The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores

by Julie Royce / May 15, 2022 /
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I heard stories of more than 50 ghosts as I traveled Michigan Coastlines writing and compiling information for my three-volume travel series, Exploring Michigan's Sunset Coasts, Sunrise Coasts, and Upper Peninsula Coasts. Below are excerpts from my favorite stories. 

The 10 Scariest Ghosts Haunting Michigan’s Shores

The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores

1.The Dog Lady Island Ghost

On a rubbish-adorned, tiny island near Monroe, Michigan, lurks the ghost of an old woman who once lived there with her husband. After her spouse’s death, her house burned to the ground. She remained, homeless and alone except for her Doberman Pinschers. There are many versions of this story. Some include motorcycle gangs, horrific violence, and the old woman jumping on the hood of cars, snarling and growling at the occupants. 

The eccentric woman’s behavior grew increasingly bizarre. 

She emulated her beloved dogs—running about on all fours, devouring small prey, and frightening the kajeepers out of high schoolers who braved a night trip to the island. At some point it is said, one of her dogs turned on her, ripping out her tongue and part of her cheeks. Upon her death, her ghost decided to remain on the island. On evenings of a full moon, she sits on her haunches and howls at the great yellow orb.

2. The Ghost of Benny Evangelista

Late at night, the moon peeks from behind clouds and shimmers off the Detroit River. If you look deep into the shadows of the Motor City, you may glimpse Benny Evangelista’s headless ghost trudging along the streets near St. Aubin and Mack at the edge of the Eastern Market. His disembodied screams are garbled. 

Unlike ghost stories sewn from whole cloth or those born solely of vivid imagination, this tale is seeded in a true crime. 

It is a cold case almost a hundred years old. The story is full of butchery, voodoo, and the macabre. It ended with the savage murder of the entire Evangelista family—Benny decapitated at his desk and his wife and four children slain in their beds. It’s no wonder Benny is a restless ghost.

3. Ada Loop Harrison

Ada Loop lived a life of privilege by Port Sanilac standards. Her father, Dr. Joseph Loop, was the well-respected and beloved physician who ministered to the local population. In the end, his medical skills weren’t sufficient to save his young daughter. 

She was struck down in her prime by a passing automobile. 

At night, drivers see her and stop to offer assistance. Of course, it turns out no one is really there. Ada continues her haunting of the Loop-Harrison House, which is now a popular museum in the tiny town once called Bark Shanty. 

Loop-Harrison House Museum. From The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores
Loop Harrison House Museum. Photo Courtesy of Bob Royce

4. Minnie Quay

In 1876, farming and millwork were hardscrabble means of existence. Young Minnie Quay could hardly be blamed for seeking diversion from her dull, demanding life. Steeped in an aura of mystery, the sailors who docked at Forester offered the promise of dreams about to be fulfilled. They seemed worldly and wise and, in a few cases, distractingly handsome. 

But Minnie’s story was a tragedy of Romeo and Juliet proportions. 

Her parents forbade her to see her beloved. Minnie walked to the pier, and cast herself into the water. Local citizens rushed to her aid. With many hands reaching to save her from the unfolding event, she drowned. To this day, it is said she wanders the beach urging others to join her.

Haunted pier. From The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores

Minnie Quay's family headstone. From The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores
Minnie Quay’s family headstone in Forester Cemetery. Photo Courtesy of Bob Royce.

5. Ghost of the John Lau Saloon

During its long life, the friendly Lau saloon shared its rich history and memories with all who dined or imbibed there. Many customers enjoyed a Michigan brew while stepping back in history to listen to local stories. The dark wood paneling, floor, and bar set the mood—the experience enhanced by Agnes’s (the resident ghost) company, and the nineteenth century Alpena artifacts that vied for every inch of wall space.

It was June 1900 when John Lau married Agnes. To outward appearances they were an average couple.  During prohibition, Agnes may have helped her hard-working husband sell bootleg liquor, but aside from that, there wasn’t much to set them apart from any other local family.

Agnes died a young woman on June 24, 1913. 

For 107 years after her death, she roamed the Lau, claiming a position as its resident ghost. We can only speculate why Agnes’ spirit refused to leave this world. The cause most often cited for her death is complications of childbirth, although there are also stories that she died of consumption or even in a boating accident. No matter the cause, there is no suggestion of foul play or evil. Still, she returned to the bar, tapped customers on the shoulder, and seemed to make her displeasure known when employees acted contrary to her expectations.

As these travel books were being written, the John Lau burned to the ground. It is unknown whether Agnes is looking for a new home.

6. The Ghost of Edward Morrison

Ghosts love lighthouses as much as campers around a fire love a good ghost story. 

Edward Morrison’s dream job transplanted the cheerful fellow from Flint, Michigan, to a new position as an assistant lighthouse keeper at Grand Island North Lighthouse just off the shore of Munising. And there, his hopes for a bright future were dashed when he was viciously murdered. On June 14, 1908, a special supplement to the New York Times carried details of a brutal homicide. 

More than a century later, the killing remains a cold case. 

The full details of the mutilation and murder will likely never be known. The most probable killer was George Genery, the keeper at the lighthouse, a tough taskmaster as well as a humorless man with a violent temper. After Morrison’s death, Genery went missing and was never seen again. To this day, Morrison walks the beach near the lighthouse wishing things had turned out differently.

Grand Island Harbor Front Range Light on Bay Furnace. From The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores
Grand Island Harbor Front Range Light on Bay Furnace 

7. The Ghost of Charlie Mott

In 1845, Angelique Mott was a seventeen-year-old Ojibwe woman, newly married to her French voyageur husband Charlie. The couple joined a group of businessmen who hoped to get rich by discovering copper. In furtherance of that goal, they headed to Isle Royale. Luck was with them, and they discovered copper that they believed would make them all rich. It was agreed that Angelique and Charlie would stay on Isle Royale to guard their discovery, and supplies would be sent back to them within a fortnight. 

Supplies never arrived. The cold, cruel winter did. 

The desperate couple ate bark, roots, and bitter berries. Charlie moved toward death faster than Angelique. He developed a fever and in delirium told Angelique he couldn’t stand it anymore, and he was going to kill a sheep. He picked up a hunting knife and stared at his wife as he sharpened the tool. Angelique believed he was looking at her as his next meal. He expired before doing his wife harm. She managed to survive the winter, and the next spring, surprised their partners who returned to the island. The whispers of Charlie’s ghost can be heard on the gentle Isle Royale breezes.

8. Ghosts of Holy Cross Orphanage

Many stories lurk in the recesses of this historic building. Two seem more prevalent than others. Two small, pathetic children died there under the most unpleasant circumstances. The tragic history of the building—its purpose, the abuses, and the neglect—are as notable as the ghost stories. Starting in 1915, when it opened, and for fifty years thereafter, as many as 200 children at a time called the Old City Orphanage their home although in truth, they probably viewed it more as their prison. During that half century, many urban legends took root. Reports of abuse, deprivation, and death are common. Ghost stories cannot be proven or disproven. Many people connected to the orphanage refute allegations of misconduct. Still, the rumors persist. 

It is said that when everything else is quiet, neighbors hear children sobbing from somewhere within the orphanage walls. 

The orphanage’s factual history is nearly as interesting as the ghost stories. Native American children were removed from their parents’ homes and placed in the orphanage to help them assimilate into white culture. Real-life tragedies create a mood rife for stories of the supernatural.

9. Genevive, the Ghost of Bowers Harbor Inn

Old Mission Peninsula is an incredibly beautiful strip of land north of Traverse City. Chicago millionaire J. W.  “Charles” Stickney and his wife Genevive chose this spot to build their dream home. The mansion was befitting a queen and Genevive did her best to play the part of local royalty. She was an eccentric character—if not downright weird. In her kitchen, she preserved fruits and made jams, wines, and brandies that she buried about the estate to prevent them from being stolen. She was a vain and jealous woman, an unpleasant combination in a wife who was both frumpy and plump. She treasured a gilded mirror that made her look thinner. As her health deteriorated, Genevive grew paranoid, convinced her husband was having an affair with her nurse. 

In this case, her suspicions were well-founded. 

Charles died and left everything, with the exception of the Mission Point residence, to his mistress. Genevive slipped into severe depression, quite possibly accompanied by an unhealthy dose of madness. 

She shuffled her corpulent self to the elevator rafters, tied a noose about her neck, and hung herself in the shaft. Ever since her ghastly death, she has haunted the inn. Her antics are well reported by guests dining there.  

10. The Ghost of the Lakeside Inn

Arthur Aylesworth and his brother first visited the Lakeside Inn Resort on a family camping trip when they were young boys. In 1901, they persuaded their parents to buy the inn, which Arthur eventually inherited. Arthur operated the hotel for many years. During its heyday, there was gambling off the lobby, and boatloads of alcohol were consumed on the premises during Prohibition. Supposedly, bootleggers’ vessels from Canada beached in front of the hotel, and guests waded into the lake to help unload the cases of whiskey. It is alleged that Al Capone visited the place to relax. 

Arthur shot and wounded his second wife. He insisted it was an accident. 

Sentiment in Lakeside ran contrary, but both Mrs. Aylesworth and the marriage survived. In his later years, Arthur became a lonely figure watching a tiny television set in the lobby until sleep finally numbed his mind. At about 10:00 p.m. each evening, the handyman who lived in an outbuilding behind the inn was awakened by the ghost of Virginia Harned-Aylesworth, urging him to go inside and awaken Mr. Aylesworth and tell him it was time to undress and go to bed. Through subsequent decades, many guests have detected the presence of the ghost of Mrs. Aylesworth—especially in or near Room 30. There are also reports of a male ghost—presumably Mr. Aylesworth. 

In an interesting aside to the ghost story, Aylesworth eventually lost the inn to foreclosure by the Niles Bank. He died in the University Hospital at Ann Arbor, where no one knew his illustrious background. His cadaver was almost used for experimentation by medical students. A doctor from the hospital mentioned, during a phone conversation with the township lawyer of Lakeside, that one of their citizens had died at the hospital. When people from Lakeside realized what had happened, several men went to Ann Arbor to claim the body which was then buried in a plot Aylesworth had purchased at the Lakeside Cemetery. 

His body may have been buried but many believe the coffin couldn’t contain Arthur’s spirit. All indications suggest Mrs. Aylesworth and Arthur are harmless ghosts, pleased to continue residing in their inn. Neither bankruptcy, death, nor familial squabbles—if shooting a spouse can be called a squabble—can keep them away. 

Lakeside Inn. From The 10 Scariest Ghosts That Haunt Michigan’s Shores
Photo courtesy of Samuel Darrigrand, used with permission

 

Click through to read excerpts from Royce's three books exploring Michigan's coasts:

Exploring Michigan's Coasts: A Compendium

Julie Albrecht Royce, the Michigan Editor for Wandering Educators recently published a three-book travel series exploring Michigan’s coastlines. Nearly two decades ago, she published two traditional travel books, but found they were quickly outdated. This most recent project focuses on providing travelers with interesting background for the places they plan to visit. Royce has published two novels: Ardent Spirit, historical fiction inspired by the true story of Odawa-French Fur Trader, Magdelaine La Framboise, and PILZ, a legal thriller which drew on her experiences as a First Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan. She has written magazine and newspaper articles, and had several short stories included in anthologies.