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Local lore of Nantinaq documented on Discovery Channel show

Portlock Bigfoot.jpg
Daniel Lennon
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Courtesy of Discovery+
A still from episode 2 of "Alaskan Killer Bigfoot". Keith Seville is second from the left.

One local legend has lingered so long in regional and national lore that last year, it was documented in a Discovery Channel show. This Halloween season, we’re delving into the story of the Kenai Peninsula’s most notorious ghost town and the monster that some people say still haunts the town to this day.

At the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula, the small ghost town of Portlock, also called Port Chatham, is believed to have been targeted by a fearsome creature, according to the stories of the Suqpiaq people.

By some accounts, the native village of Portlock was abandoned following a series of mysterious deaths and occurrences attributed to Nantinaq, a bigfoot-like creature with supernatural powers. The stories have been retold through many articles and a book written by a Homer author.

And now, the story is getting a retelling in a Discovery Channel show called “Alaska Killer Bigfoot,” which premiered Dec. 7 of last year.

Keith Seville of nearby Nanwalek is a descendant of residents who fled Portlock and one of the show’s stars. He said he grew up hearing stories about the town and Nantinaq, but didn’t know the full extent until he got involved with the show.

“I’ve heard local stories from our ancestors and the elders. This is a place where our family came from, they up and left. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on there, and that’s what it was,” Seville said.

Alaska Killer Bigfoot follows a party of five men, led by Seville, as they travel to Portlock at the tip of the Kenai Peninsula to find Nantinaq, with the end goal of making Portlock habitable once again. The show also includes interviews with Homer-based historian Jeff Davis.

According to the show, nobody had been to Portlock for 70 years. Seville doesn’t consider himself much of a believer — something he also admits on the show. But he said his experience shooting Alaska Killer Bigfoot opened his eyes to the sinister nature of Portlock.

“The stuff that we’ve been through confirmed that there’s something out there,” he said.

Seville said according to village elders, haunting things have happened in both Portlock and Nanwalek, where residents of Portlock moved after they fled.

One theory is that those elders were followed from the old community to the new one. He said living in Nanwalek and subsistence hunting or foraging in the woods around the community is a simultaneously scary and amazing experience.

“You’re a half hour, 45 minutes, an hour away from home on a four-wheeler, in the middle of nowhere, harvesting for your family. And when it hits the fan, you’re out there with what you have,” he said.

Seville said in Nanwalek, the show received a warm welcome. He said it even inspired conversations that hadn’t been had before among community members.

“It kind of reawakened a lot of dormant stories,” he said.

Outside of the community, Seville said there are lots of fans, but also plenty of non-believers. But he said those viewers can’t know what he and the other stars from the show experienced during their 40 days in Portlock.

“It’s hard to describe in words,” he said. “You would have to be in my shoes to bring that justice.”

Seville said with support from fans, a second season of the show is possible. He said the cast and crew are eager to make it happen and to keep investigating the mystery of Nantinaq.

You can stream the eight-episode series “Alaskan Killer Bigfoot” on Discovery+.

Riley Board is a Report For America corps member covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL. A recent graduate of Middlebury College, where she studied linguistics, English literature and German, Board was editor-in-chief of The Middlebury Campus, the student newspaper, and completed work as a Kellogg Fellow, doing independent linguistics research. She has interned at the Burlington Free Press, covering the early days of the pandemic’s effects on Vermont communities, and at Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife, where she wrote about culture and folklife in Washington, D.C. and beyond. Board hails from Sarasota, Florida.
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