• Unusual reports spur new book
By Randi Somers
What huge creatures inhabit Lake Iliamna? Are ice worms real? What event near Sitka is still considered one of the wildest April Fool hoaxes ever?
Cherry Lyon Jones’ new book, “Myths and Mysteries of Alaska,” looks to answer these questions and more as it delves into accounts of encounters with the supernatural. Ghost ships, gold field murders, a wild hairy man, alarming unidentified lights in the sky and a volcano fire goddess named Chuginadak are just a few of the phenomena Jones discusses in her work.
With Alaska on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” (40 active volcanoes on the Aleutian arc from Mt. Spurr at the top of Cook Inlet to Kiska near the end of the chain) Alaskans take their eruptions seriously. Old tribal legends tell of angry fire gods and goddesses being responsible for the eruptions. One Tlingit myth tells of humans receiving the element of fire when Raven stole a firebrand (burning stick) from the top of a mountain where the Fire God was throwing fire.
Several “big, hairy man” encounters on the far side of Kachemak Bay, somewhere near Nanwalek, have also been reported. In 2009, the Homer Tribune wrote about the “Nantiinaq” (Nan-te-nuk) — a big, hairy creature that reportedly terrorized residents and prompted the desertion of the village of Chatham.
In other chapters, Jones takes a look at who actually climbed Denali, who just claimed they did, as well as the still unsolved murder of four Cache Creek miners. The question of the missing gold is still left unanswered.
Jones wraps up her book with a chapter that deals with a Japan Air Lines flight on Nov. 17, 1986. For approximately one hour, the plane was allegedly accompanied by two small, unknown aircrafts and one “mother ship” that all emitted strange lights. No one could explain what it was. And, despite the fact that all records of the event have been preserved, and the CIA referred to the incident as a “UFO event,” a spokesman allegedly told those reporting that, “if the American public was told there was a UFO they would panic, so this event never happened.”
The following January, in 1987, an Alaska Airline plane on a flight from Nome to Anchorage reported a fast-moving unidentified object on their weather radar. And on Jan. 30, a U.S. Air Force jet reported a large disc-shaped object while flying from Anchorage to Fairbanks. It reportedly disappeared quickly.
Jones’ stories take her readers into many areas of mysterious happenings, some of which involve people with whom Homer residents may be acquainted.
Although not a native of Alaska, Jones now lives in Homer in the summer and winters in Florida. She said she comes to Homer in summer to visit her children and grandchildren, including son Dave Lyon, his wife Louise and their 12-year-old son Galen. (Jones said the new book is dedicated to him). She also visits with daughter Becky Lyon and her husband Ron Van Sickle.
Jones said hearing and reading about all the different tales of unusual events in Alaska captured her attention, so she decided to record them.
Her other books, including portrayals of historical women, are published by Globe Pequot Press.
A native Texan, Jones considers herself a “history buff.” She is a graduate of Colorado College, and especially enjoys bringing the unusual happenings of history to light. She belongs to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, as well as the Nevada Women’s History Project.
Packed with “true” stories of unusual occurrences, many near Homer, Myths and Mysteries of Alaska is a fun and enlightening read. It can be purchased at the Homer Bookstore, Pratt Museum and Salty Girls on the Homer Spit.
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