I grew up in a haunted house. Or so some of my friends thought, on account of the mannequins my mother kept in an upstairs room with a bank of windows facing a busy Petoskey street.
For the record, I don’t ever recall the mannequins, or any other ghosts or spirits, visiting me over the many years I lived there, though others still remember it that way.
While there was sometimes disagreement about my own haunted house, there’s plenty of belief about other haunted spots in northern Michigan and the wider Great Lakes area.
A writer from lower Michigan has a cottage industry showing tourists the haunted hangouts on Mackinac Island, for example. Each night of the tourist season, a long line of listeners follows one of the caped guides, stopping at spots like the Island House hotel to hear tales of “Charlie,” the “gentleman ghost” who walks the fourth floor wearing an overcoat and top hat.
Up the hill at Fort Mackinac, the specter of children playing with toys has been reported, as have apparitions near the north sally port, maybe because it is not far down the hill, as the spirit flies, from the post cemetery.
Mackinac Island isn’t the only haunted spot in the Straits area, however. With more shipwrecks than anywhere else in the country, the presence of nautical haunts is not hard to find.
In Lake Superior, shipwrecks also mean ghosts. Near Isle Royale, the SS Kamloops went down in 1927. Part of the crew is a ghost, known since the wreck as Gramps, who divers say sometimes shadows their explorations.
Another famous wreck is Le Griffon, built by famed French explorer Rene de La Salle, that went missing in September 1679, perhaps loaded with furs. The wreck’s location remains a mystery still, though it’s likely in Lake Michigan somewhere, a place where sailors have for years told stories of a ghost ship on a collision course with their own, only to see it vanish at the last minute.
All along the shorelines, particularly Lake Michigan, stories abound of ghosts and spirits, the combination likely the result of ghoulish weather and large tracts of uninhabited forest as much as anything else.
Back here on Little Traverse Bay, some believe the Perry Hotel is haunted, the ghost a woman named Doris who wanders along the hotel’s top floors though issuing no ill winds.
At the Terrace Inn in Bayview, a man in tweed appears, some say, looking over balconies but disappears as quickly as he materializes. There is a woman in white here, as well, some claim to have seen. Again, these apparitions are benign, so the source of curiosity more than concern.
Looking back, I’m not sure my boyhood home was haunted, though like these other tales, it always made for a good ghost story.