Harry Houdini died on Halloween, 1926—in Detroit, just about 100 miles east of Marshall, where his milk can and overboard box are on display at the one-of-a-kind American Museum of Magic. Founded in 1978, this is one of the city’s most noted year-round museums. Yet, during the autumn season the lore of greatest magicians of the 19th and 20th centuries draw special interest to those seeking spirited experiences. Each year, on October 31, there is a séance held at the museum with hopes of contacting the ghost of Houdini. During his life, Houdini himself was known to have attended hundreds of séances —in his efforts to reveal frauds within the magic industry.
Built in 1835, Marshall’s two-story National House Inn once served as a stagecoach stop as a midway point between Chicago and Detroit. Featuring 16 bedrooms and decorated in 19th century Victorian and vintage country style, this bed-and-breakfast overlooks the center of town and Brooks Memorial Fountain. Once an integral part of the Underground Railroad, this towering brick building is home to one unsettled spirit. HauntedHouses.com reports that “a full, life-like apparition of a woman dressed in red appears before guests and staff, going about her business, roaming around the halls upstairs and in the downstairs area.” The National House Inn was also rumored to have ties to Prohibition-era mob ganger Al Capone, which adds to the ghostly allure of the building, its hidden rooms and tunnels.
They say every vote counts, and no city in Michigan knows that better than Marshall. Once under consideration for the state capitol in the 1830s, a large area was set aside on the south side of town, financed locally and named Capitol Hill. James Wright (J.W.) Gordon and his wife, Mary, settled in town and had a Greek Revival home constructed across the street from the land proposed for the Capitol. Gordon ran for and won the seat of lieutenant governor in 1840, and when Governor William Woodbridge left office for the U.S. Senate in 1841, Gordon became acting governor. Marshall ended up losing the bid for the Capitol to Lansing—by a single vote—yet the Governor’s Mansion and Capitol Hill School remain vital parts of the town’s heritage (and are listed with the National Register of Historic Places). Governor Gordon died unexpectedly in Brazil in 1852 and his mourning wife is believed to still haunt the halls of their home, which currently houses the Mary Marshall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. There have also been reports of the spirit of an unidentified young girl seen wandering the hallways and grounds.
Encompassing 65 acres in four developed sections, Marshall’s Oak Ridge Cemetery has more than 11,000 burial sites dating back to 1839 (the same year that the Governor’s Mansion was built). Noted as one of the oldest and most historic cemeteries in the state, Oak Ridge is the final resting place for many of the town’s well-known citizens and political leaders. There have been several reports of paranormal activity here, including ghostly apparitions seen wandering through the grounds, electronic voice phenomena (EVP) readings and even unexplained touches to the living who have walked here in search of spirits.
It was 1943 when Wayne Cornwell began farming in the area. Yet, he and his wife, Marjorie, had a tough time of it in the beginning and their herd of cows fell sick and died. Determined to make a go of it, they acquired a dozen turkeys and thus Cornwell’s Turkeyville USA was born. Over its 70-plus-year history, the operation has expanded into Michigan’s premier dinner theater serving up the complete turkey dinner, year-round. They also operate seasonal flea markets, craft shows, plow days, a gift shop, ice cream parlor and RV park and campground. As they’ve expanded over the years, one thing remains a constant—and that is that Wayne is still part of the business operations, even though he passed away in 1996. Family and employees say he walks the halls, tilts photos and makes his presence known as the Cornwell patriarch.
The Marshall Carriage Company hosts 90-minute walking and horse-drawn carriage tours past some of the city’s most haunted homes, buildings and sites. According to the blog AmericanHaunts, stops on the tour include:
• The Stagecoach Inn—which was a gentleman-only hotel and a one-time bordello where the ghosts of woman leave doors open, turn around photographs and leave cupboard doors open;
• The Block Building—the upper floor of the city’s opera house, where the voice of a man can be heard practicing his lines and acting out scenes;
• The Filligree Supply Building—where machines operate or turn off on their own and cold spots are reported;
• The Cronin Building—where sisters Elizabeth and Virginia Cronin still help customers in their once dry goods store (now Grand River Brewery) offering cordial welcomes such as “good day, how are you?” and “how many I help you?”;
• The American Museum of Magic—(see above).
Among the group’s activities include a Friday gathering and book signing at the National House Inn, followed by an evening historic haunted carriage ride. Saturday includes an investigation of the Oakridge Cemetery, Governor’s Mansion and National House Inn.
Even Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub claims its own ghost—that of Albert “Bert” Schuler who founded the company in 1909. Donna Barlond joined the Schuler’s team in 1994 and is known as the resident historian. She is quick to recount stories of past guests, special events and key moments in the restaurant’s history.
“Bert is said to remain in the restaurant and on occasion makes himself known to staff, and sometimes guests,” says Donna. “You will know it is him by the tell-tale smell of cigar smoke. He will sometimes open a door or cause a small object to fall…just to get your attention. At times you might feel an unseen presence. We all feel he means no harm and stays here because he loves the place and wants everyone to do a good job.”“As you can imagine, in this old building there are bound to be a few ghosts,” Donna says. “He took readings with what he said was a spirit reader and got several blips and white light readings. One spirit in the pub said his name was Sam. He also had positive readings in the lobby and upstairs, but no communication with these spirits.”
The iconic Schuler’s Restaurant & Pub epitomizes hospitality excellence as a family-owned and operated business. Located at the crossroads of south-central Michigan near the intersection of I-94 and I-69, this world-class Pure Michigan destination has built its 109-year reputation by offering guests quality food and excellent service, in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.