Spirits reportedly linger in Mount Pleasant's historic downtown buildings
It’s that time of the year when hair-raising, goosebump inducing spooky tales make their way into late-night conversations and casual work banter.
Despite subject matter that can be grim, grotesque or even disturbing, there’s something convivial about sharing and listening to scary stories.
The idea that something exists beyond our material reality seems to spike adrenaline and leave us with that “tell me more” feeling.
Whether it’s a tale you heard from a friend, something you experienced yourself or a story you made up on the spot, the fun in storytelling is all the same.
Central Michigan University has its own set of scary stories and ghost sightings, one of which stems from the story of a 19-year-old cafeteria employee who died in Warriner Hall.
While many people speculate that she was beheaded, according to an article published in Central State Life on June 2, 1937, Theresa Elizabeth Shumacher died of strangulation.
She was instantly strangled by a dumbwaiter after her head became trapped in a small window in the door leading to the elevator shaft.
“A bar near the top of the elevator caught her when the automatically operated cage was started in some undetermined fashion,” the article stated.
Warriner Hall is known as a haunted place on campus and reports of strange activity there aren’t uncommon.
Stepping outside CMU’s campus, there are other places in the Mount Pleasant community that are believed to be haunted as well.
Downtown there is a block of Broadway Street that is a hub for reported paranormal activity.
At Broadway Theatre, where emotions run high and theatrics take center-stage, it is believed that otherworldly entities observe each production and rehearsal.
The theater, located at 216 E. Broadway St., is run by volunteers. According to the national register of historic places, the theater opened in 1920.
The art deco building has retained much of its original charm – from stage backdrops hoisted up with rope and sandbags, to its walls painted with original murals of Adam and Eve flanking the front of the stage.
Donna Husted Kriss, a volunteer and theater board member, said she is certain there are ghosts at Broadway. She said she is extremely sensitive to energy and the age of the theater is a source of sensation for her.
“The older stuff really does have an energy, like in the furnace room with its lights,” Husted Kriss said. “I’m feeling the people who have touched those and worked on those 80 years ago.”
Another volunteer, board member and close friend of Husted Kriss’s, Mark Drumheller, doesn’t share the same visceral feelings about ghosts.
“She’s the kind of person that gets those feelings and sensations,” Drumheller said about Husted Kriss. “For me, I’m just like ‘it’s a wall.’”
Drumheller and Husted Kriss both said they have a fair share of first-hand stories and strange happenings that have occurred while they were working in the theater.
It is a common theater tradition Drumheller said, to keep a “ghost light” turned on when no one is around to “appease” any spirits that might linger there. At Broadway, there is a single light bulb that sits without a shade at the corner of the stage.
“I’m not a big ghost fanatic but at the same time, I always make sure the light is on when I leave,” Drumheller said.
Within the theater, paranormal activity has been reported in several places including the ladies restroom, a quaint office upstairs, the stairway, an old projection room and below the stage.
Often times, it is reports of objects that seem to have moved on their own when no one was around and lights that won’t turn on, Husted Kriss said.
Sometimes, the reports are a little scarier.
“I had one guy tell me he was coming down (the stairs) and in one of these corners he thought he saw a face staring at him,” Drumheller said pointing to a dark corner of the stairway high above him.
The women’s dressing room, located underneath the stage area, is a hot spot for ghost activity, Husted Kriss said. It’s a small room with low ceilings, moss-green walls and mirrors that sit on shelves.
“A person will come in, hang her dress right here…” Husted Kriss said. “And it will be hanging over there, as if someone had been rummaging through things,” Drumheller said, finishing her sentence.
Despite the amount of traffic in the dressing room, Husted Kriss said it isn’t sabotage from one actor to another, but something else. Something “weird," she said.
Downstairs of the historic theater is a return airflow duct that runs the width of the building. It’s just large enough for a person to crawl through, but the cement-brick tunnel disappears into an eerie, pitch-black nothingness.
It is here that people have reported seeing “glowing eyes” that suddenly vanish, Drumheller said.
“I’ve had two different people — at different times — say they’ve looked down in here while checking wiring and they swear they saw what appeared to be eyes,” Drumheller said.
It’s theoretically possible that an animal could wander into the duct, he said, but it doesn’t explain the eyes suddenly vanishing and there have never been any traces of an animal down there.
Above the house of the theater – where the audience sits and watches a show – there is an old projection booth that is now used for storing women’s clothing and props.
At odd times the light to the room would be turned on without plausible explanation, Drumheller said. Husted Kriss said there is absolutely a ghost that resides there.
Below the old projection room, there is a tech booth where things are commonly found misplaced. For example, the sound technician, Bob Matevich, will commonly find a single knob on the soundboard out of place, Drumheller said.
“Electronics are one thing that the other world can easily reach from and be able to manipulate to communicate,” Husted Kriss said.
Gray's Furniture store
Just two doors down from the theater, Gray’s Furniture and Appliances store serves as its own source of own ghost stories.
Its owners, Rosie and Mike Gray, believe there to be a friendly spirit that roams the store, whom they call “Gladys.”
“I think every place has a presence of some sort,” Rosie said. “Whether it’s good or bad, that’s the difference.”
The corner-lot building was built in 1903 and was previously the Mount Pleasant Post Office, a bakery, an auto sales and repair shop and in 1930 housed Harris Sample Furniture Company.
The Grays said it was also previously a theater and home to an undertaker’s business for about 50 years.
The Grays bought the building in 1974 and it never occurred to them that the building was haunted until customers began to point it out. People would come barreling down the stairs claiming that they had seen someone up on the third floor, or others would say they could feel a presence, Rosie said.
One customer even pinpointed the location of a ghost to being “behind the white curtain,” referring to a lace curtain that hangs in a doorway to an empty room. Another said they saw a woman in a white, old-fashion skirt, Mike said.
One day, when Rosie was making a deposit at the Isabella Bank, her bank teller told her that he had been in her furniture store before and that there was indeed someone on the third floor.
“By this time I had heard it before,” Rosie said. “He said he was ‘very sensitive to stuff’ and that there is ‘definitely someone up there, but you can’t see him.’”
The Gray’s were hearing this same story more and more from various people, but were having few experiences with it themselves, Rosie said.
“I’ve been up there all times of the day — night, late in the evening — and never felt threatened,” she said.
However, Rosie said a few strange things have happened like a time she was discussing a remodel on the second floor with her daughter and another employee. As they were talking, a stained-glass chandelier above the staircase began to sway.
Assuming it was being pushed by wind coming in from the door at the bottom of the stairs, she said the three women glanced at the glass door to see if it was open.
“I walked over there, the door was shut and the chandelier was still moving.” Rosie said. “So, I stopped the chandelier and we continued to talk. Then all of a sudden (the employee) said ‘it’s moving again.”
Sure enough it was, Rosie said.
Things sometimes move on their own at Gray’s, like the time Rosie and Mike were on the third floor exploring the option of putting in a window. Directly behind them, a door that was always kept shut and locked suddenly opened on its own, Rosie said.
”We didn’t feel threatened or anything, but we did go downstairs,” she said. “We didn’t stay up there.”
The Grays' son-in-law, Paul Fox, has had a few of his own strange experiences, he said. Like the time he was painting a wall after-hours and as he was close to finishing the project, he heard a rhythmic thud and footsteps coming from upstairs.
“All the lights were shut off other than where I was working,” Fox said. “I wasn’t about to venture upstairs and check it out so, I quickly wrapped up my paint stuff and got out of there.”
Another time, Rosie said the neighbors who lived next door above Stan’s Restaurant asked why they had been moving furniture around at 2 a.m.
Confused, the Grays told their neighbors that no one had been there in the middle of the night.
“I don’t know of any employee that would come in at 2 o'clock in the morning and move furniture,” Rosie said.
Yet, the next-door tenants were sure that they had heard moving furniture.
The print shop
Directly across the street from the furniture store at 215 E. Broadway St., there was an old print shop through the late 1980s to 1990s under the name William J. Wood Associates.
Shortly before the Woods took ownership of the building a tenant living in the upstairs died in the back stairway, said Wendy Wood, whose parents owned the shop.
“He must have liked living there because he never left,” she said.
While working in the shop the Woods would find misplaced objects or equipment that would mysteriously act up, Wood said.
One of her most prominent memories of activity was a timer kept in the dark room that would go off when no one was using it, she said.
“It would only happen occasionally,” Wood said. “And we’d be like ‘Did you just set the timer? I didn’t set the timer.’ It just went off.”
Her brother was the pressman at the shop and it was his job to set tiny dials with ink for printing.
“He’d walk away, come back and they would all be turned and he’d have to reset all the ink again,” Wood said.
Strange things kept happening to the point where her father had to have “a talk” with the ghost, asking him to keep the activity to a minimum during business hours, Wood said.
From 8:30 to 5:30 p.m. it was usually pretty quiet she said, but the ghost wasn’t as well behaved on weekends or when someone worked overtime.
However, Wood said she never felt threatened by the ghost, just that she could feel its presence and curiosity.
“It was more interested in the equipment and what we were doing than the people,” she said.
Today the corner-lot building houses various offices.