Here are some of the most disturbing mysteries and cold cases in Alaska today. See if you can decipher what really happened in these four twisted tales.
1) Ghost Ship from the Frozen North
In 1931, a steam ship belonging to the Hudson Bay Trading Company, Baychimo, traveled the Beaufort Sea to Alaska heavy with fur cargo and men. Captain John Cornwell didn’t expect an early winter and was caught by surprise when his ship was brought to a shuddering halt in the pack ice. A few days passed before Cornwell and his men we’re able to free the steam ship from the ice only to become lodged again only a day later. The continuous freedom and entrapment of the ship in Alaska’s icy waters continued for weeks until the Hudson Bay Trading Company sent a plane to rescue half of Cornwells men. Half of the crew remained spending the next two months trying to free the Baychimo into open waters. The crew spent most of their evenings camped on an ice embankment alongside the ship but woke one morning to find the Baychimo no where in sight.
For 9 years there were reports of sightings of the Baychimo, yet none were able to catch up with the drifting ghost ship. The final sighting came in 1969, over 38 years after the steam ship broke adrift into the Beaufort Sea and continually eluded capture. To this day no one knows the fate of the Baychimo or why it could never be captured.
2) Ilimma Lake Monster
Every year Alaska’s largest lake freezes over and the large population of freshwater harbor seals magically disappear. Yet at the end of every winter they are found back in the lake when all access to the lake had been frozen off. There are rumors of an underground cave where the seals would have access to freshwater in order to survive the winter under the ice but the theory of the cave has yet to be proven true. The vanishing harbor seal is not the only mystery of Lake Ilimma's deep waters. For years there have been continuous sightings of a white creature rolling across the surface of the waters and then quickly retreating into the depths of the lake. The appearances of this large, strange white creature lead to the myth of Loch Ness living in the waters of Alaska’s largest lake. Some argue it could be sleeper sharks that survive the winter in saltwater pockets along the floor of the lake, others say there might be underground access to the Cook Inlet, there are even those who argue the white creature is a historic sturgeon that has lived in Ilimma Lake since the ice age. For now, no one knows!
3) The Mystery of N720
There are many lost bush planes in Alaska but one of the more famous tales of aviation lore is that of Clarence Rhode and the disappearance of the N720. Rhode, who was the Regional Director of Fish and Wildlife, took a small bush pilot out along with him and his son to make several stops before flying back toward Porcupine Lake. Radio silence fell and the N720 dropped off the grid on their return trip to the lake. Over 300 square miles were searched by plane and by foot but there were never any findings of Rhode or the plane. What happened we may never know.
4) Cold Case - Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder
In Craig, Alaska in 1982, Mark Coulthurst, his family, and his crew were brutally murdered aboard his seine ship, the Investor. The foggy morning on the last day of opening season Coulthurt’s ship sat anchored in the cove instead of joining in with the rest of the fleet. Inside the cabin and bunk room were the murdered bodies of the crew and Coulthurt’s family. The ship had been anchored out to cove with the bodies inside and the seacocks had been left open intending for the ship to drown. A man was seen buying gasoline at the docks before taking the Investors skiff out to the anchored ship early in the morning; soon after smoke was seen billowing into the sky above the Investor. The Casino, another ship at the dock, headed out to assist the Investor when they momentarily stopped to speak with the man on the returning skiff. The man continued to the dock and after talking to a few people disappeared into the city of Craig never to be identified.
Only one man has been brought to trail for these gruesome murders, John Kenneth Peel, a young man who matched the picture description of the man on the skiff and who had previously crewed a ship for Coulthurt in the past. Peel was acquitted but taken to court again, lasting the longest of any trail held in Alaska. After escaping charges for a second time Peel filed suit against the State of Alaska for $175 million due to wrongful prosecution. Peel settled for 900k and disappeared forever, never explaining why he settled for so little. The case remains unsolved.
If you know of any more Alaskan mysteries or lore, leave us the story in a comment, we would love to hear more of these unsettling tales!