Thursday, April 20, 2017

HGB Ep. 197 - Mackinac Island

Moment in Oddity - The Groom of the Stool

A most unpleasant job of the royal court was created during the reign of King Henry VIII. That job was serving as the King's Close Stool or the Groom of the Stool. The unfortunate requirement of this job was to assist the king during his bowel movements. The Stool was a portable toilet made with a velvet cushioned seat that had a large hole in the center. The Groom carried it around, along with water, a wash bowl and towels. The Groom would keep track of the king's daily meal times and coordinate it with his normal bowel movements. That way, the Groom was always prepared with the commode.While many might think that this was the worst job in history, it was a highly coveted position and gave the the man who held this title, much power. He was generally the king's confidante and helped with other personal and private tasks. It was common for the sons of noblemen or members of the gentry to be awarded the job. Mad King George III employed the most Grooms during his reign. The role continued through to 1901 when King Edward VII abolished the position. The fact that a job that would seem humiliating to us was held in such high regard, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The First American School for the Deaf Founded

In the month of April, on the 15th, in 1817, the first American school for the deaf was founded by Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc in Hartford, Conneticut. Thomas was visiting his family when he noticed that a young girl was not playing with his brothers and sisters. He went over to her and realized she was deaf. He pointed to his hat and then wrote H-A-T in the dirt. The girl smiled and nodded and he was inspired to teach the deaf communication. Her father financed a trip for Thomas to go to England to study the deaf schools there. Those schools used an oral method of education that required students to learn to read lips and talk. He was not satisfied with that method and sought out Abbe Sicard, the director of the Institut Royal des Sourds-Muets in Paris, France. He joined the director back in Paris, along with two faculty members from the school named Laurent Clerc and Jean Massieu. He asked Laurent to accompany him back to America. As they traveled back, Laurent taught Thomas sign language and Thomas taught him English. They decided to start their own school and established the American School for the Deaf in 1817. Laurent Clerc became the first deaf teacher of deaf students in the United States.

Mackinac Island (Suggested by listeners: Christy Kostaken and Emily Ridener)

Mackinac Island truly is a place lost in time. This is an island without vehicles and the hustle and bustle of our modern era. People flock to this popular Michigan tourist destination for relaxation in a place where lodgings are family owned and the fudge recipes date back to the 19th century. But beneath the exterior of beauty and sun and calm, lies an undercurrent. Legends, fables and mysticism spawn tales of creepy phenomenon and haunting circumstances. There is a deep tribal history here, long ago forgotten. There are deeds that took place here that rival the witch hunts of Salem. Ghosts are reputed to wander many of the locations of the island as if they cannot rest because their tales have yet to be told. Join us and our listener Emily Ridener as we explore the history and hauntings of Mackinac Island!

Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Europeans arrived in the 17th century, but before that, the Odawa tribe lived here. Odawa means "traders" or "to trade" in Algonquin. Native tribes living in the area date back to 900 A.D. and archaeologists believe that the Anishinaabe, which were groups of Algonquin tribes that included the Odawa, treated Mackinac as a sacred center, even believing that the Gitchie Manitou or Great Spirit inhabited the island. (Manitou means spirit or deity in Algonquin.) This was the center of the creation of the world and the island had the shape of a turtle, which fit with their legends of a turtle that would carry the weight of the world on its back. Michabo (mih-shah-boze) is the Great Hare and he is a hero in the Algonquin culture. He usually takes the form of a rabbit, but does occasionally show up in human form. He is credited with forming Mackinac Island.  The island became a sacred burial place for the tribal leaders for this reason.

As for the name Mackinac, it is derived from Michillimackinac or Mishinimakinago, which was the name given to a native people group that the Ojibwe described as strange and they claimed that this group would row through the woods, sometimes shooting, but they were never seen. There are a couple of reasons why they were not seen. One theory has a historical basis. The Mishinimakinago were nearly exterminated by the Naadwe, which were a group related to the Iroquois. Two members of the nation survived, a man and woman, and they had children and the entire group shunned humanity and hid. The other theory is more mystical and claims that the Mishinimakinago ended up becoming a race of supernatural beings now called Bgoji-nishnaabensag or "Little People." These supernatural beings are considered spirits and because their origin is the island, it is another reason why it is considered sacred.

The French were the first Europeans to arrive here and they set up a trading post for their fur trade. The British came and defeated the French and used the island as a strategic port. Above the limestone Straits of Mackinac, sits Fort Mackinac built from the limestone of the bluffs. It was built in 1780 by the British, who held it during the American Revolution. In 1796, the fort officially was handed over to the United States. That lasted until the War of 1812 when the British took back the fort. It was under the command of American Leiutenant Porter Hanks. He was greatly outnumbered with about 200 men facing eighty British and Native American canoes and small boats. He surrendered without a fight fearing his men would be massacred. The Treaty of Ghent signed in 1815, put Fort Mackinac back in American hands.

It's not surprising that Fort Mackinac is reputedly haunted. Typhoid Fever ripped through and killed as many as thirteen children living at the fort. These children are seen as full bodied apparitions and their toys are sometimes found strewn about. There are also the haunting sounds of babies crying. In the Guard House, people claim to feel cold spots and orbs have been seen and photographed. In the Officer Hills Apartment Quarters, furniture moves on its own and the security motion detectors are set off when nobody is inside. The hospital reportedly has one of the creepiest supernatural occurrences. Phantom limbs are seen. Apparitions also are seen at the North Sally Port Entrance Gate and Wall and the haunting sounds of a fife playing have been heard here too. A soldier was hanged on Rifle Range Trail for shooting and killing another soldier. The story claims that he was framed and perhaps that is why he is seeking vengeance and haunts the trail. People claim to feel bullets whizzing past their ears and their hair is pulled. The sounds of crunching leaves and snapping twigs are heard even though nobody is seen walking nearby. And there have been a couple of visitors who have been thrown to the ground.

Industry came after the war, headed by John Jacob Astor. He founded the American Fur Company on Mackinac Island and it exported beaver pelts for thirty years. The Agency House for that company was built in 1820 and was home to the company's Mackinac Island agent, Robert Stuart. It is now open to the public as a fur trade museum. Commercial fishing also became prominent and eventually replaced the fur trade as the island's primary industry. Tourism would take over after the Civil War and the nation's second national park was established here as "Mackinac National Park." Summer cottages were built along the island's bluffs and shops popped up to sell wares to the tourists. There has been a historical ban on motor vehicles in place on the island since 1898 that remains today. The famous Grand Hotel was built in the late 1880s and has become one of the most prominent landmarks on the island.

The Grand Hotel is Victorian in style and officially opened in 1887. The Michigan Central Railroad, Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and Detroit and Cleveland Steamship Navigation Company form the Mackinac Island Hotel Company and buy the land upon which to build the hotel. Construction begins immediately on what had been...a graveyard. The name really fits this magnificent place of lodging. The front is styled with a long columned porch that is the longest in the world and it is from here that one can board a horse and buggy to visit the rest of the island. The porch becomes a place for gathering. After opening, Grand Hotel Manager James “The Comet” Hayes invites an agent of Edison Phonograph to conduct regular demonstrations of the new invention. Mark Twain once gave a lecture in 1895 at the Grand Hotel Casino.

Rates at the hotel in the 1890s ran from $3 to $5. By the early 1900s, it cost $6 a night. A desk clerk who started at the hotel in 1919 named W. Stewart Woodfill, became sole owner of the Grand Hotel in 1933. In 1935, a radio salon was added to help patrons enjoy radio programs like Jack Benny's and others. Dan and Amelia Musser bought the hotel in 1979 and in 1980, they opened the doors to the Hollywood production of the movie "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeves, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer. The hotel hosts a weekend every year for fans of the movie. Grand Hotel became a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The hotel has been consistently renovated and wings have been added with the latest being the Millennium Wing in 2001. In July of this year, the Grand Hotel will celebrate its 130th anniversary.

During the construction, workers found so many skeletons, they lost count and since they didn't know what to do with them, they put most of them back and just covered them over. This could be one reason why the hotel has a reputation for being haunted. Two maintenance workers were surveying the hotel’s theatre stage when they got that unmistakable feeling that they were being watched and they met up with a dark entity. A dark mass formed across from them on the stage and two red glowing eyes appeared at the top of the massive shadow figure. The figure remained in place for a moment and then suddenly moved quickly towards one of the workers, knocking him from the stage. He was rushed to the hospital unconscious and when he awoke, he swore he would never go back to the hotel. And he never did.

There is an apparition that has made appearances on the second floor at the piano bar. He is seen wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar. Even after he disappears, the distinctive smell of his cigar wafts through the room. The employee housing is haunted by the ghost of a woman wearing Victorian clothing. She sometimes curls up in bed with the terrified employees.

The Drowning Pool is located between Mission Point Resort and downtown Mackinac. There is a 20-foot drop off a cliff. It was the perfect spot for torturing women accused of witchcraft. Many may not think of Mackinac Island when one talks of witchcraft trials and hysteria, but it did happen here. While Salem seems to have had its witchcraft trials evolve around the use of natural remedies and a desire to rip property out from under the control of women, accusations of witchcraft at Mackinac seem to have a basis in shutting down brothels and going after prostitutes.

There were many brothels that sprang up around the island with the popularity of tourism that began in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The blame for men finding themselves in these dens of iniquity was placed squarely on the women. Their ability to seduce men to come inside was attributed to witchcraft. The Drowning Pool was used in the same way as water tests in other places like Hanover, Salem, New York and villages in Europe. Rocks were tied around these women’s ankles and they were thrown into the lagoon. If they floated, they were declared a witch. If they sank, they were innocent, but also dead. The Drowning Pool is said to be haunted to this very day by the women who lost their lives in this barbaric practice. Shadows come out of the water and the water remains unstirred, no splashes and no ripples.

Inn at Stone Cliff: D. Schaefer wrote, "My wife and I stayed at the Inn at Stone Cliff. The first night we were in a room on top of the stairs that we were told the staff used as an area to fold clothing and such. We had things move on us while we slept about 3am that morning including my luggage being unzipped and a wine bottle breaking open when we slept. Needless to say I had a sleepless night after, and the bed and breakfast staff didn't want to talk about paranormal activity although at least one other guest experienced something that night."

Bogan Lane Inn: The ghost of a little girl reportedly haunts this location. Staff and guests have seen and heard her ghost and they describe her as having long hair. She plays with the piano and has been heard saying that she wants to go home.

Mission Point Resort is said to be the most haunted place on the island.  The first structure here was built in 1782 by British Captain Daniel Robertson after he became the commander of Fort Mackinac. It was a small house about a mile from the fort and the Captain used it to entertain his fellow officers. He had brought two of his slaves with him, Jean and Marie-Jean Bonga. He freed them when he was reassigned. After several years, the outcrop where the house was built collapsed and people started calling it Robertson's Folly, which over time changed to Robinson's Folly. A Mission House was built in the area in 1825 by the Protestant church and a school was opened. That is how the location came to be known as Mission Point.

The mission shut down in 1837 when the State of Michigan was admitted to the United States. A man named Edward Franks bought the unused Mission building in 1845 and decided to open a hotel. He added a third story and reopened it as Mission House Hotel in 1849. The Franks family ran the hotel until 1939 when they sold the property. It was re-established as a boarding house. In 1946, a judge named Miles Phillimore bought the property and offered it as a summer place for the Moral Re-Armament Movement. The “Moral Re-Armament Movement” began in England in 1908 under a man named Frank Buchman. In the 1920s, it gained a foothold in the universities of the United Kingdom and it was finally given the name The Oxford Group. It changed its name to Moral Re-Armament Movement in 1938 and this is when the ideology really had its heyday, up until the 1950s.

The ideology held to Christian beliefs and pushed for people to "clean up all that is in you, which is in conflict with Christian belief and mirror yourself in The Oxford Group’s four absolutes: love, purity, honesty and selflessness. Open yourself up to divine guidance and share your sins with someone you trust, and through this you will find a healthy and lasting freedom." At its core, the MRA had the makings of a cult and it chose Mackinac Island as a place to set up its world conference center. It used the Mission Point Resort for that purpose in the 1950s. The MRA built a Great Hall Complex that is the largest single indoor space on the island and is meant to resemble a teepee. The structure features 51-foot logs cut from one of the last stands of virgin Norway pine. The MRA claimed that they were inspired to build the teepee-like building by a native legend that said the Great Spirit would gather all the nations in a giant teepee one day and they would all find the secret of peace.

Even though the group still exists today as Initiatives of Change, it lost much of its influence by the 1960s and in 1966, the buildings were donated to Mackinac College. The college did not last long and only graduated one class in 1970. The property than became the Mackinac Hotel and Conference Center in the 1970s. John Shufelt bought the property in 1987 and changed the name to Mission Point Resort. Smaller buildings were torn down, new ones were built, the front lawn was placed and the Point's famous Adirondack chairs were added as were several restaurants. Mission Point Resort was purchased in 2014 by a couple from San Antonio, Texas, Dennert and Suzanne Ware. They are planning a multimillion-dollar renovation over the next few years.

As we said, this location is considered the one to have the most supernatural activity on the island. Harvey is the most famous ghost at this location. He was a student at the college who fell madly in love with another student. He asked her to marry him, but she refused. He walked off into the woods despondent and committed suicide. He was declared missing in February and his body was found in July. He had apparently shot himself, but there were two gunshots to his head. And there was no gun found by the body. This has caused many to believe that he was actually murdered, but his death was officially ruled a suicide.

Mission Point has a theater that is now used as the Center for the Arts at Mission Point Resort and is operated by the Mackinac Arts Council. This theater has a ghost that likes to play around. He plays practical jokes on men and flirts with the ladies, pinching and poking them. He also has been seen wandering the resort and paranormal investigators have caught EVPs of a young male voice and humming. A child's voice has been heard calling for people that are assumed to be the parents, a woman's voice has been heard singing and humming and Native American apparitions have been seen inside and outside of the resort.

The legends and lore of Mackinac Island are captivating. The beauty of the island is an intense draw and for those of us who love to embrace the past and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it is perfect. But something from the other side seems to be stirring here. Are there really that many spirits at unrest here? Is Mackinac Island haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
All pictures courtesy of Emily Ridener

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