During the last two weekends in October, Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti offers lantern-lit tours to help locals get in the Halloween spirit. Located at 943 N. River Street, James Mann, the local historian, starts the tour as soon as the iron gates are creaked open. The cost for the tour is 5 dollars per person.
To make the tour more authentic, the only light provided is by a hand-held fuel lantern. During the tour, you are advised to watch your step, as you might trip over a tombstone. Highland cemetery is the resting place of many individuals who have had a great impact on Ypsilanti, including Mary Starkweather. Throughout the tour, James Mann explains the history behind the cemetery, using witty humor to also explain how some of the 15,000 “residents” passed.
The annual Highland tours owe their existence to the students at Eastern Michigan University.
“The history club wanted a tour of Highland, and they wanted it at night,” Mann said. “About six years ago, I gave them a tour, and I noticed something. When you give a tour a night…it gets dark.”
Mann incorporates humor into every story, making the tour less like a college lecture and more lively and enjoyable.
One of the first stories told is about a young couple named Lizzy, 19, and Frank, 21. The couple went boating with some friends on the Huron River in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lizzy, who insisted that she could steer the boat, accidently tipped everybody into the river. Before the young couple could be saved, the Huron swallowed them. Frank and Lizzy were buried in July 1885, on the day the couple was to be wed. On the grave reads, “Two hearts beat as one.”
“I’m sorry to start off the tour with such a sad story, but after all, everybody here is dead,” Mann said.
Another grave that Mann stops at on the tour is his personal favorite – that of a young child named Winifred, whose headstone is in the shape of a lamb. Lambs typically symbolize the death of a child.
“There is just something about the lamb,” Mann said, explaining the appeal of the grave. “It’s a peaceful place.”
After the tour, first-year student at EMU Nathan Clark talked about his favorite part of the experience.
“I really enjoyed learning about the history of Ypsilanti, and about the people that have made such an impact on the city,” he said. “I haven’t lived in Ypsi for very long, so it was just cool to learn about the area.”
The Highland Cemetery tours, which run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, are happening for just one more week. Although there have not been any reported ghost sightings, the tour is still a blast for thrill-seekers of all ages. For more information regarding times and location, please visit
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