Once upon a time, Portlock, Alaska was a vibrant, lively town with a thriving community and a bright future ahead of it. Today, that future lies in ruins, as does the town itself.
Portlock is one of Alaska’s most notorious ghost towns. All that remains is some rusted cannery equipment, a mine tunnel, and a few crumbling houses.
While Portlock, may be abandoned, it’s also a must-visit for those with a sense of adventure. It’s one of the spookiest and most memorable stops on any Alaskan vacation. If you’ve got the stomach for adventure and a taste for the macabre, here are 10 reasons to visit this unheard of town in Alaska.
1. It’s Alaska’s creepiest town
As skeptoid.com says, America’s Pacific Northwest has always been ground zero for stories of Bigfoot, and you can’t get much farther northwest than Alaska.
While the entire state is rich in tall tales about even taller monsters, Portlock has the distinction of being the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to Bigfoot lore.
Portlock, or Port Chatham as it’s also known, was established in the early twentieth century as a cannery town. For the first decade or so, things ran smoothly enough, but then strange things started happening.
An unexplained creature began terrorizing the town, stalking and killing its residents and leaving the community in crisis. By 1949, the remaining townsfolk got fed up of pulling dismembered bodies out of the river and left on mass, never to return.
2. It started with a lie
Portlock folk always had a habit of telling a few white lies. Whether that ran to making up stories about Bigfoot remains to be seen.
What we do know for certain is that the town’s original claim to fame was a great big fib. Before Bigfoot lay waste to the community, the town’s fishermen, lumbermen, and miners all liked to boast that the British naval captain, maritime fur trader, and author Nathaniel Portlock, had anchored and provisioned there in 1786.
As it turns out, he did nothing of the kind, having skipped the town for an area upstream in the vicinity on Cook Inlet instead.
3. It’s got a horrid history
Whether Bigfoot was to blame or not, no one can deny that Portlock had a run of bad luck in the years leading up to its demise.
Just some of the horrible happenings to have darkened its days include the case of Andrew Kamluck, who was found dead in 1931 after suffering a vicious blow to the head.
At some other unspecified time in its history, a group of cannery workers went for a walk in the hills, never to come back. Later, one of their horribly mutilated bodies (or all of their bodies, depending on which source you believe) was washed downstream into Portlock.
On another occasion, hunters tracking a moose discovered 18-inch human-like footprints leading up to a flattened bush. The moose, meanwhile, had mysteriously disappeared.
Another resident, a fisherman by the name of Tom Larson, reported seeing a huge hairy monster lumbering around the beach. He went home to get his rifle, but by the time he returned, it was nowhere to be seen.
4. The evidence doesn’t stack up
All those grisly deaths and scary sightings you just read about? They never reached the national papers.
When researchers dug through the newspapers from the 1700s through to 1963, the only thing they turned up about the town was the odd mining or fishing story.
Only one death was reported during the entire time, an accident involving a young man in 1920. Although the details of the accident weren’t elaborated on, it’s hardly surprising when you consider how many accidents have happened in mining, fishing, and lumbering communities over the years.
5. There’s no explanation
Whether you accept the story of Bigfoot as truth or fiction, the one thing no one can deny is that Portlock turned from a thriving community into an abandoned ghost town over the course of just a few decades. And there has to be a reason for that.
Stories of dismembered bodies and strange happenings might have been enough to give a couple of people cause to pack up and leave, but an entire town?
As co-founder of Juneau’s Hidden History, Brian Week, told astonishinglegends.com, “Those people did leave the town. We know when the town and post office shut down. We know that there are reported murders in the area. They called them murders, but they also included people that just went lost in those reports. We’re not talking about a dozen people. We’re talking like three dozen people. If we have a serial killer in the area at the time, they took out a lot of people in the course of say 20 years.”
6. You’ll have it all to yourself
Regardless of the lack of evidence supporting the Bigfoot theory, people still believe it. As odaysalaska.com reports, year upon year, people refuse to step foot onto the shores of Portlock, let alone enter the ruined town.
The result? A blissfully quiet, supremely attractive spot that offers plenty of excellent hiking opportunities. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for anything big, hairy, and angry-looking.
7. It’s the ideal Halloween destination
Even if you’re less inclined to believe in Portlock’s sinister past than you are in fairies, it still makes a great spot for a Halloween adventure. The ruined houses and abandoned outbuildings are guaranteed to give even the biggest skeptic the shivers.
8. Bigfoot isn’t the only problem
If Portlock’s residents thought they had it bad when they just had Bigfoot to deal with, you can only imagine how they felt when a lady in black started appearing from behind the cliffs and spooking the local kids.
Yet according to Portlock’s oldest surviving resident, Malania Kehl, that’s exactly what happened. “Her dress was so long she would drag it,” she told The Homer Tribune. “She had a very white face and would disappear back into the cliffs.”
9. It’s not over yet
Apparently, Sasquatch’s (or Nantiinaqs, as they’re referred to locally) live a long time. As recently as 2018, an expedition by Extreme Expeditions Northwest caught a two-legged figure with a large head and no neck on thermal cameras. The town may have been abandoned, but it seems the Nantiinaq is still on the prowl.
10. You’ll never know until you go
Is it a lie? A half-truth? Or is there any truth in the story? Ultimately, you’ll never know… unless you go.
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Written by Dana Hanson
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