Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a small writer’s conference in Michigan. We were only about an hour’s drive from the ferry for Mackinaw Island, so we decided to take the time to visit it.
For those who don’t know much about Mackinac Island (except, maybe for the ice cream) it’s an island that covers about 4 miles, located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It was a strategic settlement, first by the Odawa people, then by European fur traders, and then Fort Mackinac was built by the British during the American Revolutionary War. This little island was actually the site of two battles during the War of 1812.
In the 19th century, it became a tourist attraction with many people finding respite from hot summers in the beautiful waters of Lake Huron. Another interesting fact is that no motor vehicles are allowed on the island, so everything is done with bikes, horses or your own two feet. We did a lot of “own two feeting” on Saturday.
It also has a darker history, including witch hunts, being considered an ancient sacred burial ground, and then, of course, the wars thrown in for good measure. Week in Weird website has done some exploring of their own on the island. Especially when it comes to the Grand Hotel:
Built in the late 19th century, the Grand Hotel is known for two things: being the setting for the 1980 film “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve, and for being haunted as all get out.
Legends say that when the construction crew was digging the hotel’s foundation, they began to find so many human skeletons that they lost track of them all. To this day, rumors persist that the workers, increasingly unsure of how to handle the situation, simply gave up on collecting the bones and started building the hotel anyway. The results are as you might predict.
One of the spookiest tales to come from the old hotel deals with an “evil entity” in the form of a black mass. As two maintenance men performed a check of the hotel’s theater stage, one of them was struck with the overwhelming feeling that something was watching them, something that he could only describe as evil. As he looked out over the stage, he noticed two glowing red eyes peering from a dark shadow hovering above the theater floor. As he watched in horror, the black form began to rush toward him, knocking him off his feet. Two days later the man awoke in a hospital and swore to never return to the Grand.
The stories don’t stop there. Some staff have reported seeing a man in a top hat frequenting the second-floor bar’s piano, only to disappear moments later, leaving only the lingering scent of a cigar behind. Others have reported a woman in Victorian clothing that tends to roam the hotel’s employee housing, sometimes even curling up next to workers as they bed down for the night.
But the hotel’s not the only place for spooky encounters. According to Mysterious Universe Fort Mackinac makes a perfectly suitable location for a haunting:
The halls of the fort often echo with the spectral laughing or giggling of children. The Officer Hills Apartment Quarters often experiences moving furniture that slides about and sets off motion alarms, as well as lights seen flickering within after hours by security guards from outside, and the utterly chilling sound of babies crying in torment.
In the cemetery, the apparition of a woman can sometimes be seen weeping at the grave of one of the children who died here, eternally lamenting her loss.
The Guard House, in particular the dungeon jail, is known to have sudden and inexplicable cold spots and chills even in the stifling heat of summer, and orbs are frequently captured on camera here. It is suspected that this could be the presence of the long dead prisoner still wallowing in his cell.
People visiting the old hospital have reported smelling the stench of death, sickness, and decay, or of seeing disembodied limbs, which often show up in photos.
At the North Sally Port Entrance Gate and Wall of the fort, it is said that the ghostly sound of piper music can be heard wafting through the air on foggy or misty mornings, that a phantom piper can be seen playing on the shore, and an entity of what appears to be a spectral young man in uniform can often be seen dutifully patrolling the walkway up on the defensive wall.
At the Rifle Range Trail there is an apparition dressed in an old fashioned uniform, presumably the ghost of James Brown, the man who was executed here, that is said to follow people around and sometimes playfully trip up people by stepping on the backs of their shoes. The sounds of phantom rifles firing can also sometimes be heard at the Rifle Range.
Additionally, the whole of the fort is plagued with various poltergeist activity such as children’s toys being rearranged, cameras malfunctioning, personal belongings flung around, furniture moved or even toppled over, and lights inexplicably turned on and off among others. There have even been reports of capturing disembodied voices speaking the Native language of Ojibwa here.
What a lovely place to spend a sunny summer day! No, really, it was!