In her book Ghosthunting Michigan, author Helen Pattskyn explores 30 of the scariest spots in the Wolverine State. Today, she takes us on a tour of Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island—One of the Most Haunted Places in Michigan
Earlier in the year, I visited Mackinac Island, which is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the state of Michigan. It seemed little wonder, given the age of the settlement. Even before Europeans arrived in 1634, the island was inhabited by members of the Ojibwa tribe, who considered the island to be the home of the “Gitche Manitou,” or “Great Spirit.” Unfortunately, while I had a great stay, during the first two days I was there, the only people I met were seasonal employees who either didn’t know anything about the island’s hauntings or didn’t want to talk about them. On my last day, I decided to get up early, walk into town, and talk to a few of the locals. They were much more helpful.
Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island—Well Known for Ghosts
The island is a popular summer destination for Michiganders, most of whom come to get away from the city for a few hours and indulge in Mackinac’s most famous commodity: fudge. I could easily have gained 10 pounds in one weekend alone if it weren’t for all the walking I did, and my family would not have let me back in the door if I hadn’t brought home a half pound each of everybody’s favorite flavors. Mackinac is accessible only by boat or small plane, and there are no motor vehicles permitted on the island. To get around, visitors walk, rent bicycles, or take a horse-drawn cab. Horses can also be rented for exploring the island’s many beaches and trails. While many people only go for a day trip, I visited in the off season and got a great deal on my hotel room, proving that it doesn’t have to be as expensive of a weekend getaway as a friend had warned me it would be. I stayed at the Mission Point Resort, which is so well known for its ghosts that the resort was visited by the crew of the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters in March 2011.
There are a lot of ghost stories circulating about the Mission Point Resort, which was originally built in 1825 by Christian missionaries Amanda and William Ferry. Many guests report seeing the spirits of children who died on the property during a tuberculosis outbreak in the mission’s early days. The infected children were quarantined in a cellar to protect the rest of the population; few survived. The resort’s most famous spirit, however, is probably Harvey, a lovelorn man who jumped to his death from one of the cliffs behind the resort after his girlfriend broke off their relationship. Harvey’s room was located in what is now staff quarters, but guests have reported seeing him wandering other parts of the hotel as well. In fact, I mentioned this project to an acquaintance when I returned from my trip to Mackinac, and he said a friend of his worked a summer at Mission Point a few years ago and declared the place “totally freaky.”
When I visited the Baldwin Theatre, administrative manager Vonnie Miller told me a story about her experiences on Mackinac Island. When Vonnie was a teenager, she visited the island and snuck out one night after curfew. She couldn’t recall exactly where in town she’d been, just that she looked up to see a man standing under a light, watching her. She was sure she was going to get caught—only a second later, the man was gone. Vonnie told me that after she saw that, she hurried back to where she was supposed to be staying.
I did a little nighttime investigating at Fort Mackinac when I was on the island. The British built the fort in 1780, and it was the scene of two battles during the war of 1812. Allegedly, the spirits of many long-dead soldiers still patrol the fields behind the fort at night, perhaps not realizing that they’re dead and the war is long over. I didn’t see any ghosts, just a few bats . . . but it was kind of dark, and maybe I was just a little bit nervous being up there all by myself at 11 o’clock at night. I’d just taken the walking ghost tour.
In addition to the walking tour, sponsored by the bookstore in downtown Mackinac, the Mission Point Resort has started a yearly tradition of hosting a “haunted weekend” in September. Guests booked into the special package are given the opportunity to participate in a real paranormal investigation and decide for themselves if the place is actually haunted.
When I go back for another visit, I’m not only going to schedule more time to explore the rest of the island, but I’ll probably stay at the Cloghaun Inn, a little bed-and-breakfast in the heart of town. According to the owner of the coffee shop where I ate breakfast on my last day, the bed-and-breakfast is “definitely haunted.” I stopped by to talk to the owners before I left, but they were in the middle of breakfast service, and I had to catch my ferry home. Not that I’m looking for an excuse to go back or anything. . . .
Mackinac Island, east shore and downtown Mackinac: By N8huckins [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Star Line ferry on Mackinac Island: Michael Barera [CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Mission Point Resort and theater (black and white pictures): By Spcorcoran (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons