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Ghosthunting Michigan (America's Haunted Road Trip)by Helen Pattskyn
Synopses & Reviews
Bowers Inn / Mission Table Restaurant Traverse City
Although probably best known for its wineries and annual Cherry Festival, Michigans Traverse Bay area is also the home of the Mission Table Restaurant (formerly called the Bowers Inn). Located twenty minutes north of Traverse City, on the coast of the Mission Point Peninsula, the Mission Table Restaurant was the first stop on my ghost hunting journey. Id never sought out and visited reportedly haunted hotels or restaurants before, so I was a little nervous, unsure how my questions about specters would be received by staff, other guests, and owners. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome I got at the Mission Table.
The drive up from Detroit was a long but pleasant one, and despite technical issues with my GPS, I had no difficultly locating the summer retreat turned fine dining restaurant using the directions from their Website (missiontable.net) as my only guide. The big blue building sits on the peninsulas main road, and though it is sheltered amongst the pine trees, its not hard to miss. As I drove around to the parking lot, which looks out over a vineyard, I tried to remember as much as I could of the story of Genevieve Stickney, the Mission Tables resident spectral inhabitant.
Genevieve and her husband J.W. Stickney, then an up and coming Chicago businessman, purchased the property in the late 1800s. At the time, the property consisted of an old farm house with a small orchard of fruit trees, and was one of only a handful of homesteads on the peninsula. While J.W. built his million-dollar-plus lumber and steel empire, Genevieve went to work building her own successful, home-based business, making jams, jellies, and brandy. Eventually, the couple tore down the old farmhouse and built the mansion that stands on the property today, which they used as a summer retreat.
Sadly, a story that should have been happily-ever-after ended in betrayal and heartbreak. As she aged, Genevieve became increasingly overweight, which resulted not only in a decline in her health, but increasing depression and emotional insecurity. One of the employees at the restaurant told me that at one point, Genevieve removed all of the mirrors on the property, presumably because she didnt want to look at herself any more. Genevieve is often described by historians of the Inn as bitter and jealous. It was during this period of physical and emotional decline that the Stickneys installed an elevator between the first and second floors, because Genevieve was no longer able to climb the stairs. J.W. also hired a young nurse to assist his ailing wife—but it turned out the nurse was doing more to help J.W. than Genevieve.
When J.W. passed away, Genevieve discovered that J.W. and the nurse had been carrying on an illicit affair behind her back for years. J.W. left his entire fortune to the nurse; Genevieve was left with only the house. She fell into a deep depression and eventually hanged herself from the rafters in the elevator.
Since Genevieves death, the property has changed hands several times, with little if any reports of ghostly phenomena, until 1959, when Jim and Fern Bryant purchased and renovated the old house, and began converting it into a restaurant. Since then, there have been many sightings of Genevieve, and even a few of J.W.
In 2006 John Carlson and Greg Lobdell, natives of Mission Point Peninsula, purchased the property and changed the name to the Mission Table. Carlson and Lobdell have worked closely with the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and Michigan Historic Preservation Network to preserve and protect the historic estate. In addition, Carlson and Lobdell instated a menu that includes local produce, and spotlights locally brewed beer, and wine from local wineries.
Arriving a little before three P.M., the Mission Table Restaurant wasnt open yet, but the Jolly Pumpkin, a cozy little pub located at the rear of the main building, was serving lunch. I only wished I didnt have several more hours drive ahead of me after I left Traverse City; I would have loved to have tried one of the local beers with my lunch. After ordering, I rather sheepishly gave my pre-planned speech to my server: My names Helen, and Im here because Im writing a book about haunted places in Michigan ” Id barely gotten the word haunted out of my mouth, when my waitresss eyes lit up a bit and she smiled.
I dont actually believe in ghosts,” she told me quietly, but this place is definitely haunted!” She promised shed be back to talk to me, just as soon as she cashed out her other table. Well, that had gone better than Id feared! (The Mission Table does have a whole page on their Website dedicated to Genevieves story, but you never really know how people are going to react when you start asking them about ghosts.)
When my waitress returned, she told me that shed spent a lot of time at Bowers Inn when she was younger. My family used to bring me in here all the time, but I never saw or heard anything until I started working here a few months ago.” She was careful to explain that everything shed experienced could be explained as something other than Genevieve playing tricks. Lights flickering, even a beer tap going on by itself, could probably be explained away as just one of those things.
But we both agreed that while flickering lights could be caused by a loose wire, beer taps dont usually just open up and start pouring on their own (shed lost several pints of beer before she got it shut off again; it wasnt just a trickle). Ive worked in restaurants myself, and have poured beer from taps; theyre not hard to pull, but they dont just fall open without help. Still, a loose beer tap isnt proof positive of Genevieve Stickneys afterlife presence in her home.
While I finished my lunch, my server went to find another waitress, Terri, who had been there longer and could tell me a lot more about Genevieve. Terri was getting ready for dinner service over in the Mission Table Restaurant, and I was invited to walk around upstairs before going over to talk to her.
The Jolly Pumpkin and Mission Table are connected through short series of halls and stairs and customers are welcome to go up and have a look around. I eagerly climbed the stairs and walked down a narrow hallway into the main building, the home Genevieve had shared with her husband, J.W., a hundred years ago. Looking around, it was apparent that the owners had gone through great lengths to preserve much of the turn of the nineteenth century charm, and it was easy to imagine what it must have been like for the Stickneys, during the happier days of their marriage, spending summers in this big, beautiful house, on the lakeshore.
Even knowing the whole story I didnt feel anything especially ominous as I walked around upstairs—until I ducked into the ladies room to change the batteries in my camera, which was starting to act up (most likely that had more to do with me than any ghosts!) As soon as I opened the ladies room door, I immediately felt something. Not quite a chill, but some sort of presence. Of course I shrugged it off at once. Ever the skeptic, I figured it was my own mind playing tricks on me; after all, there I was prowling around all alone in an old, reputedly haunted building. So, convinced I was spooking myself, I switched out my cameras batteries and went downstairs to find Terri. She was in the main dining room, setting up for an early dinner reservation, but more than happy to take a few minutes to talk to me.
Terri had been at the Mission Table from the start,” since the new owners took over in 2006—and from the very beginning, shed been aware of Genevieves presence in the old building. It stated at one of their first staff meetings; the entire staff was assembled in the dining room, not far from where we were standing. I was sitting right over there,” she pointed to the far corner. We were going over the menu and we were getting to taste everything, when suddenly I felt a chill.” Terri told me she initially shrugged it off, but then the woman sitting next to her asked do you feel that?” Shed felt the same icy chill.
Of course, its an old building, it could just have been a draft, right?
Terri didnt think so, and by the time we were done talking, I was inclined to think there might be something to Genevieves story, too.
On another occasion, Terri told me, she and another waitress were standing upstairs, near an ornate gold mirror that hangs in the hallway, surrounded by old photographs. (According to several histories online, this mirror was purchased by the Stickneys because it seems to make people looking into it appear slimmer.) Terri and her co-worker were standing on opposite sides of the mirror, but no one was in front of it. She describes what they both saw reflected in the mirror as an aura or a misty apparition. It passed across the mirror and vanished. Neither woman would have believed what theyd seen, if someone else hadnt seen it, too.
The next story Terri told me was about the ladies room upstairs—the one I felt the presence in. (I hadnt mentioned my experience to her.) Apparently, the ladies room is one of Genevieves favorite haunts. One night, when Terri was changing clothes after work in the ladies room upstairs, she heard a loud rattling at the door of the outer room (The ladies lounge upstairs has two rooms, the lounge area and the restroom itself.). She shrugged it off, but upon exiting, an irate customer accused her of holding the door shut, preventing her from entering. Terri was nowhere near the door when the customer was trying to open it—and the door doesnt have a lock. She said Genevieve has held the door shut on several people.
On another occasion, Terri told me she was serving a large party and one of the guests asked about the restaurants haunted history, adding quite firmly, that she doesnt believe in ghosts. Terri smiled and offered to tell her a few of her personal stories, if the guest wanted to hear them, as soon as she had a minute. As dinner progressed into desert, Terri served this particular woman a dish of frozen yogurt. The dish was cold, the yogurt was cold and a moment after Terri set it in front of her customer, the dish shattered (no one was hurt). Terri jokingly tisked her customer, saying that was what she got for saying she didnt believe in ghosts. Then a thought occurred to her.
Are you a nurse?” Terri asked her customer.
Puzzled by the odd question, the guest confirmed that yes, she was. Why?
Terri told her Genevieves story. Apparently, the only time Genevieve is known to get at all nasty is when it comes to nurses. Little wonder, given her husbands infidelity.
Terri did tell me that shes never felt uncomfortable working in the old haunted restaurant; she tells Genevieve good night every day when she leaves work. Gennies more of a prankster than anything else,” Terri expressed firmly. She likes to play with the lights and the sound system.” On any number of occasions, management has turned everything off for the night and gone upstairs to do the end of the day paperwork, only to come back down later to find the lights and music back on, even though no one else was in the building and the doors were securely locked. Terri also told me that when the owners were renovating the landscaping a while back, workers dug up all sorts of jam and jelly jars—Genevieve had gotten quite eccentric in her later years and had taken to burying
On this leg of the journey youll explore the scariest spots in the Wolverine State. Author Helen Pattskyn visits more than 30 legendary haunted places, all of which are open to the public—so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.
Join Helen as she visits each site, snooping around eerie rooms and dark corners, talking to people who swear to their paranormal experiences, and giving you a first-hand account.
Enjoy Ghosthunting Michigan from the safety of your armchair or hit the road, using the maps, Haunted Places” travel guide with 50 more spooky sites and Ghostly Resources.” Buckle up and get ready for the spookiest trip of your life.
As part of the Americas Haunted Road Trip series, Ghosthunting Michigan takes readers along on a guided tour of some of the Great Lake States most haunted historic locations. With a background in library science, author Helen Pattskyn researched each location thoroughly before visiting, digging up clues for the paranormal aspect of each site. Her approach to each site allows readers to decide whether or not the ghost stories are really true. In Ghosthunting Michigan, Pattskyn takes readers along as she explores some of her home states most haunted locations, starting with a visit to the Whitney in Downtown Detroit. Some of the other sites include Belle Isle, historic Fort Wayne, the Grand Plaza Hotel, Eagle Harbor, the Point Iroquis Lighthouse, and many more.
About the Author
Helen Pattskyn first became interested in the paranormal at an early age and has since read many books on ghosts, hauntings, and strange phenomena. Helen has enjoyed visiting cemeteries, old buildings and other reportedly haunted locations, approaching each with an open mind. With an educational background in library science, Helen spends her time as a writer and artist attending local science fiction conventions.
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