The Haunting & History of the Northern Michigan Asylum
One of the most haunted places in Michigan is the Traverse City State Hospital, 1200 West 11th Street, Traverse City. It was built as an insane asylum "for the feeble minded" in 1885 and also administered to people with diseases/conditions such as typhoid fever, diphtheria and tuberculosis. Some who have paid visit to this place – patients and non-patients – feel weird vibrations of things that have long passed…thanks to the Gothic-style buildings, underground tunnels and balconies with cages.
But before I get too far into that, here’s a brief history of the place:
In 1882, Architect Gordon W. Lloyd of Detroit began designing the Northern Michigan Asylum. Construction began the following year, with instructions that called for over 300,000 square feet, over 70 feet tall, and a quarter mile long.
Less than three years later, it was completed…around Thanksgiving 1885, the first patients were admitted.
Founding Medical Superintendent Dr. James Decker Munson’s philosophy was “Beauty is Therapy”. He felt that if patients were surrounded by a beautiful serene environment, this would help them on their way to recovery. Munson refused to use any type of restraint, like strait-jackets or straps; meals were served on fine china, not cheap plastic or paper plates, and served on white linen tablecloths.
Plants, artwork, uplifting phrases, and flowers adorned the gathering rooms and each patient room had a window with a good outside view.
It closed for good in 1989.
As for reported hauntings, the spirits of passed-on inmates are said to roam the halls and rooms, with witnesses sighting shapes in long white hospital gowns and hearing the usual noises: moans, sounds of despair, etc.
There is also a curiosity called “The Hippie (or Hippy) Tree” which is said to be the Portal To Hell. They conduct what they call their "Twilight Tours" and take you into the bowels, tunnels and crypt-like areas of the old asylum. It's been renovated for safety and thousands of people have already taken the tour. According to their website, “For those seeking an otherworldly experience, the evening skyline of building 50 is magical and unique…..observe the fascinating shadow play, and listen for the creeks and groans of the asylum cottages settling at night”. If you dig paranormal stuff, you should enjoy this.....there's not a lot that’s creepier than a former insane asylum. You must be at least 18 years old, the tour lasts about an hour-and-a-half and you need to call in advance.
Nowadays, the old asylum has been renovated and brought back to life and re-named “The Village at Grand Traverse Commons”. According to their website thevillagetc.com, “Imagine the metamorphosis from a laundry facility to a split-use coffee roastery and winery; a vegetable peeling building to a cheesecake shop; an old firehouse to a brick oven bakery”.
It’s definitely worth a place on your Michigan roadtrip itinerary.