Discover Michigan: Haunted destinations for a frightening fall road trip

  In her book “Haunted Anchor Bay, Michigan,” author Debi Chestnut discusses hauntings at the Hatheway Mansion in New Baltimore. The building was torn down several years ago, but strange occurrences have still been reported at the site.

In her book “Haunted Anchor Bay, Michigan,” author Debi Chestnut discusses hauntings at the Hatheway Mansion in New Baltimore. The building was torn down several years ago, but strange occurrences have still been reported at the site.

Photo provided by Debi Chestnut


By: Jennifer Sigouin | Royal Oak Review | Published October 20, 2017

October traditionally brings fear to the forefront with Halloween, horror movies and haunted attractions, but some of the most spine-tingling experiences involve real-life mysteries and things that go bump in the night.

If you love a good ghost story and you’re ready for some authentic chills, the spirits await at some of Michigan’s most haunted sites. 

Anchor Bay area

According to author and paranormal expert Debi Chestnut, the Anchor Bay area, where she currently lives, is rife with strange occurrences — many of which are detailed in her book “Haunted Anchor Bay, Michigan.”

In an email interview, Chestnut explained that her most memorable paranormal experiences involve the Hatheway Mansion in New Baltimore. The home was built in the late 1850s by wealthy businessman Gilbert Hatheway, and it was torn down in 2005. When it was still in existence, Chestnut visited the house many times to conduct investigations, and she said that something new would happen every time, from hearing the sound of footsteps to feeling the push of unseen hands. 

“It’s said that James Hatheway (Gilbert Hatheway’s son) spent a great deal of time in the cupola gazing toward downtown New Baltimore to see his ships come into port,” she said. “One time when I was conducting a tour, we were heading for the cupola stairs when a white mist formed in the outline of a man and began to come down the stairs. We were all on the stairs and had to press ourselves against the wall to let it pass. When it passed, you could feel the cold chill of a spirit go by you.”

Although the house no longer stands, the basement was simply filled in rather than removed, and Chestnut notes in her book that there have been “reports of strange light shooting out of the ground from where the basement still stands.” 

Another New Baltimore site that Chestnut recommends is the Grand Pacific House Museum in downtown New Baltimore, which is now home to the New Baltimore Historical Society. This site, she said, is inhabited by friendly ghosts who “make themselves known.” In her book, Chestnut explains that some people believe these to be the spirits of Fred and Emma Losh, the building’s original owners.

“People have reported feeling like someone was following them down the stairs. Some people have been touched by someone unseen,” she said. “In addition, there have been reports of hearing Emma’s dress swishing as she waifs through the museum.” 

Mackinac Island

Ghost hunters wanting to travel a little farther can head north to Mackinac Island. According to Macomb Township resident Kat Tedsen, co-author of the “Haunted Travels of Michigan” book series and accompanying website, the island is home to several sites that are known for strange phenomena.

During her own investigations, Tedsen has used special recording equipment to pick up electronic voice phenomena, or EVPs, at several locations around the island. 

She said that Arch Rock, which is steeped in Native American folklore, has not only produced EVPs, but is also known for other phenomena such as apparition sightings, possibly of a woman whose bones were found at that site in the 1800s. Tedsen has also “connected with several possible entities” at the Post Cemetery, the oldest cemetery on the island. One of those entities, she said, could possibly be a spirit known as “Crying Mary,” who died at a young age and whose children all died very young. 

Another must-visit site is Fort Mackinac, which had never been investigated prior to 2000, Tedsen explained. When she obtained permission to explore the site and validate phenomena there, her first experience didn’t disappoint. During the investigation, Tedsen and her late sister and co-author, Bev Rydell, heard something hit the floor. Tedsen said that when they looked around, they noticed a penny, dated 1863 and in excellent condition, lying on the ground in front of them. Upon a return visit last year, Tedsen also detected EVPs in the barracks, possibly the voice of a soldier who had been sick, she said. 

Empire

The Cottonwood Inn in Empire is a quaint and cheery bed and breakfast that welcomes travelers wanting to visit the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore — but according to Tedsen, many don’t realize that the historic farmhouse has a mysterious past. 

“This is one of those hidden gems,” she said, noting that the Victorian-era home is believed to have been haunted for many years. 

According to Tedsen, the house was built around 1900 by the Roen family, and three of the Roen brothers — Ben, Sievert and Andrew — never married and continued to live together in the home into adulthood. Over the years, the brothers became increasingly reclusive, and in 1977, Sievert Roen went missing. Tedsen said that Sievert was never found, spurring rumors that the other two brothers had something to do with his disappearance.

Later, in 1985, the two remaining brothers were both found dead in the house — reportedly under unusual circumstances. Tedsen describes the Cottonwood mystery as a “haunting inside of a haunting,” with Sievert’s spirit possibly haunting the house after his disappearance, followed by Andrew’s and Ben’s spirits inhabiting the home after their deaths. 

Tips for haunted travels

If you think you’re ready to explore some of Michigan’s haunted places, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

First, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see or hear anything at first. 

“Most people will never know there is paranormal activity going on around them,” said Tedsen, noting that the signs aren’t always obvious. 

Chestnut also points out that not every place that’s old or abandoned is haunted, but if you do find a site that’s rumored to be haunted, it’s important to ask permission from the property owner before going there. 

When it comes to detecting paranormal activity, some people may see an apparition or feel a sudden chill, but Tedsen notes that the most consistent signs are subtle changes in the surrounding environment. 

“The atmosphere around you literally changes,” she said. “It feels heavy and still and charged.”

However, according to Chestnut, if someone starts feeling a little too uncomfortable — as if someone is pushing down on them — they should “get out of that place immediately.”

“In some cases, it could be a negative spirit, and they could potentially be in danger,” she said. “The thing is, if you go out looking for this stuff, you’re going to find it, and sometimes, what you find can hurt you.”

Not every ghost hunt is successful though, Tedsen added, but even if you visit a site and the ghosts seem to be hiding, it can still be fun to stick around and learn more about the location’s past. 

“It’s not just about the haunting; it’s about the history,” she said. 

For more information on the “Haunted Travels of Michigan” book series, visit www.haunted travelsmi.com. “Haunted Anchor Bay, Michigan” is available from Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com. 

Call Staff Writer Jennifer Sigouin at (586) 498-1052.