Hi there, it's Greg. We had podcast, want to thank all of you for your continuing support throughout the year podcast could not be what it is today without you. We also wanted to give you a heads up that we're taking a break for the holidays and we won't be back until after the new year. But since the season is all about giving, we do have something special lined up for the next two weeks. So be sure to tune in.
In the meantime, enjoy the season and we'll be back the first week of January with your regular programming. Have a happy and safe New Year. Due to the graphic nature of this haunted place, listener discretion is advised this episode includes discussions and depictions of death and suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts or the impulse to self-harm, please seek help. The United States National Suicide Prevention Hotline is one 800 273 8255. We advise extreme caution for children under 13.
As Victor SLED dogs approached the cabin, they began to slow their pace, the race organizers told him that he should leave an offering there and it was as if his dogs had heard. But he was only a half mile behind the lead and desperately wanted to catch up. There was no time to stop, so he called to his pack encouragingly. Faster, he said. But the dogs only whined. And when the sled stopped near the cabin steps, a few sat down in the snow and refused to move.
Even as to pack leaders, Summer and Socks seemed hesitant to go forward. Summer was growling at something in the distance.
A rabbit, maybe. But when Victor gazed into the dark woods just past the cabin, he noticed a figure standing behind a bush. It was a tall woman in a tattered coat of old furs. She waved to him, beckoning him closer. Without thinking, Victor took a step forward, curiosity taking over, but some summer barked and pulled out of harness, stopping him in his tracks. Victor told her to be quiet and continued toward the woman. He thought she must have been a local from Countach and had gotten lost.
But there was something odd about her. Her torso and head were small, but she looked to be about six feet tall regardless. Victor couldn't stop moving forward. As he walked toward her, he could hear his dogs barking frantically behind him, but it sounded as if they were a greater distance away than he traveled. But Victor didn't turn back to look. He couldn't take his eyes off the mysterious woman in front of him. When she emerged from the boy she was standing behind.
Victor realized why she looked so tall. She was floating two feet above the ground. Sommers barked, jolted him back to reality. He scrambled back to the sled, not wanting to look back at what he'd just seen. When he pulled away again and got back on the course, the woman called out to him, Please come back. Leave me something.
Victor didn't dare turn around. Welcome to Haunted Places, a Spotify original fun podcast. I'm Greg Pulsing. Every Thursday, I take you to the scariest, eeriest, most haunted real places on Earth. You can find all episodes of haunted places and all other originals from podcast for free on Spotify. And every Tuesday, make sure to check out urban legends. These special episodes of Haunted Places are available exclusively on Spotify this week. Join me on a supernatural journey to the Iditarod Trail, a race course that runs through a thousand miles of frozen Alaskan wilderness and discover why to this day it's haunted.
Coming up, we'll meet the ghosts of the remote Alaskan wilds. The Iditarod trail runs with the southern Alaskan city of Anchorage all the way to the frigid waters of the Bering Strait every spring, it has hosted teams of sled dogs participating in a competition that is billed as the last great race on Earth.
Dog teams and their leaders, known as mushers, come from all around the world to compete despite some of the most unforgiving terrain in the Western Hemisphere prior to the Europeans arrival. Much of the trail was used by the indigenous peoples of northwestern Alaska as a trade route between villages. They traveled through the knee deep drifts with snowshoes or dogsleds. But in the late 1980s, when the prospectors began flooding the area in search of gold, the indigenous people found traditional trails like the Iditarod suddenly overtaken by settlers.
But few of these travelers were equipped to handle the harsh climate of the Arctic. Many perished before they ever reached the fabled gold fields of Alaska, leaving more than just their bodies behind. A bitter wind stung Susan's face as she made her way to Caltech. She was on her way for a resupply trip, but it had been no walk in the park. She'd never seen the snow this deep. A storm was blowing in and she knew it wasn't the best idea to make the journey.
But she had no other choice. She'd come to her cabin with enough food to last until June and had intended to wait out the winter alone. But then what was that old saying? Yes, man plans and God laughs. All her food had run out in January. She found mold growing on her potatoes. She tried to eat one anyway and ate some more food after that, but vomited for three days straight. A few weeks later, an animal broke into the cabin and made off with her dried reindeer meat.
Then there was the young man who showed up at her doorstep begging for a place to stay, and she didn't have the heart to turn him away. He'd been the only man in the area who'd been kind. The other men at the prospector camp said leered and joked about a woman her age setting off for gold fields. They told her to go home to her grandchildren or stick to knitting. She gritted teeth and ignored them for the most part.
But the farther north she went, the worse it got. The people in Kaltech barely even spoke to her, one man had all but threatened to do her in when she told him where she was planning to make her home. He said that the mountain by the river was a man's hunting ground and any women who lived there should be curse to find an early grave.
She didn't pay him any mind. She hadn't come here to be around people. She'd come for the gold originally, but stayed for the solitude and peace of mind. Out here. It was just her and the mountain. In the summer she worked hard and in the winter she spent the long nights tucked up in bed with her sketchpad and a bottle of whiskey. So when the young man who arrived at her doorstep didn't ask what she was doing by herself or stare at her short hair and trousers, of course she took him in.
He seemed a bit nervous at first, so she offered to cook him a hot meal to get him comfortable. She made a spot for him next to the potbellied stove, and while he ate, she sketched. Susan have been drawing her whole life, but her sketches were usually too gruesome to share. She didn't know why she did it, but she often drew people she knew being ripped apart by bears, crushed by falling rocks or gored by moose.
There was something relaxing about putting these bleak images to paper, like if she drew it, it wouldn't happen. When the young man asked to see some of her work, she was hesitant, but she showed him anyway.
And somehow he seemed like he understood. Susan decided she might like having him around for a bit. But when she climbed down from her sleeping loft the next morning, the man was gone along with the last of her provisions. Susan had put off leaving for as long as she could. At first she simply gone out hunting for came. But each day she returned home tired and empty handed.
Finally, she realized that if she delayed a trip to the village any longer, she would become too weak to make the trek. So she put on her bearskin coat and strapped on a pair of snowshoes. She made it a good 20 miles before the blizzard started. The snow was falling thick and fast, making it harder and harder to see. Before long, Susan's vision was lost to an ocean of white. The icy air was like needles, making every breath a painful gasp.
Her skin felt like it was ripping from her cheeks. As Susan took another labored step, she heard something snap that her foot sunk into the snow. She knelt down and held up her snowshoe. It had broken in half. The night was coming on and the temperature was dropping fast. Susan could feel her pulse slowing, her body getting too cold to pump blood. She'd seen more than a few frozen bodies in her time. If she didn't find a place to wait out the storm, she would surely become another corpse some poor stranger would find.
The next morning, Susan fell to her knees and pushed the snow into a mound with her broken shoe. Men were always saying that it wasn't the snow that killed you in a blizzard. It was the wind you had to bury yourself. As she worked, her heart beat faster and the shivering subsided. Once her mind was big enough, Susan tunneled into it, clawing out handfuls of pack snow until her fingers were numb. When she finally finished, she crawled into the little burrow and laid down.
The sound of the wind fell to a low moan, the snow getting heavy on top of her cave. She stared at the snowy white walls for what felt like only a few minutes before her breath slowed to sleep and her mind went strangely blind. Susan woke to the distant sound of a bird. She sat up and crawled her way out of the shelter, emerging into the bright sunshine of a clear winter morning. It was warm out, so warm she didn't even need her coat.
As she took in her surroundings, she was astonished to see the bridge just outside of Caltech. The whole time she'd been less than a mile from town. How silly. She thought she'd made it. She was going to be OK. Susan hobbled into Main Street.
The town was mostly empty, which was rather nice. There was a door looking man standing outside the saloon, but otherwise nobody paid her any mind. But when Susan entered the mercantile and asked the shopkeeper for some help, he didn't even bother turning around. This didn't surprise her the last time she'd gone, and he called her an unnatural woman and refused to sell her anything. She'd have to do what she'd done then and pay someone to buy her provisions for her.
Back outside, Susan surveyed the glum looking.
China's children were always eager to make a little cash, and they were usually kinder than their parents. So she picked out a boy loitering by the post office and called out to him. But just like the shopkeeper, the boy didn't turn around. Susan ran up to him and grabbed him by the arm, but the boy just shivered and shook her off like she wasn't even there.
Susan gritted her teeth. Maybe he thought she was begging for money, but she was so tired of being slighted, that boy couldn't be more than eight. And already he was as bitter and cold as everyone else in this town. She was fed up. Susan marched right back into the store base, the clerk hat on and declared that her money was just as good as anyone else's. She grabbed an apple and demanded he ring her up, but he only wrinkled his nose out on the floor, then headed for the outhouse shoes and shook with rage until she realized something.
The clerk had left and the shop was unlocked. Nobody outside had paid any attention to her, so she grabbed as much as she could carry beans, jerky, even a cigar from the display case, threw it in her knapsack and walked out. Susan's heart was pounding as she left the shop. She tried to look casual, but as soon as she passed the end of Main Street, she took off like a shot.
She ran until she reached the woods on the other side of the river, giddy as a school child.
But when she tore open the sack and looked inside, she found it was filled with rocks. She frowned, then felt in her pocket for the sacar, but pulled out a short birch twig. Instead, Susan felt a chill run up her spine and turned around to look back toward the town. But it and the river were gone.
The boy in the town had shaken her off. The men had ignored her.
She was staring into a long, empty stretch of tundra. Suddenly she realized why she was no longer cold.
Though there are reportedly ghosts all along the Iditarod trail, there's one in particular who seems anxious to make her presence known. She haunts a small cabin at the base of Old Woman Mountain, a nearly 800 foot peak that stands alone among the pine and spruce forest near the youna Laclede River. Her name was forgotten long ago, but legends say she was cursed for daring to make her home in a hunting spot that was popular with local men determined to buck the conventions of her gender.
The woman stayed even long after her body was lost to the cold.
Up next, the old woman takes her revenge on an unwitting traveler listeners, if you haven't had a chance to check out the entertaining new podcast, Blind Dating, now's the time to binge what you've missed before. Catching all new episodes every Wednesday in this Spotify original fun podcast, we're expanding the places you can meet your match with a twist you'll never see coming. Join host Tara Michel as she introduces one hopeful single to two strangers in a voice only call.
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Now back to the story. Beginning in 1900, teams from the Army Signal Corps were dispatched to string nearly 1400 miles of telegraph cable throughout the Alaskan tundra to Washington. Telegraph workers fought their way through thick clouds of mosquitoes over mountains and across frozen rivers. Eventually, they were able to bring communication to the most remote reaches of the Arctic. It was a remarkable feat of engineering. Of course, even once the cable had been laid, there was still plenty of work to be done.
Lone soldiers were stationed in cabins every 40 miles. But as any Alaskan will tell you, there are more than enough bad things that can happen to a person traveling alone through the Arctic wilds. When Bill first came along the little cabin at the base of the mountain, he was surprised to have found it so quickly. His superiors at the Army Signal Corps had made it sound like his station was another 10 miles away. But then what did his superiors know?
His boss was hundreds of miles away, sitting in a comfortable office in Fairbanks. Bill was essentially on his own. When the Signal Corps had first given him this assignment. He had been thrilled. His commanding officer had said that maintaining the telegraph was one of the most important jobs there was at the core, and Bill had been proud to do it, at least at first. But after a three week journey to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere, he was beginning to have doubts.
The job was feeling less like a crucial mission and more like grunt work given to people they didn't care about when he came across what he assumed was his outpost. It had been nearly a week since he'd set out from Caltech a week of freezing cold nights at a hard bedroll that was always damp by morning had taken its toll. He was bone tired. But as he approached the cabin, he noticed a few things that didn't exactly seem army official. A bleached pair of antlers hung above the doorway, a bundle of dried herbs dangled from the roof and a carved stool sat on the front porch as if for a leisurely reading.
This wasn't a military outpost. After all, it was someone's home. Bill paused at the door. He knew we should turn around. This wasn't where he was supposed to be. And anyone who lived way out here probably stayed away from people for a reason. But then if there was someone in the cabin, they might let him stop in for one warm, dry night before he continued on to his actual posting as he deliberated a faint sound escape from inside.
It was a woman's voice humming some sort of low melody, but it sounded more like a prolonged buzzing than any song he'd ever heard. Bill figured he should at least ask if the woman knew how far away the outpost was. So he knocked. The humming, stopped abruptly. Bill waited for someone to respond, but nothing happened. He called out but got no reply. Whoever was inside obviously didn't want visitors. Bill was about to give up when the door opened on its own.
Curious, he called out hello. When there was no response, he stepped inside. But as soon as he crossed the threshold, he felt a chill run up his spine. He didn't know what was so frightening about it. It was an ordinary cabin. A long wooden table greeted him and a potbellied stove sat in one corner. A pair of snow shoes hung from the rafters and wooden crates were piled along one wall to form a makeshift set of shelves.
But everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, and from what Bill could tell, it looked like no one had been there for a long time. When he heard a creek coming from the sleeping loft, Bill shivered again. He couldn't see over the top of the ladder and suppose someone could be hiding there, waiting, biding their time until he let down his guard. So he decided to go on the offensive and check it out. That way he wouldn't be spooked.
He took a deep breath and began to climb the ladder up to the loft. He was nervous as he ascended and moved slowly. But when he reached the top, the loft was entirely empty, a thin straw mattress laid on the floor at a moth eaten blanket indicated that no one had slept there for a long time. The only object of note was a leather bound book. Bill picked it up and flipped through it, wondering if it might give him a sense of the prior inhabitants.
But instead it was full of gruesome drawings. The first was a woman lying face up in a snowy field, her skin peeling away from her hands and face. The next at a man crushed under a rock slide. The third showed a boy being eaten by a grizzly bear. Bill didn't want to see any more, but it was like his hands had a mind of their own. And he kept turning the page bill through the book across the room with a shudder and hurried back down the ladder.
He was beginning to wonder if he wouldn't be better off spending yet another night in the woods. But after an hour of deliberating on the porch, he decided to sleep in the cabin. The sketchbook had upset him, but not enough to make him give up on the prospect of snoring by a warm fire in the crates, Bill found a few tenths of beans, along with a sack of flour and a pile of rotten potatoes.
He started a fire and ate some beans, along with bread and cheese from his own stores. Then he set up his sleeping roll next to the stove and settled in. He could have slept in the loft, but just the thought of the sketchbook he'd found there made his skin crawl. Bill laid down and let his mind wander, counting the riches and the wooden ceiling, but just as he began to feel drowsy, he heard another creak and the unmistakable sound of humming, the humming was louder this time, Aloul tuneless dirge.
But when Bill bolted upright, the sound stopped. He looked around the cabin. There was no one there. But he'd heard it, hadn't he? Bill closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He reminded himself that he was exhausted, his mind was playing tricks on him. He laid back down and shut his eyes tight.
For a moment, there was silence, then the humming came again, this time it sounded like it was right next to his ear bills. Blood ran cold. He crawled into the corner and sat shivering with the blanket around his chin. He tried to tell himself it wasn't real, but the humming hadn't stopped this time. It was moving around as though someone was inside the cabin with him. Another creak occurred, followed by the distinctive sound of trying to listen to terror.
As the pages flipped and the sound of sketching grew almost manic, he considered running. But suddenly there was a tearing sound and a piece of paper floated down from the loft. It landed on the floor right in front of Bill. Bill just stared at it, his heart pounding. Then he flipped it over. It was a well drawn picture of him in his felted army had. At first glance, it looked almost like a pleasant portrait. A sly smile was on his lips.
Bill's head jerked toward the source of the sound. Something was coming down the stairs now getting closer. It was then that he realized something about the drawing he held where his eyes should have been. There was only a pair of deep black holes, Bill screamed as the noise got closer.
Then suddenly he couldn't see a thing. Cable repair was a dangerous job and casualties were common among the young soldiers sent to maintain the connections. Some were killed in avalanches or fell through the ice into frozen rivers. Others were slaughtered in animal attacks. Tragically, more than a few were driven to suicide by the stress of the job. One of these repairmen was a young infantryman who met his death in an avalanche on Old Woman Mountain. It is believed by some that his spirit stayed there in order to look out for travelers who might make the mistake of stopping to rest in the little cabin at the foot of the mountain.
Today, the cabin is owned and operated by the Bureau of Land Management mushers participating in the Iditarod. It will often stop there to rest their dogs and catch some much needed shuteye before continuing on the final leg of their journey. But race organizers warn first time participants to make sure they leave an offering for the spirit who haunts the cabin. It is said that a gift of food will placate the old woman spirit and keep her from wreaking havoc on those who stay in her cabin.
However, those who don't pay their respects aren't so lucky. Coming up, an inexperienced musher falls into the trap of the old woman's cabin. Now back to the story.
Completing the Iditarod is an incredible feat of physical endurance for an Arctic sled dog. The ideal running temperature ranges from about 20 degrees below zero to zero degrees. In order to maximize efficiency and keep dogs from overheating, racers will often travel through much of the night and allow their dogs to rest during the warmest parts of the day. This pattern puts an incredible amount of stress on the human body. Not only does it lead the racers sleep deprived and groggy, but it means the athletes are exposed to the elements throughout the coldest part of the night.
In these conditions, it's easy to become confused or lose your way. In the seemingly endless plains of the Alaskan tundra, racers often report having visions and hallucinations during their most demanding stretches of the race. Some of these strange experiences might be caused by the early stages of hypothermia, but some seem too real to be a simple figment of the imagination. As soon as Julie spotted the cabin again, she put her foot on the brake and frowned. She already stopped here an hour ago.
She hadn't bothered going inside, but I just pause to let the dogs rest before they continued on. She didn't know how they'd made their way back. She heard stories about the old woman cabin from the other racers, but she didn't believe any of it. Sure, the cabin was a little creepy, but it wasn't haunted, so she decided to stick around for a bit. After 45 minutes, she started to hitch up the dogs and set off in good spirits.
But then it started to snow.
The first eight days of the race have been grueling, but the one thing she hadn't worried about was getting lost. Fluorescent orange markers had been placed all along the trail. And even when they were difficult to see, Julie could always tell where the snow had been packed down by the teams that had come before her. Plus, it was easy to find the path when you were at the back of the pack. She didn't mind coming in last. She wasn't in the race to win.
She was in it for the adventure. After all, there weren't many people who could say they'd finish the Iditarod by now. It was day nine, and by the time she came across the cabin a second time, every part of her body ached.
She had to cover her nose and cheeks and duct tape to prevent frostbite. The veteran mushers said that everyone hits a wall. Eventually you get so exhausted you can barely see straight. They had said it was easy to get lost when you've been awake and on your feet for nearly two full days. But Julie hadn't thought that was a possibility for her. She had a flawless sense of direction ever since she was a little girl. Her mother used to say she had magnets in her feet wherever she was going.
She always knew how to get there, except apparently if she was headed away from this cabin. Julie looked at her watch to see how much daylight she had left. It said one thirty, but that couldn't be right. It had been two p.m. when she first met the cabin. The last time she gazed at the steadily ticking second hand in wonder she must have knocked the dial somehow and accidentally set it back. It seemed unlikely, but it was the only explanation.
She took a deep breath. She had just gotten turned around. Somehow someone probably set the markers from. What she needed to do now was get back on the trail and take extra care to look for the tracks of other racers. She gave the command and her dogs leapt into action, but as they picked up speed, the snow started to come down faster and harder. She could no longer rely on the other racers tracks. So she looked for the orange flags.
But as it snowed, they only got harder to see. Suddenly, the ground began to slope downwards, which couldn't be right. The only hill around was Old Woman Mountain, and she knew she hadn't gone up. That with Julie distracted. The sled swerved, the dogs yelped in fear, and Julie stepped down hard on the brakes.
They all came careening to a halt, thankfully. OK, but when she looked up at the trail in front of her, she gasped. The sled was standing 200 yards away from the cabin. Julie shook her head. Something was very wrong. Maybe she had hit her head and now she was delusional. She noticed smoke puffing up out of the chimney. There must be someone inside, probably another racer. She could go in and take a rest and then whoever was in there could give her directions out of there.
Ignoring the protests of her yelping dogs, Julie stepped off the sled and started toward the cabin. As she got closer, she heard the sound of a woman humming. It wasn't a pleasant melody, but there was something about the droning quality of the tune that made her sleepy. She stepped onto the porch, intending to knock, but her eyelids were growing very heavy. Julie sat down on a carved wooden stool and leaned back against the wall of the building.
Why go inside at all? It was still snowing, but somehow she was beginning to feel warmer. The dogs in the race couldn't wait. Why not take a nap? Julie began to hum along with the tuneless melody. She closed your eyes and smiled as she sank down into a deep and seamlessly. Suddenly, something freezing cold was shaking her roughly by the shoulder.
Julie sat bolt upright. She had fallen asleep on the porch at the cabin. Now she was staring into the eyes of a young man in an antique military uniform. He had an earnest face and oversized ears that stuck out from his wide brimmed hat. His voice trembled a little as he told her it was time to leave. Julie shook her head clearly and said she didn't know how. The boy nodded and whispered that he would show her. He glanced back at the door behind them and lowered his voice even further.
Now come quickly before it's too late. He grabbed her arm and pulled her from the porch. His grip was so cold like it could turn her flesh into ice as he pulled her back to the sled. She didn't understand what was happening, but her gut told her to trust him. And as she stepped onto her sled, the young men pointed in the direction she'd come from.
He said that going back was the only way forward. Julie shook her head. If she went back now, she wouldn't just lose. She might not finish. The young man clutched her arm and murmured that this race was not worth her life. Julie was about to protest, but then she glanced at the cabin. A woman was standing in the doorway. She wore a tattered coat of old furs, her skin chapped red from the cold, practically raw.
But what made Julie's blood run cold was her face. The flesh and her cheeks had been eaten away, exposing the bone white of her jaw underneath, and the whites of her eyes were glazed and icy blue. She looked at chilly, her irises blazing with fury. Then she took a step toward them and began humming. Suddenly, it didn't sound so nice. Julie faced the direction she had come from and gave the command for her dogs to run.
Maybe there were some places that were better left unexplored.
Many of the racers talk about the cabinet old woman mountain as a strange place where time almost seems to standstill, Musher DEEDI John Roe described how the cabin pulls you in, lulling you into a kind of trance and causing you to waste precious hours within its walls. Some races attribute the lure of the cabin to the spirit of the old woman who it's named for. Others believe that the place is inhabited by a much gentler type of ghost. They say that the old woman shares the cabin with the spirit of the telegraph repair worker who was killed there in the early 1980s.
And one local legend even tells of an incident in which the young men woke a sleeping traveler who would have otherwise died of hypothermia.
Those who braved the Iditarod trail must make their way over treacherous mountain passes and through nearly a thousand miles of frozen wilderness.
They run the risk of falling through hidden rivers and streams or coming face to face with a furious thousand pound bull moose, the ones who perished near the old woman mountain. Just a few of the unfortunate souls who have lost their lives in that long journey. What is it that lures people to such a remote and dangerous place? Perhaps it's the allure of the last great frontier. The Arctic landscape is one of the few places on Earth that remains beyond the reaches of modern life.
Or maybe there's a thrill that comes with stepping back into a time before the safety and convenience of modern society.
But those who do decide to brave the Alaskan wilds would be wise to travel cautiously, travel too far into the tundra, and you might never return.
Thanks again for tuning into haunted places for more information on the Iditarod trail. Amongst the many sources we used, we found the Anchorage Daily News extremely helpful to our research. We'll be back on Thursday with a new episode. And don't forget to come back on Tuesday for our Urban Legends series available only on Spotify. You can find more episodes of Haunted Places and all other originals from podcast for free on Spotify. I'll see you next time. Haunted Places is a Spotify original from podcast executive producers include Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Carrie Murphy with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Eric Larson of this episode of Haunted Places was written by Zoe Louisa Lewis with Writing Assistants by Alex Garland, fact checking by Bennett Logan and research by Adriana Gomez and Mikki Taylor.
I'm Greg Polson. Podcasters, there's no better time than right now to open your heart to the hit Spotify original theme podcast, Blind Dating every Wednesday. Find out if there's more to a love connection than just looks follow blind dating, free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.