Around this time of year, with Halloween just around the corner, people can be a little superstitious. Historical buildings, old crime scenes and dark cemeteries often give rise to stories and sightings of ghosts and other eerie presences. Some say it’s just folklore. But in a city with a past as rich as Ypsilanti’s, there very well could be some spirits who’ve yet to cross over and remain earthbound, haunting our community.
Many Eastern Michigan University students were told in their freshman year the story of Mary Ann Starkweather, whose ghost is said to be lurking within the oldest building on campus.
Starkweather Hall was built in 1897, for the purpose of housing the Student Christian Association, and was funded by the building’s namesake. Starkweather intended the building only to be used as a religious facility, but that promise was not kept. As the story goes, Starkweather’s spirit haunts the structure, betrayed and angry that her beautiful building, now home to the Honors College, no longer serves its intended religious purpose.
But Starkweather is not Ypsilanti’s only ghost.
The Ypsilanti Historical Museum, located at 220 N. Huron St. near Depot Town, is also said to be haunted.
Local historian James Mann was working alone in the archives of the museum one morning, when he had what may have been his very own paranormal experience.
“I felt that I had to use the restroom,” Mann said. “I turned on the light, which turned on the ventilation fan. While I was minding my own business, I heard what sounded like a woman singing. I could almost make out the tune.”
However, the singing stopped when he turned off the light and fan.
“Of course, some would say that the ventilation fan may have played a part. But after that, I was standing in the hallway and said to myself, ‘No wonder so many people believe in ghosts,’” said Mann, who does not believe in ghosts himself.
Mann is not the only person to have potentially had an encounter with the spirit inside the museum.
Mann said, “A woman who works here was giving a tour through the museum. One of the guests had asked, ‘Who was the woman in the gray dress?’ as they had seen a woman near the back of the house. When they looked back for her, there was no one there.”
The ghost haunting the museum is said to be the ghost of Minerva Dow, who lived in the house and died there in 1864. However, research has shown there may be other people who have died in the house as well. The house was built in 1860 by Dow’s husband, Asa, who sold it in 1865, one year after his wife had died.
Various paranormal societies have visited the museum and have found reported findings of spiritual activity within the building.
“During one of the paranormal investigations in the summer of 2009, I felt a cold spot near my face,” Mann said. “The electromagnetic field reader lit up as they placed it within the cold spot.”
As recently as May of this year, the Detroit-based Marter Paranormal Research Team visited the museum and found evidence of “intelligent spirits” inside the building. Their findings, including recordings of mysterious voices from inside the building can be found on their website, www.marterparanormal.com.
Historical buildings are not the only potentially haunted places in Ypsilanti. There have been rumored ghost sightings and creepy experiences related to what may have been our community’s darkest piece of history: “The Michigan Murders.”
In the late 1960s, former EMU student and serial murderer John Norman Collins, also known as the “Co-ed Killer,” went on a killing spree, murdering seven young women in the area. More than 40 years later, some people claim they have witnessed ghostly activity at a couple of the crime scenes.
One of these places is located near Geddes and Laforge roads, where an old farmhouse once stood.
“A murder did take place at the farmhouse, which is long gone,” Mann said. “One of the girls may have tried to escape, though she didn’t make it. Some say that they have seen the ghost of a girl in the area.”
A rumor circulating throughout the community, though no sources could be found for its origin, is if you drive past the area, the trunk of your car will pop open and you can see the silo where the farm used to be, which is said to be haunted by the girl who was murdered there.
Another, perhaps more chilling, “Michigan Murders” crime scene is much closer to campus. While Collins attended EMU, he lived and may have committed some of his crimes at 619 Emmet St., which is now home to the Alpha Xi Delta sorority house.
EMU public relations student Kathryn Summers said she has heard rumors of people hearing voices and doors closing randomly at the house on Emmet.
“I’ve never witnessed anything, but I know someone that used to live in the house. I know she got the creeps all the time,” Summers said.
Ghost stories like these are not unique to EMU, Ypsilanti or any other place in the world.
“It’s folklore,” Mann said. “It’s what makes up the story of a community.”
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, sharing paranormal experiences and retelling spooky stories is all a part of the fun of Halloween. While doing so would be at your own risk, visit a cemetery, historical building or another possibly haunted site around town and see what happens. Do some paranormal investigating of your own. Maybe you’ll have your own ghost story to tell.
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