You may have heard stories of our famous Upper Peninsula characters, like Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe, but we would be doing you a disservice not to mention some of our spookier characters this time of year. Our spirits, legends and lore may only be rumor. But then again, maybe a lighthouse really is haunted by a young girl and a ghost keeps making phone calls from a local inn. Our job is to continue the cryptic game of telephone, bringing these ghostly tales of mysterious characters to another decade’s bookshelf. We’ll let you decide if these haunted stories from the Upper Peninsula are true for yourself.
The Landmark Inn Lilac Lady
This historic Marquette inn famously towers above the city with beautiful views of Lake Superior, and one spirit may be mourning there forever in the Lilac Room. Legend has it that a sailor frequented the room with his lover. One night, he didn’t return from work. The Lilac Lady, beside herself with grief that Lake Superior took him under, couldn’t bear the thought of being without her sailor. Using lilac imprinted napkins tied together, she died from her own misery. Today, the inn’s workers have had several sightings in the hallway of the sixth floor near the Lilac Room. The specter wears a floral gown. Strangely enough, she is always seen after the lobby receives a call from the room when no one appears to be in it.
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse
Lake Superior is rumored to be so cold because of all the souls that have perished in its waters. Two of those souls could be the mother and father of an apparition at the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. Marquette Maritime Museum employees and a daughter of the former Coast Guard Station chief have reported the ghost of a little girl on the upper floor of the lighthouse. She watches the horizon in broad daylight out the upper floor window. If the great lake is calm, she is fine, but when winds stir up the lake, she is said to hear the souls of her long-lost parents suffering.
Calumet Theatre ghost
The Calumet Theatre is an iconic Copper Country landmark from the early 1900s in downtown Calumet. Guests still visit the historic auditorium ushered in by the bright, twinkling marquee, but once inside, they are met with a chill in the air. Upon touring, several have reported a lonely woman in the balcony that can be seen from the stage. Her name is Madame Helena Modjeska, a Polish Shakespearean actress who excelled in tragic roles. Today, she sticks around, mouthing actors the words in their forgotten lines. Perhaps, she is waiting for one more encore so she can take a final bow for the audience before she continues on to the next life.
Mackinac Island is considered the Crown Jewel of Lake Huron, but some spirits still may lurk around the tourist destination from its days of war. Particularly in Fort Mackinac, which was once an active fort in battle that soldiers and their families lived inside. This included the children, who some believe may haunt the Kids’ Quarters inside the Fort. The toys in the room are always put away neatly each night, but staff sometimes arrive in the morning to find them out of place as if they were being played with.
Other ghosts include a phantom piper who has been spotted on foggy mornings, playing faint music as he walks the stonework above the north port. Some visitors also recognize a chill creep up their neck as they walk by the black hole in the Fort’s prison. Years ago, a skeleton was found inside. Perhaps its spirit is still trapped several feet down, looking for a way out to freedom.
Not all of the eerie sightings throughout the Upper Peninsula are ghosts. Several legends are passed around campfires to first-time visitors of creatures to watch out for. Should they meet them in a dark trail at night, their fate may be passed on as a story for the next campfire. One of these legends is Dogman. This character is described as an extra-large, seven-foot-tall wolf who reveals a human torso when he gets on his hind legs. It dates back to french explorers and early Native Americans who each had their own name for the creature. He is known to stare at you with blue or amber eyes before unleashing a frightening human scream.
The first Dogman sighting was in 1887 in Wexford County, when a couple lumberjacks spotted him while working. Ever since, there have been several sightings, but most are in the northern quadrant of Michigan. This legend has become so popular that it inspired one Traverse City DJ to record a song about the legend in 1987 as a prank. Imagine his surprise when listeners responded to the joke by calling in to share their own Dogman sightings! A Michigan production company has even made several movies about the Dogman lore, too. Joke or not, don’t stray too far from your campfire at night — you may meet two glowing eyes in the woods yourself.
Cornish mine lore about The Knockers
If you tour the U.P. mines, you may hear a faint knocking in the distance accompanied by whispered voices. You’re not going crazy. Mining lore assigned these happenings to creatures hiding in the walls — The Knockers. Fae creatures of Cornish legend, the Knockers mischievously dwell in caves and wells. They snag your misplaced items and sometimes get you turned around inside the mine in addition to their noises. Cornish miners called them their Celtic name “Bucca Gwidden,” for good spirits, and “Bucca Dhu,” for their sinister counterparts. Superstitious miners would leave peace offerings for the Knockers. Usually it was a piece of their pasty. If you plan to tour any time soon, consider bringing along a couple of crusts, lest you meet the Knockers yourself.
The Three Sisters of Lake Superior
Many have heard of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, but did you know that Three Sisters may be to blame? These Three Sisters are sea legend of course, and not human, but they carry a fury of their own. This phenomenon occurs when a series of three big waves a third larger than a normal wave form. The first wave brings a great amount of water onto the ship’s deck, leaving little time for its water to drain before the second wave strikes a ship. By the time the third wave strikes, there is little hope for the ship and it is overloaded with water. Three large waves similar to this were reported to be in the vicinity of the Edmund Fitzgerald when it sank by Captain Cooper of Arthur M. Anderson. He wrote that his ship was hit by two 30-to-35-foot waves before they went in the direction of the Edmund Fitzgerald. To this day, many believe this vindictive series of waves is responsible for the loss of the famous lake freighter.
The Ogre of Seney
A local U.P. maniac, this monster was named P.K. “Snapjaw” Small. He lived in Seney during the logging boom and was known to do anything for whiskey money. That included biting the heads off birds and snakes, eating animal remains, sticking his face in the tobacco spittoon and more. His crooked nose was allegedly bit off and stitched back on. Some say he still wanders Seney today, in search of the next dare to earn some money for his booze.
Other haunted Upper Peninsula activities
You don’t always have to wait for October to make your skin crawl in the Upper Peninsula, but there sure is plenty to do when you go! Check our events page for paranormal hunts, haunted tours and more. Then, take yourself on a few of our most haunted hikes to see how brave you really are. Maybe this is all hearsay, or maybe, these ghosts are just as eager for your Upper Peninsula stay as you are.