I arrived in Juneau earlier today, and after a sunny stop at the Mendenhall Glacier, I arrive by cab downtown. It’s pouring rain and Juneau is hopping! Tourists in pastel, cruise ship-issue hooded rain ponchos are trying to avoid the drippy eaves. I navigate through the crowd and enter the Alaskan Hotel.
The Alaskan Hotel is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is the oldest operating hotel in Juneau. It was finished in 1913 as a hotel for the upper class, although it feels like it hails from the earlier Gold Rush days. It includes several pieces of stained glass, including a Tiffany piece in the lobby.
This place is a hoot! I start smiling halfway up the stairs. I had reserved Room 221, a European-style room with toilet and bathtub down the hall. I was happy to find a sink, and tried to ignore the TV, which was jarring to the ambiance of the room. An antique phone hangs on the wall, one of the ‘60s replicas that has push buttons in the rotary dial where the crank should be. The room faces out onto the main street, which sounds just like Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Although this room is said to be haunted, it doesn’t feel like other haunted places I have visited, so I think nothing of it, and after calling the front desk to set up a 6 AM wake up call, head back downstairs to see the sights.
My tour of Juneau included taking the tram up Mt. Roberts, seeing the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (built in 1893), the Governor’s Mansion (built in 1913 and the current resident of Sarah Palin), and shopping at the Russian American Company. I then headed over to the Red Dog Saloon, dating back to the gold rush days but moved to its current location in the 1970’s. I find a sawdust floor, rustic interior, and a barkeep that starts giving you lip the second you walk in. I order a whiskey at the bar.
Time flies, and soon it’s 8:30 PM and last call. The homeless people start staking out doorways, and there’s a young guy that I manage to walk by at least 3 times, who smiles and says hello every time I pass by, regardless of what street I am on. I return to the hotel and its quaint Victorian furnishings, for what I expected to be a quiet and uneventful night.
But something else was in store …
September 8, 2008 – A ‘wake up’ call in Juneau
I have been asleep in my room for a couple of hours when I hear someone step up to my bed, and feel a warm hand on my shoulder. I had scheduled a wake-up call for 6 AM, so my first thought was that the ‘wake-up call’ was a personal visit. When I turn over, no one is there…
I look at the time and think the clock says 7:07 AM (which means I have just missed my ferry) but when I sit up and look again, the time is actually 2:07 AM. The sensation of warmth from that hand on my shoulder lasts for a few more hours …
At 4 AM, I sense someone nearby and hear a female call out for ‘Sarah’. I again turn over to find no one there. The visitations are not uncomfortable, but are enough to keep me from going back to sleep.
Then, close to 5 AM, a man on the floor above me starts a horrid, painful sounding cough with bouts every 10-15 minutes. I remember the recommendation from an Alaskan friend that I get vaccinated against whooping cough, as there had been a recent outbreak in Juneau. It’s the one thing I forgot to do before coming here.
I exit the hotel an hour later, foregoing a shower in the shared bath down the hall, and hop straight into my cab, and onto the ferry that would take me to Sitka…
You can read about the rest (non-haunted parts) of this trip at Daveno Travels.
* * *
Heather Daveno is from Seattle, Washington, where she works as an office manager by day
and a self taught hatmaker by night. She spent most of her pandemic lockdown in 2020-2021 creating 800 masks for the Masks4Millions project.
In a normal year, her travels inspire her hats, which she handcrafts from reclaimed textiles and found objects. You can find her hats and masks for sale at August Phoenix Hats. She is currently reissuing her original journals as “Director’s Cuts” with expanded text and previously unpublished photos, which you can read for free at Daveno Travels.