Are these five legends proof that Mackinac Island’s haunted, or nothing more than a good ghost story?
In 2021, Mackinac Island was dubbed the “most haunted town in America.” Data from the Shadowlands Haunted Places Index found 3,347 qualified haunted locations or instances on Mackinac Island, nine times greater than any other town of fewer than 100,000 people in the US. (For context, Mackinac Island covers an area of about four square miles and has a full-time population of 583 people—with a significant seasonal surge, of course.)
To many, the data affirmed what they already knew: A place where battles have been fought, a Native American boarding school once stood, and where human graves have been unearthed is bound to have some tie-ins to the spirit world.
And yet, to others, there are reasons to be skeptical, both of ghosts and of these ghost stories.
So, you decide: Are these five ghost stories proof of Mackinac Island’s haunting, or nothing more than a good story?
1. The ghosts inside Fort Holmes
As temperatures cool at night and adventurous souls come up to the island’s highest point for stargazing, the haunts apparently come out too. The British-built Fort Holmes is consistently referenced as a spot on the island where people see inexplicable things—ghosts of soldiers that then disappear.
The backstory of these ghosts isn’t well known. But the popular legend is that three soldiers can be seen sitting together, talking quietly.
Paranormal researchers Kat Tedsen and Bev Rydel took a trip up to Fort Holmes in search of these figures. “Instead, what we captured were disembodied voices speaking Ojibwa,” they write in a Pure Michigan blog post.
2. Spirits of Mission Point
A short-lived college on the island’s southeast corner hasn’t been forgotten by Mackinac Islanders—largely because of “Harvey,” arguably the island’s most famous ghost.
Harvey was a student of Mackinac College, which was only open from 1966 to 1970. Rejected by a romantic interest, Harvey went missing one winter and was found the following spring, dead of an apparent suicide.
Reports are inconsistent on how Harvey took his life—but many believe there’s more to the story. A rival love interest or some other nefarious involvement may have had something to do with his death, they say.
Harvey is now known to stalk the rooms of the Mission Point Resort, where the college once stood, playing pranks on its guests and flirtatiously indicating his presence with a pinch or touch to women.
A favorite spot of Harvey’s is the theater—a spot where a ghost tour guide and once-skeptic claims the spirit played a prank, sliding a screeching chair across the wooden floor backstage with no one else in sight.
When Todd Clements, author of “Haunts of Mackinac,” was 12, Harvey also provided him with a spooky welcome to paranormal activity on the island.
Clements, Tedsen, and Rydel believe that Harvey isn’t the only one who haunts the corner of Mission Point. Before Mackinac College was established, a Native American boarding school occupied the grounds and was based out of the Mission House (which still stands and is a designated historic place).
Like other Native American boarding schools, the goal of the Mackinac Mission was to strip Indigenous children of their culture and teach them Christianity—”kill the Indian, save the man” was a popular motto of the boarding school movement.
Eventually, the school disbanded, and the imposing white structure later housed a hotel and was the home of the Moral Re-Armament, an “international peace movement” that some remember as a cult.
All of that occurred on the land of modern-day Mission Point—where Harvey and other spirits with troubled pasts reportedly roam. Mission House is still occupied by seasonal employees during the summer months.
3. A mysterious girl named Lucy
The other most commonly seen spirit on Mackinac Island is Lucy, a 12-year-old who wanders the island in her sundresses. Lucy has curly hair and has been seen all throughout the island, including following people at Anne’s Tablet or peeking out the windows of an old cottage.
It is believed Lucy died from a sickness when her family left town for the weekend. People have since reported hearing her faintly calling out for her parents.
It’s worth noting that no official records exist fitting her description, but according to Clements, record-keeping was not reliable on the island until the 1900s.
4. The hanging of Pvt. James Brown
On February 1, 1830, a gaggle of townspeople gathered on Rifle Road to witness the hanging of Private James Brown, found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of Corporal Hugh Flinn.
But even after Brown’s lifeless body was pulled down from the rope and taken from the specially built gallows, the controversy and mystery surrounding his hanging didn’t go away.
Brown and Flinn had argued the day that Flinn died. At the soldiers’ mess hall in Fort Mackinac, Flinn sat down as Brown walked in with his rifle by his side. Then, a shot rang out, the bullet striking Flinn’s neck. He quickly bled to death.
No one in the room saw exactly what happened, but heads immediately turned to Brown and the smoking barrel of his gun. When Brown was arrested, he acknowledged that it was his gun that fired but maintained that the gun had fired accidentally, saying he never pulled the trigger. Even after the guilty verdict, Brown continued to plead his innocence, and many believed him—including territorial Governor Lewis Cass, who asked US President Andrew Jackson for a pardon.
Of course, Brown was not granted a pardon and later hung to death. According to many, his restless spirit still roams the island, imploring visitors to trust his innocence.
Visitors to the fort and Rifle Range Road have reported hearing footsteps and the feeling of being watched. Some claim to have seen the apparition of a young soldier.
5. The ghostly Grand Hotel
Human history on Mackinac Island dates more than 1000 years—far before European explorers landed there.
And as the island increasingly grew as a tourist destination, hotel construction crews became aware first-hand they were digging into sacred ground—a reminder of which came just a decade ago.
History holds that the Grand Hotel was a large-scale excavation of hundreds of human bones on a grave site. It’s something that even today doesn’t sit right with many visitors, or those who believe that the commercialization of the island has agitated resting spirits.
Since the Grand opened in 1887, several suspicious deaths have occurred—including that of a hotel manager and former AFL leader Frank Martel.
Visitors have also reported several ghosts with eye-catching commonalities—a young woman in Victorian-era clothing and an elderly man with a top hat in the piano room, smoking a pungent cigar.
BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE MICHIGAN—Two months after a federal judge panel ordered Michigan’s redistricting commission to redraw seven...
BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE MICHIGAN—Earlier this month, reproductive rights groups joined together for a lawsuit looking to throw out...
A decision by the Alabama Supreme Court is raising concerns about the future of fertility care. But four US representatives from Michigan are...
Severe thunderstorms with large hail and several possible rare winter tornadoes toppled trees, cut power and damaged homes in the Chicago area and...
These questions have crossed the minds of many—we found the perfect person to answer them bluntly. MICHIGAN—Whether you're a seasoned stoner or just...