Fort Seward hauntings investigated

 

February 6, 2020



Those who believe Haines is haunted may finally have the confirmation they’ve been seeking. “Ghost Hunters” has come to town, and while the cast and crew of the paranormal investigation reality TV series cannot comment on their work before the show’s air date later this spring, their presence has unearthed tales of supernatural encounters from a number of Haines residents.

So far, the ghost-hunting team has spoken to locals including Lee Heinmiller, Skylar McGuire, and Travis Kukull about the history of Fort Seward and their encounters with ghosts.

Kukull said the team interviewed him about a paranormal encounter he experienced his first summer in Haines while working and living at the Hotel Halsingland. “It’s a creepy, old hotel with a lot of history,” Kukull said. “I immediately thought it was ‘The Shining.’ That’s what everybody thinks when they walk in.”

That summer nearly 14 years ago, an old man appeared in Kukull’s room at the hotel and grabbed him by the arm, he said. “He looked kind of like an old, black and white film. It didn’t have any speaking, it was clipping in and out. I felt paralyzed until he disappeared, and then I screamed.” Kukull said this was the first time he had ever encountered a ghost.


Until then, Kukull said he liked the idea of believing in ghosts, but “you don’t really believe that kind of stuff is going to happen to you.”

The last time Kukull worked at the hotel, he had several paranormal experiences. Each time, he was sleeping with his back facing the door and heard someone walk into the room, keys jingling, “and then someone tried to shake me awake,” he said. Like his encounter with the old man, Kukull couldn’t speak or move until the apparition vanished. He began sleeping facing the door to avoid being crept up on.

After these encounters, he called his wife, Rachel Kukull, to tell her what had happened. “She told me she didn’t believe in ghosts,” Kukull said. “She said it was more likely a demon.”

Kukull said he told Halsingland owner Shannon Butcher about the experience. “She believed me,” he said, “but told me there were no other rooms available.” Kukull read articles suggesting his experience might be sleep paralysis, which helped him feel better at the time, he said. “But it never happened to me anywhere else.”

The ghost hunters “told me it was a good interview,” Kukull said. “They told me my stories were super frightening, and I thought, uh oh, I scared the ghost hunters.”

A description on the show’s website says the ghost-hunting team combines knowledge from forensic experts, historical records, and “the most innovative technology available” to “help everyday people who are struggling with unexplained supernatural phenomena. The team is committed to discovering the truth to give relief to those plagued by paranormal activity and will follow the evidence they uncover wherever it may lead.”


Lee Heinmiller said the ghost hunters asked him to tour them around the barracks building and explain the history of the fort, which Heinmiller knows well from having lived there his entire life. Heinmiller said he has seen past “Ghost Hunters” episodes and that it features the team “wandering around in the dark in places where paranormal activity has occurred.”

Ghost-hunting technology described on the show’s website includes a “data logger” to record environmental data like temperature, air pressure, humidity, and electromagnetic fields so that the team can try to understand changes in environmental conditions in relation to any inexplicable visual or audio phenomena; a “Tri-Field Natural EMF Detector” to monitor electromagnetic field changes in as much detail as possible to prove or disprove paranormal activity claims; and 4K infrared cameras to record apparitions invisible to the naked eye.

Heinmiller said he believes in ghosts. He said he has a friend who speaks to the dead and knew things about Heinmiller’s parents after they had passed that there was no way anyone could possibly know.

“People are just around the corner and some people can walk around that corner,” Heinmiller said. He spoke of shamans who could cross that divide between the living and the dead.

“I don’t believe in ghosts because they’re not real,” 5-year-old Haines resident Piper Carlson said. A number of her classmates believe in them, she said, but she thinks it would be difficult to see a ghost because “they’re white and they blend in.”


Last summer, Piper said she lived next to a haunted house on Oslund Drive that she and friends would explore. “Someone threw a rock in the haunted house.” Piper said she doesn’t know where the rock came from but she suspects it was a goblin. “Goblins are real,” she said. But she knows ghosts aren’t “because your spirit dies when you die.”

Whether ghosts, goblins, demons or something else entirely is to blame, “Haines has this weird limbo vibe to it,” Kukull said. “It feels like it never really changes, like it’s between worlds, especially in the winter.”

The A&E show Ghost Hunters has had 12 seasons since it began airing in 2004. The crew is in Haines this week filming part of season 13, which is expected to air around May 2020.

 
 

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