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Spooky U.P. tales, just in time for Halloween

The Upper Peninsula is home to so much rich history, and with it, plenty of legends and tall tales. From maritime anecdotes to wilderness stories, there’s no shortage of strangeness in the UP’s historical accounts. Just in time for Halloween, Here are five of the best unexplained and spooky UP stories. These are just some of my personal favorites, as there are so many more tales around the peninsula! 


The Paulding Light – Paulding

Perhaps the most infamous of Upper Peninsula legends, the Paulding Light is a mysterious glowing orb that appears in a clearing near the road. Legend says that the light is the ghost of a railroad employee who met his demise at the location, while others say it’s just a result of swamp gas or reflective car lights. Michigan Tech students even did a research project on it in 2010, promptly declaring the orb to be a result of headlights. Either way, it’s appeared almost nightly since the 1960s and remains a favorite mystery of Copper Country residents and tourists alike. 


Calumet Theatre – Calumet

The Calumet Theatre is well-known in the local area for its favorite ghostly actress, Madame Helena Modjeska. Modjeska was a famous Shakespearean actress, born in Poland, who performed at the theatre a few times in its early years. In 1958, actress Addyse Lane claimed Modjeska’s ghost helped her with forgotten lines during a performance of “Taming of the Shrew,” and the theatre has had this spooky reputation ever since. Modjeska is not believed to be alone, however, as theatre staff report many unusual occurrences, such as unexplained music, cold drafts, and randomly locked doors. 


Marquette Harbor Lighthouse – Marquette

As if the thought of being a lighthouse keeper isn’t eerie enough (Imagine lone, dark nights during a stormy winter, right on Lake Superior’s edge? No thanks!), most lighthouses have their own ghost stories, too. The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, which overlooks the rocky shore of Lake Superior, is said to be haunted by the spirit of a little girl. The ghost is said to be seen peering out a window on the top floor, typically during times when Superior is at its calmest. Having toured this lighthouse myself when I was younger, I remember our tour guide saying that a child visiting the house on a past tour reported playing ball with a mysterious young girl that no one else had seen.


The Landmark Inn – Marquette

This historic and scenic hotel has been a favorite sight in Marquette for decades, and while the inn offers some incredible wonders in terms of architecture and history, it also offers plenty of spooky stories. The Landmark Inn’s most popular haunted story centers around the luxurious Lilac Room on its sixth floor, a common meeting place. Called the “Lilac Lady,” this supposed spirit haunts the room and makes unexplained phone calls from the Lilac Room when no one else is around. Her ghost is also said to roam the halls after these random calls are received by the front desk. 


Le Griffon – Lake Michigan

A summary of spooky Upper Peninsula events wouldn’t be complete without a shipwreck, as the UP’s history is so heavily reliant on the surrounding Great Lakes. Le Griffon is perhaps one of the most famous Great Lakes shipwrecks as its wreckage has never been recovered. Having vanished in 1679, Le Griffon is one of the region’s earliest shipwrecks, and individuals have been hunting for its remains for years. The ship was last seen after a stop on Washington Island (a Wisconsin island in the Green Bay portion of Lake Michigan) as it headed east for the Straits of Mackinac, and then onward to Niagara. Researchers believe that the remnants of Le Griffon probably lie in waters off Poverty Island, on the southern border between the UP and Lake Michigan. While this tale isn’t particularly attached solely to the Upper Peninsula, it definitely has some historical significance here. 

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