until he left Alaska and the only potential Russian princess was his own daughter, Irina, born from his Alaska Native wife. He watched Irina be married, apparently quite happily. The Boston Alaskan, a 1906 publication about the northern territory, relates the romantic, tragic tale of Princess Olga Arbuzoff, which follows in the same vein as the other stories:
“The tragic story of Olga Arbuzoff, a niece of Governor Moraveff, still holds its interest, though the incident occurred four-score years ago. The Princess Olga, who was beautiful to look upon, was in love with a midshipman, by name, Demetrius Davidoff. Young, handsome, and accomplished, he was not considered so fitting a match as old Count Vasilieff, whose face was ugly and his morals questionable. The stern uncle diplomatically sent the midshipman on a six months' cruise. In the meantime, preparations were made for the marriage of the princess and the count. On the fifth of March, 1862, the wedding occurred. On the evening of that day young Davidoff returned and made his way at once to the castle. The princess, upon seeing him, screamed, and throwing herself into his arms, snatched his dagger from his side and, plunging it into her heart, fell at his feet dead. In an instant the horror-stricken youth had grasped the dagger and thrusting it deep into his own heart, fell dead by the side of the princess. The next day both lovers were buried in one grave.”
Table of Contents
1. The Mysteries of Yakobi Island
2. The Ghost of Castle Hill
3. A Testament to Ice
4. The Ghosts of Juneau's Past
5. The Terrible Fate of the Clara Nevada
6. The King Con of the Klondike
7. Ghosts of Skagway
8. The Kóoshdaa Káa Chronicles
9. The Legends of Thomas Bay
10. The Sinking of the Islander and the Legend of Its Lost Gold
11. The Ghosts of the House of Wickersham
12. The Curious Case of “the most Diabolical Murderer in Alaska's History”
13. The Tragedy of the Princess Sophia
14. Trouble with Bigfoot
15. The Witches of Southeast Alaska
16. It Came from the Depths: A Brief History of Southeast Alaska’s Sea Monsters
17. The Haunting of the Mount Edgecumbe Hospital
18. Ghosts of the Alaskan Hotel
19. Naked Joe: Alaska's Most Famous and Least Known Ghost
20. Juneau's Front Street Ghosts
What People are Saying About This
“As someone entranced by eerie stories, Alaska history, and the primal landscape of the Southeast Alaska, I was thoroughly charmed by Haunted Inside Passage. Bjorn Dihle is an ideal guide—friendly, curious, and funny—as he navigates through historical accounts, local lore, firsthand anecdotes, and his own weird and wonderful experiences. But this book offers more than an entertaining exploration of ghosts, myths, monsters, and assorted mysteries. By the end, I understood better our desire to believe stories frightening and fantastic, and I felt more keenly the dark connections between deep wilderness and the human psyche. The plot twist I didn’t expect is that Haunted Inside Passage is as much about the exuberance of life in Southeast Alaska as it is about uncanny deaths.”
—Sherry Simpson, author of Dominion of Bears and The Accidental Explorer
For the maximum experience, read the twenty stories in consecutive order. Some are fun, such as crusty fishermen who've tangled with sea monsters, my search for Sasquatch that ends in a casino, and the ghost of a nude survivalist with a zeal for publicity. Others will leave you wondering, such as the disappearance of fifteen sailors during first contact between Russians and Tlingits, the tales of the Kóoshdaa Káa haunting the rain forest, and the curious case of Alaska's first supposed serial killer. Some will break your heart, like the spirits of Mount Edgecumbe Hospital, or the sinking of the Princess Sophia and the ghosts of gold rush prostitutes said to still be at unrest. All in all the book offers a window, for local and visitor alike, into the murky history of Southeast Alaska. Hopefully it will leave you haunted.