Haunted Detroit

Apple orchards and cider mills are fine, but for Halloween lovers, it's the mad and the macabre that really make us swoon for October. It's the horror films, the ghouls and the goblins, and, of course, the haunted houses, but chill-seekers cannot live on college kids in masks and makeup alone. We're upping the ante and thrusting open the creaky door to peek inside some of Detroit's most infamous locations that are believed to actually be haunted by the supernatural. Considering Detroit's rich history, it should be no surprise that there are a lot of them, and paranormal investigators Ronda Hart and Sarah Rupert have personal accounts – and they've kept the receipts.

Rupert is a medium, which means she can communicate with spirits, and they can use her to communicate with the living; she can see them, too. "My mother had it, and I was born with it," she says. Hart is an empath, so she can feel the emotions of nearby ghosts, whether they're happy, solemn, angry or otherwise. Both ladies work with Motor City Ghost Hunters, a Detroit-based research group that uses investigation techniques and equipment to gather and interpret information in response to claims of paranormal phenomena at people's homes, historic locations or elsewhere. Hart and Rupert use both their natural gifts and technology, like voice recorders and grid lights that speckle the wall with laser beams of light, and if an area becomes blacked out, it suggests that someone – or something – unseen is standing between the lasers and the wall. Temperature gauges read the temperature in a specific location of the room. "If someone says, 'Oh my God, I feel something really cold next to me,' – which is usually spirits – I can shoot right next to you," Rupert says, and the device will register the cold spot. "So, that's where (the) spirit is standing, which I can see that but it's good for other people."

MCGH invites those who think something otherworldly may be going on to visit their website and fill out an application to request an investigation, and the team will review it to determine its legitimacy. Hart says, "We don't charge for our services so when we do an investigation, we're volunteering our time. We're taking away from our family, our jobs or whatever we're doing to go help people. We don't want to waste our time." Sometimes the team is there simply to confirm activity and communicate, and sometimes, the mediums and empaths help to guide the spirit out of this realm and into the next.

Each investigation starts with the team verbally introducing themselves. When we spoke with Hart and Rupert, Hart played audio of one such introduction. On it, the investigators can be heard giving their names and, in the midst, a male voice can be heard – as clearly as the others, only softer – say "Richard." The women are adamant that only one man was in the room at the time, and his name is not Richard. They didn't hear the voice at the time; it was only discovered when the recording was played back. Electronic voice phenomena – or EVP – are sounds found on electronic recordings that are credited as spirit voices. Electricity and certain natural elements like water, limestone and granite are thought to be conductors of paranormal activity. "If you don't believe, that's your opinion," Rupert says. "I know what happens and it doesn't offend me at all. That's your right to not believe, but after a while, I can make sure you do believe."

Six of the city's most active locations…


Eastern Market

The area was built on what was one of the oldest cemeteries in Detroit, Russell Street Cemetery. Some say that the spirits of the displaced bodies still haunt the grounds.

The Whitney

Builder David Whitney Jr. and his wife Flora both died in the Midtown mansion built in 1894, and their ghosts are said to roam the second and third floors and the elevator, which staff has reported will sometimes move between floors on its own. "Oh, there's no question" that it's haunted, says Hart. "The women's third-floor bathroom, I walked in there and – I know it sounds weird – but it was like walking into a different place in time."

2 Way Inn

The historic bar, built in 1876, is thought to be haunted by the spirit of former owner and Union spy Philetus Norris. Customers and staff have seen his cowboy clothing-clad apparition walking the property.

Elmwood Cemetery

The oldest, continuously operating, non-denominational cemetery in Michigan is also one of the country's most haunted. Visitors have reported seeing orbs and apparitions of the men who died on the grounds during the 1763 Battle of Bloody Run, and those who've dared stand in front of "The Veiled Lady" monument say they've heard unexplained voices and caught whiffs of strange smells.

For 6th Precinct Police Station

"It was definitely active. You could definitely feel that there were spirits there," Hart says of her recent trip to the station, closed in 1999 and currently under restoration.

Eloise Asylum and Cemetery

It's rumored that some of the patients of this abandoned psychiatric hospital in Westland have never left; people have reported hearing moans, screams and sobs, and seeing shadows and full apparitions. It was opened in 1839 as a poor house and farm, and when Rupert visited recently she says she picked up a lot of activity from past patients and their family members, so much so that she had to walk out. "It was overwhelming," she says.

Motor City Ghost Hunters will host an open-to-the-public paranormal investigation of Fort Gratiot Light Station in Port Huron on Oct. 20 and 27.

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