Spirit-guided tattooing, ghost gardens, mechanical wonderlands, and tree folk art—these are Michigan’s most off-the-wall attractions for 2021.

MICHIGAN—Michiganders can be pretty weird, but we also have a whole lot of brilliant things that other states just don’t think of. 

The Mitten State is full of historical oddities and intrepid innovations. Rather you’re planning a Michigan vacation, staycation, or adventurous day trip, there’s plenty of attractions off-the-beaten-path to discover. If you’re in the mood for all things haunted, weird, and whimsical, read on!

St. Ignace Mystery Spot in the Upper Peninsula. Photo credit Jeremy Thompson, flickr.com/rollercoasterphilosophy.

St. Ignace Mystery Spot (St. Ignace)

N916 Martin Lake Rd, St Ignace, MI 49781

In the 1950s, three surveyors discovered an area in the Upper Peninsula where their equipment behaved strangely and gave inaccurate readings. They realized the spot where these effects were observed was an area of about 300 feet in diameter. This area eventually became the St. Ignace Mystery Spot.

Readers of Michigan Living Magazine called the St. Ignace Mystery Spot Michigan’s number one unusual attraction. It is now a popular tourist attraction with manufactured optical illusions, gravity-defying props, mini golf, a zip line, a maze, photo booth, and gift shop. However, the area is still unusual—it is said visitors will feel queasy, light-headed, and disoriented if they stay too long. Don’t be surprised if you can’t stand up straight!

Guided tours of the St. Ignace Mystery Spot are $9 for ages 12 and up. Click here for more visitor information.

Magician memorabilia at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall. Photo credit Battle Creek CVB, flickr.com/battlecreekcvb.

American Museum of Magic (Marshall)

107 E Michigan Ave, Marshall, MI 49068

When we think of what Michigan is known for, magic isn’t necessarily the first thing to come to mind. Nevertheless, Michigan has an uncanny attachment to the classic art of stage magic. Harry Houdini famously escaped from manacles in the Detroit River and later performed his final show at Detroit’s Garrick Theater. 

The small town of Colon hosts the magic supply house Abbott’s Magic Co. as well as a graveyard containing the final resting place of Harry Blackstone and over 30 other magicians. Perhaps most infamous, though, is the American Museum of Magic, the largest magic museum in the United States.

The collection that would eventually be known as the “Smithsonian of American Magic” was started by Detroit-area journalist and magic historian Robert Lund. Lund loved magic, but realized he was not a performer, so he sought to become a student and collector. 

He contributed articles to over 20 magic-related journals and acquired magic-related items until he had the largest known collection by a private collector. The collection archived thousands of pieces of magic memorabilia, including apparatus, playbills, posters, photos, periodicals, diaries, letters, and much more. 

Along with his wife Elaine, Robert founded the American Museum of Magic in 1978 in an 1860s building in downtown Marshall. One eerie fact about Elaine Lund is that she was a newborn in Detroit’s Grace Hospital at the same time that Harry Houdini died there. Although both Robert and Elaine have since passed away, the museum continues to operate as a non-profit entity.

One of the museum’s most famous artifacts is the milk can that Harry Houdini escaped from during a famous trick. The museum held a seance around the milk can for Halloween 2016, the anniversary of Houdini’s death. Although one participant claimed he saw an orb of light at the exact timestamp of Houdini’s death, no other manifestation of the deceased magician was observed. 

Others, such as Marshall resident and magician John Sherwood, have claimed to experience Houdini reaching out to them from beyond the grave. Whether magicians can transcend death or not, the American Museum of Magic is still an impressive collection.

Admission to the American Museum of Magic is $7 for adults. Click here for more visitor information.

Sign for the unincorporated community of Hell, Michigan. Photo credit Rebecca Chatfield, flickr.com/rebeccachatfield.

Hell, Michigan

Livingston County

Michigan’s cold winters often feel like the eternal torment of Hell, but Hell, Michigan is a real place. In fact, you can find it about halfway between Ann Arbor and Jackson. 

In 1841, George Reeves purchased a sawmill and 1,000 acres of land near a creek in southeast Michigan. Although there are several theories for the origin of the supernatural-themed name, the official website reports one in particular. Reeves often traded home distilled whiskey for grain from local farmers; the farmers’ wives reportedly claimed their husbands had “gone to Hell” during the harvest season due to Reeves’ whiskey deals. 

The name stuck, and now the unincorporated community is a peculiar tourist destination. Over 100,000 visitors from around the world visit Hell every year.

The development of Hell began around what is Hiland Lake today. This lake started as a millpond for Reeves’ sawmill and gristmill. Adjacent to the millpond, he built a distillery and tavern that would become Hell. The millpond originally had a track for horse races and the waters were used to hide barrels of alcohol to help Reeves avoid taxes. 

After Reeves’ death, his family sold the land to investors who increased the size of the millpond and turned it into the lake it is today. Hiland Lake transitioned Hell into a resort area for fishing and swimming. 

Today, the town’s attraction definitely developed around the eternal infernal puns, as nearly everything is named as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the town’s namesake. Visitors can enjoy a good meal or beverage at Hell Hole Diner or Hell Saloon. 

Devour the Gravedigger Sundae and earn a Death Certificate at the Creamatory at Screams, or purchase a Damnation University diploma from their souvenir shop. 

Couples can ironically find a romantic getaway in Hell by inscribing their names on a lock for the Locks of Love Bridge and throwing away the key into the Hell Creek River. For those that want to get married in Hell, Hell’s Chapel of Love hosts weddings, vow renewals, and commitment ceremonies. 

For legal arrangements that don’t involve taking the plunge, visitors can also book their hour or day as “Mayor of Hell,” or buy a square inch of property in Hell.

If the tourist gimmick isn’t hot enough for you, the nearby Pinckney State Recreation Area provides plenty of natural wonder and outdoor recreation. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy over forty miles of trails and multiple remote campsites. Canoe and Kayak rentals take off from the Bruin Lake boat launch.

Ready to go to Hell? Plan your trip at its official website. Click here for more information about the Pinckney State Recreation Area.

Hippie Tree in Traverse City. Photo credit Jeremy Thompson, flickr.com/rollercoasterphilosophy.

The Hippie Tree (Traverse City)

Red Dr, Traverse City, MI 49684

The Hippie Tree is a public art project in Traverse City, located in the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area. Its location was once the grounds of a mental hospital.

The Traverse City State Hospital, once known as the Northern Michigan Asylum, opened as Michigan’s third psychiatric hospital in the late 1800s and operated until 1989. Under the care of Dr. James Decker Munson, the hospital avoided physical restraints like straitjackets and preferred a “beauty is therapy” philosophy. 

It is heavily disputed whether the patients were actually treated humanely. 

An estimated 50,000 patients of all ages received services from the hospital during its operation. The patients had a variety of abnormal conditions and disorders, including hysteria, autism, epilepsy, dyslexia, drug addiction, and even homosexuality.

The Hippie Tree is a fallen willow tree with a rotted-out heart directly to the west of the now-renovated hospital building. The tree is regularly spray painted with bright colors and inspirational drawings. 

Multiple ghosts may haunt the area, as the tree is said to anchor the spirits who once inhabited the hospital. The madness of these ghosts is said to inspire visionaries and spiritual folks toward otherworldly enlightenment. These “hippies” meditate beneath the tree’s roots and paint their visions on the tree’s limbs.

There are also more ominous things attributed to the Hippie Tree. Some visitors have described feeling a dark energy, feeling watched, hearing breaking branches or scuffles in the distance, or having a distinct feeling of being unwelcome. 

Visiting the tree after dusk may have you hearing disembodied voices, or having rocks thrown at you. Local folklore claims that walking around the tree in a certain way opens a portal to hell. No one is quite sure how to do this “correctly,” but supposedly one must not walk or crawl under any of the tree’s limbs.

Folklore claims that if one visits the tree and leaves an artistic contribution, they will be blessed with a portion of the Hippie Tree’s trademark enlightening madness. Find it on Google Maps here.

Spirit 33 metaphysical shop counter in Sei Bella Tattoo in Muskegon. Photo credit Spirit 33 Facebook page.

Sei Bella Tattoo (Muskegon)

857 W Summit Ave, Muskegon, MI 49441

If you’re at all interested in tattoos and body art, there is one very common conundrum—what the heck do you get tattooed, and what part of your body do you tattoo? First timers often struggle with this indecision, and even experienced tattoo holders often resort to spur-of-the-moment, arbitrary methods of making this decision. 

Sei Bella Tattoo in Muskegon has a unique approach to this decision—consult with your higher self.

A recent business that just opened this year, Sei Bella Tattoo uses “spirit-guided tattooing” to create a truly unique and uplifting experience for body art modifications. 

The tattoo artist reportedly connects to the client’s higher self and spirit guides to learn what the client should get tattooed for their “highest good.” 

The goal is to connect the client with their true selves and elevate and expand their souls. One tattooing practice they’ve done for this goal includes tattooing nipples on people who have undergone mastectomies.

Sei Bella Tattoo, which is led by an all-women team, prioritizes softening the experience of getting a tattoo, and removing the anxious and intimidating environment of traditional tattoo shops. 

Creating an environment that cleanses energy and provides healing is very important to staff. The grounds and even the paint are all spiritually cleansed and blessed.

Additionally, Sei Bella also has its own in-house metaphysical boutique, Spirit 33. Here, they sell new age items like candles, runes, crystals, and more. Reiki energy healing sessions and tarot readings are also performed.

Services and hours are by appointment only. Spirit 33 is open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m Tuesday through Saturday. Check out more about Sei Bella Tattoo at its official website

See examples of the artists’ tattoo work in their portfolios or visit Sei Bella Tattoo’s Instagram page.

Graffiti Alley off Liberty Street in Ann Arbor. Photo credit Pratap Sankar, flickr.com/gugugagaa.

Graffiti Alley (Ann Arbor)

E Liberty St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Just off one of Ann Arbor’s busiest streets is an ever-evolving public art project known as Graffiti Alley.

What is now Graffiti Alley started as a beautification project by the city of Ann Arbor to transform an alley that was “undesirable” to the general public. The city commissioned Katherine Cost to create a piece of public art called Infinite Possibilities

The original project took 5 months to complete and covered 5,000 square feet of alleyway. Cost painted columns, archways, and sprouting flowers, but the local art community apparently didn’t find it inspiring. The piece of art was defaced by local graffiti artists a few weeks later. 

After a few months, the mural was gone and completely painted over. Though Infinite Possibilities was a wash, the Liberty Street alley took on an aesthetic and culture of its own that ended up reflecting the original art’s namesake.

The artwork in Graffiti Alley is constantly changing but constantly inspiring. Any surface in the alley is fair game for spray-painted word art, political commentary, words of encouragement, psychedelic drawings, cartoon characters, weird creatures, and more.

Notably, during the summer of 2020, the artists of Graffiti Alley fashioned a 30-foot “Black Lives Matter” mural, with the inscribed names of numerous Black victims of police violence.

On any given day within the alley, you’ll also find a diverse sampling of people around Ann Arbor, including tourists, college students, visual artists, street performers, and just locals taking a shortcut.

Graffiti Alley is located between East Liberty Street and East Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor.

Fayette Historical Site on Big Bay de Noc. Photo credit Andrew, flickr.com/allthingsmichigan.

Fayette Historic Townsite (Garden)

4785 II Rd, Garden, MI 49835

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, two popular forms of coping with the Shelter In Place orders included post-apocalyptic fiction and traveling to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Nowhere do these things merge more perfectly than the ghost town of the Fayette Historic Townsite, located in the Upper Peninsula between Escanaba and Manistique. 

The town of Fayette has been abandoned for more than a century, but visitors can still explore echoed structures of the past in one of the country’s best-preserved industrial towns.

The ghost town is part of the Fayette Historic State Park, which covers 711 acres on the Big Bay de Noc. Fayette specialized in pig iron, a crude iron with a higher carbon content compared to cast iron or wrought iron. 

In the 19th century, Fayette was the hub of Michigan’s iron smelting industry, shipping pig iron to steel companies all over the Great Lakes region. At the time, the Upper Peninsula was known for its plentiful deposits of iron and copper; mining was a major industry. However, shipping iron ore directly to steel companies came at an enormous cost. 

Thus, Fayette became the iron smelting town, where iron ore could be processed and smelted into pig iron before being shipped to steel companies. 

Fayette operated from 1867 until 1891, but produced over two hundred thousand tons of iron in its twenty-four years of operation. 

Fayette was named after the Jackson Iron Company agent who chose the site. It had two blast furnaces, a large dock, and nearly 500 residents all working in the iron industry. The community used the hardwood from the many forests nearby to fuel the furnaces and quarried limestone from the nearby bluffs to purify the iron ore.

The Jackson Iron Company shut down production once the charcoal iron market began to decline. The town sat abandoned for nearly 70 years until 1959, when the site was acquired by the State of Michigan.

As a townsite, more than 20 historic buildings (or what’s left of them) are available to explore in either guided or self-guided tours. The furnace complex is the biggest attraction, but other buildings and exhibits include the town hall, a company store, hotel, sawmill, offices, a machine shop, boarding house, and many other homes. 

Being perfectly situated between remote Michigan beaches and Upper Peninsula forests, the views are certainly breathtaking. A modern campground, a beach, and 5 miles of trails are also available in the park for outdoor recreation. 

Snail Shell Harbor is nearby and has a boat launch and recreational amenities. Scuba diving is also permitted at certain times with a fee and use permit, but nothing can be taken from the harbor bottom.

The historic townsite is only open from mid-May to mid-October, though the park is open year-round. Admission to the townsite is free. A Recreation Passport is required for entry to the grounds. Click here for visitor information.

Mural at Leland City Club. Photo credit Leland City Club Facebook page.

Leland City Club (Detroit)

400 Bagley St, Detroit, MI 48226

If you ever talk to any Michigander “elder goths” in the Gen-X age category, there’s a very good chance they’ll mention spending their twenties at City Club, a former mobster hotel ballroom transformed into a goth nightclub. 

This iconic underground dance venue is housed in Detroit’s historic Leland Hotel, where it plays obscure industrial music with a laid-back and accepting atmosphere. City Club was born in 1983 during the height of new age music. 

Although goth clubs were once popular, many nightclubs similar to City Club have either closed down or shifted to goth-themed nights. City Club is one of the few nightclubs remaining in the US that is still fully committed to the goth theme every night.

The Leland Hotel itself is a 22-story Beaux-Arts building constructed in the 1920s that is rich with history. It is the oldest continuously operating hotel in downtown Detroit, although the hotel itself has seen better days and is considered a “flophouse” now.

In its heyday, it was a four-star hotel with some shady regulars. The Leland was a popular hangout for both the Purple Gang and famous missing person Jimmy Hoffa; in fact, the Leland was the first location searched after Hoffa went missing. 

The ballroom of the hotel, where City Club is now, was once a fabulous party spot for both mobsters and high society Detroit. 

The building’s history is steeped in death. 

There were four deaths connected to the construction of the building, plus numerous accounts of murders, suicides, assassinations, Purple Gang shoot-outs, and other illicit gang-related activities. 

The Leland Hotel itself is considered a paranormal hotspot, with reports of shadows out of the corner of ones’ eye, and unexplained sounds of footsteps, voices, and even someone choking. 

Another club formerly hosted in the Leland basement, the Labyrinth, was an epicenter of much of this type of activity up until it closed down. The basement and the seventh floor are places where this activity occurs frequently.

Today, the former ballroom that is now City Club has been painted pitch black and adorned with layers upon layers of mural art. The club is decorated with black leather couches, stone tables, and grim candlelight. It’s dark, gritty, and rough around the edges, in true Detroit fashion. 

Paranormal activity is not as common in City Club; visitors are much more likely to experience olfactory ghosts of foul bodily fluids in the bathrooms than they are to experience an actual ghost. 

The cover charge remains low at $5 for 21+, and the resident DJs Jay Misanthropia and Charles English spin gloomy beats past 2 a.m. 

During the pandemic, the club underwent renovations, and the entrance to the club is now in the Leland lobby instead of its former entrance on the side of the building. The side door, which served as the classic entrance, is now an outdoor smoking area. 

If you’re a member of a darker subculture, willing to take a walk on the wild side, or simply interested in this murky piece of Detroit history, City Club is worth experiencing.

Leland City Club usually opens at 10 p.m.Fridays and Saturdays with a cover charge of $5 for ages 21+. Check Facebook or the official website for more information.

Machines and games at Marvin’s. Photo credit Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum Facebook page.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum (Farmington Hills)

31005 Orchard Lake Rd, Farmington Hills, MI 48334

If you’re a fan of Zoltar the fortune-telling machine from the 1988 movie Big, you’ll love Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum. Marvin Jay Yagoda, the namesake of the museum, was a pharmacist with a hobby that might have gone a little… unplugged.

While not quite the New Jersey boardwalk you see in Big, you’ll find this hole-in-the-wall of wonder in a Detroit metro strip mall, between a Buybuy BABY and a California Pizza Kitchen. 

Inside is 5000 square feet of coin-operated machines, video game nostalgia, automatons, and all kinds of mechanical oddities. 

Marvin, who passed away in 2017, was a Detroit pharmacist by trade, but a mechanical enthusiast and collector by passion. As Marvin explained to the Detroit Free Press, he was just a little boy who didn’t want to grow up. 

He had been accumulating his collection of mechanical games since the 1950s and reportedly spent up to $60,000 apiece to add individual pieces to his collection. 

The museum opened in 1990. Some of the oddities include a 55-piece mechanical orchestra playing over 300 different songs, P.T. Barnum’s Cardiff Giant, and over 50 airplanes. The late Marvin was quoted to recognize three things that people enjoy—love, fortune, and torture machines. 

Although the location is filled with kid-friendly games and fortune tellers, a particular oddity featured in the museum is an electric chair from Sing Sing Prison where 30 people were executed. Torture machines, indeed.

Admission to Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is free, though machines may cost coins. The museum is open 365 days a year. Refer to its official website for visitor information.

A petroglyph at the Sanilac Petroglyphs in the Thumb region. Photo credit Scot Martin, flickr.com/iamnothamlet.

Sanilac Petroglyphs

8251 Germania Road, Cass City, MI 48726

Nestled in Michigan’s Thumb region is the Sanilac Petroglyph Historic State Park. These petroglyphs are Michigan’s largest collection of Native American rock carvings, with around 100 petroglyphs carved into sandstone. 

It is a sacred location to the Anishinabe tribes, with the Saginaw Chippewa tribe co-managing the site today. 

Archaeologists have traced tribal activity to the area for the last 8,000 years, but the carvings were created anywhere between 400 and 1,400 years ago. The park is also called “Ezhibiigadek Asin” or “written on stone” in Ojibwe. Some visitors claim to feel the presence of Native American spirits connected to the sacred site.

The glyphs were discovered on the Cass River floodplain during the Thumb Fire in 1881. A great fire scorched over a million acres in the Thumb region, destroyed numerous homes, and killed nearly 300 people. 

However, the fire also revealed the glyphs previously hidden by thick brush. Anishinabe storytelling says the carvings were made by Nanabush (Nanaboozhoo), a trickster spirit known as the Spirit Uncle to all Anishinabe. 

According to the story, Nanabush taught the Anishinabe ancestors how to live in harmony with Creation. Archeologically, the carvings were made by the Anishinabe tribes for future generations.

Other mythological figures featured on the stone include Ebmodaakowet the archer, Migizi Inini the Eagle Man, and Mishibizhew the water panther. Ebmodaakowet shoots knowledge into the future. Migizi Inini looks to the dawn and ensures people follow traditions and teachings. Mishibizhew protects the Great Lakes. Other carvings depict creation and prophecy stories, while still other carvings simply depict daily life and history. 

Native Americans still bring offerings of tobacco for the spirits inhabiting the area.

The Sanilac Petroglyphs have been subjected to both natural weathering and human-perpetrated vandalism. Sandstone is a softer rock that is more susceptible to the elements. Some suspect that the carvings will not persist for another 100 years.

Admission to the petroglyphs is free. A Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport is not required for entry to either the park or the historic site. Click here for more visitor information.

The Paulding Light in the Upper Peninsula. Photo credit Flivver 99 at English Wikipedia.

The Paulding Light (Bruce Crossing)

Old U.S. 45, Bruce Crossing, MI 49912

In the Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border, a mysterious spectral light dances every night on the horizon near the small town of Paulding. The pulsating ball of light glows white, red, and green, and the intensity shifts chaotically. 

One legend explains the Paulding Light is a lantern carried by the spirit of a railroad brakeman. The brakeman, so the legend goes, tried and failed to warn an oncoming train about another train stuck on the tracks. His spirit has remained ever since.

Several groups have attempted to identify a scientific cause of the Paulding Light. The SyFy Channel show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files attempted to explain and recreate the phenomenon, but couldn’t. 

Students from the Michigan Technological University claimed to “debunk” the phenomenon. The students reported the lights were created by an optical illusion of car headlights on a hilly part of the nearby US 45.

Others are not convinced. Locals say the light has appeared long before the advent of automobiles. Visitors claim the light tends to move, sometimes vanishing and appearing elsewhere, or even splitting into two separate lights. The light reportedly disappears when other lights are directed toward it or if approached on foot. 

Believers will note that Upper Peninsula traffic is not frequent enough to create the consistency and duration of the Paulding Light.

Watch a video of the Paulding light here and decide for yourself. Find it on Google Maps here.

Kalkaska Shoe Tree off US-31 in Northern Michigan. Photo credit Gunner’s Pixs, flickr.com/gunner226.

Kalkaska Shoe Tree (Kalkaska)

4400 US-131, Kalkaska, MI 49646

In Northern Michigan, just east of Traverse City, you may be driving along US-131 and find a peculiar sight—a roadside tree with a mass of discarded shoes tied to the branches.

The Kalkaska Shoe Tree is perhaps the most well-known “shoefiti” piece in Michigan. It’s a popular place to pull over and take a photo or two. 

New shoes are added continuously, with some stranger varieties such as a pair of ice skates showing up. 

No one really knows the origin of the Kalkaska Shoe Tree, though some say it was started by students from Kalkaska High School. 

A RoadsideAmerica user found a pair of shoes dated back to 1995, which gives a hint of how old the tree may be. The mysterious origin isn’t unusual—most “shoefiti” sites have loose to nonexistent explanations for their purpose.

“Shoefiti” is a strange manner of folk art that you can find across the country, with shoes hanging from trees, poles, and wires. The actual reason for the behavior remains a mystery and urban legend. 

A shoe tree may be a hidden symbol, as a way to signify gang territory or where drug deals take place. It may be a memorial, signifying where a murder or other loss of life took place. It may be a milestone, a way to symbolically celebrate graduating high school, moving out of a neighborhood, or even losing one’s virginity. 

Or maybe people just do it for fun.

The truth, as reported by Snopes itself, is that there’s “no one right answer” to the symbolism of tossing shoes. The reason any individual may toss their shoes is likely deeply personal, as much as why anyone makes any piece of folk art.

Check into the Kalkaska Shoe Tree via Facebook.

Inside John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit. Photo credit John K. King Books Facebook page.

John K. King Used & Rare Books (Detroit)

901 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226

Although Amazon Books and Barnes & Noble have shut down the Borders Books and Waldenbooks of yesteryear, Michigan is fortunate to have one of the largest bookstores in the world that resisted the shift. 

With four floors, 900 categories, over one million books, and surprisingly old school cataloging, John K. King Used & Rare Books is a Michigan institution—that might have a few ethereal residents.

The bookstore is considered one of the most haunted locations in Detroit. 

According to a former employee who wished to remain anonymous, the two most active locations for paranormal activity are the basement and the back right section of the third floor, near the picture books.

The third-floor ghost may be a suicide victim whose items were donated to the collection. The former employee noted experiencing unexplained light flickerings on the third floor.

Another spirit in the structure is theorized to be the longtime manager Tom, who is reportedly a friendly ghost. The former employee said that Tom’s moose collectibles were still being sold, perhaps explaining why his ghost lingers.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, John K. King Books is worth a trip for any variety of bibliophiles. The collection is impressive. Aside from a large catalogue with a variety of genres, the collection also includes used books, rare finds, signed copies, and memorabilia from famous authors. 

There are so many stacks with a broad range of topics that you’ll need a map to find what you’re looking for—which an employee will gladly give you. And of course, for those that enjoy the sensory experience of the scent of old books, this bookstore can’t be beaten.

The Detroit location is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. For more information, consult the official website. Browse the inventory here, or admire the stacks from afar at their official Instagram page.

Curwood Castle in Owosso. Photo credit Jan Davis Ruthig, flickr.com/janalynr.

Curwood Castle (Owosso)

224 Curwood Castle Dr, Owosso, MI 48867

Have you ever fantasized about dropping out of school and building a castle in rural farmland where you can make art all day long? It certainly sounds like some kind of modern-day Millennial cottagecore fantasy. 

For famous Michigan author and environmental conservationist James Oliver Curwood, it was both reality and history—he did this almost a century ago. What’s more, that castle still stands today.

The Curwood Castle is on the bank of the Shiawassee River in Owosso, a small town in central Michigan. The romantic interpretation of a Norman chateau stands in Curwood Castle Park, a small park in the middle of downtown Owosso. 

Owosso was James Oliver Curwood’s birthplace, hometown, and final resting place. 

For a time at the beginning of the 20th century, Curwood was the highest-paid writer in the world. However, Curwood started his career as a dropout of both high school and college, having left the University of Michigan to become a journalist in Detroit. 

He eventually became an adventure writer akin to Jack London, with most of his stories inspired by exploring the Canadian wilderness. 

Curwood’s stories were adapted into at least 200 films, though many were silent films and have been lost. After a prolific writing career, Curwood was inspired to build the castle in 1922 following a tour of old European castles. The castle included one large turret, where Curwood had his main writing room. 

Curwood unfortunately only had five years before his death to use Curwood Castle as a personal writing studio. Upon his death, he gifted the castle to the city of Owosso; the city has since turned it into a historical monument and museum.

The Curwood Castle is smaller than its “castle” name may imply, but the location is, both inside and out, an incredibly serene area. Though James Oliver Curwood may not have made it to 100 years of age like he wanted, both his spirit and love for Owosso are palpable throughout the entire park and lend him a sense of immortality. 

Touring the museum and his nearby childhood home are great opportunities to connect across time with this authentic Michigander.

The Curwood Castle is open to the public most of the year between 1-5 p.m. on certain days, depending on the season. There is a suggested donation of $5 per person. Visit the Owosso Historical Commission’s website for Curwood Castle visitor information and other historical locations in Owosso.

The Kay Beard Building at the Eloise. Photo credit Eloise Asylum Facebook page.

The Eloise (Westland)

30712 Michigan Ave, Westland, MI 48186

Located in Wayne County, the Eloise is a former medical complex straight out of a horror movie. The location is so haunted that it’s one of the only locations in Michigan where you can schedule a ghost hunting expedition, albeit for a fee.

The Eloise operated in Wayne County from 1839 until 1982. It started as a poorhouse, then expanded to include a mental hospital and a sanatorium. By 1974, it was both the Wayne County General Hospital and Wayne County Psychiatric Hospital. 

At the peak of the Eloise’s operation during the Great Depression, it was so large at 902 acres that it had its own zip code. 

It was also completely self-sustaining with its own fire department, post office, power plant, and more. The entire complex had a total of 78 buildings, 10,000 patients and 2,000 staff. 

Around 7,000 people were buried in the Eloise Cemetery—although these are just the patients who died at the institution and didn’t have family able to claim their bodies. Most of those interred in the cemetery died of tuberculosis.

The psychiatric hospital portion of the Eloise is fraught with creepiness. During its operation, the Eloise performed lobotomies, electroshock therapy, and insulin shock therapy on psychiatric patients. 

Reports of patient mistreatment at Eloise are plentiful, with evidence of unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, patient beatings, and unethical restraints. Explorers are rumored to have found jars of human body parts and creepy snapshots of patients. 

The Eloise has served as both the filming location and inspiration for a horror movie of the same name. 

Only 5 of the original 78 buildings still stand today, along with the cemetery, but there’s still more than enough to explore.

There are also so many reports of paranormal activity that the ghost-hunting group, Detroit Paranormal Expeditions, offers both historical tours and ghost-hunting tours. On weekends, the group leads a two-hour tour of the Kay Beard Building, which housed patient admissions, the treatment center, and the post office.

Buy tickets for a historical tour, paranormal tour, or arrange your own private investigation tour at the haunted tours website. Detroit Paranormal Expeditions has catalogued EVPs on its website. You can also find many videos of suspected paranormal activity at the Eloise on YouTube. Check out this video from the Illinois Paranormal Research Association (Warning: Strong language).

Taxidermied mouse chopping firewood in a winter-themed diorama at the Wacky Taxidermy & Miniatures Museum in Mackinaw City. Photo credit Wacky Taxidermy & Miniatures Museum Facebook page.

The Wacky Taxidermy & Miniatures Museum (Mackinaw City)

272 S Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI 49701

Michiganders definitely love hunting and taxidermy. But this new addition to Mackinaw City takes it to a whole new level with miniature dioramas of taxidermied rodents that show one thing in particular—taxidermy can be pretty cute.

The Wacky Taxidermy & Miniatures museum was the brainchild of young couple Brandon and Julie Howey, who wanted to “be weird for a living.” 

They spent the COVID-19 Pandemic making taxidermied rodents for the museum. 

The couple originally began collecting taxidermy mounts at antique stores and flea markets, but just couldn’t find any taxidermy pieces with that certain je ne sais quoi. They were inspired to start the museum after visiting Ripley’s Believe It Or Not during their honeymoon in Orlando, FL.

The museum opened in June 2020 and contains over 60 dioramas and miniature scenes, including “Mousiknaw City,” an entire 1:12 scaled city street populated by mice. 

The individual dioramas are painstakingly prepared, with some dioramas taking over 1,000 hours of work. 

Animal lovers need not fear though—no animals featured in the museum were killed specifically to become part of the museum. Instead, most were roadkill or intended as snake food. In addition to being a whimsical attraction, the museum also educates visitors about the practice of taxidermy.

The museum is located in The Mackinaw Crossing Plaza and entry is $5. It is open May through October every day of the week except Wednesdays. Visit them on Facebook here.