Michigan's most haunted: Traverse City State Hospital

Built in 1885, the hospital, also known as Northern Michigan Asylum

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – One of the most notoriously haunted places in Michigan is the Traverse City State Hospital.

The history of the hospital

Built in 1885, the hospital, also known as Northern Michigan Asylum, opened due to overcrowding issues at the Kalamazoo and Pontiac hospitals.

It was run by Dr. James Decker Munson. The facility housed as many as 3,000 patients in its several buildings.

Munson believed in a now outdated medical theory, which believed that "beauty" could be used as a form of therapy. He felt that if mentally troubled patients could come to a place and be surrounded by tranquility, that their problems would simply vanish.

The use of straitjackets was not allowed.

By the 1930s, the hospital was the city's largest employer.

While it was originally established to care for mentally ill patients, its use expanded during outbreaks of polio, influenza and tuberculosis.

The mental institution closed in 1989.

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Reported strange occurrences

One of the most popular legends of the hospital is the "Hippy Tree," which claims that a particular tree on the hospital's grounds is a portal to Hell.

A blog posted on GhostPlace documented a visit to the Hippy Tree:

I must tell you that I am a devout skeptic, but what I saw I will never forget as long as I live. It was about a 15 min. walk to the tree. As we ventured out it felt as if that people were watching us. The closer we came to the tree the more it felt like someone or something DID NOT want us there. We kept hearing the sounds of crashing branches and scuffles in the distance. The closer we got the more strange things became.

I strongly discourage anyone from exploring anything in the surrounding areas of the asylum. There truly is some form of evil that is attached to the forest and the asylum. PLEASE STAY AWAY.

Some visitors have also reported seeing ghosts, feeling unseen forces and experiencing drastic changes in air and energy.

Bodiless voices from abandoned areas, unexplained lights and footsteps are commonly reported, as well.

Another creepy story surrounds a priest of the asylum's chapel who allegedly hanged himself there. Some say the priest was driven to suicide by dark spirits.

Reporters covering stories on the grounds have heard unexplained voices on their tapes. Construction workers have seen figures on the grounds - some of them even refusing to return to work.

A user on HauntedPlaces.org posted an experience:

I lived not a block from the state hospital for a year at a women’s center. I was outside one night mid October and I saw what looked to a satanic ritual. It really freaked me out I watched it for awhile but got scared and left. This place is definitely got messed up energy.

Today, only some of the buildings are still standing. A group purchased the buildings in 2000, agreeing to renovate the facility, and began developing cottages, and commercial space.

The grounds now feature restaurants, condos and wineries. 

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad has proudly been with WDIV/ClickOnDetroit since 2013. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters, and helps lead the WDIV Insider team. He's a big sports fan and is constantly sipping Lions Kool-Aid.