Do you believe in GHOSTS?
Writing about the unknown a challenge
As grey clouds fill the sky and shriveling leaves drop to the cool ground, some claim that autumn is a time when senses are heightened. After all, the word “fall” derives from the Old English term “feallan,” which means to fall, decay or die. Although death is an inevitable part of life, some believe restless spirits resurface like the sun after a cold, dark spell.
While people consider them to be “folklore” or “supernatural,” ghost stories are genuinely believed by many people across the world, including the Upper Peninsula.
Jennifer Billock, a freelance writer and editor who lives in Wisconsin, released her book “Ghosts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” earlier this month.
“An old friend introduced me the Upper Peninsula a long time ago. They had a family cottage up in the Keweenaw, but now I go visit on my own,” she said.
During her travels to the U.P., Billock acquired ghost stories from various locals. As a former paranormal investigator, she said she’s encountered supernatural experiences throughout her life.
“My house growing up had strange things happen all the time,” she said. “I’ve seen things around, you know, the corner of my eye or up close, but I never really talked about it at the time. There’s a fine line between explaining it to someone and them thinking you’re creepy.”
Billock was a paranormal investigator about 10 years ago.
“People contacted us through our website asking if we would look at their houses and things like that,” she said. “We went to an antique shop in Wisconsin, a hotel in Illinois, and a few people’s homes.
“Sometimes, there’d be things like strange audio recordings of someone telling us to go away. One time when we were in a restaurant, we didn’t encounter anything in there, but when we went back to listen to the recording, we heard a voice say, ‘Hello pig.'”
The audio device used was an old Olympus digital recorder, she said — nothing fancy.
Fred Stonehouse, president of the Marquette Maritime Museum’s Board of Directors, is also no stranger to spooky tales. Although his main focus has been on maritime history, during years of research for numerous books, Stonehouse ran across materials relating to ghost stories around the Great Lakes — thus leading to his “Haunted Lakes” series, a compilation of unexplained stories.
“I literally put my notes … into a cardboard box I labeled ‘weird stuff,'” Stonehouse said. “Eventually my box was filled and I realized there was a book somewhere in there. But I am a maritime historian, not a folklorist so how to approach this collection of unverified ‘stuff’ was something I was unsure about.”
Around that time, University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library opened the Ivan Walton Collection to public access, Stonehouse said.
“Walton was an early folklorist who collected a huge amount of Great Lakes maritime material. Digging into it, I discovered in a number of instances he had complementary stories, or the reverse,” he said. “Figuring what he had to a point validated my material, and considering it part of the fabric of the Great Lakes maritime tradition, I wrote ‘Haunted Lakes.'”
Stonehouse, who’s never seen a ghost, said he’s a skeptic that believes there are things we might not understand and he’s always surprised when an “otherwise down-to-earth” person has some sort of encounter or story of an apparition.
“I am not a ghost hunter, paranormal investigator … but a simple maritime historian who wandered into fascinating backwater of maritime history, certainly adding to the rich cultural of sailing the Great Lakes,” he said.
Tyler R. Tichelaar, author of the year-old “Haunted Marquette: Ghost Stories from the Queen City,” became interested in writing about haunted places after publishing his book “My Marquette.” In “My Marquette,” Tichelaar describes historical homes in the city in depth which he posted snippets of online.
“I posted about one of the houses on my blog — the Gregory House,” Tichelaar said. “Somebody wrote to me and said that they used to live in that house and it was haunted, so I was curious about that and a couple of other people started telling me about houses in the book that I talked about that they said were also haunted. I wanted to write about it because it was a part of the history of these houses that I left out.”
Tichelaar said he was nervous to write the book because he wasn’t sure of who he’d meet, but that most of the people were “very sincere.”
“I think there’s a lot of people who make stuff up or exaggerate stuff,” he said. “The people I spoke to, I don’t think that was the case. I’ve never seen a ghost before, so that made me somewhat skeptical, but people who I’ve known for a long time and trust have told me they’ve seen ghosts and I believe them.”
In “Haunted Marquette,” a medium named Tammy Krassick helps Tichelaar navigate through spiritual realms, as she attempts to contact several of Tichelaar’s family members who have long died. He said she was able to pick up on their characteristics which surprised him.
Krassick is a character noted throughout the book, visiting Park Cemetery in Marquette with Tichelaar, among other places known to be haunted.
Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is email@example.com.