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Host invites curious to Anchorage's spookiest places

Mike Dunham
ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage hasn't been around for 100 years and may not be old enough to have many ghosts. But, if you're among those who believe in them -- and as many as half of Americans do, according to polls -- then Rick Goodfellow is ready to show you alleys, bars and even bathrooms where you might encounter specters that call our city home.

Goodfellow, general manager of classical music radio station KLEF, will start his daily Ghost Tours of Anchorage this month. He's already startled a few pub patrons who glance out the window to see the bewhiskered figure in top hat and tails as he makes rehearsal runs through allegedly haunted spots.

Some of the stops on the 90-minute tour include:

• The Boney Courthouse, named for a judge whose "presence," Goodfellow says, was felt by a former state attorney general who then prevailed on the governor to name the courthouse in honor of the perhaps not-fully-departed justice.

• The Anchor Pub and Club, on the site of a former theater where the staff refuses to go into the basement unless they go in pairs.

• The Gaslight Lounge, with unexplained noises, seismic activity and a jukebox that kicks on by itself.

• The women's bathroom of the Hotel Captain Cook, where a woman is said to have committed suicide in 1972; the operations manager sometimes has to go down and calm the troubled spirit, Goodfellow says.

• The Historic Anchorage Hotel, said to have at least 32 "entities" as permanent guests.

Goodfellow came up with the idea after taking a long-running ghost tour in Victoria, British Columbia. Visitors will find similar ectoplasmic excursions in many older towns, including Memphis, Tenn., Savannah, Ga., and New Orleans.

"I got to thinking it's a shame that no one's doing it in Anchorage," he said.

Since no one else was, he decided to try it himself. With his wife, artist Jan Ingram, Goodfellow began researching the project about two years ago.

"We started by asking everybody if they knew any ghost stories about Anchorage and if they had any personal experience with ghosts. We got lots of funny looks, but a number of people opened right up.

"The best ones, the ones that surprised me, came from extremely responsible people," he said. Among his sources: the former attorney general, a hotel manager and a retired broadcast executive.

Goodfellow also dug through old newspapers and documents to pinpoint the locales where he hoped to bring customers. One invaluable item was a detailed map of the city prepared by an insurance company in 1922. It supplied minutiae like the exact location of a stair in an alley where John Sturgis, Anchorage's first police chief, was shot in 1921.

On Wednesday night, Goodfellow stood where Sturgis' body was found. Sheltering from the cold drizzle under an umbrella, he pointed out that the current building also has an exit stairway in almost the same spot. (The umbrella is a functional prop; the tours will take place rain or shine.)

Research and showmanship aside, Goodfellow admitted that he is an "agnostic" concerning the paranormal. "I'd love it to be true. But you can't prove it by me," he said.

He's intrigued nonetheless and thinks others -- skeptics as well as believers -- will be curious too.

"One way or the other, everybody's interested," he said.

Reach Mike Dunham at mdunham@adn.com or 257-4332.


By MIKE DUNHAM
mdunham@adn.com