To haunt or not to haunt

In the heart of downtown the 4th Avenue Theatre stands shuttered 66 years after its construction. The location is rumored to be haunted. Photo by Kayla McGraw.
In the heart of downtown the 4th Avenue Theatre stands shuttered 66 years after its construction. The location is rumored to be haunted. Photo by Kayla McGraw.

There are people who hear eerie footsteps or see objects move only to discover they are all alone. Was it a ghost or pure imagination?

Stories and rumors of haunted structures have swirled around Anchorage for decades — from UAA’s own Wendy Williamson Auditorium to the 4th Avenue Theatre to the Anchor Pub to the Oscar Anderson House Museum. Two people with histories linked to structures associated with ghosts shared opposing views about the phenomena. The rest is up for speculation.

The Oscar Anderson House Museum is located near the coastal trails in downtown, which are frequented by UAA students. Outside of it is a sign that says paranormal activity has taken place inside of it.

“We just don’t have any evidence of that by any means,” said Mary Flaherty, former manager and worker at the Oscar Anderson House Museum.

Flaherty said the house is significant to Anchorage’s history because it was the first wood frame home built in that area in 1915. It stood out among the tents that surrounded it. Flaherty said Oscar Anderson, who voyaged from Sweden, was one of the first businessmen to arrive in this town.

The fact that the house has withstood major quakes such as the 1964 “Good Friday” earthquake is just one of the reasons to celebrate its rich history.

Flaherty said the sign was not put up by those who run the museum but by a separate group in town.  She made it clear the museum does not associate with the claims in the sign of paranormal activity and says the sign has been a problem.

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“Children get very scared of that type of association, and we’d hate to see that happen because it is a rich historic monument of Anchorage,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty said she knows the Anderson family and said she wants people to visit the museum to enjoy a slice of Alaskan history.

Flaherty did recall one “unexplained” incident in the home where things rattled around. She later discovered it was a squirrel that had snuck into the museum.

“I’ve been there over 25 years,” Flaherty said. “So I think he (Anderson) would have made a presence during that time.”

The museum is closed during fall season but will open to the public the first couple weeks of December for the annual Swedish Christmas tours.

In contrast to the Oscar Anderson House Museum, Shane Mitchell, the manager of the Wendy Williamson Auditorium, shared stories that he says involve paranormal activity.

Mitchell said the Wendy Williamson has long had a reputation of haunting events since it was built in 1974.

Mitchell’s experiences started in the 1980s when he was a student. The faucets would run with no one in sight. Strange voices would carry when people were by themselves.

Mitchell said through the years, he experienced over 50 unexplained incidents.

He said a psychic was invited to make an overnight assessment one year, and she found five different entities present. One of the entities was a little girl and another was an old man.

Among incidents, Mitchell said there is a set of stairs in the lobby where on multiple occasions women with long dark hair have felt someone pushing them down the stairs when no one was there.

He recalled a first-hand experience when he was watching a woman standing in that area, and then all of a sudden she lunged and fell down the stairs. He saw no one behind her, yet the next day there were bruises present as if she were shoved from the back.

Mitchell said one night an employee who was alone heard the piano playing. Then she saw the piano violently rock and tip over.

There is speculation that it was the late Wendy Williamson, who loved to tickle the ivories.

Mitchell said people have requested to bring Ouija Boards or hold seances at the auditorium but he declines such requests.

“It’s not the Haunted Mansion at Disney Land,” Mitchell said, laughing. “If someone comes and stirs up an entity, they get to go home while I have to come into work the next day!”


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