Friday, September 27, 2013

Saline's record-breaking mastodon trail

In 1992, Harry Brennan began digging in his pasture near Saline, about ten miles south of Ann Arbor. He wanted to create a pond, but when Brennan began fishing mastodon bones from the newly exposed soil, he knew he might have to put his plans on hold. Brennan contacted Dr. Daniel Fisher, a paleontologist at The University of Michigan, who visited the site with an excavation team. What Fisher and his crew discovered earned Brennan's land a place in the record books. Buried under two or three feet of soil was a 75-yard-long trail of mastodon footprints. These weren't fossilized footprints....they were actual footprints, made by a mastodon about 11,000 years ago. Scientists determined that the line of about thirty imprints was the longest preserved trail of continuous mastodon footprints in the world.

Scientists examining some of the footprints on Brennan's land

How can a set of footprints survive for 11,000 years? Fisher explained the process to the Chicago Tribune back in 1992. Basically, a male mastodon (scientists could tell it was a male because of the prints' size and depth) walked across what at the time was a pond whose bottom contained sand covered by a mud-type substance called marl. When the mastodon stepped down, his weight pressed his foot deep into the sand at the bottom of the pond. When the mastodon raised his foot, suction forced marl into the cavity, essentially preventing the footprint from disintegrating in the sand. As years passed, the pond filled with soil that covered the marl-filled footprints, which eventually ended up two or three feet below the surface, hidden to the world---until Brennan decided to create a pond on his property.

The footprints are remarkably well preserved, and reveal so much information about the mastodon's trek that researchers can tell where he stumbled on a log and then righted himself. Because the footprints were too fragile to dig up, Fisher made casts of them; then, he and his team reburied the trail to preserve it, though they marked the prints' locations so that researchers could find them for future study.

For more information:

If you're interested in seeing some of the casts, you can check them out at U of M's Museum of Natural History in Ann Arbor.

Many people confuse mastodons with mammoths; both animals looked similar, and both lived in Michigan. So what's the difference? Here's a pic showing models of the two side-by-side:

The mammoth is on the left, the mastodon is on the right.

Mammoths were larger than mastodons and had longer trunks; mammoths' tusks also curved more than did mastodons' tusks. Evidence from fossilized teeth reveals that mammoths ate primarily grass, while mastodons ate leaves and branches from trees. A fun fact: Although mastodons might have looked more like elephants than did mammoths, it's actually mammoths that are more closely related to today's elephant species.

The stories behind Michigan's state symbols, Part II

Here's part two of my series on Michigan's state symbols. Check out part one here: The stories behind Michigan's state symbols, Part I

7. State fossil (mastodon) --- Back in the day (and by "back in the day," I mean tens of thousands of years ago), mastodons lived across the southern two-thirds of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. The creatures were elephant-like mammals with trunks and tusks, but, unlike elephants, they had a thick coating of hair across their bodies. Mastodons disappeared about 10,000 years ago, but several of their fossils have been found in Michigan. The mastodon is one of the newer entries on the "state symbol" list, having become Michigan's official fossil in 2002.

8. State reptile (painted turtle) --- The painted turtle owes its status as Michigan state symbol to a group of fifth graders in Niles. The students learned that Michigan didn't have a state reptile, and their teacher, sensing a great civics lesson, stepped them through the legislative process until, in 1995, Public Act 28, which made the painted turtle Michigan's state reptile, was signed into law. The painted turtle was an appropriate choice for this honor, as it's one of the only types of turtle still found in Michigan.

9. State stone (Petoskey stone) --- The Petoskey stone is probably one of the state's best-known symbols. It's not actually a stone, but rather a fossil of coral that lived in the shallow seas that covered Michigan during the prehistoric era. Several thousand years later, during the Ice Age, glaciers grabbed the fossilized coral and deposited it primarily in what is now the northwestern Lower Peninsula (though smaller numbers of Petoskey stones can also be found on the LP's northeast coast). In 1965, during a ceremony attended by the only surviving grandchild of Chief Petosegay, an Ottawa merchant from whom the city of Petoskey---and, by extension, the Petoskey stone---got their names, Governor George Romney made the Petsokey stone Michigan's state stone.


10. State tree (white pine) --- The white pine has been an important part of Michigan's economic history. It was one of the most prized trees among 19th-century lumbermen, who valued it because white pine wood has few knots or scars. The white pine became Michigan's state tree in 1955.


11. State game mammal (white-tailed deer) --- I had no idea "game mammal" was even a category of state symbol. Anyone who has ever witnessed the mass exodus of hunters to Michigan's forests and fields around November 15 (the start of regular firearm deer hunting season) will understand why the white-tailed deer received this honor (though I'm not sure honor is the right word, as the designation basically means that the white-tailed deer is the animal most likely to be staring down the barrel of a hunter's gun). In any event, the white-tailed deer became state game mammal in 1997, thanks to the efforts of a class of fourth graders from Zeeland.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The stories behind Michigan's state symbols, Part I

Michigan has a lot of state symbols. We celebrate everything from the state bird (the robin) to the state soil (Kalkaska sand). Some of these symbols have been around for decades; others have only recently come to represent the Great Lakes State. Here are a few of them, along with the stories behind their origins. (Another set will appear in a post tomorrow.)

1. State bird (robin) --- In 1931, the Michigan Audubon Society held a contest to choose the state bird. About 200,000 votes poured in, most of them for the robin. The people had spoken, so the legislature passed a resolution making the robin---which the legislature called "the best known and best loved of all the birds in the State of Michigan"---the state bird.


2. State flower (apple blossom) --- The apple blossom became Michigan's state flower in 1897, in large part because apples had become one of the state's most significant crops. Because several different types of apples exist, the legislature chose a specific blossom to commemorate: pyrus coronaria, that of the crabapple, which is native to Michigan.

3. State fish (brook trout) --- At first, Michigan's state fish was simply the trout, chosen by the state legislature in 1965. More than twenty years later, the legislature got more specific, and named the brook trout (salvelinus fontinalis) the state fish because it is native to Michigan and abounds throughout the state.


4. State wildflower (dwarf lake iris) --- Yes, Michigan has both a "state flower" and a "state wildflower." In 1996, the Wildflower Association of Michigan ran a poll whose voters decided that the white trillium should be the state wildflower. However, the white trillium grows throughout the entire eastern United States, while the dwarf lake iris---the second-place finisher---grows only in the Great Lakes region. For this reason, along with a desire to promote the iris, whose shoreline habitats were threatened by developers, the state legislature, in 1998, named the dwarf lake iris Michigan's state wildflower. The move was supported by a number of environmental and horticultural groups---except the Wildflower Association of Michigan, which called the legislature's decision "an outrageous power play by select environmental interests over the interests of the people of Michigan."

5. State gem (Isle Royale greenstone) --- Also known as chlorastrolite, the Isle Royale greenstone is bluish-gray in color and has an array of star-like crystals that vaguely resemble the pattern found in a Petoskey stone (though, unlike the Petoskey stone, the Isle Royale greenstone is not a fossil; instead, it's a form of the mineral pumpellyite). Chlorastrolite is found mainly in the Upper Peninsula, and became Michigan's state gem in 1972.

6. State soil (Kalkaska sand) --- The state legislature named Kalkaska sand the official state soil in 1990. (Sidenote: I've never really thought about the fact that different types of soil exist, and that those types are so unique that a state could designate one of them as its symbol, but there you go.) Kalkaska sand, despite being named after a county in the northern Lower Peninsula, exists both above and below the bridge. It was formed in deposits that glaciers left behind during the Ice Age, and contains a mixture of humus (i.e., organic matter that has broken down as far as it can) and light, dark, and yellow sands.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The "unfinished" legacy of John B. Swainson

Yesterday, my husband and I took a tour of the State Capitol with tour guide Valerie Marvin. We had a great time....Valerie knows almost everything there is to know about the building, and I learned so much about the capitol and our state's history. Over the next few days, I'll highlight some of the more unique stories we heard during our three-hour trip into Michigan's past.

Today's post is inspired by a painting we saw, one in a series of state governor portraits that line the second- and third-floor rotunda walls.  Here it is:

Yes, his face is missing. Kinda creepy, isn't it?

This is a painting of former Governor John B. Swainson, who served from 1961 to 1963. If it looks like the artist stopped halfway through the project, that's because...well...he did. Swainson---who, like most of the governors whose portraits line the rotunda, paid for the painting himself after he left office---wanted an unfinished portrait to show that his political career wasn't over even though he was no longer governor. Swainson was only 35 when he took office, and 37 when he left, so he had every reason to believe that a bright future awaited him. Instead, the following years brought a series of ups and downs that left Swainson with an ambiguous political legacy.

John B. Swainson, this time with a face

Born in Windsor, Ontario in 1925, Swainson moved with his family to Port Huron when he was two years old. He served in the Army during World War II, and lost both his legs following a land mine explosion in France in 1944. Swainson convalesced at the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, learning to walk again with the help of prosthetic limbs. Eventually, Swainson enrolled in Olivet College, where he met his future wife, Alice Nielson. He earned a law degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, then returned to Michigan to begin his political career.

Swainson, a Democrat, was elected to the Michigan Senate twice, in 1954 and 1958. However, when Lieutenant Governor Philip Hart won a seat in the United States Senate, Swainson left his own position and took Hart's place as the governor's second-in-command in 1958. When Governor G. Mennen Williams decided not to run for another term, Swainson entered the race and won by a narrow margin. He served for two years (which at the time was the length of a single term for the governor), but lost the next election to Republican George Romney. At that point, Swainson commissioned the creepy portrait of himself, and looked ahead to his next career move.

After practicing law for a few years, then serving as a judge for the Wayne County Circuit Court, Swainson became a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court in 1971. It was there that his political career took a nosedive. A convict named John J. Whalen accused Swainson of accepting a $20,000 bribe in return for Swainson's promise to help Whalen obtain a new trial for a burglary charge. The accusation came at the worst possible time, as Swainson was then considering a run for the United States Senate. Though Swainson was found not guilty of bribery, he was convicted of perjuring himself during his grand jury testimony, and consequently forced to resign his seat on the Michigan Supreme Court. Swainson was also stripped of his law license for three years, and sentenced to 60 days in a halfway house---an embarrassing outcome for a man who once sat in the governor's chair. (Note that some students of the case insist that Swainson got a raw deal and was essentially the victim of a "witch hunt" conducted by a prosecutor determined to ferret out corruption, even where it didn't exist.)

Though Swainson left the Supreme Court in disgrace, his life in public service didn't end altogether. In fact, his later work overshadowed some of the scandal that had marked his earlier career. In 1985, Governor James Blanchard appointed Swainson president of the Michigan Historical Commission, a role Swainson filled until 1994, when he died at age 68 of a heart attack. He is buried in Manchester's Oak Hill Cemetery. In 1996, perhaps demonstrating that the once-disgraced politician had redeemed himself in the public's eyes, the Michigan Historical Commission established the "Governor John B. Swainson Award" to honor public employees who go out of their way to preserve the state's history.

For more information...

Lawrence M. Glazer has written a biography of Swainson, called "Wounded Warrior". It's gotten great reviews, and sounds like an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about Swainson's life, from his early years, to his downfall, to his eventual redemption.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Felony Friday: The Banker Who Became a Bank Robber

As William Treadwell sat behind his desk at People's Bank in Hudson, a small community in southern Michigan's Lenawee County, he mulled over the opportunity that presented itself. It was January 1864, and area governments were depositing huge amounts of money, the proceeds of year-end taxes their citizens had paid the previous month. The governments would withdraw the money in February, when their own taxes came due, but in the meantime, the vaults were full at People's Bank, which Treadwell had bought in 1859 with his father, Urias, but which he now owned outright. Though Treadwell was a respected member of the community, and counted among his friends many of the local businessmen and farmers who trusted him with their money, the seeds of greed had taken root in his brain, and he was about to commit a crime that would forever tarnish his name in Hudson---as well as lead to his grisly death.

Overhead view of Hudson, back in the day

Treadwell had grown up in southeastern Michigan, and began his career in dry goods. He started out as junior clerk at a shop in Hudson, but proved so good at sales that he eventually became the shop's proprietor. His tenure at People's Bank began when the bank's owner hired him as manager. Eventually, Treadwell bought the bank from his boss and built a strong business based on his pleasant attitude and professional demeanor. Treadwell was so successful that he was able to build an expansive, Italian-villa-style house, which stands in Hudson to this day.

Vintage photo of the William Treadwell House

However, the temptation to acquire more wealth proved too great, and Treadwell hatched a scheme that would make him a very wealthy man. First, though, he needed more money than the treasure trove that already sat in People's Bank. On January 16, 1864, Treadwell sent a series of letters requesting loans from banks in various Midwestern cities. Many of the banks agreed, and by January 20, the corrupt banker had amassed a sizable amount of cash. Early that morning, Treadwell entered his bank's vault and left with $60,000 (which today would equal about $1 million). He hopped on a train with his ill-gotten gains and hightailed it to Ohio, where he met with his wife, Mary, and her father, Samuel Hester. Both knew about the plot, and spent the next few days traveling across Ohio with Treadwell, trying to avoid detection.

The trio remained undiscovered for a few weeks, but eventually were found on a train in Mansfield, Ohio. Officers arrested Treadwell, but for some reason, they let Mary and her father leave with the money Treadwell had stolen from his bank. Treadwell returned to Michigan, and sat behind bars until July 1, 1864, when he was convicted and sent back to jail. Before her husband returned to lockup, Mary embraced him, slipping him eight hundred dollars while she did so.

Treadwell's incarceration didn't last long; in fact, it lasted only a few hours. By 5 p.m. on the day of his conviction, Treadwell had escaped, along with another jailbird, John Cowell, who was a horse thief. The two headed back toward Ohio to find Samuel Hester, who still had the bank's money. Treadwell had promised Cowell a share of the cash they would receive from Hester when they found him, but Cowell grew impatient and decided the eight hundred dollars Treadwell carried with him was too much of a temptation to resist. Some time around July 4, near the Ohio community of Napoleon, Cowell killed Treadwell by shooting him and crushing his head, then made off with the money. A man walking through the woods found Treadwell's body on July 14, and authorities later arrested Cowell at his father's home in Bloomingville, Ohio. Cowell was ultimately convicted of and hanged for Treadwell's murder.

At that point, Treadwell was no longer on the hook for the money he had stolen (albeit for the worst possible reason). However, someone had to be held responsible, and that person---actually, those people---were Treadwell's father and father-in-law. Although Samuel Hester eventually returned his son-in-law's ill-gotten cash, for several years he and Urias Treadwell faced lawsuits from the bank's creditors, who were demanding back their money. In time, the financial issues abated, the story fell off the front pages of newspapers, and life in Hudson returned to normal. Still, Treadwell's crime remained a much-discussed topic for years to come. The reason, as The New York Times noted in an 1864 article about the incident, was simple: "Few more remarkable cases than this are found recorded in the history of crime."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Aloha to Christmas, Moscow to Hell: Weird Place Names in Michigan

Ever look at a map of Michigan and wonder, 'How the heck did that place get its name?'

Following are some of the more, shall we say, uniquely named locations in our state, and where those names came from.


1. Aloha (Cheboygan County) --- Named by James B. Patterson, who ran a sawmill around which the township formed, and who was inspired by a trip he had taken to Hawaii.

2. Battle Creek (Calhoun County) --- We hear this name so often it doesn't really make an impression, but when you think about it, "Battle Creek" is kind of unusual, right? The city got its name from a skirmish that occurred between a government survey party and two Native Americans during the winter of 1823/24. The altercation led settlers to name a nearby waterway the "Battle Creek River," which itself inspired the naming of Battle Creek.

3. Center Line (Macomb County) --- Received its name during the mid-1800s because it was located on the middle of three Potawatomi trails that led away from Fort Detroit.

4. Christmas (Alger County) --- Named in 1938 after a Christmas ornament and gift company that operated in the area at that time.

I couldn't find a good picture to represent Germfask,
so here's where it's located on a map.
5. Germfask (Schoolcraft County) --- This township's founders had the following last names: Grant, Edge, Robinson, Mead, French, Ackley, Sheppard, and Knaggs. Take the first letter of each, and what do you get? An oddly named town!

6. Hell (Livingston County) --- No list of weird place names in Michigan would be complete without Hell. No one knows exactly how the community got its name. Some say that it's a derivation of the phrase, "So schön hell," which means "So beautifully bright" in German, and was supposedly said by German travellers visiting the area in the 1830s. The other theory is that George Reeves, the area's original resident, said that he didn't have an opinion regarding what name the community received, declaring, "You can name it 'Hell' for all I care."

7. Lum (Lapeer County) --- Named in 1884 after Colonel Charles M. Lum, whom one of the community's original residents had served under during the Civil War.

Pictures of Mio were hard to come by, so here's a photo of my cat, Milo.
8. Mio (Oscoda County) --- Originally named "Mioe" in 1881 after the wife of one of its founders; the "e" was dropped from its name two years later.


9. Moscow (Hillsdale County) --- Apparently, this township received its moniker because someone drew the name "Moscow" out of a hat. I couldn't find out who placed the name "Moscow" into the hat to begin with, or why he or she did so.

Photo of a pawpaw tree
10. Paw Paw (Van Buren County) --- Named after pawpaw trees, which once grew in large numbers along the nearby Paw Paw River.

The Effort to Save the Irish Hills Towers, Part II

Yesterday, I wrote about the history of the Irish Hills Towers, twin structures that for decades were a prime tourist attraction for visitors of Lenawee County's Cambridge Township. Since closing in 2000, the towers have fallen into disrepair, with missing siding, boarded-up windows, rotting floors, and roofs that were essentially missing. Earlier this year, Cambridge Township officials hired an architect who examined the buildings and recommended that the towers either be repaired by the end of this year's construction season, or be demolished.

A few years ago, the Irish Hills Historical Society hired its own architect, who created a strategy to salvage the towers. According to the historical society's vice president, Kelly Flaherty, the plan is to return the structures to working condition, then use them to house a museum. Recently, thanks to a loan secured by the historical society, crews removed the towers' tops (which were causing more damage than already existed) and replaced them with temporary caps. Future plans include clearing up the towers' external issues, then working on the interiors.

Cambridge Township officials no longer have the towers on "demolition watch," and the historical society has until the township board's October meeting to submit a complete restoration plan. While the pieces are slowly falling into place for the towers' eventual renewal, one key component remains missing: money. The historical society is seeking donations to help fund what will be a very expensive project. People interested in donating toward the renovation costs can visit the towers' website, or, where the historical society created a page for the towers. Also, visit the Irish Hills Towers page on Facebook for updates on fundraising and construction.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Effort to Save the Irish Hills Towers, Part I

Last spring, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press about the Irish Hills Towers; specifically, how the almost-100-year-old structures were in danger of being torn down because of safety concerns. The towers were once a popular tourist attraction in the Irish Hills, a region of southern Michigan so named because the area's rolling green land and sparkling lakes reminded its settlers of their previous homes in the Emerald Isle. The towers closed in 2000, and have since become so structurally unsound that officials in Cambridge Township, where the towers are located, told the Irish Hills Historical Society that the towers would have to come down unless the Society obtained funding by August 1 of this year to repair them.

The Irish Hills Towers

Well, today is September 18, and the towers are still standing. I recently spoke with Kelly Flaherty, vice president of the Irish Hills Historical Society, who gave me an update about the towers' status. My post today will describe the history of the towers; tomorrow, I'll talk about what I learned from Kelly and will offer information about ways Michiganders can help the towers stick around for future generations.

The Irish Hills Towers are two nearly identical wooden observation towers located on U.S. 12 in Lenawee County's Cambridge Township. At 1,400 feet above sea level, the towers' topmost observation decks offered southeastern Michigan's highest vantage point; during the towers' heyday, thousands of people ascended their staircases each year for views of the Irish Hills' spectacular landscape.

The Irish Hills Towers, back in the day

If it hadn't been for a spat between a developer and an area farmer, the Irish Hills would have had only one tower. In the early 1920s, the Michigan Observation Company (MOC) tried to boost tourism across the state by building towers that visitors could climb for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The Irish Hills area seemed a prime location, and the company approached a local farmer, Edward Kelley, about selling his hilltop land so that MOC could build a tower on it. Kelley said no, so MOC approached Thomas Brighton, who owned neighboring land. Brighton said yes, and in September 1924, MOC opened a fifty-foot tower on the land it had bought from Brighton, mere feet from Kelley's property line.

Incensed, Kelley built his own tower, on his own property, right next to the MOC tower. For good measure, he made sure the tower was several feet taller than the original. For the next few years, MOC and Kelley got into a battle over whose tower would reign supreme over the Irish Hills landscape, with each side adding a few feet whenever the other side did so. Finally, MOC threatened to replace its tower with a metal observatory; Kelley backed off, and the battle of the ascending towers ceased, with both topping out at 64 feet. (The above photo shows which tower is which; the tower labeled "Original Tower" is the MOC's, while the "Spite Tower"is Kelley's).

The towers operated independently of one another until the 1950s, when a single owner bought the Kelley tower after purchasing the MOC tower in 1944. In 1972, the towers were joined at their tops; they remained in business until 2000, when the current owners ceased operations because the towers' upkeep became too much for them to handle.

Be sure to read tomorrow's installment for information regarding what happened to the Irish Hills Towers after they closed, and what the future holds for them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A trip back in time to Detroit's seedy side: An interview with author D.E. Johnson

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about one of my favorite Michigan-based authors, D.E. Johnson ("If you like history, mysteries, and Detroit, you'll love these books..."). Johnson was nice enough to grant me an interview, which appears below. Two weeks ago, the fourth book ("Detroit Shuffle") in  Johnson's Detroit-set historical mystery series was released, and it's gotten rave reviews (including a starred review from "Publishers Weekly"). In "Detroit Shuffle," Will Anderson, the protagonist of Johnson's series, along with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hume, find themselves stuck in a web of intrigue, corruption, and murder during the time of the women's suffrage movement. I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, but it's definitely on my list!
Read on to learn about Johnson's writing process, what's ahead for him, and why older women in the early 20th century should have "just said no" to drugs.
D.E. Johnson

You’ve said that, although you’ve written fiction since childhood, it took a “midlife crisis” for you to realize that you needed to get serious about writing. What was it about this point in your life that led you along the literary path?
"I had been working in business for twenty-five years and felt very unfulfilled. My dream had always been to write, but I'd never tried to really pursue it. I was at a crossroads---I could continue doing what made me unhappy and be "secure," or I could strike out in a new direction and take the chance of failure. I finally had the initiative to take the chance, and I'm so glad I did."

Out of all the topics and eras about which you could have written, why did you choose early-twentieth-century Detroit? What was it about the city and the auto industry that inspired you?
"The biggest draw to me is the early 20th century. It was such an explosive time in this country. We were coming of age as a world power, immigrants were flooding in by the millions, completely changing the social dynamic of the cities, the rich were incredibly wealthy and the poor were incredibly poor, and all this was held in the most tenuous balance. It was a time of turmoil in almost every way imaginable, which makes it an interesting time to write about.
"I chose Detroit because it's a city that has always fascinated me. During my entire lifetime, it's been in decline. I was never able to experience the greatness and vitality of the city as it was, and I wanted to try to recreate that city, both for myself and for readers.

"As far as the cars are concerned, that was really secondary. When I started researching 'The Detroit Electric Scheme' [the first book in the series], I was looking for a historical backdrop that was interesting and was representative of the city during the time period. Cars of course were a topic that came to mind, so I started there. When I came across all the information about the early electric cars, I knew I had found my backdrop---the rise and fall of the early electric car." 

Where did your fictional characters and your plots come from? The lifestyles portrayed in the “Detroit” series are pretty sordid, so I’m guessing it wasn’t personal experience J
"That's a hard question to answer. All of these people and stories occupy various sections of my mind and make appearances when I need them. Since I don't really know what it's like to be in the situations into which I thrust Will, I have to visualize being that person in that situation. Of course, it's all colored by my personal responses, which makes Will's sometimes dopey behavior really mine (I admit sheepishly). I try most of all for emotional honesty. That's the most important part. If a character's reaction rings false to a reader, it can pull her out of the story, which is the worst thing that can happen to an author."
Describe the process you use to portray real-life characters like Edsel Ford and Vito Adamo. (Ed. note: See the "For more information" section below this interview to learn about these Michiganders.) Were they easier or more difficult to “write” than the fictional characters?
"The answer is 'yes.' They were both harder and easier to write than fictional characters. Easier in that I have historical data to work with for what they looked like and the things they did. Harder in that I am boxed in by history to keep their actions and attitudes as close as possible to the historical record and still work within the story I'm writing. Edsel had no friend named Will Anderson (at least not my Will Anderson), so I can't be completely accurate, but I want his fictional life to be consistent with his personality, social standing, known actions, etc.
"In Edsel's case, he became a project for me. History doesn't remember him well, and I think he was a remarkable person, so I tried to show that in the books. The Adamo brothers were harder, in that there are no books about them or their short reign in the Detroit underworld, so I just used what I could glean from the newspapers and my imagination to create them."

Who is your favorite character in the series, or the character you most empathize with, and why?
"My favorite, and least favorite, is Will. He shares a lot of my strengths and weaknesses, so it's a lot of me on the page---though not all, thank God. His best traits are loyalty and perseverance, his worst, impetuousness (most of all!) and his addictive personality."
"That said, Elizabeth Hume is awesome. Both she and Will make some huge strides personally through the series, but I love Elizabeth because she's tough and very modern, though (barely) within the bounds of society at the time."
What are some interesting or unexpected facts you learned while conducting research for this series?
"Wow. Where do I start? There are so many historical tidbits I've picked up over the last four years. One example is a greater percentage of Americans were addicted to drugs in 1900 than in 2000 (about 5 percent [were addicted in 1900] versus an estimated 5 percent who used drugs, including non-addictive drugs, in 2000). [Ed. note: Emphasis is mine.] Why? Patent medicines that contained opium, cocaine, morphine, etc. The average addict was an older woman who started taking a medicine for a legitimate problem, only to find out that she couldn't quit."
What’s next for you? Will there be a fifth book in the“Detroit” series? Any other books on the horizon?
"My work in progress is tentatively called 'Ashes,' and it's a story set in 1900s Chicago. I found a great story to tell of the biggest Chicago gambler of his day, which I'm telling as part of a coming-of-age story. I'm about halfway through the first draft right now. I'm definitely open to writing more Will Anderson books, but those people have occupied my mind non-stop for four years now, so I had to evict them to bring in a new set of characters (and I didn't give them back their security deposits!)."
And, finally, a random question in keeping with the blog’s “Michigan” theme: What’s your favorite place to visit, or favorite thing to do, in Michigan?
"Honestly, my favorite thing to do in Michigan is to write, which I can do anywhere. I used to be one of those people who would whine about the weather, but I've really grown to appreciate the change in seasons to the extent that winter doesn't even really bother me anymore. As far as favorite places, I've lived in Southwest Michigan my whole life, and I love it here. However, Northern Michigan in the summer is fantastic, and nothing beats going to a Tigers game, so I can find something to enjoy most anywhere in the state!"
 #      #      #
For more information:
Johnson's books include as characters several real-life Michiganders, including the two mentioned in this interview. So just who are Edsel Ford and Vito Adamo?

Probably most people have heard of Edsel, or at least his last name. He was the son of auto tycoon Henry Ford, and was CEO of the Ford Motor Company from 1919 until his death in 1943. In Johnson's books, Edsel Ford is a friend and confidante of protagonist Will Anderson.

Vito Adamo is a lesser-known character in Detroit history, but certainly one of the most colorful. He and his brother Salvatore were among the city's first and most prominent Italian gang leaders, taking part in illicit activities like extortion, smuggling, and murder. Vito Adamo died in 1913 after being shot by a rival gangster. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Factual Friday: Random things I learned about Michigan this week

Typically, my Friday posts have been about Michigan crimes, but I don't want this blog to get too morbid, so I've decided to switch gears this week. While researching ideas for posts, I came across a few facts that, while interesting, didn't contain enough information for me to write an entire article about. I wanted to make sure they appeared in my blog, though, so following are a few very random things I learned in the past few days about Michigan.

St. Anne church, Escanaba
1. In January 1968, Vince Lombardi, famed head coach of the Green Bay Packers, made his daughter, Susan, get married at St. Anne church in Escanaba. The reason? Susan was pregnant and Lombardi, a devout Catholic, wanted to avoid the news coverage her marriage would receive if it occurred in Green Bay.

2. The city of Bad Axe received its name from, you guessed it, a bad axe. When settlers found their way to the area in the early 1860s, a team set out to survey it. At one of their camps, the surveyors found a damaged axe and noted the location by writing "bad axe" in their report. The rest is history.

3. Surrounding the city of Frankenmuth are townships named Frankenlust, Frankentrost, and Frankenhilf. The term "Franken" stands for the Franconia region of Germany, from where the area's settlers came.

4. For some reason, though the film was shot in Amsterdam, the 1966 B-movie "Secret Agent Super Dragon" (which holds a 1.9 rating on IMDB) is partly set in Fremont. In the movie, Fremont's residents serve as test cases for a supervillain who, in an effort to rule the world, inserts hallucinogenic drugs into gum and candy. The move was later lampooned by "Mystery Science Theater 3000".

5. In 1987, Detroit television station WDIV produced the pilot episode of a sitcom called "Hamtramck" about the city of, well, Hamtramck. It featured appearances from Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson and player Dave Rozema, but quickly went off the air after complaints that it presented stereotypical portrayals of the city's Polish residents.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Michiganders aboard the Titanic, Part I: The Bishops

While researching my previous post about the Knorr ("Michigan-made ship makes 'Titanic' history"), I began wondering how many Michiganders had been aboard the Titanic when it sank in the North Atlantic in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. I "Wikipediaed" that question ("Google" is a verb now, so I can make "Wikipedia" one too, right?), and learned that several dozen of the 2,224 people on board the ship either came from, or were heading to, Michigan. One couple was in first class, a few families and individual travelers had second-class cabins, and the rest settled for third-class passage. I can't write about all of these individuals on my blog, but every so often, I'll publish the story of a Michigan-based person (or people) who was aboard the Titanic on its maiden voyage. The first post in this series is about the Bishops, a newlywed couple who were the only Michigan residents to obtain a first-class cabin aboard the ill-fated ship.
This is what a first-class cabin on the Titanic looked like.

Dickinson (Dick) and Helen Bishop had been married only about five months when they boarded the Titanic following a whirlwind honeymoon through Africa and Europe. The couple wasn't hurting for money. Nineteen-year-old Helen was the daughter of Jerrold Walton, owner of the Sturgis-based Royal Easy Chair Company. Twenty-five-year-old Dick had inherited a sizable estate following the death of his first wife, who came from a wealthy family in Dowagiac.

Helen and Dick Bishop

The Bishops' trip overseas was undoubtedly exciting, but an encounter the couple had during their stay in Egypt might have warned of things to come. According to Helen, a fortune-teller told the young newlywed that she would experience three disasters: a shipwreck and an earthquake, both of which she would survive, and a car accident, from which she would die. The prediction was eerie, but not enough to keep Helen off the Titanic, which she and her husband boarded in Cherbourg, France on April 10.

The couple's first few days on the boat were uneventful, and likely filled with the kind of activities--musical performances, elaborate dinners---available to first-class passengers. On the evening of April 14, Helen and Dick were in their stateroom when the Titanic struck an iceberg. Helen later said that she didn't feel anything when the impact occurred, but several minutes later, someone came to the Bishops' stateroom instructing them to make their way to the deck. Helen did, but officers sent her back, telling her that all was well. Shortly afterward, Helen and Dick were getting ready for bed when a friend knocked at their door and told them the ship was listing. The Bishops weren't sure how serious the situation was, and made a few trips between the deck and their room before they realized that the Titanic was in trouble. Leaving behind most of their possessions (including Freu Freu, a dog they had acquired in Italy), the Bishops found seats aboard the first lifeboat to leave the ship. They and their shipmates drifted in the icy water for several hours until the steamship Carpathia rescued them shortly after 4 a.m. on April 15. (The Titanic had completely sunk at about 2:20 a.m.)

One of the Titanic's lifeboats approaching the Carpathia

After their rescue, Dick and Helen testified at a Senate inquiry into the disaster, then returned to Dowagiac, hoping they could settle down and put the incident behind them. The Bishops likely thought they had used up all their bad luck for a lifetime, but sadly, this was not the case. In December 1912, Helen give birth to a baby boy, Randall, who died two days later. Afterward, the Bishops took a trip to California, where they encountered an earthquake---the second part of the fortune-teller's prophecy. The third part of the prophecy came true, at least in part, in November 1913, when Dick and Helen were involved in a car accident that, though not fatal, left Helen with severe head trauma that ultimately led to the end of the Bishops' marriage in 1916.

Helen's bad luck continued; she slipped and fell at a friend's house three months after her divorce from Dick, and died of her injuries at the age of 23. She is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Three Rivers. The Dowagiac Daily News reported on her death the same day it ran an article announcing  Dick Bishop's new marriage, to a woman from Chicago. Dick went on to serve in World War I, and eventually moved to Illinois. He died of a stroke at age 73 in February 1961.

Michigan-made ship makes "Titanic" history

As of September 1, 1985, oceanographer Robert Ballard had spent about a decade of his life trying to discover where RMS Titanic---history's most famous sunken ship---had plunged to the bottom of the North Atlantic. The location of the vessel, which struck an iceberg and sank on the morning of April 15, 1912 during its maiden voyage from Southampton, U.K. to New York City, had confounded investigators for over seventy years. Ballard himself had made a previous attempt to locate the ship with no success, and was now nearing the end of another expedition that he hoped would reveal the Titanic's final resting place. Ballard had started working with a French ship, Le Suroit, in August of 1985, but that ship had been reassigned, so on that fateful September day, the scientist was aboard the Knorr, a research vessel owned by the United States Navy.

As the Knorr plied the North Atlantic's frigid waters, it dragged behind it a remote-controlled deep-sea vehicle known as "Argo," which was equipped with cameras and sonar technology. The ship traveled methodically over the ocean's surface until, suddenly, Argo's camera showed something strange---crater-like pockmarks that were likely formed by objects hitting the ocean floor. As scientists watched on screens aboard the Knorr, Argo next projected images of a boiler and, to everyone's elation, the hull of a huge ship that could only be the Titanic  Ballard and his crew had made history---and had done so on the Knorr, a ship built in Michigan.

Research Vessel (R/V) Knorr

R/V Knorr was the product of Bay City-based Defoe Shipbuilding Company, which from 1905 to 1976 created watercraft for a variety of purposes. When Harry Defoe started the business, it built boats primarily for business and pleasure use. As World War II approached, the company won a number of Navy contracts, and also built a few Great Lakes freighters. (Ed. note: The Escanaba, which I've written about in a previous post, "Grand Haven's Fallen Ship, the Escanaba," was built by the Defoe Shipbuilding Company.) Eventually, the Navy contracts stopped coming, and the company went out of business. Its former location is now a scrapyard.

The Knorr was launched in 1968 and, though owned by the Navy, eventually went to the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), which operates vessels for research purposes. It traveled the Atlantic, assisting in various scientific explorations, until 1985, when Ballard stepped aboard to search for---and ultimately find---the Titanic.

The search team aboard the Knorr, after locating the Titanic

The Knorr's post-Titanic career has been an active one. From 1989 through 1991, the ship underwent a complete overhaul. Then, from 2005 to 2006, the Knorr was fitted with a long coring system that lets it extract sediment from deep below the ocean's surface. The ship maintains an active schedule of research projects on both sides of the Atlantic. As of this writing, the ship is assisting with research on Greenland's southwest coast. Not bad for a little ship from Bay City, Michigan.

More information:

The Knorr was named after Ernest R. Knorr, who in 1860 was the chief engineer cartographer in the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office. (Try saying that three times, fast.)

In addition to the Knorr and the Escanaba, the Defoe Shipbuilding Company created a number of notable vessels. These include:
*The Knorr's sister ship, the Melville, which was featured in the 1976 film, "King Kong"
*The USS Rich, which was sunk by mines on June 8, 1944 while assisting in the invasion of Normandy
*The USS PC-1129, which was sunk by a Japanese suicide boat in the China Sea on January 31, 1945
*The Lenore, a yacht built for retail magnate Montgomery Ward in 1931; the boat was later pulled into military use during World War II, and in 1956 became a Presidential yacht

The WHOI offers real-time information regarding the Knorr's current location. Check out this link to learn where the Knorr is currently assisting with scientific research: Where is Knorr now?

Here's a video taken at the exact moment the Titanic was discovered on September 1, 1985 (to find the link, scroll to the bottom of the page, then look on the right side): Titanic: The Moment of Discovery

Want to see what life on the Knorr is like? Check out this YouTube clip:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An interview with paranormal investigator and author Amberrose Hammond

When I was a kid, I was firmly convinced that ghosts and aliens lurked behind every corner, especially when I turned out the lights at bedtime. I actually believed that if I looked out my bedroom window, I'd see one of those creepy, bug-eyed alien faces peeking back at me.

With time, my attitude has changed, so that now I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal (though I'll admit you couldn't pay me a million dollars to spend the night in a place where people have reported ghostly activity). I still like reading about "real-life" paranormal stories, though, and that's how I discovered Amberrose Hammond's books.

Amberrose Hammond

Since graduating from Grand Valley State University in 2005 with a degree in English, Hammond has written "Ghosts and Legends of Michigan's West Coast," about creepy goings-on along the Lower Peninsula's western shores, and "Wicked Ottawa County," about historic scandals and crimes in, well, Ottawa County. Her third book, another entry in the "Wicked" series, is slated for release in the spring of 2014. Hammond has also taken part in several paranormal investigations, and maintains a website, "Michigan's Otherside," that provides details about mysteries, legends, and hauntings in the Great Lakes State. Hammond was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions I emailed to her. Read on to learn more about the paranormal in Michigan from one of the state's foremost experts on all things spooky.

On your webpage, you say that you've been interested in the strange and unusual since you were a kid. Did you ever imagine, back then, that you would make your living from researching and writing about the paranormal? How did it all begin?
"Growing up, I always had an extreme interest in unusual and paranormal topics. I soaked up shows like 'Unsolved Mysteries' in the 80s, B-rated horror movies on Saturday nights, and could always be found with a book on ghost stories or something more esoteric in my backpack. It wasn’t until years later, in October 2000, that I was thinking about ghosts and how none of them live in Michigan; at least it seemed that way. Whenever I picked up a book on haunted locations around the U.S., it never featured too much about the great state of Michigan.

"So one night, I consulted the oracle that is Google and it delivered. I started finding all kinds of neat stories and paranormal experiences from people. There wasn’t nearly the amount of info available on the Internet today, but it was enough to get me hooked. By my searching, I was also introduced to the early paranormal investigation teams in the state, which leads to the next question on the list!"

You helped found The Great Lakes Paranormal Research Organization. Are you still involved with that group?
"In 2000, there were just a handful of paranormal investigation teams in the state. West Michigan Ghost Hunters Society at the time was hosting public investigations at the now-infamous Nunica Cemetery. [Ed. note: See the "For more information" section at the end of this interview to learn more about Nunica Cemetery.] I joined them on a few ghost hunts and was immediately hooked! I joined The Great Lakes Paranormal Research Organization in 2001 after some friends formed it, and researched and investigated under that name until 2006, when I developed the concept of 'Michigan’s Otherside' and started to use that name, as my interests within the paranormal were changing."

What goes on during a "typical" paranormal investigation? (Though I realize there probably isn't any such thing as "typical" when it comes to the paranormal!) What is the team's goal, what are the methods they use to investigate, etc.?

"Any paranormal investigator of course wants to stumble upon what they feel is genuine paranormal activity and document it. Ultimately, the goal of any paranormal team is to try and rule out the mundane first. If a client reported that he or she was hearing a spooky sound in the attic and the investigators actually discovered a family of raccoons living up there, they just found a mundane solution. Problem solved. No ghosts.

"But...if all possibilities are exhausted and the sound of footsteps is still heard in the attic at the same time every night...well, maybe...just maybe...there’s something paranormal going on.

"Many teams employ a variety of equipment when they investigate, the 'big three' being cameras, video recorders, and audio recorders. The gadgets and equipment can add up from there depending on how much extra cash you have. The standard paranormal investigation usually starts with a request. The client feels something 'strange' is going on in his or her home or business, and is interested in having someone come out to verify that 'they are not crazy.' A telephone or face-to-face interview will usually happen before a full-blown investigation to determine what exactly is going on and, in some cases, rule out an investigation. There are times when the interview process can expose mental illness, drug use, or other things that make people believe they have paranormal activity going on, but in fact don’t. 

"If the interview shows a need for an investigation, the date will be set and the team will show up and do a sweep of the house, checking things out, looking for those 'mundane' causes. Also, if possible, background research is done beforehand to get an idea about the history of the location.

"There can be a lot that can happen during an investigation depending on what equipment is brought in. Or sometimes a whole lot of nothing. It’s always wise to keep the owners in the same room or have someone with them at all times to make sure they are not trying to trick anyone. That has happened before, when people want their place to be 'haunted,' either to get on TV or to create a business, such as the popular 'haunted bed and breakfast.'

"After the investigators feel they have gathered enough audio, video, photos, or other data, they pack up and spend a couple of days going through it. If they find something strange, they will share it with the owners and determine if more investigations are needed.

"So here’s the question: What’s the real point of an investigation?

"One of the reasons I pulled back from doing actual home investigations is because I cannot, in good faith, tell someone their house 'is' or 'isn't' haunted, because what exactly is a haunting? We really have no proof or definitive answer yet. It’s all just theories and very often based on belief systems and religious ideas of the afterlife.

"A home is someone’s safe haven and I do not feel right telling people, ' have an unseen squatter in your house.' That’s just freaky. Plus, it can actually mess with someone’s mental wellness, which is something not many budding paranormal investigators take into consideration.

"But on the other hand, most homeowners who experience something just want to know they are not crazy. A good paranormal team can sometimes give an owner peace of mind. They can experience the same thing to verify what the owner has been noticing. They may also be able to suggest clergy or other spiritual people to cleanse a house if that is what will provide some peace.

"Sometimes, the homeowners totally dig it when they find out they may have a 'ghost' living in the house. Like the question asked, there’s nothing 'typical' about the paranormal." 

What investigations stand out in your mind as being especially interesting, creepy, etc.?

"There are two that stand out. One was when I actually saw a possession, and another was when I physically saw something with my eyes for the first time.

"The possession investigation took place at a store in Norton Shores in West Michigan. It was a brand-new strip mall not more than a few years old. I wrote about this story in 'Ghosts and Legends of Michigan's West Coast,' and it was the only story that wasn’t 'historical' in nature in that book. It was just disturbing. It wasn’t anything out of 'The Exorcist' by any means, but witnessing something in which you instinctively knew something wasn’t right with the person involved, along with other factors during the investigation, made for a very unforgettable experience.

"The other investigation that stood out was at an old New England cemetery in Cape Cod. We were visiting our friend Dave, who runs ghost tours and a paranormal team in Cape Cod. He was so excited to bring us to a particular cemetery in the area at night because some of the common things they would see in this place were strange blue floating orbs.

"We set up equipment to try and capture these mysterious things, and when nothing seemed to want to happen, we packed up and just stood around talking under a huge full moon.

"All of a sudden, that’s when these tiny, glowing blue lights started floating toward the outskirts of the cemetery.

"'That’s it! Those are what I was telling you guys about!' said Dave. We all just stood there with our mouths open, watching these unexplainable lights move through the cemetery, no equipment capturing any of it, and then they were gone.

"And that’s pretty much how it works in paranormal investigation. It comes when you are least expecting it, and least-prepared."

How did your work writing "Ghosts and Legends of Michigan's West Coast" come about? Did you approach The History Press, or did they approach you?  

"The History Press puts out a lot of fantastic topics on Michigan and the entire United States. I recommend their books to everyone. I was approached by them in 2008 about writing a book for their "Haunted America" series, and after I gave them my ideas and sample writing, they approved. The book came out in September 2009. I had always wanted to write a book, so the opportunity was a welcome surprise and created other opportunities for me as well."
Did you ever get "creeped out" when you were working on the book, or while you're writing for "Michigan's Otherside"? Do you have to write with other people in the room, with the lights on, etc.?

"I will admit that ghosts do not freak me out anymore. I’ve become an open-minded skeptic over the years and look at the subject of hauntings and other paranormal topics a little differently than when I got started. TV and movies will have one believing paranormal activity is around every dark corner, but it’s not. In my opinion, it’s actually quite rare to encounter something that could be considered genuine paranormal activity.

"But speaking of night lights, there is one thing that freaks me out that has caused me to sleep with the lights on.


"The very idea of aliens is downright creepy to me, and most likely Hollywood interpretations (namely, the movie 'Fire in the Sky') have made the worst impact on me over the years. I shudder when I think about some of the scenes in that movie. I was at the Michigan Paranormal Convention in 2012 and the man who the movie was based on, Travis Walton, was there. Needless to say, I stayed far away from him."

"Wicked Ottawa County" isn't about the did your work with that book come about?

"As a collector of the strange and unusual, I have quite the array of odd articles and history from all over. During the research of my first book, I had stumbled upon some interesting murder stories and history. I had been admiring the 'Wicked' series that The History Press put out. It delved into really old true crime about specific areas. Great books for the local history enthusiast! So when my publisher wrote me and asked if I had any ideas in the think tank, I told them I’d like to write 'Wicked Ottawa County,' which is where I live. They thought it was a cool idea too, so that’s how that book was born. It was a nice change to start writing about something other than the paranormal. My third book will be in the 'Wicked' series as well."
What kind of responses do you get from people when they find out what you do for a living?

"I still have a day job, but when I tell people what I do on the side, the majority of the time they have a story to tell me---some ghostly thing that happened to them or someone they know. Some even have an old crime story related to their family to share. There are the rare occasions where people give you a look like you just told them you were best friends with the devil and ate babies as snacks, but they are few and far between, and are becoming more rare these days.

"There are so many paranormal TV shows and books out there now that the idea of the 'paranormal' has become part of this decade’s pop culture and people are just getting used to the topic."

You mention on "Michigan's Otherside" that the number of paranormal research teams in Michigan has significantly increased in the past decade or so. Why do you think that is?

"Interest in the paranormal exploded after the Syfy channel's 'Ghost Hunters' debuted on TV and was a total hit. Pre-'Ghost Hunters,' I would tell people, 'Yep...went on a ghost hunt last night. It was pretty cool…'

"They would just look at me like I was the biggest dork in the world and ask me if I talked to Casper or when I would be moving in with the Addams Family.

"Post-'Ghost Hunters,' the scenario is now more like this:

"'Yep...went on a ghost hunt last night. It was pretty cool…'

"'You did? Ohmygod! Do you ever watch 'Ghost Hunters?' Do things in the show really happen like that? I get so scared watching that show but I love it!  In this one episode...Grant and Jason…' blah, blah, blah

"And that’s about the time my eyes glaze over and cross.

"The start of those shows prompted thousands of people to get together, form groups just like on TV, and seek out paranormal investigations in their area. The paranormal was 'cool' and part of pop culture now. The majority of these copycat teams mimicked the shows, complete with matching t-shirts, decals on their cars, and a mindset that everything they ventured out to do would be exactly like they had seen on TV.


"Therein lies the double-edged sword in this situation.

"The shows increased awareness about the paranormal to a new height. The New Age section at Barnes & Noble used to be a few shelves, and now it’s a huge area with lots of topics to browse. The Internet is overflowing with websites and blogs on this topic. TV shows haven't slowed down, and 'Ghost Hunters' is still going strong.

"Some of these new teams inspired by TV shows actually went on to be great paranormal teams. They quickly learned it wasn’t like TV at all, but they still had a passion for the subject and continued to pursue investigations and research.

"However, there were many other teams that formed and just made the serious people shudder. They all claimed to be 'scientific,' but if asked, no one in the team could tell you about the scientific method or what the equipment they bought actually did and the theory behind it. They just bought some gadget on TV, walked into the homes of strangers who stupidly invited them in, waved their equipment around, and said things like, 'You have ghosts for sure,' or worse, 'You have a demon here.' There has been a recent trend where people have taken up as demonologists, and just about everything they encounter is...wait for it...yep, a demon.

"I’ll stop myself here because I can get on a dangerously long rant on this topic. So in a nutshell, that was one of the major reasons for the explosion."

Any advice for budding paranormal investigators?

"Learn all you can. I have told people through the years that to be a solid paranormal investigator, you really have to be a jack-of-all-trades and spend some time reading about photography, sound, video, physics, electrical systems, interview techniques, mental illness, religious beliefs, etc. The list really never stops.

"I have some short and sweet paranormal advice on my website at this link to check out:"

I might know the answer to this question already, but what is your favorite place to visit, or your favorite thing to do, in Michigan?

"My favorite place to visit in Michigan is actually Mackinac Island. I love the history, the vibe of the place, the lack of cars, having an excuse to indulge in large quantities of fudge, and, of course, its ghosts! For years, it was a spot in Michigan we always dreamed about investigating. History and hauntings go hand-in-hand, and Mackinac is full of awesome history.

"Thankfully, our friend Todd Clements started 'Haunts of Mackinac' ghost tours on the island, and of course, landed Mackinac Island on what else? The TV show, “Ghost Hunters.”
#     #     #
For more information:
The story of Nunica Cemetery:

Paranormal enthusiasts consider this cemetery, located in Ottawa County east of Spring Lake on M-104 near the I-96 exit, as one of the most haunted cemeteries in Michigan. Various paranormal phenomena have been reported there, including cold spots, orbs, and apparitions. Here's more information from "Michigan's Otherside":