(Editor’s Note: Old Mission Peninsula resident Karen Rieser delves into some of the ghostly hauntings around the Old Mission Peninsula. Karen is the author of several books, including “Aiden’s Tree” and “A History of Education on the Old Mission Peninsula.” Check them out here. -jb)
Autumn … Geese migrating overhead, leaves moving with the wind, their brilliance no longer hidden by chlorophyll, chipmunks and squirrels foraging for winter sustenance, fields full of harvesters, vineyards draped in ghostly gauze, and ultimately, hibernation, dormancy or death for many living things. For our forefathers, whose lives were controlled by weather and seasons, combined with their limited understanding of science and spirituality, autumn could be a frightening time.
Old Mission Gazette is Reader Supported.
Click Here to Keep the Gazette Going.
Over the centuries, during this time of fright, humans sought out explanations for what appeared to be drastic and perhaps permanent changes in their world. Most reasoning found its way to the supernatural. For Americans, each wave of immigrants brought with it their autumn cultural traditions, ideas of the supernatural and superstitions, many of which dealt with ghosts and the afterlife. English, Irish and German traditions played a major role in passing on spirituality and paranormal beliefs which are seen in modified forms today.
A Western Christian triduum (a new word for me, which comes from the Latin for a period of three days) referred to as Allhallowtide occurs between October 31st through November 2nd. October 31st is All Saints Eve or Halloween, at which time it was felt that witches and ghosts could easily roam the Earth.
November 1st, All Saints Day was a day set aside to honor all saints known and unknown. November 2nd followed with All Souls Day – honoring Christians who had died, particularly family members. Spirits were clearly acknowledged, some honored and others feared.
Hmm … It is 2023, and we have hopefully progressed in our thinking. Do we still believe in spirits, ghosts and witches? Ghost hunting has recently gained a great deal of popularity. Mediums – people who can tune into the spiritual energy surrounding an individual made available through a dead spirit, spirit guide or angel – do not lack work.
As a lady of science, I think of the Law of Conservation of Mass. It tells me that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change form. Could this law of nature be combined with our spiritual beliefs to explain the idea of spirits?
I believe our thinking concerning this subject will go on forever with no real answers. Meanwhile, there have been several reports of hauntings on the Old Mission Peninsula. Do we need to be frightened? I think not. Let’s explore.
Bowers Harbor Inn – Whose Spirit Still Resides There?
Our first event occurs at the Bowers Harbor Inn, now known as Mission Table and The Jolly Pumpkin. The story has several variations. The Inn began as a farmhouse built in the 1860s by Chester and Anna Hartson. In 1909, it was sold to Charles and Genevieve Stickney. Some report that Stickney was a lumber baron, while others say he was a partner in the Howe & Stickney Canning Company.
Regardless, Mr. Stickney was financially secure. The farm was damaged by fire in 1927 and rebuilt. The result was a refined home. Here is where the story takes two very distinctly different paths.
One report tells of the aging and obese Mrs. Stickney suffering from diabetes and heart disease. Mr. Stickney hired a nurse and her family to live with and care for them. Sadly, Mrs. Stickney passed away in March of 1947 at the Pantlind Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mr. Stickney lived for two more years, dying at Munson Hospital in August of 1949 and leaving his estate to his private nurse.
The other story adds a bit of intrigue and an entirely different setting. It is said that Mr. Stickney, while living at his Bowers Harbor home, had an affair with the live-in nurse. In this scenario Mr. Stickney passes away first and leaves the house to Genevieve and his fortune to the nurse. The distraught Mrs. Stickney then goes to the elevator shaft and hangs herself. (Editor’s Note: See what author Julie Schopieray has to say about this story here. -jb)
Believe what you wish; however, there is said to be a presence at the Bowers Harbor Inn, but who is it? Chester, Anna and Nida Hartson all passed away in the house. Is one of them still with us or has Mrs. Stickney returned?
Over the years, there have been many sightings and experiences of a ghostly woman residing in the Inn. A guest reported having seen a ghostly image of a woman as she looked at her own reflection in a mirror. A photograph exists of a ghostly image looking out an upstairs window.
Faucets turn themselves on and off, pans fall from shelves on their own, doors open and close, dishware is moved, rolls of toilet paper have been thrown in the restroom, people have been tripped or pushed on the stairs, footsteps can be heard and much more. When questioned, many of the people having the more negative experiences are nurses. Could it be Mrs. Stickney?
Watson’s Grocery – Is Gwennie or Claude Still Overseeing Operations at Peninsula Market?
We now move onto the Peninsula Market located on Center Road in Mapleton. For many years, Watson’s Grocery was located across from the Peninsula Grill (once known as the Mapleton Garage) and the Peninsula Market. The store, in addition to the house next door, was once owned by Pete Lardie, who in 1946 sold them to Claude and Gwen (a.k.a Gwennie) Watson.
The store operated until sometime in the 1970’s when it burned down. Sometime around 2014, the house was demolished. With the bulldozer’s first push, the lights in the Peninsula Market, over the front counter, began to madly flicker, and the deadbolt on the front door locked on its own.
An employee tells me that a kind presence can be felt now and again. Might one of the former shopkeepers from across the street still be overseeing operations? It would be nice to think so. (Editor’s Note: Check out this story when Gwen Watson’s niece came to the Old Mission Peninsula a few years ago. -jb)
Peninsula Cellars – A Medium Investigates Paranomal Activities
Our last stop is the Maple Grove District 7 one-room schoolhouse on Center Road. Built in 1896, it was the last of the seven one-room schoolhouses to be constructed. It closed in 1958. Over its 50-plus years, its doors were opened to many students and teachers. (Editor’s Note: Check out Karen’s book, “A History of Education on the Old Mission Peninsula” here. -jb)
After its closing, the schoolhouse was used as a studio for an artist. In 1998, it was bought by the Kroupa family to serve as a tasting room for their Peninsula Cellars Wines.
Although the building’s purpose had changed, the school remains much the same. The twelve-foot-high ceilings give it an open bright feeling, and original floors, slate boards and windows remain. I love seeing the bell in its belfry and school room artifacts scattered here and there.
However, it is reported that there are ghostly occupants residing in the building. Employees began noticing that objects were being moved overnight to areas in which they had no purpose. They noticed Christmas tree ornaments falling to the floor for no apparent reason. Footsteps are heard by employees who thought they were alone in the building. Doors open and close on their own, lights flash, and most noticeably, the music will turn itself up to a raging volume.
Tammy Schuster, a medium, came in to investigate.
As Tammy toured the building, she picked up a very happy, positive energy. She explained that when a person passes, they can go back to any time and age they want. Could it be that these are spirits of students revisiting their former school? Perhaps for many, this was their happy time and place.
In addition to students, Tammy identified an adult male, Augustus, who she felt might have spoken both English and German. He was a former employee, perhaps a teacher or administrator.
The staff feeling the presence reports it as a female, a former teacher. Augustus likes causing mischief and blaming it on this teacher. Evidently, the female teacher surpassed Augustus in the employment ranks. He very much resents this, as in that day and age, to be outdone by a female was emasculating.
Be it students or teacher, the paranormal vibes remain very happy and positive.
Believing in the paranormal or not, somehow autumn has our minds wondering. Is it the chill in the air, the sound of the wind, the minute-by-minute loss of sunlight, or the withering away of many plants that prods our minds into questioning?
There is no harm in questioning nature; however, we must be prepared to consider the answers.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb