The last days of October find the Keweenaw busy with Halloween fun. Folks around town are treated to spooky decorations in shop fronts, smiling scarecrows, and a community lively with anticipation for Halloween events and camaraderie. The surreal, warm autumn that brought us blazing fall color and bluebird days for fall adventuring begin to chill… the leaves fall, the winds bite a little more, and the skies cast grey. Beneath the laughter of Hallow’s Eve revelry, something stirs… The Copper Country is a place where history melds with the unknowable. Those that seek to experience the uncanny in the Keweenaw need not travel far…
The Calumet Theater has been an icon of the Copper Country since the 1900s. Today, she still stands proudly in downtown Calumet. At night, the marquee twinkles brightly ushering attendees into the historic auditorium. But in the still of the magnificent theater… a chill passes through the air. Take a tour, and perhaps from the stage, you’ll catch a glimpse of a lone figure in the balcony. A regal woman, known to mouth the words to actors who have forgotten lines, might make herself known to you. This spectral actress was known in life as Madame Helena Modjeska, a Polish Shakespearean actress who excelled in tragic roles. In death, she steals behind unwitting patrons for one last encore…
The copper mining boom that defined an era in the Keweenaw’s history brought great growth and wealth, but copper mining’s decline also took some communities as a casualty. During these blustery October days, take a hike through the remaining ghost towns of Cliff Mine and Central Mine. Tall, stone stacks rise from the fall forests like lonely sentinels, and the ruins of buildings beckon you to cross their thresholds once more. In a place like Central Mine, you can walk amidst some of the maintained homes and the church, courting the spirits of long-lost residents. We’ve even been told tales that late at night, on a still night in the town of Central you can hear the distant echoes of the past: the jingling of horse tack, the crunch of wagon wheels, ethereal voices, and the steady pacing of the church’s pastor watching over his flock rise into the cold, starry night…
Central Mine Experience:
For those especially brave, take yourself to one of the Keweenaw’s historic graveyards. At places like Lake View Cemetery outside Calumet on M-203, you can mindfully and respectfully wind your way through unique gravemarkers. Each one is symbolic of the person it’s memorializing, you can glean a unique understanding of the area’s history. Find wilder gravesites at the Cliff Mine Cemetery, a largely unmarked path indicated only by the sign on the side of US 41 near Cliff Drive. After a short trek through the underbrush, you will find headstones and wild growth in a highly atmospheric locale.
Cliff Mine Experience:
When the sun sets in October, the night falls in a complete and endless black. If you’re lucky, a clear night affords the cold comfort of starlight, but don’t stray far from the campfire’s glow… at the edge of the woods you can hear the howls and yips of coyote, or at least you hope that’s what’s making that sound. Rumors long have swirled that a massive half-man, half-canine cryptid known as the Dogman hunts these Michigan Northwoods. From the U.P. to Lower Michigan, tales tell of lumberjacks harried by this creature… glowing eyes in the woods their only warning. Maybe carry a few Milk Bones on your nighttime outings…
Hidden behind one of the Keweenaw’s most beloved purveyors of minerals, the supernatural enthusiast will find The Vortex, which some claim is a nexus of healing energy and otherworldly forces. Mythologized by the Detroit Free Press and featured in a paranormal romance novel by Anna Durand, the twisted cedar grove behind Prospector’s Paradise in Allouez is said to attract “various witches, tourists, gypsies, and supernatural beings.”
When you’re touring the mines, have you heard a faint knocking? Whispered voices where there should be none? Seemingly misplaced an item or lost your way? Then you’ve met the Knockers. Fae creatures of Cornish legend, the Knockers are mischievous creatures who dwell in caves and wells. Cornish miners knew the Knockers also by their Celtic names- the bucca gwidden (good spirits), and the bucca dhu (their more sinister foil). Miners learned to heed the eerie sounds of the bucca – a quiet shaft meant there were no Knockers, and therefore safe. Wary miners left offerings for the Knockers – typically a portion of their daily pasty. So next time you are in the Keweenaw, consider saving a portion of pasty crust for the Knockers.
Delaware Mine: Ghost Town of the Keweenaw
Known by some Copper Country locals as “Magnetic Hill”, the Tamarack Water Works Road has been known to create a bizarre illusion. At certain points along the road, if you shift your vehicle into neutral and take your foot off the brake, your car will seem to be pulled uphill. Some could explain the phenomena as a rare confluence of various landscape perspectives creating an optical illusion… but we know that there is an undeniable mystic force that draws people to the Keweenaw, and this might just be a nexus point where you can see it in action!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Makela is a filmmaker and the fearless leader of 2nd Sandbar Productions. Through visual media and writing, she hopes to uplift and support the creative and professional community around her. While a native Michigander, she’s a Keweenite-come-lately. Years spent living in the South only made her love and passion for Michigan and its people only more acute. In the summer, you’ll find her with her daughter and partner swimming at Misery Bay, and in the winter, building tunnels through the snow for their basset hounds.