The Caribou Hotel: Hauntings, hospitality, a hunter and the parrot
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The Caribou Hotel is one of the most historically rich and significant buildings in the Yukon. In addition to being one of Canada’s most famous haunted hotels, it was once owned by Káa Goox / Dawson Charlie, one of the first to discover gold in the Klondike. During the gold rush, the Caribou Hotel was home to the rich and famous of the early 20th century. But like many Yukoners, it has led a varied and interesting life.
Introducing John Firth, the author of The Caribou Hotel: Hauntings, hospitality, a hunter and the parrot. In this video, he chats with us about his research and famous (and infamous) goings-on at this historic hotel.
I’ve Heard of Houseboats But This Is Ridiculous
Our story begins in Bennett, BC with a building called the Yukon Hotel. It was purchased by Big Bill Anderson and then floated down river from Bennett BC to Caribou Crossing (modern-day Carcross). Not being satisfied with his Yukon Hotel now being in the actual Yukon, he renamed it the Anderson Hotel, for obvious reasons. And the hotel is still there today, resting comfortably on land. To get a peak of the hotel as it looks today, follow the link below and learn more about some of the more recent hotel hauntings.
On February 25th, 1903, the hotel was purchased by Klondike Gold Rush legend Káa Goox / Dawson Charlie and was renamed The Caribou Hotel. A member of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, Charlie, along with his uncle Keish / Skookum Jim Mason was one of the first to discover gold in the Klondike.
Not long after that, mere pages really, Dawson Charlie dies under mysterious circumstances. As a result, the hotel was left to his estranged wife Annie Austin. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, on December 24th, 1909, the hotel was consumed in a fire. The only pieces that remained were the steel cladding of the exterior and the icebox from the kitchen.
But if you want to learn more about the life of Dawson Charlie and the gold rush, there’s no better way than to visit the Discovery Claim National Historic Site. You’ll be able to understand what it was like to be a famous prospector. Without the mysterious death, obviously.
After the fire, William H. Simpson was hired to rebuild the Caribou in 1910 using recycled material. Restored to its former glory, the hotel and its patrons enjoyed a period of relative calm. That is, until the outbreak of World War II.
Once the US entered the war, they decided to beef up their defences in Alaska. The only problem was that Alaska was relatively isolated to the rest of the country.
So at the height of the war, the Americans built the Alcan highway, later named the Alaska Highway. During construction, the Caribou Hotel acted as a barracks and a military operations base for the construction of the highway. Now that we’re in peacetime, the Alaska Highway makes an excellent roadtrip.
Let’s fast forward to 2006, when Jamie Toole and Anne Morgan set out to recreate the hotel as it was all those years ago. As Jamie and Anne dig into their reno project, they uncover evidence of the original restorer’s signature on the backs of boards from the original construction.
These days, there are reports of Simpson’s ghost banging a hammer wandering the halls. Which makes sense, contractors always underestimate how long it will take to finish a job.
Here are just a few questions to ponder as you make your way through the book.
If you could float your home to a different location, where would you choose?
Which Yukon river would you choose to float down. To make it easier, you can imagine being in a canoe instead of a building.
Do you believe in ghosts? If so, was there an incident that made you a believer?
With so much to do around Carcross, what would you do first? See the world’s smallest desert? Take in the hotel? Visit the commons?
Being in Carcross during the gold rush would have been exciting. What other places would you have loved to be a fly on the wall witnessing history?