Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt?
Latin: Where are those who were before us? Tonight can be considered the kitchen sink of Michigan legends, some history and a bit of reflection.
Samhain (Sow-Win) Is The Celtic Harvest
The Celts are considered to have contributed many traditions to Halloween, or as it is known in the Celtic languages, Samhain. The Irish originated the tradition of carving gourds and turnips to ward off evil spirits. The end of summer means harvest time, and the passing of the year into the next with winter being a dark period synonymous with death and perhaps evil spirits. Samhain is one of the 4 Fire Festivals, and blood sacrifices were often made.
It is interesting once Ireland adopted Catholicism, the practice of Hallowtide was promoted instead. While the dates of All Hallow Eve and All Saints Day coincide with the pagan dates, the rituals are far different, focusing on honoring loved ones who have passed as well as saints.
British Isles in Michigan – Beaver Island
There is an excellent channel on YouTube call the Restless Viking that focuses on the Great Lakes. The Irish faced were not wanted in the 1830s, and a small group found their way to the largest island in Lake Michigan, Beaver Island.
… an opportunity opened up for Irish fishermen who had escaped from the Famine, particularly from Arranmore island in Donegal (in one wave, 40 families from Arranmore arrived to bolster a close- knit community whose first language was Irish). By the 1881 census, of the 881 residents, 141 had the surname Gallagher, 123 Boyle and 90 O’Donnell. The two islands are now formally twinned.
Here We Go, Wendigo
We’ve talked about legends of Lake Superior previously here. A fantastic frontier adventure that takes place in Michigan along Pictured Rocks and Mackinac Island is Madoc’s Legacy. I’ve been searching for this book, finally found it packed away in boxes. Like most knowledge and memories, sometimes things occur with a strange synchronicity, as I’ve been learning of the Irish coming to the Great Lakes, and other mysteries and myths. Madoc’s Legacy revolves around a mysterious tribe of red haired Indians who the Chippewa regard as Wendigo, and guardians of the cold waters of near Pictured Rocks.
Michigan Creepy Legends
Nain Rouge – Red Dwarf of Detroit
Run afoul of the little people, and you run into misfortune. While Cadillac, the founder of Detroit was from France, his loss of fortune is similar to Celtic legends of encountering the elves.
Calumet Christmas Hall Tragedy
In the early 1900s the Upper Peninsula of Michigan was the center of copper mining for the nation. The miners were on strike, the issue received national attention. On Christmas Eve, the town of Calumet where many of the miners lived suffered a tragedy. A fire erupted in a theater, killing 59 children and 16 adults.
Suddenly, a man called out a single word: “Fire!” At first, no one paid much attention, but the calls continued, growing in urgency: “Fire! Fire!” There was no sign of a blaze, no acrid smell of smoke, but in the confusion, crowd members panicked and rushed toward a stairwell that led to the front door. As the first guests hurried down the narrow passageway, dozens, then hundreds, of people clamored after them. The force of all those bodies sent the first guests to the floor. The people behind them stumbled, and soon, the staircase was full of bodies, one on top of another, trying desperately to escape, but slowly suffocating in the cramped space. By the time rescue workers cleared the staircase, 73 people had died, 59 of them children.
Western Michigan – Thelma haunts Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
Thelma seems to be a benign spirit, preferring mischief to terror. The Civic’s flesh-and-blood inhabitants have reported the sound of footsteps walking across the stage when no one was on it, and have also felt a ghostly presence, as though some unseen person was in the room with them. Thelma has played the theatre’s piano, then stopped when someone entered the room to check on the noise. Sometimes Thelma moves items across a room or opens and closes dressing room doors. Her playfulness isn’t restricted to backstage areas. On occasion, actors report that she has messed with their costumes while they were onstage.
Using remote sensing techniques is common in modern archaeology – scientists routinely survey lakes and ground for hidden structures. At a depth of about 40 feet into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, using sonar techniques to look for shipwrecks, archeologists discovered sunken boats and cars and even a Civil War-era pier, but among all these they found this prehistoric surprise, which a trained eye can guess by looking at the sonar scans photos in this article.
1994 UFO sightings over Lake Michigan
Melon Heads in Holland
Did the Thumb of Michigan have a Hestor Prin who was hanged?
Pere Chene near Grayling was a booming lumber town until the early 1900s, in 1918 the town was declared officially a ghost town. A cemetery remains.
Pere Cheney is a remote, spooky place and is the only remaining piece left of the town. One of the most popular legends told about the old cemetery tells of the “witch” who lived in the town and was hung from a big oak tree in the cemetery. She was then buried under the tree. Some stories say the woman of this legend wasn’t really a “witch” in the way ghostly legends like to portray — casting spells and dropping curses all day — but that she was a woman who had a child out of wedlock, something akin to being a witch back in the day. Because of how she was treated, she cursed the town.
Some legends say the town was cursed from the very beginning because it was built on sacred Native American land. Scarlet fever, smallpox, and diphtheria took the lives of many people, including children, during the few decades Pere Cheney was in existence. This sad, historical fact has given fuel to the stories and the legend of the “curse” that has grown around Pere Cheney. Searching old online message forums years ago, I found one person who confidently and matter-of-factly stated, “There are no witches buried at Pere Cheney. The townspeople would not have buried her in the town graveyard.”