This has to be one of the most gruesome murders in Michigan history.

Reverend John Haviland Carmichael was pastor of three Methodist churches located in Rattle Run, Adair and China. He lived the pious life that a respected minister should, with a wife and three kids to make the family home life a complete picture.

On the morning of January 5, 1909, Carmichael got on his horse & buggy and told his wife he was heading out to the Rattle Run Church to take care of some business.

Later that day, Myron Brown entered the Rattle Run church to keep warm while waiting to keep an appointment. Once inside, he saw the place was covered in blood.....all over the floor, communion table, pews, pulpit, etc. along with bits & pieces of clothing soaked in blood.

After authorities were notified and entered the church, they smelled a disgusting foul odor emanating from the church's two furnaces...upon opening the furnaces, they found parts of a dismembered torso in each one. Was this what was left of the reverend? The next day, the reverend's horse was found tied to a tree 20 miles away.

Townspeople began noticing that not just the reverend, but another man was missing: Gideon Browning. The two men had been seen conversing; supposedly, the reverend wanted Browning as an agent to help sell & promote a book he wrote. It was NOT a book that you would expect from a minister. According to the reverend's wife, the book manuscript was "lurid" and "trashy." She was quoted as saying, “I saw.....a few sheets. I don’t remember what they said, but I felt called on to tell him he should not write such things. But he persisted.”

As authorities sifted through the remaining body parts, they found enough evidence to conclude who the victim was: it was Gideon Browning, chopped to death with a hatchet, dismembered and stuffed into the furnace, thanks to the good reverend.

So what happened?
Once inside the church, Carmichael noticed Browning holding a hatchet and grabbed it; then Browning pulled out two knives and chased Carmichael; Carmichael threw the hatchet which hit Browning. To make sure he finished the job, he then grabbed one of the knives and stabbed with it, then a few more chops from the hatchet and Browning was dead. The reverend switched clothes, cut the body into pieces, threw 'em into the furnaces and fled.

After fleeing to Chicago, guilt got the better of the crazed minister and on January 11, he composed two letters: one to his wife and another to the sheriff in Port Huron, confessing the murder he committed. Then he went to a shed behind the place he was staying, slashed his throat with a jackknife and laid there, eventually freezing to death.

But why did Reverend Carmichael kill Gideon Browning?
In the letter to the sheriff he explained: “The man had such a hypnotic influence over me that I felt that something must be done. I felt greatly ashamed that a man said to be short-minded could be able to compel me to yield to his will, but I said nothing about it.”

In other words, Browning seemed to have some kind of psychological hypnotic effect on the reverend that he couldn't resist. “...when he set his eyes upon me in the queerest sort of a look, (it was) something like the look of a snake’s eyes. Then I felt his influence tightening his grip on my mind.”  Evidently, Browning could make the reverend do things against his will, like walk through manure, raise his arms, etc.

The Rattle Run Church is no longer there, but the lot is still empty and is located at the northwest corner of Rattle Run Rd. and Mayer Rd.

Read more detail on this gruesome story at


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