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Ghost Trestle Letdown

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I tried to be like Scooby-Doo and his gang this weekend and solve a ghostly mystery, but no such luck.

A few years ago, courtesy of Facebook, I learned of a spot near Adrian known as the Ghost Trestle. I am all for anything related to trains, so I printed out the directions how to get there. And stuffed them in my desk. And a year or two later, I actually got around to finding the spot. It is a very creepy spot that does provide sufficient heebie-jeebies.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

I drove my son out there recently so that he could see it. He wanted to know the ghost story. I tried to cobble it together from what I could remember. When I got home, I Googled it. Here is what I found:

Legend has it that at one time there was a farm house built near the tracks. Late one night a fire broke out in the barn. While the father ran to the barn to try to get the horses out, his wife and young son went to the tracks to wave down one of the many trains that would use that right of way. They were too close to the tracks however and both were struck by the train as it went past. The father was killed in the barn. Now if you go out there late at night, you can sometimes communicate with the Father. He will not allow you to talk to his wife or son; as if he was protecting them . There are other people living in the area now, and a large streetlight has been placed there by the people who own the neighboring land. If you stay there to long, they will call the police. However if you make your visit short enough they will usually leave you to it. This place has also been described as a good place to go to contact other spirits. The Father can be asked to help in this matter. He will not allow antagonistic spirits to talk however; once again to protect his family.

www.paranormalmichigan.com

Low and behold, all five or so results that come up are all the same story. EXACTLY THE SAME. Cut & paste in this age of technology, baby. Everyone is saying “This is the story”, when in reality, it is just one person’s story repeated over and over. The originator could have been a big, fat liar, and no one would be the wiser.

So, I decided it would be MY job to come up with the definitive truth behind this legend. I took a genealogical approach to the situation. I began how I begin every search, which I am sure is not at all how everyone else begins: with an atlas and a cemetery search. I know, it sounds weird and labor-intensive, but I have found the best stuff about my ancestors that way.

The atlas is a combined reissue from 1978 from my local historical society featuring maps from years 1874, 1893,  and 1916. Where the ghost trestle is located can be pretty easily found on the map, as it is just south of the intersection of Bailey & Gier roads, the Wabash (also DT&I and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern) railroad, and the nearby south branch of the River Raisin. I jotted down the names of the people who owned the land near there at those three times.

On the 1874 map, the railroad is just a “proposed route” which differs slightly from where it was actually built, so I use 1874 as my starting date. I found mention of an article from the Adrian Daily Telegram on August 23, 1897 where an N. Stevens talks about a haunted house. A website attributed it to the ghost trestle. I didn’t verify it, but used 1897 as my high-end cut off for dates.

Then, since it was 10:00pm at night and too late to go to the actual Madison Township cemetery, I searched on the website FindaGrave.com to look for any family members who all died on the same day or year. I came across the tombstone of “B. Carpenter and wife Eliza and Dau. Lucy.”

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

When I found the tombstone, I cried. It was really no proof of anything, but just the thought of a family all dying together upset me, the proof before me, their names carved in stone. And what if it had been under such tragic circumstances?

No dates visible in the picture or provided on the website. But that they are all on the same marker struck me as interesting. I had relatives, a husband and wife, who perished with another couple when they all fell through a frozen Devil’s Lake in 1858. All four of their names are on the same tombstone, two different sir names. Most people other than myself would have no idea why.

Michigan has an AWESOME database where you can look up actual death certificates. I found out how my great-great grandmother and infant aunt died using it. But, unfortunately, it BEGINS in 1897. No Carpenters for me.

So, I started Googling and looking at census for the Carpenter family in Madison. I watched them age every ten years, learned their family relationships. B. most likely stood for Benjamin. Eliza may have stood for Elizabeth. Very common names back then. And if he were to have married and had a child between census, it wouldn’t have caught it.

I went to the historical museum and searched their card catalog of obituaries, some dating from the 1800s. It is usually a gold mine of info. All I found was the possible listing of Benjamin’s mother’s death on December 10, 1893. It was a death notice, and not a full obituary; sometimes they are like mini-family histories. I asked all the employees at the library. The one gentleman used to go out to the Ghost Trestle with his friends as a teenager. All he could remember was that when heading south on Bailey road on the northwest side of the tracks on the right there was an old house that has since been torn down. That was cool, but didn’t really help me much.

And there are so many variables to consider, giving me roadblocks. The ghost story relies on the sweet image of a newlywed couple and their first child, an entire family perishing tragically in one night. But what if there were other children who survived? What if it had been grandparents with a grandchild?

And some seem to believe the Ghost Trestle is haunted from those who died roughly 10 miles away in Seneca in 1901 in the wreck of the Wabash. (There will be an event on September 24, 2016 at Oakwood Cemetery in Adrian to memorialize all the victims, including 75 to 100 Italian immigrants whose resting place has only recently been discovered.) But I don’t feel like the Seneca ghosts would want to trot that far to spook a bunch of drunk teenagers. And the houses? One allegedly torn down and another still standing? They could be a clue for someone else, but I am not good at researching property records.

I wanted this blog post to be the absolute history of the Ghost Trestle, with sources and shit. I didn’t set out to prove if it was haunted or not, just if it had a story that could support the possibility.

So, I was unable to find any concrete proof of anything. I still just have a tombstone with no dates. And there was Benjamin Carpenter who had a son Benjamin. Families all reused names over and over again. Who the hell knows who is really buried under that stone! I need to run out to the cemetery, see if there is maybe a family marker with more information. There is a very real chance that these people died totally uneventfully and are at peace in the afterlife. But, well, I have to abandon this search for now. In the next week I have a book to convert from longhand to electronic and a list of four books I want to have read, in addition to planning and packing for my first ever trip to Utopia con, a writers conference.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

My thoughts right now are that it just happens to be a creepy bridge, and nothing of the story of the farmer and his wife and child are true. It would almost be good if that were the case, it is such a sad story.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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“We are not going to Mackinaw City.”

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My mom and I took a vacation “Up North” in Michigan in June of 1990. I had completed 8th grade, and was due to change buildings to start scary high school in the fall. My 80’s perm that I had finally gotten caused my hair to become dry and frizzy, and I didn’t have the good sense yet to cut it of. My hair would never be as long again until my future wedding. I still toted my New Kids on The Block book with me, and of course my stuffed animal Barfeys.

Turning in for the night with the essentials

Turning in for the night with the essentials

We were only going for three days. My mom decided we would travel up the west side of the state. This was a change from trips we had taken Up North in the past. Usually we were gone for four days, to allow for more sight-seeing, and we usually traveled up the east side or the middle of the state.

“We are not going to Mackinaw City.”

This was my mom’s statement, over and over again, as we planned out the trip. Mackinaw City, and with it the Mackinaw Bridge, are two of my mom’s favorite things in the world. We had been there before. But I think she made the statement for two reasons.

  • I think she wanted to see something new we had not seen before, which is why we went up the west side of the state.
  • How she travels, then this took longer, and I don’t think she had enough money for us to have another night’s motel stay.
  • And she did not want to drive all the way home from Mackinaw City in one day.

Wait. That is three reasons. But they are all related to each other.

We headed off at the end of June. My mom must have thought I was old enough to pack for myself, because I went without a jacket. It is summer! It is June! Who needs a jacket!

That was the gloomiest, rainiest, coldest end of June, until 2015. Since then, I have learned that it is always colder the further north you go, and near the water. Either way, it was still colder than it should have been. My mom told me to layer my T-shirts, so I did. It did not really help to keep me any warmer.

Our first major stop was Holland, Michigan. It was really awesome to see an actual Dutch windmill. There were dancers who wore wooden shoes. They were impressive. Even with wearing layers and layers of socks, I still figured that must be the worst summer job in town.

We traveled through Muskegon that day, and spent the night in Manistee. I kept thinking how much it sounded like “manatee.” We went to sleep and dreamed of warm days and sunny skies. But the dawn brought only more clouds and rain.

In the morning, my mother reminded me, “We are not going to Mackinaw City. We need to start heading back down for home tonight, so we will not have a long drive tomorrow.”

We traveled through Frankfort and spotted a lighthouse across the water. Lighthouses are my favorite. If I recall correctly, my mom found a condo parking lot she drove through to get a better look at it. The Frankfort light may have been the first one I ever saw with a breakwater attached to it. The way the rough waters splashed up against it was impressive. I could have captured it better with a digital camera, but they did not exist yet.

Frankfort Breakwater Light, Frankfort, MI 1990

Frankfort Breakwater Light, Frankfort, MI 1990

We stopped at Sleeping Bear Dunes, another of my favorite places. Not so much when it is blowing and cold and rainy though. The first time we had ever been there, I was like eight years old. My mom wasn’t spry enough to climb the dunes with me, and I was too young to climb them by myself. Now, I was old enough to go up myself, but the weather was just too crappy. We bought me a souvenir T-shirt in the gift shop, to add to my layers of warmth. (I was wearing all the shirts I had brought for the entire vacation every day.) It was neon pink and three sizes too big, because I was not done with 80’s fashions yet.

The wind is blowing my shirt, but it looks like something else...

The wind is blowing my shirt, but it looks like something else…

If you think this is just a post about me whining about a gloomy trip, please stick with me. I am almost to the part where the cloud bank lifts and the angels sing. Actually, it was a band playing, but you get the idea…

We went to Traverse City. We drove out on Old Mission Point and found another lighthouse. We couldn’t go inside or climb this one either, but at least we could take pictures out front.

Old Mission Point Lighthouse, near Traverse City, MI 1990

Old Mission Point Lighthouse, near Traverse City, MI 1990

Then a strange thing happened.

My mom got on the road to Mackinaw City (Route 31, most likely). We passed through little towns. We passed by convenience stores selling fudge. We passed through the big cities of Charlevoix and Petoskey.

She kept driving. I kept quiet. Sure, I was the navigator with the map, but she had to know we were headed for Mackinaw City, right? After all, there were road signs that indicated we were nearing it. Billboards advertising the various ferry companies, Arnold, Sheplers, and Star Line, became more and more prominent.

Another funny thing happened. The clouds began to clear.

But she was the mother, the adult, and she had said, “We are not going to Mackinaw City.”

Had she lost her mind? Taken leave of her senses?

Either way, I was keeping my mouth shut, because I really really DID want to go to Mackinaw City. I figured if I didn’t say anything, we would just end up there and it would be too late.

And that is just what happened. We rolled into Mackinaw City. And while I wouldn’t say the sun came out, the rain stopped.

The weather improved enough that the kite store was flying a long string of colorful kites up into the sky, all tied to one another. It was like a fabric rainbow after the rain. The scent of fresh fudge hung heavy in the air. Next to the Straits of Mackinac in the park at the end of the street, a huge band started to set up. When they began to play, the music drifted down the street, where cars were parked along the center boulevard as they probably had since the 1950’s, and souvenir shops lined up next to each other. Since the 4th of July was only a few weeks away, they had many patriotic songs mixed into their selections. I guess it made sense that they were playing in the town square, since it was a Saturday evening. But I was on vacation, and had lost all track of time.

Actual program from that night's performance

Actual program from that night’s performance

I just think back on that night so fondly. It is one of the moments in my life that I will cherish forever. That may be one of the most relaxed and happy times of my life, right then. My mom and I walked the shops until the lights shined brightly inside and the sun fell below the horizon, in the shadow of the giant bridge, connecting the the two peninsulas like a neck connects a head to a body.

In the morning, the sun shone brightly in the sky (of course!). We made one last visit to my mom’s favorite park by the bridge, then started off on our long trip home.

Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, MI 1990

Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City, MI 1990

Years later, I admitted to her that I knew where we were headed but I hadn’t said anything. “Oh, I knew where we were going. But we were that close, and I just couldn’t help but head up there.”

Still, I think she may have been in a vacation daze. If I had said anything, who knows, it may have snapped her out of it. Then we never would have gone to Mackinaw City. I wish I was there right now. With a jacket, just in case…

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)

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THE QUARANTINE

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!


I live in a small town in Southeastern Michigan called Adrian. While it is small by New York, Chicago, Detroit standards, approximately 44,600 people live here and it is the county seat. So then, you would think, when they make major road construction plans that they would make sure there is still a way in and out of the city that isn’t blocked.

A map of Adrian showing the construction projects of 2012, as compiled by me.


Think again. Great government minds at work.

You also have to realize that there are small towns around Adrian that have no Walmart, Meijer, Lowes, or Spotted Cows. Hence, people come from far and wide (Blissfield, Riga, Deerfield, Palmyra) to go to Adrian (when they don’t feel like driving to Toledo or Ann Arbor).

Now, to get to Adrian from the East, you have to cross the River Raisin. The River Raisin is no ordinary river. Ripley’s Believe It or Not deemed it the most crooked river in the world. (Or so they tell students in the local high school science classes.) There are a limited number of bridges to cross the River Raisin from the East. (This is really inconvenient when the river floods and closes several of them.) The main crossing between Blissfield and Adrian and the most convenient is in Palmyra. Which is now a one lane bridge due to construction. It has been since, like, April. No end in the forseeable future. My brother-in-law even contacted the Michigan Department of Transportation via Facebook to ask if they would be finished soon. They only answered that they were on schedule. And that means our grandchildren will have a new bridge?

A map of Lenawee County showing all the 2012 construction projects, that I gathered myself.


Many locals take a road north of the Palmyra bridge construction to get into Adrian. Or they did. Until they started resurfacing that road, going so far as to close it completely some days.

This leaves only a southern detour to get to Blissfield, even involving a stretch of gravel road.

My asbestos friend, in utter frustration trying to reach the grocery store recently, texted me that Adrian must be quarantined, because it was almost impossible to get to it.

I laughed very hard and realized she was totally right. My husband doesn’t get it.

This summer’s construction has been really miserable and it isn’t anywhere near over as they begin new projects every day. IN OCTOBER!!!!!

We have 2 seasons in Michigan–Winter and Construction. Winter is here. It is time for Construction to END!

Damn right!

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