Dawson City has often been described as a living ghost town.
Which means, of course, along with the living, come the ghosts. Ask Dawsonites about ghosts and the stories start to flow.
Karen Dubois, born and raised in Dawson, has several tales to tell. She remembers during her childhood, one of her friends claimed to have seen the ghostly, white shadow of a woman walking around the house where he lived. Dubois, herself, felt a presence inside the house, too.
“There was also a cold feeling once in a while that made you want to get up if you sat in the chair opposite the bottom of the stairs,” says Dubois. “Oftentimes, the cat would jump up and leave.”
Dubois also remembers another house where light bulbs would go on and off on their own, the kettle would boil and things would end up under the bed without anyone knowing how they got there.
Years later, while working at the Dawson Campus of Yukon College, which was then located in the old courthouse, she heard noises in the attic. She went upstairs to investigate, but found nothing.
“I was very afraid, but the guy I was monitoring during an exam was big and strong and could have run and saved me if need be,” she laughs.
John Steins, a long-time resident of Dawson, also has a story to tell.
He and his wife moved into their partially completed home during the winter of 1981.
A few days later at 2 a.m., there was a rap on the door.
A man was peering in through the window. Steins opened the door and noticed that the man had only one arm and was wearing a thin, plaid jacket in the forty-below temperature.
“He wasn’t cold,” says Steins. “That was the weird part.”
The man said he was from the creeks and was looking for someone.
“After we both stood there in the dark empty room for a while, I reluctantly let him go back out into the cold,” Steins says. “After I closed the door, I looked out the window to watch him, but he had disappeared. There was only one trail, and I should have seen him walking away.”
Despite repeated enquiries around town during the following years, Steins didn’t find anyone who had heard of a one-armed man from the creeks.
“In a small town like this, someone should have known him,” says Steins.
Local resident Theresa Conkin says she was on a tour of the town when she went into Ruby’s Place, an old boarding house/brothel that closed in 1961. Conkin doesn’t really believe in ghosts, but as soon as she went upstairs she experienced heart palpitations, felt oppressed, and was frightened. After two minutes, she left the building.
The Commissioner’s Residence, home of Yukon Commissioners until 1916, and a nursing home run by nuns from the early 1950s to ’60s, is notorious for ghosts.
The story goes that on the third floor, one of the nuns used to sit in her rocking chair every night until she died; apparently the rocking can still be heard today.
Footsteps have also been heard and every once in a while, the cutlery on the dining room table display gets rearranged.
There are many more to tell.
Why are there so many ghosts in Dawson?
“The history here was intense,” Steins says. “With all the suffering and angst, there just have to be ghosts.”