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Is an old tuberculosis sanatorium haunted?

October 31, 2008
By MIRIAM MOELLER, Journal Staff Writer

NEGAUNEE - A weak fall sun peeks through gray clouds that hover above a lonely field. Two brick houses loom at the edge - behind them a root cellar and some run-down storage sheds with smokestacks reaching for the sky. Among pieces of scrap metal, an old glass pharmacy jar has been forgotten in the tall grass.

Once this place in Negaunee Township was home to children and adults suffering from tuberculosis. Today some people say only the ghosts of the patients at Morgan Heights remain.

And ghosts are there indeed, according to Holly Ray, who used to live in the nurses' dormitory - one of the two brick rental houses - from 2000 until 2002.

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"The hospital had just been torn down when we got there," Ray said, adding that the house was beautiful and seemed perfect for a family of four.

Yet, as it turned out, it was not the perfect place for the Rays.

"It didn't occur for a week, but every morning around 4 and 5 a.m., I would hear footsteps going up and down the stairs," Ray said.

Ray got up and checked on her family, thinking that her kids, 4 and 6 years old at the time, were making the noises. However, every time she got up, no one was there and the rest of the house was asleep.

Ray, not one to believe in ghosts, did not think much of it until more strange things started happening.

"Our TV was always on when we came home," she said, adding that the cat could have stepped on the remote. However, there was also a cold spot in the kitchen that would never change in temperature no matter what season.

"I'm sure you could explain that too," she said.

The noises persisted and other people began to hear them too. Ray's babysitter heard them as well as her husband.

"My husband had a strange experience, but he does not want to talk about it," she said.

Looking at the history of Morgan Heights, later called Acocks Medical Facility, it is not surprising people claim it is haunted.

Built in 1911, it was the first tuberculosis sanitarium in the Upper Peninsula with two small brick buildings with wide porches. In 1915, an addition was built to allow 30 patients to live there during their treatment, which was often years long.

In 1927 another addition and a superintendent's cottage, the bigger brick house that still remains today, was added.

The hospital was sued for the first time for medical malpractice in 1931 after a drainage tube disappeared inside a surgical patient, Alfred Rytkonen, who died shortly afterward.

Renamed Acocks Medical Facility later, the hospital eventually lost its license because the old sanitarium did not have all the required facilities.

After sitting vacant for some time, O'Dovero Properties bought Morgan Heights for $120,000 in 1995. Two residences, the director's cottage and a nurses' dormitory, are now rental homes.

The former Morgan Heights hospital building was torn down sometime between then and 2002.

Many people reported spooky sightings when wandering in the old hospital before it was torn down.

"When we lived there, there were always people driving up," Ray said, adding that her neighbors told her that the old hospital had a morgue and crematorium.

Morgan Heights also had an underground tunnel system that connected all buildings. There are still tunnels going from one brick house to the other, but they have been blocked off by cement walls.

Ray said one day someone's dogs got trapped in the tunnels and she could hear them barking through the living room floor.

Apparently in the winter, one can see where the tunnels are because the snow melts differently on them, Ray said.

"It's really a strange property," Ray said.

After the Rays moved out, they heard yet another disturbing story about the property from the new tenants. Ray said the tenant saw the vision of a man standing in a red flannel shirt in the basement when she was doing laundry.

"It took us two years to decide on the ghost," Ray said. "I know it was real."



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