Casino Crew Meets Hill Bar

What Happened in Craig “By the time they got to the Hill Bar, court records show, Casino crewmembers Bruce Anderson and Jan Kittleson had decided this wasn’t going to be a lot of fun. The pair had been instructed to ‘just amble through’ the bar, one at a time, and see if anyone reminded them of the mysterious skiffman. But picking a murderer out of a crowd wasn’t something they normally did. They felt apprehensive, scared, even terrified.”

Excerpt from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale

“[Casino skipper] Bruce Anderson gallantly offered to go first, while wife Jan waited outside, pretending to talk on the pay phone. As Anderson passed the small partition that separated the front door from the bar itself, he stopped dead in his tracks. He didn’t want to make a spectacle of himself and he didn’t want to go any deeper into the bar. Already, the bartender was staring at him. Already, he felt everyone’s eyes on him.

“But Bruce wasn’t sure what he was looking for. He hoped to be struck by an “Aha!” of instant recognition. What he saw was several people sitting at the counter and a few others scattered through the room. He looked them over one-by-one — concentrating on their basic body shape and head — then left as abruptly as he had come. Now it was Jan’s turn.

“Jan felt uneasy, but unlike Bruce, she managed to get past the main entrance of the bar. She walked slowly as she moved between the tables toward the men at the bar. Unlike her husband, she was looking for someone specific — someone wearing old-fashioned black glasses. But Jan was nervous, too, and in less than a minute and a half she had completely traversed the bar. Thirty seconds later, she was back on the street with her husband.”

Excerpt from “What Happened in Craig,” by Leland E. Hale

The troller Casino (copyright Doug McNair, 1982)

Neither Jan Kittleson nor her husband identified anyone in the Hill Bar as the skiff operator they’d encountered on their way to the Investor fire. And that encounter, however brief, had been memorable. By the time it occurred, they’d identified the Investor as the boat that was on fire. That got their attention — they knew the Investor’s owners, having dined with them multiple times.

Seeing the Investor skiff headed toward them, and away from the fire, they instinctively waved for its driver to stop. But it looked like he was evading them. Finally, “I turned my boat directly in front of him so he had to stop,” Anderson recalled. The skiffman made what they considered an expert maneuver toward them, then stopped within hailing distance. In Anderson’s description, the man they saw had a “California-surfer-board sort of look, kind of a tan, and hair a little longer than mine.”

At the Hill Bar, however, Anderson and Kittleson were less assertive. They barely stuck their noses in to see if that surfer dude was in the house. Their fear, their trepidation, their reluctance — whatever you want to call it — kept them at a comfortable distance from the bowels of the bar.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2018). All rights reserved.


Order “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

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