The Haunted: Mackinac Island
As we get deeper into October, I’ve decided to explore some pet cases of mine. That means we’re staying in Michigan for this week’s post. In this post, we’ll explore Mackinac Island (pronounced mack-ih-naw, y’all) and its many hauntings.
I recognize that many of my readers will not be familiar with Mackinac Island, so let’s go over some brief details and history of the island. Mackinac is a small island (around 4 sq miles total) in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsula. The population is just under 500 people according to the 2010 census, but thousands of tourists visit each year for the scenic views, historical landmarks, cultural events, and fudge. People always visit for the fudge. Cars are banned on the island, and the main forms of transportation are horses and bikes.
Now, onto the history. Prior to the French “discovering” Mackinac Island, Ojibwa and Odawa tribes of Native Americans used the island as a burial ground. They referred to it as Michilimackinac, which means “Great Turtle” in the Odawa dialect. However, when the British realized that the position could serve them strategically, they stole the land from the natives in 1780 and built a fort. The United States took the land from the British in 1783, and it was used as the HQ for the American Fur Company for a time before transitioning into a resort. It was then taken back by the British during the War of 1812, but the United States again stole it back in 1815. So. A lot of wartime activities. A lot of Native significance to the land. It also has a history as a resort spot, and has a history of witch hunts, but we’ll get into specifics of those in the individual hauntings.
Witch’s Drowning Pool
The drowning pool is located near the southern tip of Mackinac Island. The pool is relatively small, but is deeper than it appears, boasting a near 20-foot dropoff into its depths. Basically, if a woman was accused of being a witch – and it was always women – they would be tried in one of two ways to determine whether they were actually a witch or not. The first method involved placing one end of a lever over the pond, and having a weight repeatedly placed on and removed from the other end, dunking the accused into the pond over and over. Hence this technique has been dubbed dunking. If the woman drowned without admitting to being a witch, she was declared innocent. If she admitted to being a witch, the dunking stopped…but the accused were then hanged. The second method involved binding the accused’s ankles bound and weighed down with rocks. If they floated, they were witches. If they sank, they were declared innocent in death.
In the 1700s and 1800s, seven women were accused and tried in this way. All seven of them are said to still haunt the depths of the drowning pool. Many visitors claim to see or hear splashing in the waters without a source. Figures and shadows have been seen both above and below the surface of the water. Sometimes these spirits are smudges, sometimes they have more definitively human features. Sometimes the figures hover above the water. Sometimes they are seen drifting below the surface placidly. Regardless of where they appear, these sightings are not accompanied by ripples, waves, or wakes.
The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel was built in 1887. Local historians claim that the hotel was built over an old cemetery. Allegedly, bodies were attempted to be relocated, but there were simply too many to keep track of, so they gave up. Now, keep in mind that the only places I’m seeing these rumors is on other writeups from sources such as news sites, radio stations, travel sites, etc. I have not come across sources contemporary to the time of construction, so this very well could be an urban legend. Or maybe the fact that there could be bodies scattered beneath the Grand Hotel explains the high diversity of ghosts within its walls.
There are so many different entities reported being seen at the Grand Hotel that I feel comfortable saying that we won’t get to them all. Over the years there have been various spirits spotted dressed in clothes described as being from roughly the 19th century. One such ghost is known as Little Rebecca. Rebecca was a child when she died on the hotel grounds. She is most often seen on the fourth floor of the hotel, wandering the halls and disappearing. She most often appears between 2 and 4 AM (hello witching hour!) to singular people in the halls.
Another commonly spotted spirit is known as the woman in black. She is most often seen after dark, walking around the Grand Hotel’s porch. She also has a spectral companion, and that’s what makes her so interesting to me. She’s seen walking a large white dog. White dogs are very, very rarely mentioned when it comes to ghosts. Typically, we hear all about death being personified as a black dog, or black dogs being an omen of death. The fact that she has a white dog alongside her suggests that perhaps they were companions in life, which then opens the can of worms of whether animals have souls and can pass on. A lot of big questions are brought up by this woman and her pup.
I saved the scariest entity for last. There is something aggressive haunting the halls of the Grand Hotel. Several People have encountered a shadowy black mass with glowing red eyes. From what I can tell, it seems to manifest as a semi-transparent, semi-solid shadow or cloud. It does not appear to take the full shape of a human – i.e. no arms or legs – though it is roughly human-shaped. It apparently gives off malevolent vibes and has physically attacked several people, even knocking a maintenance man out. It apparently often appears in the hotels theater, near the stage.
Fort Mackinac was built on the island during the Revolutionary War, since the island was at a strategic point (as we briefly discussed earlier).The fort is comprised of fourteen total buildings – including several soldiers’ quarters, barracks, storehouses, a hospital, a bathhouse, a schoolhouse, and more. Basically, everything a soldier or their family would need in daily life could be found within the fort walls. The current state of the fort is largely the same as it was in the 19th century – it has neither been modernized nor allowed to fall to ruin.
The haunting phenomena at Fort Mackinac varies in severity, depending on the building you visit. Across the fort, however, there seems to be a consistent presence of low-level activity. Visitors to the fort routinely report hearing the sound of fife music, though there is no source to be found. Rifle shots are heard often, even when there are no reenactments occurring. Orbs appear in many photos taken at the Fort – even outdoors, where dust is unlikely to be caught in a camera flash, and bugs tend to appear as bugs or blurs when captured.
The Fort Mackinac hospital also has reports of strange spiritual phenomena. Visitors have reported seeing the ghostly appearance of amputated limbs – meaning the limb itself, separated from the body. They do not see the person it was once attached to, so this does not seem to be a soul trapped on our plane of existence, as we normally conceptualize ghosts to be. Guests also report feeling overwhelming feelings of sadness in the hospital. These reports lead me to believe that the trauma experienced there imprinted itself on the very building and now shows itself over and over again, like a record skipping. For more information on this theory, look up the Stone Tape Theory.
The guard house and buildings that served as soldiers’ quarters also have reports of phenomena. The sounds of children crying are one of the most often reported phenomena. In line with the idea of kid ghosts, toys are found thrown around in the mornings despite being put away the night before – the idea being that the spirit children come out to play at night. Motion detectors often get triggered with nothing to be seen by the naked eye. Furniture gets moved around, apparently on its own. I don’t have a lot to say about that, apart from the idea that maybe the ghosts are trying to restore the quarters to how they remembered them to be – when they were alive that chair when in this corner, that sort of thing.
Mission Point Resort
Mission Point Resort began as a single home in 1825, built by Amanda and William Ferry, who were Christian Missionaries. The building began to morph into a complex in the 1950s, thanks to the Moral Rearmament which is a fairly radical nondenominational religious movement. I’m not going to get into it here, because it could really be its own post. The buildings were then utilized in 1966 to form the short lived Mackinac College. After the college shut down four years later, the complex was used for religious programming and getaways. In 1972, Mission Point Resort began pivoting away from its religious roots and instead focused on vacationers and those looking for a getaway. It was given the name Mission Point Resort in 1987.
There are a lot of low-level happenings at Mission Point Resort. People hear voices that have no source. Visitors report feeling watched, which is something that I discount almost immediately – your mind can play all sorts of tricks on you when you’re alone in an unfamiliar place, after all. There have also been reports of sudden, unexplainable drops of temperature.
The most sighted spirits at Mission Point are those of children. According to local lore, a tuberculosis outbreak took hold at Mission Point in the early 1800s. Those infected – most of which were children – were relegated to the cellar, where most died from the disease. Again, this seems to me more urban legend than fact – I was unable to find corroborating sources from the time period. One of the ghosts that has a name at the Mission is Lucy. Lucy and her parents lived at Mission Point, though the time period during which she was alive is unknown. The story goes that Lucy’s parents were called back to Detroit on business. Lucy was too ill to travel with them, so she was left to rest at Mission Point. Unfortunately, she succumbed to her illness before her parents returned, and now her lost spirit roams the halls, still crying out for her mother and father.
Finally, the most famous ghost of Mission Point Resort is known as Harvey. Harvey was a student at Mackinac College during its active years – the specific year is unknown, but we know it had to be between 1966 and 1970. Harvey was lovelorn, brokenhearted after his girlfriend broke up with him. He walked into the woods and completed suicide by shooting himself. His body was not found for some time – timeframes range from a few months to half a year. The official ruling on his death was said to have been suicide, but rumors on campus were that someone had murdered him – there had allegedly been two bullets his Harvey’s head when his body was found. Now, Harvey’s spirit is said to haunt the theater at the Mission Point Resort, poking and prodding guests.