Alaska’s oldest building and its ghost story

Baranov Museum’s Michael Bach stands in room where the murder took place in 1886. (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KMXT)

If any historical site on Kodiak can claim to be haunted, it’s probably the Baranov Museum.

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The Russian-American magazin, a former warehouse, is the oldest building in Alaska. The Russian-American Company built it between 1805 and 1808 and the Erskine family lived in the house for about 30 years starting in 1911.

But sometime between those dates, it was also the site of a murder most foul.

KMXT stopped by the building to speak with collections manager Michael Bach about what happened one November many years ago.

In a kitchen that does double duty as the staff break room and an exhibit, Bach says when the murder was committed in 1886, the kitchen was the dining room, and what is now the boiler room was the kitchen.

“So, this was the Alaska Commercial Company station. This is where the commercial company was based out of,” Bach said. “Some people lived here. It was also a store. So, people could come and get outfitted to go trapping or to go hunting to get your supplies here.”

The victim, Benjamin McIntyre, was living in the building at the time of his murder.

“McIntyre was a worker for the Alaska Commercial Company and he was sitting in the dining room with a bunch of other individuals who were here visiting people from town and they were just finishing up dinner and, according to eyewitnesses, a very loud shot rang out,” Bach said.

Bach says McIntyre immediately slumped over. He had been shot from behind, through the window.

The murderer was never caught and the murder never solved.

“There’s some theories. In Susan Jeffrey’s book, “A Legacy Built to Last,” she talks about how there was a certain gentleman in town. [He] was outfitted a couple of times to either go sea otter hunting or trapping, depending upon the story you want to believe, and always came back empty handed,” Bach said.

Bach said the man asked McIntyre to outfit him to go hunting.

“And McIntyre said no, you’ve gone the last two times, you haven’t gotten anything, you’re clearly not a successful business partner,” Bach said. “I’m not going to give you any money. Sometime later he was shot by an unidentified hunter or trapper.”

The mystery remains. And so does McIntyre’s ghost. Or at least, the Erskine’s housekeeper thought so, Bach said.

“Natalia Pestrikoff was one of the women who worked for the Erskine family when they were living here and she did not want to be in the building after dark because there was long rumors that McIntyre’s ghost still walked around the house in the evenings,” Bach said.

Bach says there’s a rumor she refused to work in the house after dark. Which can be problematic for an employer, he pointed out, especially as the nights grow longer in the winter. But he understands why Pestrikoff might have thought there was a ghost.

“When I’m in here alone – I’m usually the first one in the building – and I’m in here alone on a really windy day, the building creaks and moans and you can hear the wind moving through the building,” Bach said.

Bach admits it’s a little creepy.

But it’s just the old house settling into its bones.

There was a possible conclusion to the story – at least to the murderer’s story. According to Jeffrey’s book, Carolyn Erskine Andrews writes in her memoir that “years after the murder, a human skeleton was found in the woods.” The murder weapon was found nearby.

Kayla Deroches is a reporter at KMXT in Kodiak.

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