Michigan is the only state to consist of two peninsulas, and its name means “large water” in a French form of the Ojibwa language. With 64,980 inland lakes and ponds, it rivals Minnesota for the name “land of 1,000 lakes.” Michigan is a state of contrasts, from the post industrial urban landscape of Detroit to the pristine forests of the Upper Peninsula. At Mysterious Heartland, we have found that ghosts and other spectres lurk in every corner of the Wolverine State, but which place will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Calumet Theatre
Opened in 1900, the Calumet Theatre was the Upper Peninsula’s most beautiful entertainment venue. Funded by wealth from the nearby copper mines, it featured luxuries like an electric copper chandelier. The theatre is famously haunted by the ghost of Polish actress Helena Modjeska, whose portrait hangs ceremoniously on the wall. Whenever her portrait is taken down, poltergeist activity follows. Lights turn off and on and loud crashes are heard. Her ghost has been spotted throughout the theatre. According to legend, in 1958 she appeared to an actress who had forgotten her lines in the midst of stage fright. The ghost whispered the correct lines to her and saved the performance.
9. Bloodstained Farmhouse
Built in 1852, this unassuming farmhouse outside the village of Fowlerville, Michigan hides a sinister secret. When newlyweds purchased the home in 1968, they discovered dark stains like dried blood on the wooden stairs. No matter how hard they tried, they could not get rid of the stains. Stains, however, were the least of their worries. The first time the husband stayed in the house alone, he was chased out by a ghost. The couple also claimed to see doors slam shut on their own, pictures fall from the wall, and even the vacuum cleaner move across the floor. When visitors came to the house, poltergeist activity usually followed. Also, when the couple’s child was old enough to speak, he told his parents that he could talk to the ghost and that its name was “Arnold.” If this strange activity continued after the family moved out, it is unknown.
8. Knock-Knock Road
Ghostly children are almost always creepy, but they are especially so when they appear in unexpected places. This is the case along Strasburg Road in economically ravaged Detroit, Michigan. For years, travellers along this road have reported the unusual sound of a young child rapping on their car doors and windows as they pass. According to legend, an adolescent girl was riding her bicycle in the neighbourhood when she lost control and rolled into the busy street. She was struck and killed. Today, her ghost knocks on the windows and doors of passing motorists, trying to get their attention. Another version of the legend, however, tells of a car full of teenagers who crashed their car into a pole and slowly burned to death. Trapped inside the burning vehicle, they pounded on the windows, desperately trying to alert people to their plight.
7. Northern Michigan Asylum
Traverse City, Michigan
Built in 1885, this architecturally appealing building has withstood the test of time, despite being in danger of demolition since it closed in 1989. For over a century, the mentally ill were housed and treated here. According to author Linda Godfrey, electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and other experimental treatments were performed on the more than 50,000 patients who resided within those walls. Urban explorers have navigated the dark tunnels under the former asylum, and strange stories have circulated. One legend involves a tree known as the “Hippie Tree.” If you find it and walk around it in just the right way, a portal to Hell may open. The building is currently undergoing redevelopment, so it remains to be seen whether spectres of the past will linger.
6. Hell’s Bridge
Algoma Township, Michigan
This bridge is somewhat unique in that it was exclusively designed for pedestrians. Located in the woods off of Friske Drive, just north of 12 Mile Road near a dirt turnaround, the bridge allows hikers to cross over Cedar Creek (which feeds into the nearby Rogue River). It is, basically, supported steel mesh with no guardrails. Over the years, this spot has developed a sinister reputation. Local legend states that, at some time in the distant past, a man named Elias Friske murdered several children and dumped their bodies in the creek, claiming, “The Devil made me do it.” Visitors report encountering unexplained temperature drops, seeing a misty figure, or hearing the sound of children crying and splashing in the water. Also, if you stand on the bridge at midnight, you will supposedly hear the Devil scream in triumph.
5. Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
With nearly 48,000 students, Michigan State University is the ninth-largest university in the United States in terms of enrolment and is one of the top public research universities in the country. It is also known for its collegiate sports teams, collectively called the Spartans. While administrators are hesitant to discuss it, for the past several decades students have shared stories of a ghost named “Bill,” who haunts the Wharton Centre for the Performing Arts. Bill is considered to be a protective presence, and is rumoured to be the ghost of a student who was beaten to death in the early 1980s. Objects move, doors open and close, and lights turn on and off of their own accord. According to Cynthia Thuma and Catherine Lower in their book Creepy Colleges and Haunted Universities, one student who saw “Bill” described him wearing a white button down shirt and black cotton pants.
4. Butler/William Ganong Cemetery
For most of the last two centuries, this remote, rural cemetery next to a schoolhouse on Henry Ruft Road was quiet and serine. That all changed one day in 1980. Marion Kuclo a local psychic who also called herself Gundella, paid a visit to the cemetery and made a grisly discovery. What she thought was a blonde wig turned out to be a woman’s scalp. As she got closer, she saw bone, pieces of a white dress, and bits of coffin lying around. The authorities thought a heavy rain must have washed the casket up, or it was dug up by animals. Kuclo suspected something more sinister. Whatever the reason, it touched off a series of unfortunate events. Shortly after discovery of the corpse, a man died in a car wreck on a curve in the road near the cemetery. People began to whisper that the ghost of a young blonde was causing accidents, and the curve began to be known as “Bad Curve.” Other visitors have heard screams coming from the cemetery at night.
3. The Holly Hotel
Built in 1891, the historic Holly Hotel has had a tragic history. It suffered not one, but two devastating fires. The first took place on January 19, 1913. The second erupted on January 19, 1978, exactly sixty-five years to the day and hour of the first fire. The hotel quickly recovered, but many of its original furnishings were destroyed. Its owners, however, took great care to reincorporate every piece of wood, railing, moulding, tile and glass which could be salvaged from the 1978 fire. Today, the hotel features fine dining by candlelight and one of Michigan’s oldest comedy clubs, with a side of ghosts. Over the years, many guests have reported smelling cigar smoke and the scent of perfume, while others have seen the spirit of a young girl who plays in the kitchen and on the banquet room steps. The young girl is said to knock over pots and pans. A petite spectre named Nora sometimes appears in photographs taken at the hotel, and she has been heard softly singing at night. A parapsychologist named Norman Gauthier once declared the Holly Hotel to be “loaded with spirits.”
2. Henderson Castle
Kalamazoo’s historic Henderson Castle was built in 1895 by businessman Frank Henderson. His company produced medals and decorations for secret societies, fraternal organisations, and the military. He spared no expense on this Queen Anne style home on West Main Hill overlooking downtown. After his death, the house passed through several owners. It soon developed a reputation for being haunted, and it has appeared in at least three horror films. Both Frank and Mary Henderson are believed to haunt the home, along with the ghost of an adolescent girl. A travel writer for the Detroit Free Press described being woken by someone tapping her on the arm. When she opened her eyes, she heard someone say “go away” from the darkness. The owner’s son witnessed an apparition of a lady wearing a Victorian dress in what was formerly Mary Henderson’s changing room. Other guests have heard footsteps and seen a phantom dog. Today, Henderson Castle is an upscale bed and breakfast.
1. Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, Michigan
Established in 1892, the campus of Central Michigan University is literally crawling with ghosts. Otherworldly activity has been reported at nearly every building on campus. Some of the more notable encounters have occurred at Warriner Hall, Powers Hall, and the former site of Bernard Hall. Built in 1928, the hauntings at Warriner Hall stem from a tragic accident that occurred less than a decade after it opened. A young cafeteria worked named Theresa Schumacher died of a head injury near the elevator, and since then students have heard her footsteps echoing around the central staircase. She has been known to manifest in a blue light and cause the elevator doors to open and close on their own. Phantom piano music is said to echo through Powers Hall. The music is attributed to a ghost named Emily, who died in the 1930s. She is allegedly buried under a piano-shaped hedge in the building’s foyer. Torn down in 1996, Bernard Hall was the setting for CMU’s most well-known ghost story. The cause of her death is uncertain, but the ghost of a freshman named Carolyn was widely believed to wander the hall in her nightgown. After the building was torn down, she has been spotted along Park Library Pond and in the graduate dorm that was built over the ruins of Bernard. Strange things have been experienced at Carlin Alumni House, Mae K. Woldt Hall, and Charles C. Barnes Hall as well.