MYSTERIOUS MICHIGAN: The Deserted Old House on Bellow Island
Ruins of an old house still sit on this tiny, tiny island off the Leelenau Peninsula. The island, officially named Bellow Island, but often referred to as “Gull Island,” sits in Northport Bay, a subsidiary of Grand Traverse Bay.
Mysterious? Depends on your point of view…and whether you visit during the day or have enough courage to spend the night on the island all by yourself.
The house was built as a vacation getaway in 1910 by Edward Taylor Ustick Sr., a prominent St. Louis businessman.
Over the years, the family tolerated the massive amount of seagulls that inhabit that little island. You’d think they’d catch some kind of disease transmitted by the birds, but wasn’t the case. The Ustick family would continue to summer at the house for approximately 30 years, living in an unasked-for understanding between the birds and the humans. The understanding? The birds can do what they want, eat what they want, breed where they want, fly inside the house if they want and poop where they want. The usticks obviously didn’t like this arrangement but what choice did they have, if they wanted to keep coming back to their summer cottage?
During World War II, the Usticks stopped visiting the island. Edward Sr. was now a state manager in Cambridge, Massachusetts and there wasn’t any more time to visit Michigan.
Edward’s son Lee Ustick got a call from the Michigan State cops in 1948 saying that six teenage vandals had wrecked the island cottage. Upon viewing the damage, they were shocked. The whole house had been completely devastated by an axe. As one police officer was quoted, “I have never seen a building so completely wrecked with an axe. Even the plumbing was hacked and battered. An ice box was chopped and the bathtub, made of enamel covered cast iron was wrecked…..Every window in the building was knocked out and even the stairway was chopped and hacked.”
Also, the entire insides were completely demolished – furniture, woodwork, paneling and all.
The troubling aspect of this? The damage was done by the offspring of the Usticks’ “friends.” Why their own friends would perpetrate this act of disrespect & vandalism was never understood…except maybe some jealousy may have contributed.
The house was never inhabited again.
You can visit this little island and the ruins for yourself if you don’t mind wading through seagull poop or having some dropped on your head. See the photo gallery above for photos of the house and where the island is located!