It’s ghastly, grotesque, and returning soon to Mackinac! No, it’s not a creature lurking within a dark alley, biding time until its return. It’s the popular “Ghastly Mackinac” event at Fort Mackinac.
Over 115 years of death, disease, and deranged discipline have left their eerie marks within this stone fortress, leaving behind stories of truth that are much stranger than fiction. During “Ghastly Mackinac,” tour the very places where catastrophe and death occurred nearly 200 years before.
“The cliché that truth is stranger than fiction holds true with this event,” said Katie Cederholm, MSHP curator of education and “Ghastly Mackinac” event organizer. “The eerie talks, gory stories, and unbelievable situations you’ll encounter are all based on research and true happenings.”
While hearing about the 1829 Christmas mutiny against Lt. Ephraim K. Smith, walk the fort parade ground where it really happened. Smith, a mean-spirited officer, had taken the law into his own hands many times throughout the fall and winter of 1829, viciously punishing several soldiers by flogging and beating them until, as he’d said to his victims, “(you) look pleasant or smile.” On Christmas day of that year, when the other fort officers had left the fort for a Christmas dinner party in the village, 25 enlisted men, all from Smith’s company, appeared armed on the parade ground. As you envision the snow and cold of that blustery Christmas day, discover what happened to the sadistic Smith and the group of soldiers who’d had enough.
“People lived here, visited here, and died here,” Cederholm said, “and there’s a lot more to tell beyond the basic facts. There are hidden truths that lurk behind these stone fort walls.”
Set on a hill above the parade ground is the elegant Officers’ Hill Quarters, a two-story home that housed officers, their families, and other important persons. Step inside the home and soak up the beauty, but don’t get too comfortable. Look past the picturesque table setting, the piano, and fine furniture, look past the feeling of peace and tranquility, to the truth that conspired within these walls. Discover the death and sadness that enveloped the home. It was here that Lt. Calvin Cowles and his family lived during his two separate tenures of the fort. Each time he lived at the home, he lost a child. First it was four-month-old Josiah, and later, two-year-old Isabelle. Look further into the house for testimony of its occupation by Rev. O’Brien and his wife, Charlotte. She died here as well, long before her time. Feel their stories during this special event.
In the nearby Post Hospital, hear tales of cholera and influenza epidemics, accidents, and the gory methods of treatment…medical cases and untimely deaths that happened in this very building.
Inside the dark, cool Guardhouse, imagine the fear and horror felt by Private James Brown in 1829 as he walked these floors. He’d been accused of murder for shooting Corporal Hugh Flynn in the mess hall before fifteen witnesses, but had held fast to his claim that it’d been an accident until the day he was executed by hanging...the only known hanging on Mackinac Island.
These stories and more await your attention, your presence, and your ghostly imagination. Are you ready to face the ghastly truth? Reservation are required, and can be made by calling (906) 847-3328.
* All tickets are pre-sold through the Mackinac Island Visitor's Center, Fort Mackinac admission booths, or by calling the office at least 1 day in advance at 906-847-3328. No tickets will be sold at the event. Reservations are required. Limited spaces available. No refunds 24 hours in advance of the program.