Fort Mackinac is one of the most promising
Island locations to experience paranormal activity!
There are 6 hot spots that have activity due to deaths from
disease, suicide, execution, murder and from doing duties assigned.
Fort Mackinac is part of Mackinac Island State Park.
The name of the island, Mackinac, was derived from Indians who first called it Mish-la-mack-in-naw, which loosely means “great turtle.” They thought it looked like one because of the rock formations and cliffs.
On our 2007 road trip, Tom and I took the ferry over to Mackinac Island, where no cars are allowed, and people travel by bike or horse drawn carriage and of course on foot! It is like traveling back in time, as one wanders around the quaint downtown section. We huffed up Fort Road, past the lovely park, and continued on up the serious stone steps to Fort Mackinac’s impressive gates, entering by way of North Sally Port, really stepping into the past!
Actors dressed in soldier’s uniforms and ladies dressed in the appropriate attire of officer’s wives , walk around and periodically act out historical scenes, sometimes shooting their guns. When we were there, a court martial was reenacted on the grassy, rectangular quad in the middle of the fort, which is surrounded by buildings.
Other actors give talks to visiting tourists on a schedule, and the troops are reviewed by stern officers.
The stone and wood buildings were beautifully renovated and restored by the Michigan State Park system, and have many interesting exhibits inside.
The Guard House and Jail – Includes memorabilia, jail cells and the infamous black hole jail dungeon.
Hospital – Has a fascinating exhibit with a projected image of a 19th century doctor, based on a diary, explaining how he treated an unusual case concerning a broken bone, the symptoms of an unknown disease and another illness. An image of a modern doctor then appears, and tells the audience how the treatment of the broken bone was handled correctly, and how the doctor did as well as anyone today in treating the unknown disease and illness, which are just as fatal now as they were yesterday.
The Officer’s Hill’s Quarters – Have on display a typical living area and furniture of higher echelon officers and their families, in two story apartments.
The Officers Stone Quarters – Now houses activities / hands on exhibits and toys for visiting children and a tea room for people who are hungry.
Fort Administrative buildings were home to the Post Headquarters and The Quartermaster’s Storehouse, which has all sorts of items of interest for the 19th century soldier, including clay pipes on display.
On the other side of the grassy quad is the two story Soldier’s Barracks as they looked in 1859, including a portion of the building dedicated to portraying a soldier’s life in the 1800’s. The Wood Quarters sold beer, tobacco and the few luxuries available.
Fort Mackinac is a restored military fort which dates back to 1779, when it was founded by an inspired British commander, Patrick Sinclair. Three years after the start of construction, the fort was intended to be handed over to the United States, according to a treaty, but the then commander, Captain Robinson, wasn’t ready to do so just yet, and refused to leave. Robinson also stopped construction, and let the fort deteriorate a little. This was only the beginning of the troubles concerning this fort.
Fort Mackinac was finally completed after 1796, when a new treaty forced the British tohand it over to American forces, who not only had to finish building it, but also had to repair what was already built! However, the British came back during the War of 1812, with the help of the local Indians, springing a surprise attack from a hill above the fort, complete with cannons. They had no trouble defeating the sixty, unprepared American soldiers stationed there.
Five American ships counterattacked by sea, but their cannon range fell short. They followed with a ground assault which failed, leaving 51 wounded and 13 dead. there Americans then tried a three gunboat blockade, but that turned out to be a flop. The British took control of all three ships! The fort finally was given back to the Americans in 1814 via a treaty.
It remained in American hands until 1895, though it didn’t see any more action. It was used as a prison for confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. It was decommissioned in 1895, and the living left, but the restless entities stayed behind.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Disease, war, murder and execution, and suicide were the culprits that caused death among the people who served here and sometimes members of their families as well. Spirits linger for a variety of reasons.
Places of extreme punishment for inmates or prisoners, are often haunted by the unfortunates who died there because of the harsh treatment that was experienced.
Fort Pulaski, GA (Thirty-three Confederate POWs died here from starvation and harsh treatment from October 1864 through January of 1865 when calmer and more humane leaders took charge).
Fort Delaware Dungeon, DE (Unruly troublemakers were placed here and sometimes died from cold, lack of food and disease).
Ohio State Reformatory, OH (Unruly inmates were sometimes killed in Solitary Confinement cells by a murderous cell mate or met death by a deadly beatdown provided by the guards).
Fort Mackinac, MI (The dungeon, which is called the Black Hole and located in the Guard House, took at least one life).
While hospitals in the past have done their best to treat disease and wounds of their patients, they lacked modern treatments like antibiotics and people died. Their spirits sometimes are restless, not ready to go to the other side.
Biltmore Hotel, FL (Some soldiers died of their war injuries here when the Biltmore Hotel became a World War 2 Hospital).
Waverly Hills Sanitarium, KY (Though medical advances were made here, many TB patients died before antibiotics were developed to fight the TB epide ic in the first half of the 20th Century).
Carnton Mansion, KY (Carnton Mansion became a Civil War Hospital for Confederate wounded. Many died of their wounds and amputations here because it was long before modern surgery and antibiotics were discovered. Getting shot in the leg was almost a death sentence for soldiers).
Fort Mackinac, MI (Though the level of medical care was pretty good for the times, some men and their dependents died of their medical problems or war injuries, or such things as Typhoid Fever, Consumtion (TB), heart disease and inflammation of the lung sometimes because effective treatments hadn’t invented yet)
(Two children, Josiah and Isabel Cowles, died in infancy, at 5 months and 1 year, while their officer father was stationed here and living with his family in a two story apartment. Their mother deeply mourned their passing, never quite recovering completely).
(Over the years, thirteen other children of varying ages also died here, and are buried at the Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery).
The problem of suicide for military personnel has been an issue in the armed services from the very beginning through to the present day. The pressures military life can push some folks over the waterfall into depression and life-taking.
USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum, CA (Because this WW 2 USS aircraft carrier was in one hot battle after another for 15 months, battle fatigue and survivor’s guilt caused the USS Hornet to have more suicides than any other USS aircraft carrier).
Fort Sill, OK (Some people on this base may have killed themselves especially if they suffered from PTSD).
USS Constellation Museum, MD (A sailor became overwhelmed by the awful conditions and hung himself).
Fort Mackinac, MI (Pvt. Felix Pleave killed himself in 1843).
Military Servicemen who loved being part of the armed forces and died suddenly while serving, sometimes aren’t ready to quit just yet and find ways to serve as spirits.
USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum, CA (Apparently, you don’t always need a head to continue to serve on the flight deck. Other spirits of sailors have joined the sleep-over events of young people to keep the living in line).
USS Lexington Museum, TX (An engine maintenance sailor, who was killed in a Japanese attack, is still tinkering with the engines when he isn’t giving tours and admiring the young women who take the self-tour).
Fort Mackinac, MI (Three fifer/piper players died in their service at the fort, in 1811, 1819 and 1850).
Spirits who felt bad about the stiff penalties handed down in court for crimes that they didn’t think deserved such a punishment or for something that they didn’t do, sometimes are restless.
Whaley House, CA (Before the Whaley House was built, Yankee Jim, a bully and the leader of a small time crime gang, was hung on a tree on this property that served as the town’s gallows. His spirit has been upset for years because he was executed while his crew just got prison time).
Clinton Tavern, MD (The spirit of Mary Surratt still looks for proof in her old tavern to clear her name. She was the owner of the tavern who had leased it to John Lloyd. She moved to Washington D.C. Her son, John Surratt, and his friends led by John Wilkes Booth, planned the assassination of President Lincoln. Mary was accused of being part of it and hung).
Fort Mackinac, MI (In the soldier’s mess hall, a soldier named Hugh Flinn was shot and killed by a fellow soldier, James Brown, who was hung on the gallows for this incident. James Brown claimed it was an accidental shooting, but others felt it was murder because of a disagreement the two had beforehand. The spirit of James Brown cannot rest and is trying to clear his name).
Historic places where staff and reenactors dress up to recreate those times in history when the structure or structures were the most active, find that spirits feel more free to interact with the living. Also, if structures are restored in detail, spirits feel more comfortable as well.
Fort Pulaski, GA (When a group of Civil War reenactors dressed as Confederate soldiers came into the fort to take a tour, the spirit of a Confederate officer appeared as a solid, life-like figure and reprimanded them for not saluting him. He ordered them to fall into line because a Union attack could happen at any time, which the reenactorsdid as to go along with this improvisation and to entertain the other visitors. After this spirit ordered them to do an about face, the spirit disappeared).
Gunston Hall, VA (Staff dressed in period costume seem to activate the spirits who reside here).
Crystal Palace Saloon, Tombstone AZ (The Crystal Palace has been carefully restored. Using old photos, its historic decor such as the huge mahogany bar and back bar was painstakingly recreated. Spectral customers have fun fooling the bartenders, being cheeky with women sitting at the bar. Not to worry though, because the spirit of Sheriff Virgil Earp is ready to step in to handle bad behavior by the spirits and the living alike).
Fort Mackinac, MI (All staff are dressed in the costumes of their characters and buildings are set up exactly as they would have been back in the day).
Fort Mackinac is considered to be one the most promising locations on the island to experience paranormal activity. Each hot spot located in Fort Mackinac is listed below.
The Guard House
This was the only jail available in the fort until 1828.
Cold spots exist in the guard house, even in hot weather, which usually points to an entity or two still serving sentences.
They suddenly are felt and there is no reasonable explanation for the sudden drop in temperature.
Pictures have been taken which show orbs hanging out in this guard house.
Sensitive people have felt an energy aura of sadness and picked up on the smell of death and sickness.
When visitors take pictures, sometimes an entity shows up in the photo. The effect is often prankish or funny.
Disembodied limbs such as a leg or an arm materialize out of nowhere, showing a sense of humor on the part of the spirit.
Chuckles at the expense of the living are something a young man would do!
(General Wayne Inn, Devil’s Den in Gettysburg, Kolb Ridge Court).
Officer Hills Apartment Quarters
The crying of under-the-weather babies is heard, and motion sensors are tripped after hours.
Furniture is moved and lights are seen at night inside by staff on the outside.
The Cowles children are still crying from their maladies, and their mother stands by helplessly watching them suffer and die because the doctor couldn’t cure them in that century.
The entity of their mothers has been seen weeping at the graves of her children in the the Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery.
Officer’s Stone Quarters
After the fort closes for tourists, the toys used by visiting children in the Officer’s Stone Quarters are put away.
The next morning, they are out on the floor, laying about like children have been playing with them.
North Sally Port Entrance Gate and Wall
The distinct sound of some unseen entity practicing his fifer / piper can be heard on foggy/ misty mornings.
An apparition of an entity dressed in uniform may also be spotted walking up and down the walkway located on the inside of the fort wall.
Rifle Range Trail
It is thought that the execution of James Brown, the only one of its kind here, took place on a portable gallows set up in the Rifle Range, now known as the Rifle Range Trail area, just outside of Fort Mackinac.
On the trail located between Fort Holmes and Fort Mackinac:
An unseen spirit follows people using the trail. They hear foot steps behind them and feel that they are being watched.
This same entity likes to step on the back of people’s shoes for chuckles, and sometimes even appears as the full apparition of a young soldier, dressed in uniform.
It is thought that this is the spirit of James Brown, still trying to convince others that he didn’t really mean to murder Hugh Flinn. He perhaps just wanted to scare the fellow.
Perhaps he just brandished his gun to make a point and it went off by accident, killing Flinn.
Fort Mackinac staff and visitors alike, as well as islanders who live near the fort, have had boatloads of personal experiences in the six hot spots discussed above.
No paranormal investigations are allowed in Fort Mackinac, as the park management want people to come and experience a historical time and not disturb the spirits, who either choose to stay here or are stuck because of emotional restlessness or have unfinished business.
A “Big Yes” is in order.
Many entities still linger here for a variety of reasons, They were not ready to die, they have regrets and sorrows, they’re restless because of the kind of death they had, or they’re just looking for understanding.
Revolutionary War era – 19th century Fort Mackinac is located on Mackinac Island, just up the hill from city center on the cliffs, above Marquette Park, situated just right of downtown, offering a glorious view of the town and harbor area. Mackinac Island itself is found at the base of Michigan’s upper peninsula near the Straits of Mackinac, about twenty minutes by ferry from the mainland Michigan city of Ignace, which is just off Interstate 75 Roadway.
- Historic MACKINAC ISLAND; Visitors Guide, Original text by Eugene t. Peterson, Mackinac State Historic Parks, 1994.
- HAUNTS OF MACKINAC: Ghost Stories, Legends & Tragic Tales of Mackinac Island, by Todd Clements, pg. 110-115 & pg. 67, House of Hawthorne Publishing. 2006.
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr