top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

Ghost towns of Portlock and Port Chatham

In this post, we are going to see the mysterious activities that had took place in the Alaskan ports of Port Chatham and Portlock which made many workers to move out of that places.

The Hunting Party had been missing for three days. It had consisted of three local factory workers, who had set off on the Friday evening, equipped with their bow hunting and camping equipment. Their quarry was docile enough; wild Dall sheep which inhabited the highlands surrounding the region. The Excursion was supposed to have lasted for two days, but when the men had not reported for their shift at the town's cannery on Monday morning, their fellow workers have expressed concern. It was entirely possible they might have encountered a great wolf or even a bear on their travels and maybe some of them had been injured or worse. When by Tuesday there was still no sign of the men, the alarm was raised and a search party was quickly assembled setting off into the mountains, to find their missing friends and neighbors.

The first sign that something might have gone catastrophically wrong was the discovery of a discarded hunting bow swinging lazily back and forth in the wind amidst the branches of a tightly packed grove of spruce trees. The weapon had been snapped into two pieces, still connected by the drawstring: an act that would have required enormous strength to achieve.

Spreading out across the area, the searchers also found the scattered contents of a quiver of arrows and some unopened tins of food. But of the men themselves, there was no trace. All three were Native Americans and experienced Hunters who had previously ventured back and forth into the region on many occasions. Their disappearance was troubling to the townsfolk, but the full horror behind the tragedy was yet to be revealed.

Several weeks later, a man fishing in one of the more isolated mountain lagoons had spotted something submerged beneath the waters, a short distance away. As he waded closer to see what the object was, he managed to make out the upper body of an adult male apparently, missing its head and right arm. The authorities were notified and made their way up to the Lagoon to assess the scene. When the body was finally recovered, it was identified as one of the three missing boaters, but a post-mortem of the remains did little to answer the concerns of the victim's loved ones. Instead, it's only raised more difficult questions.

The local doctor was used to dealing with victims of animal attacks or injury sustained whilst climbing and descending the steep rock faces that dotted the region. But the wounds found on the body of the dead hunter bore little resemblance to anything he'd seen before. There were no claw or bite marks to indicate animal predation, no blunt force trauma that might indicate a fall. It was as if some unknown force had literally pulled the unfortunate victim apart, the dismembered appendages carelessly thrown to one side in the process. Of his two fell hunters, no sign was ever found and no further efforts were made to locate them. The local community had long come to believe that some mysteries were best left unsolved.

History of the ghost town of Portlock

In September of 1785, an expedition funded by King George's sound company set sail from England, with the purpose of expanding their existing stake in the North American fur trade. This endeavor consisted of 92 men sailing in two ships, the King George and Queen Charlotte, and was planned to last for a period of over three years. After spending nearly two years slowly making their way across the North American continent via the various trading posts of the Atlantic and Pacific ocean, the ships found themselves cruising along the western coast of Alaska in August of 1787.

As the weather conditions unexpectedly deteriorated, the decision was made to drop anchor in a nearby bay, which would provide shelter for the beleaguered vessels over the next few days. The expedition's leaders were so enamored with the rolling hillsides and seemingly endless woodland that surrounded this idyllic location, that they made repeated references to it in their dispatches home. It would end up being recorded on their maps as Portlock harbor, named after the commanding officer of the King George, Captain Nathaniel Portlock.

Over a century later, an American company constructed a sizable cannery at the bay to service the large fishing fleet they had deployed to take advantage of the region's bountiful supply of salmon. Substantial community soon grew up around this cannery, housing both its employees and those of the associated service industries, and in time this settlement and its amenities would formally be recognized as Port Chatham. Almost immediately, the residents of the remote outpost learned that it was unwise to venture too far into the beautiful countryside which surrounded them.

Hunters reported having discovered horribly mutilated moose carcass with mysterious animal tracks found leading away from where the bloody remains had been found. The records of the cannery supervisor show that at one point in 1905, all the indigenous Aleut workers at the plant had refused to come to work. They stated that there was a dark force that dwelled within the region, which they called the Nantinaq, and that it did not want them residing in its territory.

Eventually after some negotiation, they did return to work on the factory floor, with the owners assuming the story had been deceitfully manufactured by the natives as a ploy to increase their wages. But the killings continued and soon, it was the bodies of the hunters themselves that were being recovered. Hideously maned and brutalized or sometimes not even found at all. Gradually the attacks crept closer and closer to the settlement until finally, the community chose to act. In 1936, the Cannery was closed down and the entire population departed Port Chatham for good.

Andrew Kamluck's dead body

One of the most notorious incidents that would lead to the eventual evacuation of Port Chatham occurred in 1931, when a popular and easygoing resident by the name of Andrew Kamluck was found dead in the forest, not far from the edge of town. Kamluck was a logger and no stranger to being alone for long periods of time out in the woods. But it was the manner of his death that would so shock the community. Kamluck's lifeless body was discovered face down, with the entire back of his skull completely smashed to pieces.

Approximately 15 feet away from his remains, a large industrial piece of logging equipment lay discarded at the foot of a tree covered with the dead man's blood. Some tried to explain the incident away by claiming that Kamluck must have fallen against equipment and banged his head. However, the fact that the body was so far away indicated to most people that the machinery had instead been picked up and used to stove his head in, before being hurled to one side. The fact it took between three and four men to lift and recover the equipment after the event, only served to cause further consternation for those investigating the death.

Albert Petka's death

Another disturbing incident that occurred back in 1920, when a party of Bowhunters happened across a house boat, which had become stuck in the banks of the Yukon river having drifted from further upstream. The exterior of the vessel was covered in what appeared to be blood and when the men had cautiously entered, they found its owner dying in the depths of the boat's interior. Albert Petka had always been something of a loner who had chosen to live life away from the rest of society, habitually mooring his boat in the remotely Nulato area.

Between his dying breaths, he was briefly able to relate to the terrified Hunters what had happened to him and how powerless he had been to stop his own murder. The dying Petka explained that he had been resting inside the cabin one evening, when he heard an unnatural howling sound coming from somewhere nearby. Dressing and arming himself, he'd exited his home to find a monstrous fur-covered figure slowly approaching his craft shouting in a threatening and confrontational manner. He raised his rifle to fire, but the creature had attacked with enormous speed. Casually swatting the weapon away smashing the helpless petka repeatedly against the whole of his own boat.

Eventually, having inflicted horrifying and ultimately fatal injuries on Petka, the attacker had carelessly dropped him to the ground and carried on walking along its original path. When the unfortunate Hermit's body was later examined by a doctor, he was at a loss to explain what kind of animal could have caused such catastrophic internal injuries. The fact that it then left him for dead rather than feasting upon his remains made his death seemed even more senseless.

Nantinaq in a Campfire

Despite having been completely abandoned by the end of the 1940s, sightings of mysterious creatures in and around the vicinity of Port Chatham have stubbornly persisted, local newspapers reported that in 1968, a goat hunter claimed to have been chased out of the derelict town by a terrifying creature that has stalked him through the countryside for several days, before trying to trap and eat him.

Then in 1990, an ambulance technician in Anchorage related the story of how he had been sent to the city's Eagle River jail to treat a 70 year old native inmate, who had suffered a suspected heart attack. As the two men had been chatting, the aleut detainee had mentioned that she had been born and raised in the town of Port Graham. The conversation had eventually progressed on to the subject of nearby Port Chatham, at which point the paramedic had asked the prisoner if he believed in any of the stories of the monsters that allegedly lived there.

At this, the man suddenly sat bolt upright, his eyes full of fear. He explained the emergency worker, how in August of 1973, he and two of the members of the tribe had gone hunting at one of the upper lagoons in nearby Dogfish Bay. One evening, after a dinner of broiled salmon which they had caught earlier on, they had retired to their sleeping bags, only to be woken by the sounds of someone moving around immediately outside their tent.

As the three men had nervously reached for their weapons, they could hear the sounds of loud footfalls, walking in a steady deliberate manner, circling the tent. This was accompanied by a heavy breathing sound and the noises of someone apparently handling the pots and pans they had left outside from the meal. It then slowly receded heading back into the forest. When they ventured outside the following morning, they discovered that the remains of the cooked salmon were gone along with several of their food containers. Unnaturally large footprints were also found pressed deep into the mud around the tent. The next two evenings, the hunters ensured that they let the remains of their evening meal in plain sight with their unknown visitor again returning on both occasions to relieve them of it.

When the paramedic asked if this could have simply been a bear, his patient was adamant it was not. The Intruder had made no threatening sounds or gestures or any attempt to interfere with the tent, despite knowing that the men were inside. Their visitor, he claimed, had been the Nantinaq and only the fact that they had treated it with deference and respect had saved their lives.

Other incidents

Stories of entities that are part man, part monster can be found throughout the history of the indigenous tribes of North America. And in future posts, we will go on to examine more of them. In the case of the Nantinaq, the aluet go to great lengths to assert that the creature was not always the monstrous entity it became, and was originally a normal human being who was cursed by dark forces and turned into this tragic creation.

The murderous creature is also not the only strange phenomenon to be associated with the windswept cliffs of the Kenai Peninsula. The aleut tribe also tell of the vengeful Spirit of a young maiden, who was lured to her death by an unknown killer. Panicked warriors would on occasion return to the tribe, stating that a pale-faced woman with flowing black hair had emerged from the rock face beside them, trying to take hold of them with frozen hands and drag them to their deaths. The area immediately surrounding both Portlock and Port Chatham is saturated with seemingly endless cave networks and deep glacial valleys, both of which remain notoriously difficult to negotiate. Hunters in the region have reported following trails of 18 inch long humanoid footprints.

Experienced trackers have identified that whatever is making these prints is overhauling and ambushing unfortunate moose or Caribou and then proceeding away from the carcasses in a straight line towards the safety of the nearby mists shrouded mountains.

Is it possible that left to its own devices in such an untouched region of the globe, some long-lost hominid has continued to evolve at a more leisurely pace than our own? Are the incidents that have taken place over the last century evidence that in the future our two species are destined to eventually come into open confrontation and collide with one another or is it all a case of mistaken identity? The Alaskan wilds are heavily populated with bears and other natural predators. During violent and unexpected attacks by such animals in the confines of an overhanging forest canopy or in the hours of darkness beside a fast-flowing river, it is possible that the memories of survivors might be compromised by the scary stories that were told beside a camp fire when they were much younger.

No matter where on Earth you might choose to spend some leisure, every different society and community possesses its own legends and tales of the supernatural, be these ghosts, monsters or creatures from another place. We have all grown up hearing stories of things that are dark and dangerous and reside at the fringes of our natural environment. In the case of Port Chatham, it is clear that whatever factors may have contributed to the abandonment of the settlement, the pervading fear of attack by a Sasquatch like beast that would persistently venture down from the neighboring mountains, certainly contributed to the people's eventual decision to leave.

In time, as more and more residents chose to depart, the legend naturally grew in strength in turn affecting those who had elected to remain. Whether there is any truth to the tail, the mere notion of it became too strong to resist and finally pushed the remainder of the workers out of Port Chatham to the neighboring town of portlock. To the Aluet, there is little doubt. At some point in their history, the Nantinaq was a very real threat, something to be feared and avoided and in some ways whether it ever actually existed is entirely irrelevant. It continues to haunt the forest surrounding Portlock Bay even to this very day.


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page