The house on the corner of Rezanov Drive and Armstrong Avenue reached out to the DuBois family, but not in the way they were told it would. When the family looked at the house 11 years ago, the real estate agent said it was “haunted.”
Ayn DuBois replied that if she caught sight of any spirits, she’d put them to work unpacking their boxes and suitcases. She wasn’t worried.
There was supposedly creepy goings-on in the house: a crawl-space door that never stayed shut, strange voices from out of nowhere, cold rooms that could never warm up.
But once the DuBois family moved in, they ran into no weird sounds, no oppressive presence, no paranormal activities. In fact, within a week, Ayn figured out the source of some of the supposedly strange phenomenon.
The flapping crawl-space door had a flimsy latch that Ayn’s husband, Kevin, fixed by putting a heavy magnetic clasp on it. The eerie cold room warmed up when they adjusted the boiler. And those voices actually came from Baranov Park. Because of the acoustics, “you can hear everything that goes on” out there when the kitchen window is open, Ayn said.
Negative associations with the house had more to do with the activities of former residents than the house itself, Ayn contended. “If you bring love and family into that house, the house is going to embrace that,” she said. “If you’re going to bring Ouija boards and drugs and alcohol, you’re going to get out of it what you put into it. If you bring that troubled hurt into the house, then it’s not the house that has the trouble” but the residents. “The house needs kids and people who bake bread.”
Ayn said she “only felt the presence of the Lord” in the house. “If I had to say the house has a spirit, it has a spirit of family, it has a spirit of love.”
The DuBois family is in the process of selling the house, but Ayn makes it clear that they’re not being driven out.
They badly want to stay there, but circumstances won’t allow them. Kevin DuBois was among those laid off by the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, which operates the Kodiak Launch Complex at Narrow Cape. Now the family must move to a place where there is work. They plan to stay in Chicago with their daughter in the meantime.
“My husband didn’t want to leave,” Ayn said. “He thought he’d retire here.
“We need to move by the middle of October,” Ayn said. “If we have another winter like last winter, the thought of moving off the island is scary. We have to sell the car, the furniture — just about everything,” including the house.
The DuBois family moved here in early November 2001 from Florida, where Kevin had worked in space engineering at the Kennedy Space Center. He looked forward to being employed at the launch site at Narrow Cape.
When the family left Orlando at seven in the morning, it was 85 degrees, Ayn recalled. Fourteen hours later, they got off the plane in cold Kodiak. Within 45 minutes of their arrival, it started snowing. “It was a bit of culture shock,” Ayn said.
But in spite of sharp contrasts in weather, geographical features and size, the DuBois family felt at home in the new community.
“We thought Kodiak would be a great place to raise the kids,” Ayn said.
They appreciate everything about the island. The beauty is magnificent. “You can’t take a bad picture here,” Ayn said.
The people have a lot to do with the welcoming atmosphere. “The people that come to stay in Kodiak are some of the finest people there are. The sense of community here is amazing.”
Ayn saw that sense of community at work in the school system and in the Community Baptist Church, where the family have been members for eight years.
“People have encouraged me, stood beside me and said, ‘We’re here for you.’ It’s going to be hard to leave that level of dedication from so many people.”
Kodiak has been a great place to raise children and pets, said Ayn, who often walked her dogs on the trails at Abercrombie State Park and Near Island.
One of those dogs was Griffin, a large and friendly Belgian Tervuren who got parts in Kodiak plays, including Annie and Camelot.
When Ayn told someone Griffin was a theater dog, the person asked how he did on stage. Ayn replied that he was “horrible,” referring not to his acting ability, but to the character he played in Camelot.
Griffin played the part of Sandy in Annie. The main actress in the play said Griffin was upstaging her.
Griffin, just a puppy when the DuBois family moved on the island, died last month at age 12 and a half.
“He loved it here,” Ayn said. “This is the best place for dogs. There are so many people who love dogs here.”
It’s going to be hard to leave Kodiak, and especially hard to say goodbye to the house on the corner of Armstrong and Rezanov.
Ayn gets emotional when she talks about it. “I think about the house and start to cry,” she said.
She wants to make sure that the person who buys it will treat it with love and care as they have.
Through research and conversations with people in the community, Ayn has learned a great deal about the house’s history. Built more than 70 years ago, it was formerly located downtown Kodiak where it served many purposes.
It was a dress shop and a gift shop. Someone told Ayn it had been a doctor’s office and someone else said it was a dentist office.
When Ayn worked at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, she met a lady whose grandfather lived in it when it was a boarding house.
The house survived the 1964 tsunami, which took many of the surrounding buildings. “The house never moved off its foundation,” Ayn said. “In the middle of all that chaos, it stood strong. How could you not love a house that stands strong?”
After the tsunami, people decorated it as the “haunted house.” That name stuck.
In the early 1960s, Norm Sutliff moved the house to its current location so it would not be destroyed with other buildings in the urban renewal project after the tsunami.
Ayn said she wants to see the house placed on the registry of historic homes. “The house has got good bones,” she said.
“I want someone who loves my house to live in my house and love it for me, I want them to be as happy in my house as I have been in it.
“If I could pack that house and put it in a suitcase I’d take it with me,” Ayn said.