Ghostly Happenings in Michigan
When spirits come out to play
On a hill in the Heritage Hill section of Grand Rapids, Michigan is a private residence called The Phillips Mansion. It is a two-story antebellum mansion built in the Georgian Revival style. Four large pillars in the front make it look grand. It was built in 1864 the house had eight rooms and the kitchen in a shed in the back.
In 1880 James T. Phillips owner of the Grand Rapids Clock and Mantel Company bought the mansion. The Phillps family lived there for 32 years. Afterward, it was bought by Dr, John F. Burleson in 1912 who lived there until a mysterious fire in 1934 drove them out. One of his daughters was a spiritualist who held seances there. During the 1940s the mansion became a nursing home for elderly women for about 12 years. In 1952 the place was transformed into apartments but in 1973 when two women renting an apartment on the second floor had some scary experiences with entities the mansion was again sold into private hands.
At least three ghosts have made their presence known. In 1972 Miss Schwander and her roommate felt that the mansion would be a nice, quiet place to live and rented a two-bedroom 2nd-floor apartment. Awaking one night Miss Schwander was startled to see near the room’s ceiling a large head of a young, blond man smiling at her. He slowly moved across the ceiling and then disappeared.
Another night she was awakened by a bright and blinding light like a giant floodlight. Terrified she ran to her roommate but when they returned the light was gone. Both women stayed there until 1973 when early one morning Miss Schwander felt a strong presence near her. She turned her head and saw lying next to her a very, old wrinkled woman who looked as if she had been sick for quite a while. The entity looked like a real person but was deathly white. She was breathing noisily through her mouth and her face was contorted in agony. Screaming Miss Schwander again ran to get her roommate. Returning they only saw the impression of the old woman’s head on the pillow. This sent the roommate’s packing and informing people of their experiences.
Because of the publicity about the haunting the mansion was sold to two men who weren’t bothered by the idea of ghosts. They found it amusing to be living among the entities and restored the mansion tearing out the apartment partitions. Shortly after moving in Chuck, who was sleeping in one of the upstairs bedrooms awoke and heard footsteps on the staircase going from the first floor to the second. The steps became louder and louder and stopped outside his bedroom door. When he opened the door no one was there.
Ward felt someone jerk his big toe while lying in bed reading. After renovation things started jumping. There were thumping, vibrations and moving objects and furniture with no rational explanations. Guests who have stayed the night have been kept awake by banging, heavy male footsteps, and the sound of furniture being dragged across the floor in the attic.
Over the years guests have seen glowing images floating around the bedrooms. Each room is equipped with a large whistle and a huge glass of water which supposedly will keep ghosts at bay. Ghosts are said to be afraid of water. Vibrations have shaken pictures off of walls and contents of wastebaskets have been thrown all over the room. One night when the furnace failed Ward and Chuck slept in the living room in sleeping bags by the fireplace and were kept awake by an unseen presence walking around them all night.
During a dinner party one night there was the sound of a shattering explosion bringing all the guests quickly up the stairs but nothing appeared disturbed. They however did see a misty apparition float up the stairs after them and disappear at the top of the staircase. Three years after moving in Ward and Chuck were in the living room when an older gentleman appeared to them standing next to the fireplace. He was dressed in an Edwardian-style brown tweed coat and was in solid form. When Ward went toward him he faded into the air. Some evenings after this entity's first appearance Ward saw him again while standing on the 2nd-floor landing. He saw the gentleman in the entry hall dressed in his brown tweed suit with a cane under his arm and a bowler hat on his head. The gentleman looked at Ward tipped his hat and smiled pleasantly and then walked straight through the front door. The gentleman has been identified as James T. Phillips who loved the mansion and died there in 1912.
Being such a large house the upkeep of the mansion wasn’t cheap and Ward and Chuck rented a large 2nd-floor room to a friend Rick who was an art student. He used the room as a bedroom and art studio. There was a presence in this room that resented having someone there but eventually excepted them. One night after Rick had turned off the lights and gotten into bed something slammed his door shut.
When he got up to look at the door he found it open by 3 inches and there was no draft that could have reopened the door. Working on his art projects he would be disturbed by loud noises coming from the attic. Once Rick lost patience and shouted, "Shut up!” A second later his red paint cup rose quickly in the air and dumped its contents on his head. While wiping the paint off, his easel rose up by itself and whacked him on the back. It appeared that an unseen presence was upset about Rick’s rude behavior. Afterward, he controlled his temper.
Early one morning about 3 AM Rick awoke to hear a tapping noise coming from inside his chest of drawers. Turning on the light he investigated and finding nothing returned to bed. Then the tapping started again. Not wanting to continue the game he left the drawer opened. From that moment on he did this every night. Then on a hot, still summer night Rick was reading in bed. His 3 Siamese cats were at his feet. Suddenly he felt a cold chill flowing on him. His cats woke up abruptly. They all looked simultaneously at the same spot above his door calmly turning their heads in unison as they watched something not seen move across the ceiling of the room.
And so the inhabitants of this house have learned to accept the presence that is there and in turn, it expects the living to have good manners and to be respectful.
The Bower’s Harbor Inn is located in Traverse City, Michigan. Traverse City is a lovely beach/vacation community by Traverse Bay. The Bowers Inn is a two-story blue mansion set up on a hill. Since 1959 it was transformed into a high-class dining restaurant with an outdoor patio used during the summer months with a view of the bay.
Chicago millionaire lumber and steel baron J.W. Stickney and his wife Genevive discovered and fell in love with this spot. They bought the ordinary farmhouse and its fruit trees that were on this spot at the time. While her husband ran his business Genevive started a preserves, jams, and brandies home business.
Then J.W. Stickney enterprises took off and they became very wealthy. The farmhouse was torn down and a glorious mansion was built in 1885 to be used as a summer residence with easy access to the lake/beach area nearby. At some point in time, Genevive became heavy set and an elevator was put in the mansion as she had problems getting up the stairs. She also had a gilded mirror put in which made her look a lot thinner. As she became fatter her husband hired a nurse to take care of her.
After the couple passed on the mansion had a series of owners. In 1959 it was turned into a restaurant. After it was sold in 1964 the new owners lived upstairs and ran the Bower's Harbor Inn on the first floor. Then in 1974 Schelde Enterprises bought it and made it into an award-winning restaurant. The restaurant continues to run to this day with a change of owners in 2006 when two Old Mission natives bought it.
While the Stickneys still lived here J.W. Stickney became romantically involved with his wife Genevive’s nurse. At this point this upset Genevive who had become mentally unbalanced as well. After J.W. died Genevive had a rude shock at the reading of the will. He had left his fortune to the nurse. Although she did receive the mansion and the land. This put her into a deep depression. Finally, she took her own life hanging herself from the rafters of the mansion’s elevator. Throughout the years as the mansion went through a series of owners soon everyone knew there were some unseen permanent guests among them.
At this time Toni Scharling and Sally and Bruce Towner owned the mansion. They soon discovered that Genevive likes to scare the living. In 1964 a patron of the restaurant was admiring herself in Genevive’s gilded mirror hanging in a small powder room found just outside the 2nd-floor bathroom. Suddenly she saw a real looking woman in the reflection of the mirror standing right behind her. The woman was dressed in a formal evening gown with her hair done up in an old-fashioned bun. She turned around and the lady was gone. The frightened patron ran downstairs.
Toni Scharling and Sally and Bruce Towner and their families lived on the 2nd floor of the mansion. The families learned early that they had to duck when regular household objects would be hurled at them on a regular basis. Doors flew open and slammed hard.
One evening in the restaurant customers witnessed a full plate of food which was sitting on the salad bar suddenly flew up into the air and fell to the floor. On the second floor where the families lived personal items would turn up missing and could be found in really odd places. In the middle of the night, knocking could be heard from inside of closets and on walls and doors. In the late 1970s, the basement lights kept turning on by themselves. The elevator when it was still working would transport people to the 2nd floor. One customer was surprised in the elevator by a solid apparition of a very old J.C. Stickney who had also used it during his later years. When the elevator was closed down it would still go up and down by itself.
And so it continues. However, the spirits have become calmer since no one lives on the 2nd floor anymore. Genevive can still be seen in her mirror and doors are still slamming. There is an entity that moves the clock on the first floor forward 25 minutes in just 5 minutes and inventory clipboards are moved to odd places just for fun. Feeling hungry? Make a reservation for dinner and meet the merrymakers!