Michigan

Just southeast of Grayling, Michigan, down a dirt road and two-track and along the railroad tracks, lies an old, all but forgotten cemetery. This is the Pere Cheney Cemetery. Many myths and legends surround this place. From ghost sightings and a witch’s curse to mysterious lights and figures, it is an area with a mysterious and somewhat sad history.
Pere Cheney was an old lumber town located about midway between the towns of Graying and Roscommon. It was established in the late 1800s and was abandoned a little more than 50 years later. Legend has it that at one point the population was around 1,500 people. It is believed that diphtheria swept through the town twice in a span of fewer than five years which caused the town to fold. According to one of the more popular legends, the diphtheria outbreak was the result of a curse by a witch that had been banished to the woods.
We decided to venture out to the cemetery to have a look around and then see if we could find where the town used to stand. As someone not all that familiar with the area, I called on a few friends who happen to live in that area to see if they might be able to help find the place.
After a quick stop in Grayling for dinner at a place called Dead Bear Brewing Co., we headed out of town and made our way south towards where the old town is believed to be located. After traveling down a paved road, then a dirt road, then a two-track along the railroad tracks, we reached the cemetery.Pere Cheney 02 / Image: Richard Francis
The cemetery itself is well maintained and quite large, and although vandals have stolen and destroyed quite a bit, it is apparent that there are quite a few gravesites there. We spent a bit of time wandering around, looking at the remaining headstones and trying to decipher the weathered names and dates. Based on what we saw, there seem to be quite a few children buried there. One of the few standing markers bears the names of three siblings, all under the age of ten, that died within days of each other. This alone lends some credibility to the story of some sort of outbreak.Pere Cheney 03 / Image: Richard Francis
Pere Cheney 04 / Image: Richard FrancisAs the sun started to set, we made our way back north along one of the many trails in the area and searched for the location of the town itself. We parked in a small clearing next to a creepy old tree and cut through a small patch of woods that lead to a larger clearing. Here we found some large ditches and mounds of earth that may have been where buildings once stood.Pere Cheney 05 / Image: Richard Francis
As we wandered further into the clearing we found several small pieces of foundation in one area which lead us to believe that we were in the right location. We also noticed that there were peculiar patterns in the growth of grass around where we believed buildings once stood. It was kind of depressing to know that an empty field is all that’s left of a once bustling town filled with people.Pere Cheney 06 / Image: Richard Francis
Overall, our experience was rather quiet and uneventful. The only excitement we encountered was a Conservation Officer, a State Police Officer, and a local cop out on the two-track looking for a guy in a Jeep, and the only spirits we encountered that evening were of the bottled variety.Pere Cheney 07 / Image: Richard Francis
HAUNTED LOCATIONS:  Pere Cheney

HAUNTED LOCATIONS: Pere Cheney

Just southeast of Grayling, Michigan, down a dirt road and two-track and along the railroad tracks, lies an old, all but forgotten cemetery. This is the Pere Cheney Cemetery. Many myths and legends surround this place. From ghost sightings and a witch's curse to mysterious lights and figures, it is an area with a mysterious and somewhat sad history.
Pere Cheney was an old lumber town located about midway between the towns of Graying and Roscommon. It was established in the late 1800s and was abandoned a little more than 50 years later. Legend has it that at one point the population was around 1,500 people. It is believed that diphtheria swept through the town twice in a span of fewer than five years which caused the town to fold. According to one of the more popular legends, the diphtheria outbreak was the result of a curse by a witch that had been banished to the woods.
We decided to venture out to the cemetery to have a look around and then see if we could find where the town used to stand. As someone not all that familiar with the area, I called on a few friends who happen to live in that area to see if they might be able to help find the place.
After a quick stop in Grayling for dinner at a place called Dead Bear Brewing Co., we headed out of town and made our way south towards where the old town is believed to be located. After traveling down a paved road, then a dirt road, then a two-track along the railroad tracks, we reached the cemetery.Pere Cheney 02 / Image: Richard Francis
The cemetery itself is well maintained and quite large, and although vandals have stolen and destroyed quite a bit, it is apparent that there are quite a few gravesites there. We spent a bit of time wandering around, looking at the remaining headstones and trying to decipher the weathered names and dates. Based on what we saw, there seem to be quite a few children buried there. One of the few standing markers bears the names of three siblings, all under the age of ten, that died within days of each other. This alone lends some credibility to the story of some sort of outbreak.Pere Cheney 03 / Image: Richard Francis
Pere Cheney 04 / Image: Richard FrancisAs the sun started to set, we made our way back north along one of the many trails in the area and searched for the location of the town itself. We parked in a small clearing next to a creepy old tree and cut through a small patch of woods that lead to a larger clearing. Here we found some large ditches and mounds of earth that may have been where buildings once stood.Pere Cheney 05 / Image: Richard Francis
As we wandered further into the clearing we found several small pieces of foundation in one area which lead us to believe that we were in the right location. We also noticed that there were peculiar patterns in the growth of grass around where we believed buildings once stood. It was kind of depressing to know that an empty field is all that's left of a once bustling town filled with people.Pere Cheney 06 / Image: Richard Francis
Overall, our experience was rather quiet and uneventful. The only excitement we encountered was a Conservation Officer, a State Police Officer, and a local cop out on the two-track looking for a guy in a Jeep, and the only spirits we encountered that evening were of the bottled variety.Pere Cheney 07 / Image: Richard Francis
Posted by Richard Francis in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, 0 comments
HAUNTED LOCATIONS:  The Hippie Tree

HAUNTED LOCATIONS: The Hippie Tree

Not far from the old State Hospital in Traverse City lies the graffitied remains of an old willow tree that is known as the Hippie Tree. The tree gets its name and graffiti from the multitude of people who have made the journey there to meditate under its branches in an attempt to gain some otherworldly insight and leave their mark on it.
Many legends and stories have been told about this tree and the surrounding area. Some say the spirits of former patients from the nearby abandoned mental hospital haunt the area. Some say the area is inhabited by the ghost of a young boy murdered there by an escaped mental patient. There are even some people who claim that the area itself is the gateway to Hell if you walk a certain pattern around the tree. The true story of the tree and its origin are probably lost to time amongst the tales and legends.
After reading about the Hippie Tree online, I decided to try to locate it and see for myself what all the fuss was about. I assembled my team of crack ghost hunters (myself, my girlfriend, and my thirteen-year-old son) and we hit the road in search of spirits and adventure.
After a quick stop for lunch at Taco Bell, we made our way past the old asylum and parked near a school across from the hiking trails that take you to the Hippie Tree.
The hiking trails are well maintained and clearly labeled in the area and the tree itself is even noted on the main map when you enter the trailhead, which is kind of nice, although somewhat disheartening as I imagined the place to be crawling with tourists. We hiked up the trail a bit and took what we thought was the first right and promptly got lost. Actually, we weren’t lost, we just took a wrong turn and ended up making a big loop instead of the more direct route to the tree.
Hippie Tree 02 / Image: Richard FrancisAfter realizing our mistake, we oriented ourselves and continued on the trails through a beautiful forest and across a few trickling streams. Well worth the extra time in the woods in my opinion.
Hippie Tree 03 / Image: Richard FrancisThe trail leading down to the Hippie Tree is hard to miss, with all the brightly colored graffiti everywhere. It’s quite beautiful to see in person. Normally I’m not the type of person that enjoys graffiti. In most cases, and particularly in nature, I feel it detracts from things. But in this case, it seems to fit. You could wander up and down that tree for hours taking in all the little details. The bright, vibrant colors seem to tell their own story of the area.
We all sat there for a while taking in the surrounding and seeing if we could feel some presence of the spirits that are said to inhabit the area.
Nada. The only presence we felt was that of the couple that came down there to sit on a branch and eat their lunch, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t spirits. Unless spirits like to stop by the drive-thru at Wendy’s on their way to a haunting.
We walked around the Hippie Tree a few times like we were told to do in order to open the gates of Hell. Nada there, too. The only thing that opened the gates of Hell that day was the Taco Bell we had for lunch.
Maybe we just aren’t that in touch with the spirit world, or maybe spirits weren’t that interested in us. Or maybe Saturday is a day off for ghosts. Maybe we caught the ghost during the shift change and they were busy. It doesn’t really matter to me because it was a good day to be out in the woods, enjoying nature and I’m glad we went. Maybe that’s what the spirits wanted me to take away from the experience. A beautiful day enjoying the wonder of nature with the people I care most about.
If you’re ever in the Traverse City area of northern Michigan you should check out the Hippie Tree.Hippie Tree 07 / Image: Richard Francis
Posted by Richard Francis in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, HALLOWEEN, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, 2 comments