The Curse of Chirikof Island

Chirikof Chirikof Island is around 80 miles southwest of Kodiak in Alaska. The island has a long history of rumor and legend, although it’s difficult to substantiate much of the lore. The island was first sighted by Russian sea captain Alexei Chirikov in 1741, but wasn’t named after him until 1794.

The island had a small village through the 1870s; however, the population never seemed to surpass 100 residents. The village didn’t draw a great deal of attention in any way, until a series of stories ran in American newspapers in the early 1900s.

The legends said that Chirikof was once a Russian penal colony and, because of the injustices and terrors from the inmates, the island was cursed. The village wasn’t just a village. Russian exiles were sent there to starve and die from exposure. No one could stay on the island more than a week without going mad. The man cited as an example stayed there a few days and lost his mind. He heard phantom cries, screams, and pleas for help that never came.

The stories of the Russian penal colony were refuted during the Twentieth Century, but do leave questions. Many early accounts from the late Nineteenth Century describe a Russian “pauper” graveyard on the island. There were carvings and memorials similar to what you might find in a prison cemetery.

There were other traces of penal activities, but none was formally documented. It should also be known the rumor was so popular that it was discussed in books published for the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, and the United States Department of Education.

 

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