Juneau’s historic Alaskan Hotel has a reputation of being haunted. One sailor decided to seek out the ghosts. It doesn’t end well.
Bettye Adams has owned the Alaskan Hotel for more than 40 years. When I ask her to show me Room 315, she isn’t thrilled.
“I just – it’s creepy. You know, I’ve never seen anything but I feel things,” Adams said.
Room 315 has two spartan-looking single beds with floral linen. There’s a painting of two women from the early century. I can’t be sure, but they appear to be working girls. And a replica antique phone hangs on the wall. There aren’t many clues that you’re still in the 21st century.
Now that we’re standing in Room 315, Adams is telling me this room isn’t unique.
“I would think there’s just as much haunting on the second floor,” Adams said. “There’s all kinds of haunting in the bar, in the basement, all kinds of things.”
But then Adams proceeds to tell me a disturbing story about Room 315. It was May 19, 2007. A guided missile cruiser, the USS Bunker Hill was in port but was due to leave the next day.
“And one of the sailors on it just emailed us and said he wanted the ‘haunted room’ and we were like ‘whatever… and put him here,” Adams said.
Juneau police officer Chris Gifford recalls getting a call about a disturbance at the Alaskan.
“There was a Navy ship in. There was a lot of people downtown that probably hadn’t been off the boat for a long time,” Gifford said.
Gifford switched on his recorder as he and his partner arrived at the hotel at about a quarter to twelve.
“So we went there, there’s a band playing,” Gifford said. “I remember a band playing in the bar – and people kind of just directing us to the upstairs.”
The door to Room 315 was locked.
“We’re still knocking on the door and a guy comes up and kind of whispers to me , ‘Hey I think your guy just jumped out the window,’” Gifford said.
22-year-old Americorps volunteer Jill Weitz was staying in a room below.
“I remember hearing yelling but kind of just assumed that it was coming from the bar downstairs,” Weitz said. “We hear glass shatter from above and within moments our window within our hotel room just shatters.”
The next building is only a few feet away. Caught between the buildings, the sailor apparently broke more than one window on his way down.
“His body hitting the window and shattering the glass into our rooms and then proceeding to fall down downward was mind-bending to say the least,” Weitz said.
The police officers broke down the door.
“The walls were covered in blood,” Gifford said. “There was – it looked like something very bad had happened in there and I didn’t know what it was but it didn’t look normal.”
Gifford said they didn’t know what to think – except that someone was badly hurt down below.
“You know, under Juneau you can down and see that it’s really built on pilings, the city really is,” Gifford said. “It’s like a tunnel down there and I didn’t know how to get into that tunnel if I needed to – we were going to have to figure that out.”
Incredibly, the young sailor was able to walk and made it to the street.
“He had injuries all over his body from head to toe,” Gifford said.
The man was medevaced out of Juneau and survived his injuries.
Bettye Adams said navy officers arrived the next morning to investigate. It was understood that they didn’t want publicity. There wasn’t anything in the newspaper. But…
“His mother called me from Arizona and said, ‘What do you mean renting a room that is haunted? You nearly killed my son,’” Adams said. “And I said, ‘I really really have nothing to do with that.’”
Adams said guests rarely report ghostly encounters, though…
“It’s with employees that it’s a real problem and they quit and go away,” Adams said.
But not everyone who works there.
“I’ve never been spooked – or seen nothing or – I found people who weren’t supposed to be here but they were in the flesh,’ local musician Scott Fry said. Fry has worked at the hotel since the ’90s. “There was a guy here last winter who swore that there was a whole SWAT team out back on the hillside ready to come in and get him but I think that might’ve been induced some other way.”
There have been a lot written about the Alaskan Hotel. Juneau writer Bjorn Dihle wrote Haunted Inside Passage last year which relates a version of this episode.
“You know when you think about it, history is a ghost story. And the more you think about history the haunting it becomes,” Dihle said. “But I know that if you think hard enough about something, especially if you’re confined in a dirty little room, thinking about it, after having a few drinks, you might think you see something. Our minds are so fickle and weak and vast at the same time.”
This horror story could’ve ended tragically. But is it a ghost story? The only one who might have an answer is a navy veteran who at his own request was put in a so-called haunted room at the Alaskan Hotel.