Detroit Ghost Stories that Will Haunt You

By: Michael Fossbakk | October 28, 2020

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? The best ones may not get us to believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that ghosts are real — they just need us to ask the question.

Detroit has a long history and, with it, many tall tales of ghosts, spirits and all things supernatural haunting everyday citizens, buildings and homes alike. Read on for a few spooky stories and if you’re looking for more frights and chills, check out these haunted houses in Metro Detroit or fill your last-minute costume needs at these local Halloween stores.

The Snake Goddess of Belle Isle

Belle Isle is home to an aquarium, a conservatory, park attractions, a beach and, apparently, ghosts? That’s right! According to this tall tale, there is a ghost known as The Snake Goddess of Belle Isle that lingers on the island. Stop on the bridge on Tanglewood Drive, turn off your car and honk your horn three times to see her appear from the forest.

As the story goes, The Snake Goddess was the daughter of Ottawa Chief Sleeping Bear. Fearing for her safety, Chief Sleeping Bear placed his daughter on what is now known as Belle Isle. The Chief asked the Great Spirits to protect his daughter, so they surrounded the island with snakes and granted her immortality.

Eloise Asylum

It’s hard to talk about Metro Detroit ghost stories and not think about the infamous Eloise Asylum in Westland, MI. Originally constructed in 1839, it was then known as the Wayne County Poorhouse. Many who were mentally ill were delivered by their families to stay at this facility, which eventually grew into its own city with its own fire department, carpenter shop and more.

After a U.S. Post Office was built there, people started calling the building “Eloise” after the daughter of a postmaster that worked to improve the conditions of so-called “poorhouses.” Unfortunately, there were many, many reports of patient abuse and neglect that came from Eloise Asylum and, although the premises have been long abandoned, those that have visited in more recent years have claimed to hear sounds of moaning and groaning coming from its halls.

The Whitney

This Detroit mansion-turned-restaurant was built in 1894 by David Whitney Jr. Unfortunately, his first and second wives passed away in the mansion, as did he. Decades later, ownership of the building was transferred to Wayne County Medical Society, which turned it into a hospice center for tuberculosis patients.

In short, there’s plenty of reasons people might experience things while at The Whitney that they can’t quite explain. There have been reports of apparitions appearing in reflective surfaces and unnatural noises coming from the elevator.

While it is a restaurant now, the proprietors of The Whitney have leaned into these ghostly stories by naming the third-floor bar “Ghostbar” and offering paranormal dinner tours of the building.

Possible Ghost Caught on a Nanny Cam

Last year, local ABC affiliate WXYZ reported on a family in Highland, Michigan that has reason to believe their house is haunted. Thanks to footage recorded on a baby monitoring “nanny cam,” parents Heather Brough and Joshua Higgins believe they saw a ghost standing next to their daughter’s crib.

“I freaked out,” Brough said. “I stopped what I was doing and I ran upstairs and grabbed my daughter.”

Brough and Higgins also noticed scratch marks on their daughter after the incident.

Thomas Bradford, The Spiritualist

Have you ever heard of Thomas Lynn Bradford? He was a Detroit resident and spiritualist in the 1920s. His spiritualism meant that he believed in the afterlife and that those who pass on are still able to communicate with the living. He believed this so much so that he decided to conduct an experiment on himself to prove his theories to the world. But, there was one catch.

He had to die.

Bradford killed himself by asphyxiation when he turned off the pilot light for his heater and turned up the gas valve. What followed was an account by two different women who claimed to have been visited by Bradford’s spirit, one a friend and the other a complete stranger.

Bradford may not have proved the existence of an afterlife or a “spirit’s” ability to communicate with the living world, but his devotion to these beliefs make this an interesting story.