Eerie legends from the Arctic and Antarctica
As a breeding ground for ghost stories, the polar regions are tough to beat.
After all, few places on the planet have claimed the lives of so many explorers, entrepreneurs, and historic adventurers as the Arctic and Antarctica.
Added to which, these snow-swept areas are virtually peppered with places just begging to be haunted: remote huts, solitary monuments, and abandoned mining settlements that many people think are not nearly so abandoned as they seem.
Ill-fated expeditions aside, however, it’s understandable that the Arctic and Antarctica lend themselves to such larger-than-life legends. Wild, remote, and mostly uninhabited, they provide ample open space for the imagination to run free.
Here are seven polar ghost stories that just might delight your own imagination, whether you’re a hard-boiled skeptic or hard-core believer.
1. The Arctic ghost of fur trader Augustus Peers
Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader Augustus Richard Peers passed away on March 15, 1853, while working as a post manager at Fort McPherson, in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories.
Even though Peers had made it painfully well known that he wanted his remains interred anywhere other than Fort McPherson, his supervisor, Roderick MacFarlane, buried him in the fort regardless.
If you’ve ever heard a ghost story in your life, you’ll know this was just asking for trouble.
Still, it seemed the ghost of Peers was determined to be helpful rather than vengeful.
After receiving a prompting from Peers’s widow to transport his remains to Fort Good Hope, supervisor MacFarlane and a few of his workers began the journey there by dog sled. But nearly a week before arriving, they heard a voice beyond the light of their campfire that sounded like Peers warning them of approaching wolves.
Several nights later, they heard Peers’s voice again - this time alerting them to a wolverine that apparently meant harm to the man’s corpse.
After eventually burying Peers’s body in Fort Good Hope, MacFarlane and his workers returned to Fort McPherson. But only two days into the journey, MacFarlane woke up to see Peers staring down at him and one of his crewmates. Both men saw the ghost and hid under their blankets until it disappeared.
Had Peers come merely to thank them on a job well done? It seems we’ll never know.
2. The disembodied voices of Deception Island
Deception Island is one of our most popular Antarctica cruise destinations, and once it was home to an old whaler’s station. Whale bones can in fact still be seen on some of the beaches, evidence of an industry that once wantonly slaughtered these animals.
When oil prices tanked with the onset of the Great Depression, the station was abandoned and only later appropriated as a British WWII base.
Some visitors to Whalers Bay, a landing site on Deception Island, have described seeing strange apparitions and orbs of light. A few people have even heard voices.
Not only that, in 2009 the crew of American Syfy Network TV show Destination Truth visited the bay, where the crew heard loud bangs and saw a “shadowy figure” walking among the ruins. They also recorded a thermal signature in a window and heard what seemed to be an SOS signal coming from one of the shacks.
Maybe it was all just a coincidence (or ploy for ratings), but not according to some.
3. The ghost of the Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort
Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort in the town of Central, AK, was built on the site of a 400-gallons-per-minute hot spring in 1918. It then underwent several changes of ownership until finally being closed in 2002.
Though the facility shut down due to financial troubles, perhaps some of those troubles were due to the odd happenings staff and visitors reported over the years.
In the resort’s third-floor library there is said to be a female ghost that roams around the bookshelves, and many of the kitchen workers used to hear strange whistling noises they couldn’t explain coming from the hallways and exterior.
A teacher from California even tried to contact the ghost of one of the former owners, recording doors opening and closing on their own and claiming to feel the presence of the former owner’s wife nearby.
Other visitors have also reported seeing the main hall’s chandelier swinging without the help of wind, hearing footsteps on the stairs, and watching paintings come to life.
Or maybe there’s just something in the water at this all-too-lively hot springs.
4. The restless spirits of Ross Island
In the late 1970s, day-trip flights from New Zealand offered passengers the opportunity to see Antarctica from the air. But tragedy struck on November 28, 1979, when a flight carrying 257 people crashed into Ross Island’s Mount Erebus, killing everyone on board.
The bodies were stored at the American research station McMurdo, and over the years many visitors to that base have claimed to see the ghosts of the flight’s passengers and crew roaming the hallways and outer grounds.
People have supposedly heard voices, felt presences, and even spotted trails of unexplained footprints - though thankfully, none of our own guests have reported this.
5. The Labrador legend of the Phantom Trapper
Legend has it that during the harsh winters of Labrador, Canada, the Phantom Trapper is cursed to eternally drive his team of 14 white huskies across the region’s vast, barren landscape, guiding lost people to safety.
Nobody knows the Trapper’s real name, but many have recognized this Good Samaritan ghost by his clothing of thick furs and skins.
It’s said that in life the Trapper sold toxic alcohol to the native peoples, even assaulting many of their women before dying of natural causes. Evading retribution for his crimes in life, he’s now doomed to pay for them in death.
Though some of our snow-loving guides might not consider his punishment half bad.
6. The haunting of the Robert Scott hut
The hut of famed explorer Robert Falcon Scott is a highlight of our Ross Sea trips, though it seems not everyone has had such a glowing review of this historic Antarctic landmark.
Some visitors have felt uneasy in the hut, heard footsteps and voices inside, and believed they were being watched. As with the McMurdo Station specters, however, we have not heard any such claims from our own passengers.
Good thing, as it’s been awhile since we’ve had ghostbusters on the payroll.
7. Edmund Hillary and the ghost of Ernest Shackleton
Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first people to achieve a confirmed ascent to the summit of Mount Everest, and Hillary was a great admirer of legendary explorer (and fellow knight) Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Though Shackleton died in Antarctica in 1916, three years before Hillary was born, Sir Edmund admitted to seeing the man’s ghost while visiting Shackleton’s hut in Ross Island:
“I remember when I first went to Shackleton’s hut,” Hillary said. “And I’m not a person who really sees things very much, but I went inside the door... I distinctly saw Shackleton walking towards me and welcoming me, and then it all sort of flashed away and he was gone. It’s the only time I can ever remember something occurring like that…”
Perhaps he did indeed see Shackleton’s benevolent ghost welcoming a fellow adventurer into his hut, or maybe Hillary was simply swept up in the inspiring moment of visiting his hero’s last remaining expedition camp. Either way, it’s certainly a touching story.
And a slightly spooky one at that!