The Chilkoot trail is a daunting and strenuous hike, most definitely not for the faint of heart. This 33-mile trail is half in the U.S. and half in Canada. It begins near Skagway, AK and ends in Bennett, British Columbia in Canada. Following this trail will take you the same route as the thousands of people who traveled it in hopes of finding gold in the late 1800’s. With that many people traveling the same path in a span of days, multiple deaths are to be expected. Environmental difficulties, illness and even the occasional murder were some of the tragedies that befell them on their way to finding treasure. Haunting tales tend to follow places that have seen heavy losses, and this one has a few chilling stories that accompany it as well.
The second largest gold rush in American history was started by three men, but it was two dreams and a special frog that led them in the right direction. Skookum Jim, a Tlingit Indian found a trapped frog while walking through a forest. He placed a board in the hole that had swallowed the frog, which then allowed the frog to free itself.
Jim returned to his home in Dyea, then months later he was injured by a blow to the stomach. He was near death with an open sore on his swollen and damaged abdomen, when he woke to find a frog licking his wound. A few days later he began to heal.
Fast forward a few months and Jim had a dream while out camping. He dreamt of a golden, shining woman who told him that she had healed him for saving her life. She then pointed him in the direction that would bring him good fortune.
Little did he know that another man named George Carmack had also dreamt of golden things. He had a dream of a small stream and blue-green water that held salmon with golden scales. This led him in the same direction as Skookum Jim. The two met in Dyea and continued their journey together. In a span of four years they acquired nearly one million dollars, which they split three ways with the third man who helped them.
This discovery brought about the Klondike Gold Rush. Nearly 30,000 people stampeded the area hoping to claim some gold for themselves. The trail was extremely arduous and required a tremendous amount of equipment. To this day you can still find remnants of discarded items from over a century ago, abandoned along the trail.
Many people lost their lives along the way. One man had lost all of his possessions, twice, trying to reach his goal. The second time proved too much for him and he took his own life. His grave can be found along the trail. Another unknown man was found dead with a bullet in the back of his head. He was never identified and his gravestone is marked Noscitur, which is Latin for unknown. Nearly 50 people were killed by an avalanche near Dyea and you can still see their graves in the cemetery there.
With all of these people flooding the area, Skagway, AK saw most of the traffic. Many of the older buildings there still carry the drifting remnants of the spirits, whose bodies perished long ago. The Golden North Hotel is haunted by a ghost named Mary. Pneumonia took her life while she was waiting for her fiancé to return from the Chilkoot trail. Guests staying in room 23 have reported seeing a woman ghost or a ghostly light wandering around. Others have been woken up by a choking feeling in the middle of the night.
The Red Onion Saloon is another well-known haunted establishment where mysterious things happen regularly. Footsteps have been heard walking or running around when nobody is there to make them. In one instance after chasing the sound of footsteps a figure was seen entering a room, but when the figure was followed the room was empty.
It seems like the places where history has made the deepest marks are often the same areas where strange phenomenon occurs. It’s as if the tragedies and sins of distant humanity is forever there to haunt us and the people who witnessed it won’t let us forget. Their spirits hang around for centuries reminding us that times and people change.
If you have your heart set on taking this trail, then it’s important to be prepared. This can be a very dangerous path, so be sure to do some research before showing up ready to go. Certain permits and requirements are necessary in order to make the journey and only 50 people are allowed to go each day. So make sure you know what you need before you get there.