Moving back to my home state, and home city, Wyandotte, I have taken up studying some
of the scary tales and other events that have occurred in Michigan. I wanted to share some of these stories with you.
Since I have an affinity for Ghostly Tales at Universities, see my Weirld article on Ohio University and the Ridges, I want to begin with a tale from Central Michigan University and Warriner Hall. In 1937, CMU was still Central State Teacher's College. Warriner Hall had born the name of then-President Warriner for ten years (in fact, the building was only 10 years old--Warriner himself had raised funds to build it after a previous building at the site burned down). At the time, the hall was filled with classrooms, as well as the library, an auditorium, and a cafeteria.
On Saturday, May 29, 1937, a young food service worker, Theresa Elizabeth Schumacher, was bringing food down via the building's central elevator. For some reason, Theresa opened a little window that existed on the old elevator door and stuck her head through it. She peeked into the shaft, to see if it had been stuck between floors, and it came rushing from the floor above. It has been suggested that perhaps Theresa accidentally leaned on the call button as she peered through the window, or that perhaps someone summoned the elevator from another floor. Whatever the reason, Theresa's head was squarely in its way.
According to the news report that appeared in the June 2nd edition of the Central State Life, a bar near the top of the car caught her head. Pinned in the small window and with her throat pressed on the ledge, she quickly suffocated; the official cause of death was strangulation. She was not, as is commonly reported in legend, beheaded.
Since that day, the halls in Warriner Hall have been full of "eerie feelings" and "presences" sensed but not seen, or seen briefly before they are gone. It is also said one can see lights in the storage rooms of Warriner--on the sixth floor, where she supposedly died, though such stories are untrue--even though the room is always locked, and only the janitors have keys. At night, especially on the weekends, people walking campus have reported lights in the attic. Sometimes they move, sometimes they are static; never are they explainable.
The elevator, it is said, "has a mind of its own" and will sometimes break down mysteriously, or plunge those inside the car into darkness for no obvious electrical reason. Some attribute these frequent elevator problems on the interference of this ghost, though those people are oftentimes reciting the legend of the janitor and the elevator. A story sometimes reported from the late 1960s tells of a young DJ (the Hall once housed the campus radio station) working the midnight shift. He supposedly heard the elevator start, the doors open, and then found himself confronted by an apparition of a young girl. I have never been on an investigation here myself, but this is the recount of a tale told by some friends of mine that attended CMU. There are a couple variations on this tale; the most famous one is that it was a young actress that stuck her head in a dumbwaiter to call to her friend. The dumbwaiter fell and the actress was beheaded. There are no news articles to support that tale though.
The next legend of CMU is a sad and happy one at the same time. The story, as it is told around campus, goes as such: there were, at some time in the past (the 1950's, some claim), two young lovers on the CMU campus--a man of some fine bearing and social standing, and a woman of a lower class and birth (occasionally, the storyteller will reverse roles, with the woman being the high-class one). Despite their social differences, the two were in love, and when the young man's family protested, the decided to elope. Their plan was simple: the woman was to meet the man at midnight in front of the seal, when her love came around he would whisk her off, and they would be married. The girl, eager to meet her young beau, arrived at the seal early, and, despite the fact that the night was bitterly cold, she resolved to stand there until he came.
Midnight came and went, and then another hour, and the young man still had not arrived. And the weather became colder, and colder. Finally, about 4am, the young man--who'd been delayed by car problems--finally arrived; he was crushed to find that his love was, indeed, still waiting for him . . . only, in the bitter cold, she'd frozen to death, and lay in a heap on the ground before the seal. Crying, the young man knelt before the girl's body, scooping her into his arms, and, with a kiss, died holding her. He died of a broken heart.
Despite the sad ending to their life, it is said the ending of their story is a happy one, for in the spirit world, the two lovers found each other, and were united, together forever. And, according to the legend--and at the very heart of the story--it is said that, should you ever kiss your lover at the stroke of midnight, under a full moon, while standing in front of the seal, the couple will return to the spot to bless your love, and you and your mate will be together forever, destined to marry. I have not tried this, and I have not found anyone that did, but some legends are born out of truth….
One of my favorite fishing areas in Michigan is the Au Sable River. As a youth, my family and I used to vacation in Oscoda, MI on the shores of Lake Huron and the mouth of the Au Sable. Near to Oscoda are the ruins of Au Sable, the region's oldest settlement. It burned down in 1911 and many believe it to be a very haunted spot. The energies here are said to be so high that local witchcraft practitioners hold their secret ceremonies in the ruins. Although tradition holds that many ghosts still walk here.... there is one that is said to be the resident spirit.
The best accounting of this ghost took place in 1979 when a group of local hunters came to a cabin in the nearby woods for a weekend of hunting. One of the hunters got lost and wandered away from the others, becoming quickly disoriented in the heavy forest. He spent several hours wandering and searching for signs of civilization before, exhausted and hungry, he sat down to rest. He heard the crackling of underbrush and a young woman walked out of the forest. She asked what he was doing there and after he explained, she offered to lead him to safety. She told him that her father owned a farm nearby and she knew the woods quite well. Before long, they had reached the road. The hunter knew his way back to the cabin and he thanked the young woman profusely. She smiled at him..... and vanished.
Needless to say, the hunter was stunned and when he told his friends about it, they at first scoffed but then were convinced by his shock and sincerity. They packed up their belongings and started for home, stopping at a local restaurant for dinner and to phone their wives and tell them they were on the way home. The hunter shared his experience with the young woman with the waiter. He was not surprised by the tale at all.... he had heard it before.
The young woman's name had been Leona and her family had once had a farm in those woods. Back in 1929, Leona had been shot and killed by a hunter who mistook her for a deer. Since then, her spirit had been seen many times, usually leading lost people out of the forest. I have hunted these woods before, but I have yet to see the young woman. Maybe this year will be different, as I intend to do some hunting in that area again.
Besides Ghost Stories and haunting, Michigan has numerous monster sightings as well. Michigan has had a number of accounts of Bigfoot sightings, including one of my own that I wrote about on Weirld. Although I love a good Bigfoot sighting, that is not what Michigan is known for. The monster that comes to mind when talking about legends here is the Dogman. The Dogman is kin to the werewolf and the ‘Beast of Bray Road’. There are legends of how the Dogman came to be. One tale comes from the Shawnee Indians. There was said to be a group of fighters in the Shawnee known as the Dog Soldiers. These warriors would act and fight trying to mimic a dog. In their skirmish with the US Military, the Dog Soldiers were killed. As legend goes, some of these soldiers were able to shape-shift into the dogs they were mimicking and escape death. It is said that these soldiers still roam the woods in Michigan.
Being surrounded by water, you would imagine that there are great stories of lake monsters. The most famous one is that of Bessie the Lake Erie Monster. I have shared some of Bessie’s story with you in past Weirld articles. The other Lake Monster of note is that of Saggy, the Saginaw Bay monster. It is a lesser known tale, usually just spread through the locals. I will be one to verify, the waters of Saginaw Bay are creepy. There is poor visibility into the water and the waves can seem to play tricks on your eyes, appearing like something they are not, especially on a cloudy day.
These are just a few of the tales that surround a very weird Michigan. If these few tales interest you, I recommend looking up the Michigan Bell Telephone Company, the Ghost Ships of the Great Lakes, and the Mackinac Island cottages.
I am currently researching the Nain Rouge, or Red Devil of Detroit. Its sightings have always coincided with great disasters. If you have any comments or questions about the paranormal, leave them in the comments. You can also follow me on Twitter @OhioGrassman.