A while back, I wrote about the Spiritualist Camp in Grand Ledge…but there was another one on the other side of Lansing.

What we now know as Lake Lansing Park was a spiritualist camp that simply went by the name of Haslett Park. The retreat was founded in 1882 by the man who the town was named after, James Haslett.

What is spiritualism? According to The Free Dictionary, “Spiritualist camps, which first became popular in late-nineteenth-century America, are secluded places where people of similar religious conviction can gather in private to attend meetings and focus on nurturing their faith”.

Well, that’s one way to put it.
Spiritualists gathered and attempted to contact those in the afterlife - the dead – not just to speak with their deceased loved ones, but to try and learn more about what lies beyond all earthly things. Seances were held and conducted by both professional and self-proclaimed mediums, spirit guides, seers, soothsayers, clairvoyants, mentalists, psychics, telepathists, channelers, and mystics.

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In 1890, the Haslett Park provided a special house for the mediums so they wouldn’t have to leave as they continued their training and development.

Haslett Park was also home to the Haslett Park Club Circle, an 1890 off-shoot of the spiritualist camp. The club’s purpose was to promote the camp meetings and events. The Club and Camp both had high hopes of Haslett Park becoming America’s mecca for spiritualists – a dream that would draw spiritualists and believers from all over the country. But it wasn’t to happen. When James Haslett passed away in 1891, so did the dream. The spark was gone, and soon, most of the attendees were as well.

Today, there are 18 Spiritualist camps/clubs/churches in Michigan. According to sunsetcamp.org, they are currently in:
Battle Creek
Bay City
Charlevoix
Clarkston
Detroit
Ferndale
Flint
Grand Rapids (2)
Highland
Jackson
Lansing
Leoni
Leslie
Marshall
Oxford
Royal Oak
South Haven

Spiritualism hit hard after the Civil War based on revivalist churches. The gatherings began being held mostly in the month of August, after the local farmers were done planting. This meant people had more time to attend, as the major part of farming was done…until harvest time. August is the hottest month of the year, so the meetings were usually held near a lake or someplace cool with plenty of shade trees. Attendees would pitch tents, make lean-tos, or just use blankets on the ground. Over time with more people attending, camps began constructing cottages and inns for stayovers. Cafés and little shops also were established.

Contrary to what some believed at the time, there was nothing 'satanic' or 'blasphemic' about these camps. They were places where like-minded people with similar beliefs and faiths could meet and learn from each other.

Lake Lansing's Spiritualist Camp, 1882-1890s

Grand Ledge Spiritualist Camp, 1895-1910

Harry Houdini

Former Depot, Clough View

The Ghost Town of Pioneer

Montgomery Ward