Has the Legend of Pere Cheney, Michigan Become Identified with Halloween?
This 1800s Michigan town has been brought up so often whenever Autumn kicks in, that its almost become synonymous with Halloween.
It's Pere Cheney...and it has been called “The Most Haunted Town in Michigan”.
And there's not even a town there anymore.
It's gone...disappeared into dust and old ashes that got scattered for hundreds of miles thanks to the strong winds every year.
Why is it gone? Here's the story they want you to believe.....
Pere Cheney was once a lumber town that was setled in 1869 in Crawford County and established in 1873. It was one of the first Crawford County settlements, as well as being the very first County seat. This upset the nearby town of Grayling who desperately wanted to be the county seat. Soon, Grayling began taking Pere Cheney's residents and businesses away, the post office closed up in 1912 and Pere Cheney was completely abandoned not long afterward.
That's the tamer, hushed-up version of what 'they' say really happened to the town. So what is the version that most people seem to glom onto?
The history of the town's demise is one of Michigan's legendary ghost tales, and it's the version most agreed upon and recognized by Michiganders.
In 1893, a plague – cholera, diphtheria, or possibly small pox - spread throughout the town wiping out most of the population, which was around 1,500 folks at the time. In 1897, an 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. Now I find that theory to be somewhat hacky, since a common excuse for a haunting is "oh, it was built over an Indian graveyard"...so we'll leave it at that.
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.
The town of Pere Cheney has NO remaining buildings 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 of Crawford County.
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 feeling of foreboding as you travel down that one-lane dirt track toward Pere Cheney's location. I sure did. Try getting there at dusk...
In short, yes, there was once a town there.
Yes, it is completely gone.
Yes, many died from a plague.
Some of the haunting tales I kinda believe...others I don't.
IF YOU VISIT, BE RESPECTFUL AND DO NOT VANDALIZE.
Take a look at some photos below.