Farragut Naval Station – North Idaho

While searching for North Idaho ghosts stories and urban legends I came across a story claiming that the former Farragut Naval Training Station has one of the scariest hauntings in Idaho. It supposedly centers around a German POW who died while being interrogated in The Brig. I doubt the validity if this story as, generally, German POWs held in camps on American soil tended to be low level soldiers who would have known little to nothing of intel, and posed no real threat. It is also very likely that a German prisoner of war would not be housed in the same Brig as American soldiers or sailors. I suspect there was a separate jail or brig within their own compound. My research did not reveal records of any German POWs dying or being killed at Farragut.

Who knows how this urban legend came about. Generally some morsel of truth can be found in these types of local tales, but in this case, there is nothing. Maybe it was a story made up by local parents to keep curios children from wandering around the decommissioned training base. It’s also possible that a child or teenager enjoyed telling a good ghost story and spread this one around a campfire to scare their friends. For those who grew up in the area when German POWs were being held here it must have seemed very mysterious, and just a little bit scary. Newspapers and magazines of the time, especially those that specialized in “yellow journalism,” would have printed many tabloid-type articles about the enemies we were fighting, building a larger-than-life Boogeyman in the minds of the younger generation. Imagine having hundreds of these “Boogeymen” practically on your front doorstep! A German POW tortured to death would be the perfect choice for a scary ghost story.

I do not doubt that people are experiencing ghostly or paranormal activity that leaves them feeling unsettled and creeped out. So, that leaves us with the question of who’s restless spirit could possibly be haunting the old Brig and the rest of the property? For such a large and busy naval training center Farragut had surprisingly few deaths occur on the premises. Not taking into account those young men who may have trained here and then later died in battle, I have a few cases to consider. Let’s explore our possibilities.

We’ll start with the most recently reported deaths, which occurred in 1967, just days apart. In August of that year the Boy Scouts were holding a World Jamboree at the former naval station. On August 4th Marvin H. Mohlman and his wife, both of Seattle, were walking the grounds near the General Headquarters. Mohlman, complaining of feeling tired, sat on a bench, where he had a heart attack. He died on the way to the Army Evacuation Hospital. Two days later later John W. McGillivray of Spokane was visiting his brother, who was stationed with the 385 Army Evacuation Hospital at Farragut. While talking with his brother John collapsed from a heart attack. He died on the way to the hospital.

The next record of death occurred on October 30th, 1946, when Charles Roduner of Sandpoint died suddenly from a heart attack while working at his desk. He had been assistant storekeeper at the base.

The Spokesman Review. Thursday, October 31st, 1946

When we get to the year 1944 we have another death, also from an apparent heart attack. James Hill, a 46 year old retired sailor, and chief yeoman at the base, was found dead in his bed in his base quarters. He had been at Pearl Harbor during the attack by Japanese forces.

When we go back to the year 1943 we find three deaths. One of them stands apart because it is a woman who died at Farragut. The first death was on February 7th, 1943. The deceased was Miles R. Robins, yet another victim of a heart attack on the base. Robins was in charge of receiving warehouses. It was reported that he collapsed outside of the warehouses and was dead upon arrival at the Naval Hospital. Miles Robins features prominently in my other blog page, as he and his wife Agnes were at one time owners of the historic Hamilton House in Coeur d’Alene. The next death occurred on February 26th, 1943 when 19 year old Virginia Panabaker, champion diver, slipped on the swimming pool diving platform, hit her head on the concrete, and suffered fatal skull fractures. She had also been an employee in the Farragut personnel department. The final death was on May 2nd, 1943, when 18 year old Neal Anton Hammer passed away in the base hospital after a long illness. He was from Mica. Click on images to expand full article.

Miles and Agnes Robins

The above deaths are not the only ones I came across. I withheld these final three until last for a reason. Every personal account I have found that describes how people felt when they believed they had encountered a ghost at Farragut are very similar in their descriptions. Witnesses report feeling a heavy, negative atmosphere, a “creepiness” that leaves them depressed, fearful or uncomfortable. Now, we have nothing to indicate that whatever is haunting the area, particularly the Brig, is evil or in any way “bad.” It just doesn’t leave a good or peaceful feeling. If the popular theory that those who died violent or self-destructive deaths are most likely to haunt a place, these last three would definitely fit.

The first of these three notable deaths happened on November 23, 1943, two days before Thanksgiving. Although the actual death did not take place on the base, the deceased was a Navy machinist’s Mate First Class at Farragut. The body of Alvin Tietjen, age 35, had been found in his car parked not far from Spokane Bridge. His death was ruled a suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. One interesting thing of note were the women’s clothes found in the car with him. Further research does not reveal a reason behind his suicide, but numerous accounts of arrests and citation for driving while intoxicated before he left Utah for Farragut indicate a possible issue with alcoholism, but this is only speculation.

The sudden and violent death of Gale Robert Spackman could very well have left behind a strong residual feeling of emotions that were being fueled by testosterone, and lots of it! Spackman, an 18 year old apprentice seaman from Utah, had participated in a boxing match on the base on July 3rd, 1944. He must have taken one hell of a brutal beating, as later that night he died in the base hospital from internal injuries he had sustained.

Our final death in this set was Farragut’s Chief Storekeeper, Lee W. Berg. On October 8th, 1944, Berg had gone on a hunting trip with two other men, brothers H.H. and H.E. Hupp/Hough. It was reported that the men had become separated, and when Berg did not show up at the pre-arranged meeting place the brothers reported him missing to the forest service. After two days of searching Berg was found, dead from a high powered bullet shot through his head. His death was later ruled an accident.

Any of the people mentioned in the stories above could be haunting Farragut. But then again, maybe it’s none of them! We have to remember that before Farragut this area was also visited by pioneers, miners, trappers, loggers and others coming to settle this new territory. Back further in time this was the territory of the Native American tribes who called this land home. Over hundreds of years many humans have passed through and left an imprint, in one way or another. Not everyone dies from a violent death, but most deaths are surrounded by strong emotions of grief, sorrow, sadness and loss, as is life itself.

We may never know who it is that haunts Farragut, but it is interesting to speculate and in the end this path of research has brought back some names from the past and their stories that may have been forgotten.

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