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Port Chatham - The Haunted Ghost Town in Alaska

Today's researchers call Port Chatham the town that bigfoot destroyed. But is that true? There is a great deal of history that surrounds this location and it doesn't necessarily mean bigfoot was behind the making of this 'ghost town'.

Let's look at some history of the location and try to put things more in perspective.

First off, the only official name of this location is Portlock. It was named for the British Naval officer Nathaniel Portlock who allegedly came ashore here in 1787. Portlock was established in the early 19th century as a cannery town, mostly dealing with salmon. The population consisted mostly of Russian and Aleuts. There was a chromite mining town nearby named Chrome.

Around 1900 an American firm brought in a fishing fleet and built the cannery. In 1921, Portlock was granted an official post office.

The community made only two entries into the U.S. Census records. Once in 1940 with 31 residents. It did not appear again until 1980, again with 31 residents, after which it was removed from locations to conduct a census.

Now to the legends of how the community became a ghost town.

During World War II, there are alleged strange disappearances, murders and creature sightings which caused all equipment, buildings and personal belongings to be left behind. There is talk that there were bodies of hikers found and missing fishing boats reported.

Let's look at all these "stories".

1] There was said to be a prospector out surveying the land outside of town. It is said he climbed a tree to get his bearings and to see the lay of the land. He claimed once up there, he could see "devils" approaching his location. Although frightened, he was able to scramble down his tree and make it safely to his boat. He said that he felt if he had not been fortunate to have climbed that tree and seen them approaching, they would have killed him.

Modern bigfoot enthusiasts say that these were bigfoot coming for him, calling them "mountain apes" or "hairy men". However, the "devils" were said to be small hairy creatures -- not described as bigfoot at all.

2A] It is claimed that a "well respected man" was brutally murdered; his head crushed by a heavy piece of mining equipment.

No local police, or sheriff, or even federal agents were ever brought in to investigate this murder.

2B] The story of the murder of Andrew Kamluck is similar to the above "well respected man" and may be the same incident. This took place in 1931 when Kamluck was out logging. He was found dead in the woods from a blow to his head. The weapon was thought to a piece of log-moving equipment that was found nearby. It was claimed that the piece of equipment was too heavy to have been lifted by one person. The man was found at least 10 feet away and many dismiss that he could have slipped and hit his head.

There are reports throughout the years of people who have had head injuries or have struck their head and walked a few steps away before collapsing. There have even been incidents of head injuries where the injured person continued with every day activities for several days before collapsing and dying. So it cannot be entirely dismissed that this could not have been an accident.

3] Around 1931, Simeon Kvasnikoff tells a story of a gold miner who had headed out for the day and just disappeared. It is alleged they never found any sign of him.

A single man going off by himself to either his gold mine or still looking for one. It is not stated whether he had a claim or not publicly stated. Accidents happen in mines or underground all the time. If he fell somewhere and was unable to get out, it is reasonable to assume he perished there. And if he had told no one of his discovery, then they would not have known where to look for him.

4] Also around 1931, Tom Larsen went out to chop wood to make fish traps when he saw something large and hairy on the beach. He ran back home for a rifle. When he finally reached the water's edge, he said the creature just stared at him. Larsen could never explain why he didn't shoot it.

This story strikes me as not quite true. This was known to be a dangerous area and yet he goes out to chop wood without his rifle. It seems to me he should have had it with him for protection. There is also no explanation for why he would then want to go to the beach to shoot an unknown animal for no reason.

5A] A 1973 Anchorage newspaper printed a story about a retired schoolteacher who taught in Port Chatham [Portlock] during WWII. They claimed that cannery workers would go into the mountains hunting Dali sheep and bear but would never return. Allegedly search parties would go out looking for them but would find no trace.

5B] Later rumors were started that claimed that a mutilated body was recovered. It was "torn and dismembered," but not like a bear attack. The rumor said the body had been swept down the mountain by heavy rains and ended in the "lagoon".

Again, this was [and is] a wild, isolated area. It is entirely reasonable to expect some people to go into the woods and meet with accidents and not return. The description is "cannery workers" so we have no idea how expert of woodsmen they were. It can reasonably be expected that natural events could explain disappearances. As for a "torn and dismembered" body, there is nothing that states how old the body was. If the body was in heavy waters and being washed down the mountain, one could expect damages done to the body and also damage done due to decomposition.

6] Hunters following the signs of moose came across man-like tracks over 18 inches in length. After a bit, they were said to realize that they were tracking the same moose as this other being. Later on this trail, they came upon an area of matted down grass that seemed to show signs of a "life-and-death struggle." The moose tracks led in but did not lead out of this grassy area, but the man-like tracks continued up the mountain.

This story sounds very much like an experience with a bigfoot/sasquatch. However, it contains no elements that the hunters, despite tracking the being, were ever in any danger from the bigfoot. Typical type story told all over the world
.

7] Malania Helen Kehl claimed that the village grew tired of being terrorized by nantiinaq and abandoned their homes and moved to Port Graham.

When one examines the history of the area and the community, more plausible explanations come out. [See the end of the article for more about her stories.]

8] Early records by the Portlock Cannery management site are alleged to show that the site had been vacated once before. It was said that in 1905 all the Native workers evacuated the area because of "something" in the forest. They returned to work at the cannery the following year.

The "something" has never been defined. It could have been anything, including the alleged ghost that haunts the area, or bears, or danger of forest fires, a short run of salmon or something to do with Native traditions. The fact that they returned the next year tells us they did not permanently evacuate the area.

9] In 1968 a goat hunter claimed he was chased by a creature while he was hunting in the area.

Again, a story with no details. The "creature" has no description. It could have been a bear, for all we are told.

10] In 1973 three hunters were said to have taken shelter in the abandoned town during a three day storm. They said that each night they could hear something bipedal walking around their tent.

It appears the three men never looked outside the tent to see who or what was out there. It could have been a person. It could have been a bigfoot/sasquatch. The walking around a campsite is a typical action from them as reported by quite a few people. However, there was no actual threat or damage done to the campers. No monster here either.

11] In 1990 an Anchorage paramedic was called to aid a 70 year old Native heart attack victim. The man had been in the Eagle River jail north of the city. While the paramedic was treating the man, he casually mentioned that he had hunted in the Port Chatham area. The elderly man sat up, grabbed the paramedic by the shirt and demanded : "Did it bother you? Did you see it?" The paramedic replied that yes, something "bothered" him but he did not see it. The Native explained that he did not see it either, but that his brother did and was chased by "it."

Again, a possible bigfoot/sasquatch story. The actions appear similar to many other encounter/experience stories. Once again, the "it" is not described nor called a bigfoot. The encounter tells of being chased but not caught or injured in any way. Not the actions of a monster, but perhaps typical bigfoot behavior to cause a human to leave the area.

12A] In 1920 Albert Petka who lived on his boat near Nulato, Alaska, claimed to have been attacked by a "bushman". His dog was able to chase the creature away but unfortunately Petka's injuries proved to be fatal. However he was able to tell everyone what happened before he died.

12B] in 1943 a "violent attack" took place at DeWilde's camp near Ruby, Alaska. John Mire [or McQuire] also called "The Dutchman" was killed by an attacker thought to be the "bushman". He was badly beaten but his dogs were able to finally chase the killer away. Mire was able to get into a boat and travel to the nearest village for help. He died of internal injuries shortly after arriving there but he lived to tell his tale before dying.

Ah -- spooky, right?

But are the stories true? There are no public photos or offered official reports. Several of the stories run similar story lines and sound very much like Urban Legend material both in content and in story style.  Some seem to be based on a few facts. But honestly, in NONE of these stories [and similar ones] is there a shred of actual evidence that a bigfoot monster was involved.


For much of its life, this area was the home of cannery workers, miners, lumberjacks, people who lived a hard and hazardous life in a wild and mostly unexplored territory, far from big cities. Anyone who has done anything outdoors, from farming to hiking to hunting, knows there are many natural dangers that can kill a person or hurt them or even make them disappear without a trace.

But let's look at the elephant in the room -- the one major fact that Bigfoot Monster Addicts really ignore. What really caused the "death" of Portlock [Port Chatham].

In the 1940s, Alaska Route 1 was completed on the Kenai Peninsula. This highway finally provided an easier way to travel and to transport people and goods from Anchorage to all the towns located along the Peninsula. Ships were no longer needed to carry supplies to these remote locations. Small towns like Portlock, not on the route, became abandoned when the people chose to move to the towns nearer the highway and to get better jobs. Currently, it is said that only a single unpaved forest road leads towards Portlock. It passes a little over 6 miles away from Portlock -- leaving a bit of a distance to travel to reach that town. Some claim to make the trip via ATVs.

Now let's talk about Malania Helen Kehl's claims of the "monster" that chased all the people away. [Guess she doesn't remember that highway being constructed but then she was a child.]

She claimed that her parents and the other villagers grew tired of being terrorized by a creature they called "nantiinaq", meaning half man, half beast. She said everyone refused to go into the woods and so they moved up the coast to Port Graham.

Brian Dunning [skeptoid.com podcasts] looked into the name "nantiinaq" to derive it's meaning or origin. He discovered it appeared to not even be a real Native term but was possibly invented. It may come from the word "nant'ina" which is a folklore "monster" whose cautionary tales are designed to keep children from wandering too far away from home. It sounds much like our stories of the "boogeyman" that I was told while growing up. "Be good. Stay in the yard to play. Or the boogeyman will catch you and take you away."

It seems that only in MODERN bigfoot "research" have these Alaskan stories become bigfoot stories. The believers have tweaked the word "nant'ina" [monster] into "nantiinaq" and redefined it to mean a hairy giant. And according to way too many alleged bigfoot "researchers" any "hairy" or "giant" being from Native lore is automatically a bigfoot.

 

I'm not saying that there are not any bigfoot or sasquatch on the Kenai Peninsula. The climate and terrain look very favorable for it. And I won't say that people have not encountered a sasquatch or two while taking an adventure in the area. But let's be reasonable about it. Let's look for all possible explanations before jumping to conclusions. Could a bigfoot have figured in some of the stories I've listed here? Of course, it is possible. But did bigfoot close down this little canning town? I have to say a resounding NO.

And I'm sorry if that bursts some of your bubbles. But there is plenty of evidence and stories about sasquatch and bigfoot out there. We don't need to go around creating "Monster" stories just to get people's interest.

Thanks for reading,

Nancy

"I'll spark the thought; what you do with it is up to you."

 

Sources included :wikipedia, skeptoid.com/episodes/4772 [Brian Dunning],"The disturbing legend of Portlock Alaska" / Doc Vega Blog July 23, 2019

alaskamagazine.com,Homer Tribune story October 2009

kinyradio.com, texascryptidhunterblogspot.com,Anchorage Daily News, April 15, 1973

The Apes Among Us by John Green, Bigfoot Casebook updated by J & C Bord

www.ghosttown.com, onlyinyourstate.com


This Post By TCC Team Member Nancy Marietta. Nancy has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and cryptids. Nancy is also a published author and her book, The Price of war, has been met with great reviews.



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