"It’s haunting and haunting and luring me on as of old". So said the poet, Robert Service. Was he talking about the Yukon’s most famous hotel located in Carcross? Maybe! Because it is haunted. The hotel had been built at Bennett in 1898 at the start of the gold rush. There it was known as the Yukon Hotel. In 1901, the building was floated on a scow, down Lake Bennett to Carcross, by then-owner W. A. Anderson. It was renamed the Caribou.
In Carcross, the hotel prospered under several owners including Dawson Charlie, who had made a fortune from his Klondike gold claims. But Dawson Charlie died on January 26, 1908, when he fell of the rail bridge at Carcross.
Edwin and Bessie Gideon then rented the hotel from his estate.
But the building burned to the ground on Christmas Eve in 1909. So the Gideons built a new hotel on the same spot, using wood from a building that had been torn down in nearby Conrad City.
The Caribou’s interesting history continued when, in 1918, Polly the Parrot moved in. Captain James Alexander, owner of Engineer Mine, had asked the Gideons to take care of the Parrot while he went outside. Alexander drowned when the Princess Sophia sank in 1918. Polly stayed with the Gideons who continued to operate the hotel. When Edwin Gideon died in 1925, Bessie ran it until she died in the hotel on October 27, 1933.
Since then, strange things have been seen at the Caribou. The hotel is said to be haunted by Bessie's ghost, considered a shy spirit. A story is told of the figure of a woman who often stands near a third floor window and bangs on the floorboards. She is thought to be the ghost of Bessie, described as a spirit that is neither friendly nor unfriendly.
Though she was said to have been buried in Carcross, a cemetery survey has been unable to find Bessie Gideon’s grave, but Polly the Parrot, who died in the hotel in 1972, is buried in the cemetery. The Caribou Hotel is now a Yukon historic site, soon to reopen under new management and - legend has it - still haunted.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: Carcross