DETROIT – Michigan’s long history of mankind dates back to 11,000 B.C. and is most associated with the hard working innovative population that brought the world assembly line manufacturing, ginger ale, Motown and punk rock, breakfast cereal, and mass-produced penicillin and with it, modern medicine.
Unfortunately, popular culture doesn't view Michigan in such a favorable light. There are a number of spooky real-life stories that have been told at campfires for generations that actually have a factual basis here in Michigan.
Detroit's European settlers showed little respect
University of Michigan's Ashley Lemke, in an article written for PaleoAmerica, says that the Native American population predates the European colonization by almost 10,000 years. During this time, the Paleoamerican Mound Builders shaped the area, leaving mounds across what would become Metro Detroit. Like many major American cities, Detroit was built on top of assorted Native American burial mounds. In fact, the oldest man-made structure in Metro Detroit is the burial mound at Fort Wayne.
The first documented reference by European settlers to what would become Detroit was in the 1670s, when French missionaries Francois Dollier de Casson and Rene de Brehand de Galinee discovered a stone idol, sculpted by the Native Americans, standing where what is currently Hurlbut Memorial Gate. Believing the statue sacrilege and detrimental to their goals, they destroyed the hallowed totem with hatchets. The Galien River on Michigan's west side was named after Galinee.
Halloween decoration is actually a dead body
In 2001, a 14-year-old boy was working on a haunted hayride in Sparta, when he felt that jumping out to scare patrons felt awkward. He decided to take a skeleton decoration down and place himself in its noose suspended from a tree. Onlookers and coworkers witnessed him struggle to remove the noose and assumed he was acting. When medical services arrived, he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Michigan ghost towns
The village of Pere Cheney was a logging town that once was the original county seat of Crawford County. After a series of disease outbreaks shrunk the population, the surviving residents moved to Grayling. The abandoned area has since been incorporated into the neighboring Beaver Creek Township.
Rawsonville was founded in 1800 as Snow's Landing, before being renamed Rawsonville in 1836. This village did well, with a grist mill, a sawmill, a stove factory, and even a wagon maker. When railroads were built in the area, Rawsonville stopped being the community hub that it once was, and its population dropped significantly. In 1925, a dam was placed on the Huron River, putting the village under Belleville Lake.
Kensington was settled in 1831 and grew to over 300 residents in 1854. Similar to Rawsonville, the Michigan railroads installed in 1871 and 1882 cut the community off from the rest of the state. The abandoned village was leveled when I-96 and Kensington Metropark were built in the 1950s.
Singapore was razed by four different massive fires during 1871. Initially founded as a competing port town to Chicago and Milwaukee, the town grew and became the home of Michigan’s first school. A blizzard in 1842 almost wiped out the city completely, the only thing saving it was a shipwreck on its shores that supplied the area with food until the blizzard ended. In 1871, a series of fires destroyed most of the town.
Rebuilding did not come without a cost, as the forests around the town provided a protective cover from the sands and wind that came off Lake Michigan. Within four years, the city was buried beneath the dunes and was completely vacated.
The St Aubins Massacre was committed on July 3, 1929. Mystic healer Benny Evangelist, his wife, and four children were killed in their home. After claiming to have heard voices from God, Evangelist published a four-volume “bible” and started referring to himself as a prophet. He crafted a religious sanctuary in his basement, consisting of wax dolls, and figures held by wires from the ceiling.
The family was killed later that night, Evangelist's body found sitting with his hands folded in prayer, his severed head sitting in a nearby chair. Police believe it was a second religious fantastic, but are unsure why no one heard any family members scream during the night.
One of the Great Lake region’s earliest serial killers was believed to be Rose Barron, who had allegedly poisoned members of forty different families living in the Alhambra Apartment building in 1905. Prosecutors argued that she had placed arsenic in biscuits she handed out to the tenants as revenge for her recent demotion.
Barron's attorney defended her, stating that the faulty pipes within the building were the source of the poisoning. Despite Detroit police saying the evidence against her was "overwhelming," she was acquitted after a 19-week trial.
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