🔒 What happened to Pere Cheney? The story of Michigan’s infamous ghost town

Did a witch curse the village of Pere Cheney?

Pere Cheney Cemetery. (Ken Haddad)

A Michigan “ghost town” has a reputation for ghostly behavior.

Pere Cheney, also known as Cheney or Center Plains, was a village in Crawford County, Michigan.

It was settled by lumberjacks in 1874. But the village was abandoned by 1917.

How Pere Cheney became a ghost town

After being established in 1874 by founder George Cheney, the village received a land grant from the Michigan Central Railroad Co. to create a stop along the railroad.

The village had a general store, sawmills, a hotel and a post office.

By the 1870s, its population was approximately 1,500 people.

Diphtheria, an infection spread through the air, wiped out much of the population in 1893.

While the village was trying to recover, fires broke out, leaving much of the village damaged. The fires were likely caused by sparks from mills behind the village.

Disease returned again in 1897, and by 1901 the town's population was only 25.

In 1917, with the population under 20, the land was sold in a public auction, and Pere Cheney became a ghost town.

All that remains today is the Pere Cheney cemetery, which some call a literal ghost town.

Pere Cheney Cemetery. (Ken Haddad)

Pere Cheney Cemetery

The Pere Cheney cemetery is filled with ghost stories. Perhaps the most popular, is the legend of the witch.

Local legend says a witch cursed the village she was banished to the woods, which many blame for the outbreak of disease, and the disastrous fires.

The cemetery itself contains the graves of about 90 people - one of which is rumored to be the witch's grave.

Some say people from surrounding towns set Pere Cheney on fire to prevent the spread of disease. But some believe they were caused by the witch.

She was later hanged from a tree in the cemetery and her body was buried.

Visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing ghosts, figures, glowing orbs, lights and hearing voices.

Some have reported hearing children laughing and seeing handprints on their cars.

The only vegetation that grows in Pere Cheney is moss.

Nycki Moggo, a Grayling, Michigan native, visited the cemetery - and documented what she saw:

Is Pere Cheney Cemetery haunted? I believe that it is but not to the extent others make it out to be. I have probably been there at least 200 times over the years and maybe 10 of those times I have had something strange happen to me and others that were with me. I have had my car radio switch channels for no reason, my car not wanting to start (at the time I had a 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix and this happened in the spring of 1998). A few times we have heard children giggling and laughing VERY close to the car late at night. One particular time there were small handprints all over the roof of my car after we left the cemetery. On Halloween of 2002, myself and three others saw an apparition of a woman in a light colored dress walking through the rear of the cemetery, then disappeared all at once. That's about it. I've never been chased.. I've never seen a witch. I've never felt like someone was trying to lynch me (one of the many Pere Cheney stories--this one involving a large oak tree in the center of the cemetery). The temperature has fluctuated from time to time but it wasn't anything worth writing home about. I do not feel an overwhelming sadness there but I do feel a peculiar energy I cannot fully explain. However, I feel this was when I walk into any cemetery.

Below are some video tours of the cemetery.

I actually visited the cemetery in the summer of 2020, and I have to say, it was a beautiful and peaceful place -- and I did not see any witches or ghosts. If you want to visit, it’s a bit of backroad experience, but Google Maps will get you there.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.