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 Upper Thumb is full of abandoned places in Michigan and has long been acknowledged as an active paranormal country It has been the subject of books, film, and television. Here are the most active haunted Michigan Thumb sites in the area.
Haunted Michigan Thumb Table of contents
- #1 Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
- #2 Pointe Aux Barques Lifesaving Station
- #3 The Old (Colony) Bay Port Cemetery
- #4 Bay Port’s Sweet Dreams Inn
- #5 The Site of the Haunted Bay Port Hotel
- #6 Port Crescent Cemetery
- #7 The Bruce Mansion – Brown City
- #8 The Abandoned Albert E. Sleeper Mansion in Bad Axe
- Related Haunted and Abandoned Michigan Places
- Map of Paranormal Sites in Michigan’s Thumb
#1 Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
This iconic lighthouse sat 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 swept across the thumb. The lighthouse keeper, Andrew Shaw, and the lifesaving station crew 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 tower’s top is not allowed. However, for a nominal fee, tours are conducted during Memorial and Labor Day weekends. 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.
Paranormal Investigations at the Lighthouse
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.
#2 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 turned 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. Magruder. 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 to Lake Huron’s icy waters.
#3 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 is 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 Wild Fowl Bay’s shores. 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 the 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 the colony’s dead are in unmarked graves and elsewhere. The old cemetery and area around Bay Port are part of the haunted Michigan experience.
#4 Bay Port’s Sweet Dreams Inn
Local businessman and lumber baron William Wallace built the mansion in 1890. The house’s site is near the once famous Bay Port hotel, and along with 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 homes in Michigan. Local legend states that his first wife, Elizabeth died in 1893 and passed away in the home. They’re also a bit of a mystery as to the final resting place of William Wallace. Despite the prominence of this individual, Wallace was not buried in Bay Port. He is buried in Bad Axe miles away. 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 Wallace’s ghost wanders the mansion telling the guests to leave.
The inn operated for several years as a B&B. It embraced its reputation as a haunted house, and visitors stayed with the hopes of such an experience. However, today the Sweet Dreams Inn is closed as a hotel.
#5 The Site of the Haunted Bay Port Hotel
Close to the Sweet Dreams 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 Saginaw Bay’s shore 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, an electric lighting system, Casino, and a 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 the beautifully 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 Saginaw Bay’s shore. A lonely memorial marker stands as a testament to the former hotel. The waterfront lot was never built on again.
#6 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, a 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 for glassmaking, but this too went out of business in the 1930s.
The Haunted Michigan Cemetery of Port Crescent
Today, the former town’s site 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 ghost town residents is scattered among rolling, moss-covered dunes. It’s an eerie feeling to visit in the evening. It’s one of the most overlooked sites in our haunted Michigan collection.
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 cemetery’s northeast corner.
Graves Among the Ancient Sand Dunes of Port Crescent
Walking among the Port Crescent cemetery gravestones today is like walking back into the time of the 1870s. The lake’s dunes 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 and considered one of the haunted Michigan sites you have to visit.
#7 The Bruce Mansion – Brown City
Another haunted Michigan site is 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 cupola, which has an 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 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. He hanged himself in the tower cupola; 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.
In the past, the owners offer tourists interested in seeing the mansion tours. However, with new owners, the tours have ceased. They are currently renovating the property and ask the admiring public not to trespass—view from afar. Bruce’s mansion remains a unique haunted Michigan site.
An Orb Flies by in the Bruce Mansion
#8 The Abandoned Albert E. Sleeper Mansion in Bad Axe
Just west of the four corners of Bad Axe sits a large and imposing mansion. While no reports of it being haunted, it was creepy enough to be used as a haunted house. The Sleeper mansion was a funeral home for many years.
It was the home of a former Michigan governor. This incredible example of Greek Revival design. The Doric columns support a two-story portico in front of the two-and-a-half-story building. The house is square in plan with both a one and a two-story wing attached to the back. The 20th Governor of Michigan, Albert E. Sleeper, built this mansion, located on West Huron Avenue in Bad Axe. The house was built in 1917.
The mansion is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Today it sits abandoned and boarded up—a sad state for a historic grand old home.
Related Haunted and Abandoned Michigan Places
- Stay in a Haunted B&B
- Paranormal Bay Port
- The Ghost Town of Port Crescent State Park
- The Faded Glory of Huron City Michigan
- The Chilling Story of the First Woman Lighthouse Keeper in Michigan
- The Abandoned Mansion of Albert E. Sleeper in Bad Axe
- The Restoration of Kilmanagh’s General Store