By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
From Calumet to Detroit, it seems like Michigan is dense with ghosts. Or at least that’s what authors Jon Milan and Gail Offen put forth at the Oxford Library on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Through their work as authors of books about Michigan history, Milan and Offen have picked up a number of tales about hauntings around the Great Lakes State. Using a fraction of the stories learned over the years, they wrote about the state’s many publicly-accessible haunted locations in “Michigan Haunts: Public Places, Eerie Spaces” and took time last week to share some of them.
“Jon and I, we are big fans of ghost stories and ghost legends,” Offen said. “You don’t have to believe in ghosts; we’re interested in history and we find (ghost stories) are a great way to get kids interested in history when you talk about some of these haunted places.”
Many locations, events and persons/spirits of interest were discussed over the night, all of which can be accessed by the general public. Here is a spooky sample of haunting hotspots.
Cadieux Cafe, Detroit
This classic Belgian eatery is known for its feather bowling and Flemish cuisine, but it’s also got a case of supernatural ownership.
The restaurant was bought by the Devos couple back in the 1950s, and according to current owner Ron Devos, his parents still haunt the place.
“He will call in to see what the day manager is doing and his mother will answer the phone,” Milan said. “He said ‘I know it’s her; I can tell by her accent’ … She’s often seen drinking coffee in the dining room and then disappearing.”
Another ghost was spotted by a bartender cleaning up well after closing time.
“He said ‘she looked right at me and then burst into a million colors,’” Milan said, recounting the bartender’s story. “‘I decided it was time to go home.’”
Eloise Sanitorium, Westland
Once known as the Wayne County Poor House, the site of this now-abandoned sanatorium once hosted up to 10,000 residents and served as a self-sustaining community.
“It was also a place of grave trauma,” Milan said. “There were shock treatments that were going on. There were people left there and forgotten forever. And when you died and were unclaimed, they would simply take them across the street under these stones with numbers on them. Sadly, there are over 7,000 of these stones across the street from Eloise.”
The site has since become renowned for the sheer number of ghost sightings, even leading to one group trying to turn the old sanatorium into a haunted hotel. Milan himself reports seeing a ghost in some film photos he took on-site.
Alhambra Apartments, Detroit
Located a stone’s throw away from Woodward, the Alhambra Apartments were known for a mass poisoning when cook Rose Barron was demoted to the role of “scrubwoman.”
“She was not happy, and her last act of cooking was to bake up a bunch of biscuits,” Offen said. “And three people died of arsenic poisoning.”
Barron was put on trial and acquitted, but passersby can still see faces in the highest windows and hear crying whenever they pass the abandoned Alhambra Apartments.
USS Edson, Bay City
While many haunted places tend to be older than living memory, the Edson is a relatively young place for ghosts to be hanging around. Launched in 1958, the destroyer saw service during the Vietnam War before being turned into a museum ship. Since being moved into Bay City, museum workers have reported all kinds of strange occurrences.
“They hear people go on the PA system all the time that aren’t there — they might be the only person there that day and someone’s talking to them over the PA,” Milan said. “They hear footsteps up and down the corridor. And the strangest thing of all is that people come there regularly to tour it, and a lot of times they’ll come out and their car is running. There’s no keys in it, the car is just running!”
More information on these locations and more can be found in “Michigan Haunts: Public Places, Eerie Spaces,” which is available to buy online and will soon be available at the Oxford Library.