Friday, January 17, 2014

Alaska’s Copper Railroad Ghosts

One area is said to have more ghostly activity than all others in Alaska. This activity is the result of one of the richest copper and gold strikes, during the state’s frontier history in the Valdez-Chitina district.

The Kennecott mines, the communities that sprang up around these mines, and the railroad that serviced them all have paranormal activity that is so scary that seventy-five years later, people still refuse to re-settle the area.

Like many of Alaska’s strikes the Kennecott mines were in a remote area that was hard to reach. Located in the Wrangell Mountains, the ore had to be brought out from deep inside these mountains. But this was just the first challenge.

The ore was then carried across a 3-mile aerial tramway before it was conveyed 4,000 feet down a steep frozen mountainside to the mining town of Kennecott. From here it was loaded onto the Copper River and Northwestern Railway.

This railway consisted of a 200-mile track that crossed the Kennecott Glacier to Cordova on Prince William Sound. The ore then was shipped south to smelters in Tacoma, Washington.

One section that remains
J.P. Morgan financed the Kennecott Copper Corporation, which built this railroad between 1907 and 1911. It cost 20 million dollars at the time--in today’s terms, this amount would be 458 million dollars. 

This investment in the end financially paid off in wealth. But it came at a much higher price--the loss of many human lives.

Part of this railroad spanned a massive glacier-- because of this the tracks had to be moved regularly, for this glacier shifted and settled steadily. Over 128 bridges had to be built many over deep canyons.

Even more of this track had to be laid on narrow treks, that just barely hugged the sides of steep rock walls, that dropped off steeply. At the bottom was the rushing waters of the Copper River.

This construction required over 1000 workers. At every turn, they faced new perils. They often dug through ice, snow, and avalanches. Others set blasts to move mountainsides to lay more track.

Many of these workers lost their lives during this construction. The Copper River and Northwestern Railroad were called the CR & NW for short, but many of the workers at the time stated this acronym actually stood for, “Can’t Run and Never Will.”

One narrow passage that the
Copper Railroad passed through.
Even more good men lost their lives during the mining boom that lasted for 30 plus years. 

Several small communities near the town of Kennecott sprang up during this boom. One such city, McCarthy, which was adjacent to Kennecott, offered diversions such as gambling, saloons, and brothels. 

When the mines played out, these communities became ghost towns overnight. One of the few that survived was McCarthy because it had several gold mines nearby. 

As time passed, scary stories started to circulate about the Copper Railroad and the areas that surrounded its broken down tracks. It was said this area was not only haunted but that several of the old boomtowns were as well.

Tourists have shown the local residents of Chitina, photos they have captured of mysterious children and old miners in the surrounding area but they cannot be identified.

In the forest next to the old tracks many witnesses have seen full-bodied apparitions, both during the day and at night.

When the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park was established the old Copper Railroad grade was used to build a road that leads to this park. The small town of Chitina west of this park is now a tourist spot with summer cabins, etc. to rent.

Many visitors to this town have stated they have seen a strange phenomenon along this road. As they head for the park, they report seeing old tombstones just off the dirt path that is parallel to the former Copper Railroad. 

These same tourists state that when they head back down this road, these tombstones are no longer there. People have tried to photograph them but to no avail.

In the 1990s, the state of Alaska decided to develop this area once more. They sent construction workers to build government housing along part of the trail, that was the CR & NW Railroad.

But during this construction, the workers started to report seeing “full-bodied apparitions” walking around and hearing “disembodied voices” of both children and adults alongside the old tracks.

This activity became so pronounced it prevented these workers from doing their job. Their tools started to vanish--often taken by unseen hands right out of their tool belts and boxes. This scared them to the point, where they refused to stay.

Because of this, the decision was made by the state to abandon the project altogether. Since no one has dared to try and resettle in this area.

This part of Alaska is still remote. In the winter, like many places in the state, this park is closed.


Ghost and Girl said...

I don't know if it is related to the copper, or to the act of mining itself (which even today is still a dangerous occupation), but in South Australia there are a number of old copper mining towns famous for their ghosts. Some people claim that the combination of the copper in the ground and the level of the water table create an atmosphere perfect for paranormal activity. How you would go about proving or disproving that, I have no idea.
But then, in other states it's the old gold mining towns that have the ghosts, and even modern-day uranium mines are claiming paranormal activity. It makes me wonder!

Virginia Lamkin said...

I have encountered many people over the years that believe minerals do enable hauntings. But of course this can not be proved.
I have also encountered many who believe ghosts manifest regardless--that environmental conditions do not come into play.
Good question--thanks for your comment.