Ghost Stories & Urban Legends in the D

By: Toni Cunningham | October 15, 2014
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I’m a fan of all things spooky. I love scary movies, and the fact that several channels show horror movie marathons throughout the month of October is like a dream come true. Okay, maybe more like a night terror come true, but you get the idea.

It’s easy to watch a horror movie and get your wits scared out of you, but unless it’s one of those “based on a true story” numbers that sends chills up your spine, rest easy—it’s all pretend. What does create some truly scary sensations are local urban legends and ghost stories, and there are plenty of ‘em in southeast Michigan.

Before I begin sharing a few of the spookiest, most bone chilling tales with you, I would like to provide the following disclaimer: many of the following hauntings and mysteries are highly debated, so let’s keep the “this isn’t true, you dummy!” or  “this has been debunked!” to a minimum. A secondary disclaimer: probably do not go investigate these, because it may or may not lead to your arrest. I’m not condoning breaking and entering or trespassing. Okay, let’s go!

The Whitney, 4421 Woodward Ave., Detroit, is the oldest and most iconic mansion in the city of Detroit. Originally built between 1890 and 1894 by David Whitney Jr. and used as a private residence, the mansion was converted into a restaurant in 1986. When it was built, it was the first residential home in the city of Detroit to have a functioning elevator! An elevator that is reported to be haunted.

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Both Whitney and his wife passed away in the building, and supernatural events have been reported all throughout the mansion, from the elevator that moves on its own to apparitions on several different floors. The restaurant does not deny it’s haunted reputation, either. Several times throughout the year, The Whitney holds dinner and paranormal tours as well as dinner and séances. You can also enjoy a cocktail in the Ghost Bar, where you have the opportunity to “chill out with Detroit’s favorite spirits.”

The Historic Holly Hotel, 110 Battle Alley, Holly, has been called the most haunted historic building in the state. Built in 1891, the Holly Hotel has experienced two mysterious fires in its time: one on January 19, 1931, and another on January 19, 1996, both occurring at the same hour mark, 65 years apart from one another.

If that’s not eerie enough for you, there are several known ghosts who keep residence at the hotel, including a little girl who plays with kitchen items, strange voices and a piano that makes music on its own.

While at the Holly Hotel, keep an eye out for Mr. Hirst, the owner back when the building was called the Hirst Hotel. After his death in the 1920s, it is said that he was unable to pass on to the afterlife, so he continues to reside at the Holly Hotel. If you get a whiff of cigar smoke and/or see a figure in a coat and top hat, you’ve likely spotted Mr. Hirst.

The Eloise Psychiatric Hospital, also known as the Eloise Insane Asylum, was founded in 1839 and nearly 75 years later, consisted of three units: the Eloise Mental Hospital, the Eloise Infirmary, and the Eloise Sanitarium. Back in the day, Eloise housed nearly 10,000 patients, over 7,000 of which were buried in the Eloise Cemetery between 1910 and 1948.

There are countless stories about the grounds, even though the only original buildings that remain today are the Kay Beard Building (which was the administration building) and old commissary building. Well, that and the cemetery, which is reported to be full of haunts. This one is serious business, as it made its way to Hollywood: keep an eye out for “Eloise,” an upcoming horror film starring Eliza Dushku and Chace Crawford that was made on location in Wayne County.

The Northville Regional Psychiatric Hospital is another haunted former asylum in Metro Detroit. This one is located on 7 Mile Road in Northville, which was built in 1952 and shut its doors in 2003. Those doors are still standing on over 400 acres of land, though, and the psychiatric hospital is a breeding ground for haunts and scary tales. There has been plenty of talk of demolishing the buildings and using the land for something else, but nothing has come about yet.

While looking into this, I’ve read multiple accounts of folks doing their own investigating and getting slapped with a $500 fine, plus community service, so do not, I repeat, do not, try to seek out spirits here. Do yourself a favor, avoid getting arrested and get all of your information via the Internet with this one (and probably the rest of them, for that matter).

Canton’s Denton Road Bridge was probably the first local urban legend that my young self ever learned about. There are a few different accounts of what took place at the bridge, but one story involves a woman who lost her child whose ghost walked the bridge while her baby cried. Well, the bridge was demolished several years ago, but that doesn’t mean the spirits are gone.

The second tale says that a car crashed into the river below the bridge, so if you were to cross the (now non-existent) bridge at night, you’d see a beam of light come out of the river and follow your car to the end of the road.

Head to the Oakwood Cemetery of Farmington Hills, drive in the west gate to the bottom of a hill, and put your car in neutral. According to the stories, you’ll find your vehicle being pushed backwards up the hill and out of the cemetery gates.

If all of this has your paranormal senses tingling, try tagging along on an investigation with the local Motor City Ghost Hunters. Otherwise, you’re probably best off leaving the investigating of the above tales and terrors to the Ghostbusters.