Haunted and Spooky Sites in Michigan’s Thumb

Michigan’s Upper Thumb is full of colorful history—from the boom towns of the 1800s lumber era to the resorts and vacation homes of today. The area has long been acknowledged as an active paranormal region and has been the subject of books and television. Here are the most active haunted and spooky sites in the area.

#1 Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse

Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb - Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse

This iconic lighthouse sits near the eastern tip of Michigan’s Thumb and was built in 1857. The light tower overlooks a twelve-foot limestone bluff, while the light itself is 93 feet above lake level and visible for a distance of 16 miles.

The lighthouse and nearby Port Hope Life Saving Station were almost destroyed in the massive 1881 fire that swept across the thumb. The lighthouse keeper, Andrew Shaw, and the crew of the lifesaving station formed a bucket brigade and fought the fire by toting water from the lake.

The light is an active aid to navigation, so climbing to the top of the tower is not allowed. However, tours are conducted during Memorial and Labor Day weekend. Pointe aux Barques light is one of the oldest continuously operating lights on the Great Lakes.

This site is now known for paranormal activity, as tourists have reported seeing a mysterious form pull back curtains on the second story of the empty lighthouse. Some say this story goes back to the 1930s and that a former housekeeper haunts the main house.

In 2010, the South East Michigan Paranormal Society conducted an electronic analysis in the main house. The team recorded furniture moving, scraping, thuds, and giggling sounds in the empty house. After the study, the team leader of the investigators noted, “There is every reason to believe the lighthouse proper is haunted.”

A local radio station suggests that the lighthouse is haunted by the widow of the first lighthouse keeper who drowned on Lake Huron in 1849. It is said that the ghost of Catherine Shook has been seen walking along the cliff looking out on the lake for her long-lost husband.

Visiting the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse and Park

Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Window - Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb

Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse and Park are located 10 miles east of Port Austin. The park features a large, full hook-up campground, picnic areas, and a rock hound’s perfect rocky beach. The lighthouse museum is open daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day from noon to 4pm.

#2 Old (Colony) Bay Port Cemetery

Old Bay Port Cemetery - Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb
Old Bay Port Cemetery

In the 1860s, German immigrants started a religious colony called Ora Labora on the shores of Wild Fowl Bay. In its first year, 140 settlers established a hamlet in the wilderness. However, the colony was plagued by illness and within months of their arrival, the community suffered its first death of a little girl.

Ora Labora established the cemetery on the extreme southern edge of the colony. It is the final resting place for the pioneers of a town that has disappeared from all the maps. The burial ground still exists and is the only remnant of this long-lost colony. The Old Bay Port cemetery has 241 marked graves resting amongst wild trees and forests that beckon to take it over. The site located at the end of Sand Road off M-25 in McKinley Township. Look for the large rock marking the entrance to the site.

Bay Port’s Sweet Dreams Inn

Sweet Dreams Inn - Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb
Sweet Dreams Inn Bay Port Michigan

Local businessman and lumber baron William Wallace built the mansion in 1890. The site of the house is near the once famous Bay Port hotel and along with the stagecoach route Build in the Victorian style, the Inn has five guest rooms in which to stay and overlook the Lake Huron shore. Wallace was active in politics and owned several businesses in the Upper Thumb. He owned the Wallace Stone Quarry which is located south of town and still in operation today.

The Inn is considered one of the most paranormally active residents in Michigan. Local legend states that his first wife, Elizabeth died in 1893 and that she passed away in the home. They’re also a bit of a mystery as to the final resting place of William Wallace. Despite the prominence of this individual, there is no record of his gravesite. Thus it’s no coincidence that visitors say Wallace and his first wife still roam the inn with his heavy footsteps, as well as whispering in the ears of the guests. While they are considered friendly spirits some visitors leave the inn in the middle of the night as the ghost of Wallace wanders the mansion telling the guests to leave.

Port Crescent Cemetery

Port Crescent Cemetery - Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb
Port Crescent Cemetery

In the late 1860s, the town of Port Crescent was a booming lumber town. The town was considered one of the largest on Saginaw Bay with two steam-powered sawmills, two salt plants, a barrel-making cooperage for shipping fish and salt, a gristmill, a wagon factory, a boot and shoe factory, a pump factory, a roller rink, two brewers, stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a post office, a rail depot, and telegraph office. The town employed hundreds of area residents.

However by the 1880s, the lumber era had peaked, and two large fires swept through the Upper Thumb destroying millions of acres of timber. The town was doomed and soon buildings were moved to other nearby towns. The remaining industry was the mining of fine silica sand used to glassmaking, but this too went out of business in the 1930s.

Today, the site of the former town is now comprised of the trails and campground of Michigan’s Port Crescent State Park. A small part of the chimney is still visible near the campground and a steel girder bridge crosses the Pinnebog river for hikers. Nearby, the final bit of the town left is its cemetery. The final resting place for the residents of the ghost town are scattered among rolling, moss-covered sand dunes. It’s an eerie feeling to visit in the evening.

Port Crescent cemetery is located about 1/2 mile east of M-25 on Port Crescent road in Hume Township, Huron County, Michigan. Access is gained by walking past a vehicle gate down a country lane about 100 yards to the northeast corner of the cemetery.

Port Crescent Cemetery Plots - Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb
Port Crescent Cemetery Plots

The Bruce Mansion

Bruce Mansion - Haunted Sites in Michigan's Thumb
Bruce Mansion

This large and imposing Victorian home was built in 1876. The three-story mansion has a coal bin and cistern in the cellar. The more striking feature is the home’s tower copula which has the ideal look for a spooky haunted house. Which it is.

The mystery of the home begins a few years after it was built. A huge fire in 1881 covered and destroyed entire towns across the thumb but left the house untouched. In the 1920s, John Walker bought the home. Local legend tells that Walker accidentally killed someone with his car and that he hid and buried the body on the property. Riddled with guilt he fell into despair. Soon his wife had left him and the mansion was facing foreclosure. It was said that he hanged himself in the tower copula, however the official cause of death is not recorded.

The large house has been the focus of paranormal investigators and tourists. There have been two investigations that have denoted numerous apparitions. Amazingly, there have also been reports of a ghost cat running through the rooms and a growling dog in the cellar.

Today, the owners offer tourists interested in seeing the mansion tours on Saturday evenings. The Bruce Mansion is 15 miles north of Imlay City, 6 miles south of Marlette, and 5 miles west of Brown City on M-53.

Other Reading and Exploring

Caseville Harbor in the Fall

Caseville Harbor During A Michigan Fall

he Fall in Michigan always seems incredibly short. Sometimes boats are still in the water as November rolls in. Will we the last one out of the water? It is kind of lonely to be one of the last ones out of your slip in the Fall in Caseville harbor. However, Caseville Harbor is one of the great places to stop and visit, especially if your driving on a fall color tour.

Port Austin Street Scene 1951

First called Byrd’s Creek, after Jeduthan Byrd, who built a sawmill here in 1839. Selling his firm to Rollin Smith, Alfred Dwight & P.C. Austin, it had been renamed Dwightville for Alfred Dwight in 1854.

Alfred Dwight put a street light on a pole for a lighthouse, the vicinity came known as Austin’s Dock, then Austin Port, and finally Port Austin. Rollin Smith became the primary postmaster in January 1856. The community was incorporated into a village in 1887.

If you’re looking for something new to do on your visit to Port Austin Michigan, we have some fantastic and unique ideas. Here 15 Amazing Things to Do In Port Austin Mi.

1881 Michigan Forest Fires

Michigan Forest Fires
The fires made national news.

Michigan Forest Fires in the 1800s Impact Today

The great Michigan forest fires of 1881 swept over four counties in three days, destroyed nearly two million dollars’ worth of property, and killed one hundred and twenty-five people. Their extent and irresistible power were largely due to atmospheric conditions. The summer of 1881 was excessively dry, and the drought had done its work nowhere more effectively than in the wide, blunt, tongue of land which lies between Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. At the northern end of this tongue is Huron County. It was one of the worst fires in Michigan forest fire history.


Related Michigan Forest Fire Reading

  • In 1881, 138 years ago, over a series of several days, a devastating fire overtook the Thumb. Here is a synopsis of the days of that horrific event and its aftermath. Great Michigan Thumb Fires of 1881
  • The summer of 1871 was dreadfully hot and dry in Michigan’s Thumb. Farmers watched their crops wither in the dry heat. In the fall, relief from the drought was no better. Folks began to worry that there were to be some lean winter months ahead. The heat and the lack of rain did not only affect eastern Michigan. The conditions stretched west into Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The whole region was a tinderbox for the great fire of 1871. 1871 Great Fire – The Burning Great Lakes
  • The Great Michigan Fire of 1881 devastated one town above all others; Parisville. Parisville Michigan was Founded by Polish immigrants escaping the oppression of the Prussian Empire, this community claims to be the first Polish settlement in North America. 1881 Fire: The Devastation of Parisville
  • Michigan’s Forest Fires in the 1800-1900s

Michigan's Thumb ThumbWind

The Critical Lessons of the Flint Water Crisis

As far back as 2015, ThumbWind started ringing the warning bell as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Financial Manager Darnell Earley authorizes the utilization of the Flint River as a point water source for the city. Needless-to-say the rest is history. The Flint Water Crisis resulted in 1000’s of people becoming poisoned with lead and $100’s of millions spent to remediate the debacle.  I was recently approached by some folks in Ireland from the Water Filter Men who provided this awesome infographic to update us on this modern crisis. 

Infographic on the Flint Water Crisis

Infographic provided by The Water Filter Men is an online stockist of water filtration products based in the town of Dundalk in Ireland. It is known as a well-respected stockist of products such as reverse osmosis water filter systems, UV sterilizer systems, and water softeners. 1000’s of individuals from all over the United States converged into Flint Michigan to donate their time and skills to alleviate the disaster of lead contamination with the Flint water system. Here are a couple of things to know that may help you hit the ground running during a major disaster.

Ora Labora’s Growing Pains

Ora Labora – A Lost Colony in Michigan’s North – Part III

Part III of the Ora Labora story takes place in 1864. The costly building to accommodate the  colonies 140 residents was costly and the community needs cash to grow. It was time for drastic measures. News of the raging war in the south was looking like the demand for more soldiers was looming. Leaders of the colony knew it would be months or weeks before conscription would take their finest young men.

Ora Labora
Wild Fowl Bay – Site of the Colony.

The Michigan land office had refused to do further business with Emil and the society’s leadership board. Any future land acquired would have to be done though individual settlers. To compound his troubles a former member of the colony knew the financial problems. Trouble was coming for Ora Labora. Read more about the third part of the Ora Labora story.

Alexis de Tocqueville on the Saginaw Trail

In 1831, 26 year old Alexis de Tocqueville and his friend Gustave de Beaumont, took the ultimate road trip. The pair of French aristocrats journey from Buffalo New York to the Straights of Detroit with the intent of going to the last overland outpost of civilization; Saginaw.

Their travels predate Michigan’s statehood, the lumber industry and homestead settlement, the story weaves a tale of what early Northwest territory life was like in the early 1800s. We travel with them along the famous Saginaw trail meeting unique individuals hacking their way into virgin forests and the meeting it’s native inhabitants. It’s also a commentary of the environment and how supposedly civilised society will forever impact nature.

This small short story takes place 180 years before today’s concept of climate change. It’s a fascinating short story that is an excerpt of the book A Fortnight in the Wilderness and is now freely available for the first time anywhere as a podcast on Google Podcast and Apple Podcast


End of the Road in Michigan Podcast