Tag Archives: Yukon

The Cremation of Sam McGee


31 Days of Ghosts presents a story of mystery and horror (and frigid cold).

Robert W. Service was an Englishman who died in France, but between those two events he became known as The Bard of the Yukon.

He’s well known for his poetry and his verses, which he began writing at a young age, and saw his first publishing in the Victoria Daily Colonist.  Six poems about the Boer War, in fact.

But he is probably best known for the rather horror filled tale of Sam McGee.  Horror may be stretching it, but at the time, the narrative was quite shocking.

Here, in it’s entirety is the Cremation of Sam McGee.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead—it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

If you want to hear an excellent reading, here’s the late great Johnny Cash reading Robert W. Serivce’s poem, The Cremation of Sam McGree.

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in 31 Days Of Ghosts, Ghost Stories, Weird facts


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Dawson City Theatre Ghost


31 Days of Ghosts presents another story of mystery and terror.  Is it real, myth, or a complete fabrication?  You decide.

Dawson City, Yukon was one of the far flung locations during the days of the gold rush.  At it’s height, Dawson City began to grow and become very cosmopolitan.

To answer the many needs and wants of a city that was growing, in her early years Dawson City built a grand theatre in the same design as many theatres in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Chicago and other very cosmopolitan cities.  It would be a classy place for the citizens of Dawson City.

As the years went by, the gold rush ended, and Dawson City became a small town in the Canadian North.  At the time of Canada’s Centennial, the council of Dawson City decided to renovate the theatre and prepare it for a new generation.  Construction began right away.

Many of the workers however, began noticing a different worker moving about the halls.  He wasn’t dressed in any of the more modern equipment that would suggest someone who would be part of a work crew from 1966 or 1967.  This drew a great deal of attention, and several began researching the history of the theatre.  Turns out, this construction worker had been seen many times before over the decades.

The truth of this ghostly worker came to light when some of the blue prints to the theatre didn’t match up to the actual measurements.  One room appeared shorter than what the blue prints suggested.  Work crews decided to tear down a wall to find out why this was.

To their surprise, and horror, them found out why the room was so small and just who the ghostly worker was.  The area had been walled over to hide a crime that happened during Dawson City’s younger years when the theatre was being built.  This small room had a few chairs surrounding a table, complete with poker chips, cards, and a skeleton in one chair.  The body had a bullet hole through the skull, which lead police to determine that this poor fellow had been caught cheating at cards, been shot by his mates, and to cover up the crime, they walled off the room, leaving all the evidence behind.

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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in 31 Days Of Ghosts, Ghost Stories, Weird facts


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