Haunted and Spooky Sites in Michigan’s Thumb
Michigan’s Upper Thumb is full of colorful history—from the boomtowns of the 1800s lumber era to the resorts and vacation homes of today. The area has long been acknowledged as an active paranormal region and has been the subject of book, film and television. Here are the most active haunted and spooky sites in the area.
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
This iconic lighthouse sits near the eastern tip of Michigan’s Thumb and was built in 1857. The light tower overlooks a twelve-foot limestone bluff, while the light itself is 93 feet above lake level and visible for a distance of 16 miles.
The lighthouse and nearby Port Hope Life Saving Station were almost destroyed in the massive 1881 fire that swept across the thumb. The lighthouse keeper, Andrew Shaw, and the crew of the lifesaving station formed a bucket brigade and fought the fire by toting water from the lake. Their actions saved the lighthouse and its crew.
The light is an active aid to navigation, so climbing to the top of the tower is not allowed. However, for a nominal fee tours are conducted during Memorial and Labor Day weekend. It’s the only time of year that the public is allowed to climb the tower. Pointe aux Barques light is one of the oldest continuously operating lights on the Great Lakes.
This site is known for paranormal activity, as tourists have reported seeing a mysterious form pull back curtains on the second story of the empty lighthouse. Some say this story goes back to the 1930s and that a former housekeeper haunts the main house.
In 2010, the South East Michigan Paranormal Society conducted an electronic analysis in the main house. The team recorded furniture moving, scraping, thuds, and giggling sounds in the empty house. After the study, the team leader of the investigators noted, “There is every reason to believe the lighthouse proper is haunted.”
A local radio station suggests that the lighthouse is haunted by the widow of the first lighthouse keeper who drowned on Lake Huron in 1849. It is said that the ghost of Catherine Shook, dressed in mourning in the style of the mid-1800s has been seen walking along the cliff looking out on the lake for her long-lost husband.
Visiting the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse and Park
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse and Park are located 10 miles east of Port Austin. The park features a large, full hookup campground, picnic areas, and a rock hound’s perfect rocky beach. The lighthouse museum is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day from noon to 4 pm.
Pointe Aux Barques Lifesaving Station
The area around Point Aux Barques is also known for its paranormal activity offshore. Reports by sailors coming into the mouth of Saginaw Bay near the Pointe Aux Barques Reef have told of seeing a white lifeboat with eight men rowing out to the lake.
As it turns out in April 1880 six men drowned when their surfboat overturned in high seas when going to the aid of the lumber scow J.H. Magurder. in distress. The sole survivor, Captain Jerome Kiah lived to tell the tale. Kiah had to resign his position several months later due to his exposure in the icy waters of Lake Huron.
The Old (Colony) Bay Port Cemetery
The Old Bay Port cemetery was established in 1863 on the extreme southern edge of the Ora Labora colony. It is the final resting place for the pioneers of a town that has disappeared from all the maps. The burial ground still exists and is the only remnant of this long-lost town and there is no official record of who owns it. The Old Bay Port cemetery has 241 marked graves resting amongst wild trees and forests that beckon to take it over. The site located at the end of Sand Road off M-25 in McKinley Township. Look for the large rock marking the entrance to the site.
The Mystery of the Old Colony Cemetery
In the 1860s, German immigrants started a religious colony called Ora Labora on the shores of Wild Fowl Bay. In its first year, 140 settlers established a hamlet in the wilderness. However, the colony was plagued by illness and within months of their arrival, the community suffered its first death of a little girl.
There are over 300 graves in the Old Bay Port Cemetery. It was long thought that the graveyard was established by the German Methodist Colony called Ora Labora which operated from 1861-1867. Yet no recorded graves from the Colony are found in the records of the cemetery. Michigan didn’t require documentation of death until 1867, which was the final year of the colony’s existence. Thus it’s now a mystery that many of the final resting places for colony’s dead are in unmarked graves and somewhere in the area.
Bay Port’s Sweet Dreams Inn
Local businessman and lumber baron William Wallace built the mansion in 1890. The site of the house is near the once famous Bay Port hotel and along the stagecoach route Build in the Victorian style, the Inn has five guest rooms in which to stay and overlook the Lake Huron shore. Wallace was active in politics and owned several businesses in the Upper Thumb. He owned the Wallace Stone Quarry which is located south of town and still in operation today.
The Inn is considered one of the most paranormally active residents in Michigan. Local legend states that his first wife, Elizabeth died in 1893 and that she passed away in the home. There also a bit of a mystery as to the final resting place of William Wallace. Despite the prominence of this individual, there is no record of his grave site. Thus it’s no coincidence that visitors say Wallace and his first wife still roam the inn with his heavy footsteps, as well as whispering in the ears of the guests. While they are considered friendly spirits some visitors leave the inn in the middle of the night as the ghost of Wallace wanders the mansion telling the guests to leave.
The Site of the Haunted Bay Port Hotel
Close to the Sweet Dreams in is the site of the formerly luxurious and imposing Bay Port Hotel. In its day, the hotel was famous and modern. It was nestled among the beautiful trees on the shore of Saginaw Bay at Bay Port (1886-1907) This hotel was state of the art. Well planned and built of the finest materials having 117 heated rooms, six excellent cooks, hot and cold baths, bowling alleys, pool tables and an electric lighting system, Casino, and barbershop.
About 1900 local lore states that a despondent man committed suicide in one of the lower rooms by slashing his own wrists and throat. Before he died, the young man succeeds in making bloody handprints over of the beautiful papered walls of his room. Because it was difficult to cover up the stains this room was locked up and not used again.
Soon tales of voices and cold chills were told about the large imposing hotel. With the hotel failing the richest man in town, W.H. Wallace purchased it and sold the contents ‘by auction sale, before tearing down the building in 1907. Today all that remains are the front steps in front of an empty lot on the shore of Saginaw Bay. The waterfront lot was never built on again.
Port Crescent Cemetery
In the late 1860s, the town of Port Crescent was a booming lumber town. The town was considered one of the largest on Saginaw Bay with two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a barrel making cooperage for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory, roller rink, two brewers, stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a rail depot, and telegraph office. The town employed hundreds of area residents.
However by the 1880s, the lumber era had peaked, and two large fires swept through the Upper Thumb destroying millions of acres of timber. The town was doomed and soon buildings were moved to other nearby towns. The remaining industry was the mining of fine silica sand used to glassmaking, but this too went out of business in the 1930s.
The Rich History of Port Crescent Cemetery
Today, the site of the former town is now comprised of the trails and campground of Michigan’s Port Crescent State Park. A small part of the chimney is still visible near the campground and a steel girder bridge crosses the Pinnebog river for hikers. Nearby, the final bit of the town left is its cemetery. The final resting place for the residents of the ghost town is scattered among rolling, moss-covered sand dunes. It’s an eerie feeling to visit in the evening.
Port Crescent cemetery is located about 1/2 mile east of M-25 on Port Crescent road in Hume Township, Huron County, Michigan. Access is gained by walking past a vehicle gate down a country lane about 100 yards to the northeast corner of the cemetery.
Graves Among the Ancient Sand Dunes of Port Crescent
Walking among the gravestones of the Port Crescent cemetery today it like walking back into the time of the 1870s. The sand dunes from the lake are still evident and many of the grave markers are askew from the shifting sands of time. For the most part, the gravestones are well preserved and unmolested and there have been no stories of hauntings near this area. But the area is truly spooky looking.
The Bruce Mansion – Brown City
This large and imposing Victorian home was built in 1876. The three-story mansion has a coal bin and cistern in the cellar. The more striking feature is the home’s tower copula which has the ideal look for a spooky haunted house. Which it is.
The mystery of the home begins a few years after it was built. A huge fire in 1881 covered and destroyed entire towns across the thumb but left the house untouched. In the 1920s, John Walker bought the home. Local legend tells that Walker accidentally killed someone with his car and that he hid and buried the body on the property. Riddled with the guilt he fell into despair. Soon his wife had left him and the mansion was facing foreclosure. It was said that he hanged himself in the tower copula, however, the official cause of death is not recorded.
The large house has been the focus of paranormal investigators and tourists. There have been two investigations that have denoted numerous apparitions. Amazingly, there have also been reports of a ghost cat running through the rooms and a growling dog in the cellar.
Today, the owners offer tourists interested in seeing the mansion tours on Saturday evenings. The Bruce Mansion is 15 miles north of Imlay City, 6 miles south of Marlette, and 5 miles west of Brown City on M-53.