Michigan’s Most Haunted Location, Pere Cheney, Re-Visited
Pere Cheney was once a lumber town located in Crawford County, established in 1873. Once the nearby town of Grayling began taking Pere Cheney's residents and business away, the post office closed up in 1912 and the town was completely abandoned not long afterward.
The town was the county seat of Crawford, and had its beginnings in 1874 when a sawmill was opened and operated by G.M. Cheney, after which the town became named. A successful lumber business followed, a post office was opened, it became the first settlement in Crawford County, and was a station along the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad.
The city of Grayling was not far away, and decided they should be the county seat. With a larger population, Grayling won the fight. Pere Cheney residents argued that Grayling padded its population numbers by including those of temporary lumbermen; even so, a group of Grayling people arrived at Pere Cheney by train and swiped the county records out from under the Pere Cheney officials.
Pere Cheney was not down yet. They continued to do well, and by 1881 their downtown had a depot, huge general store, hotel, three sawmills, and a schoolhouse.
In 1890, the timber began depleting. The ground was not good enough to farm on, so residents started moving out. A plague of diphtheria hit the town, killing many townsfolk. Finally, the post office shut down in 1911 and by 1918, the town only had 18 people left. Those who remained eventually either died or moved away, leaving the town completely empty.
The above script is the tamer version of what happened to the town.
The history of the town's demise is one of Michigan's legendary ghost tales, and is the version most agreed upon and recognized by Michiganders. That story is as follows:
In 1893, diphtheria & small pox spread throughout the town wiping out most of the population, which was around 1,500 folks at the time. In 1897, the diphtheria outbreak returned, killing even more townsfolk, dwindling the population down to 25 people by 1901...and 18 people by 1917. The town was sold off in auction and the remaining townsfolk split. Some returned, but only to burn the rest of the town completely to ashes, in hopes of destroying the plague that killed off so many residents.....Pere Cheney was now an official ghost town.
It's believed Pere Cheney was cursed and is said to have been founded on an old Indian burial ground. Since it became abandoned, travelers have reported the habitation of witches, ghosts and other strange beings; glowing lights of different kinds are said to be seen on occasion in the woods and up in the trees. The ghostly laughing of children has been faintly heard coming from the wooded area and childlike handprints have been left on the vehicles of people who returned to their cars after walking through the area.
Aside from being built over an old Indian burial ground, some say a townswoman was accused of being a witch and was banished to the woods; she retaliated by setting a curse on the town & townsfolk of Pere Cheney. Another version that makes more sense is that of a townswoman who became pregnant out-of-wedlock and was banished from town...and it was SHE who set the curse. To this day, the prevalent plant growth in the cemetery is a mysterious, mossy grass that is said by some to prove the evil that presides over the land...HOWEVER...I traveled to the cemetery and saw that "mysterious grass" for myself. It is NOT some cursed, evil weed, but appears to be a fungus called lichen, which can be used for medicinal purposes (SEE PHOTOS BELOW).
The town of Pere Cheney has NO remaining buildings as you can see in the photo gallery, but it is still listed on some maps.
The only tell-tale sign that there was ANY town there is the Cheney Cemetery, where no sign marks it's location...it was stolen. The cemetery had 90 corpses buried in the ground but only a few gravestones remain as vandals have broken and/or destroyed many of them. Family members, whose ancestors gravestones had been stolen or destroyed, now mark those particular graves with rocks, as you'll also see in the photos.
Vandals have also been caught digging up graves, looking for jewelry and sent to serve time. In fact, one oddball incident involved a teenager who dug up a grave and then drove around his town with the corpse's skull displayed in his rear window. In later years, that young man became sheriff!
Pere Cheney is known far and wide as the #1 Witch Grave in Michigan and #2 in the United States, behind 'Bloody Mary' in Indiana...but guess what? No witch is buried there...but that doesn't stop paranormal activity from occurring.
Pere Cheney is located southeast of Grayling, straight across from where US-127 and US-75 meet at the fork...this place is out in the middle of nowhere, no place, nothing, no kidding. The road that leads to the town's center is a one-lane dirt track, that's even creepier than the cemetery. I swear, if you visit, you WILL get a creepy feeling as you travel down that one-lane dirt track toward Pere Cheney's location. I sure did. Try getting there at dusk...
IF YOU VISIT, BE RESPECTFUL AND DO NOT VANDALIZE. The spirits will be watching you.....and paybacks are hell.