These Are the Best Ghost Stories and Legends from Berrien County, Michigan
Thanks to the Benton Harbor/St Joseph Memories Facebook page who shared many of these.
The Phantom Staker of Hickory Creek - St. Joseph
Hickory Creek runs south of St Joseph and in the winter is said to be haunted by a spirit who ice skates down the frozen stream. It was a local legend that was amplified when the News Palladium ran a front-page story about the Phantom Skater on January 30, 1963. Columnist William Ast picks up the tale,
Temperatures seemed to average a bit colder in the old days, and Hickory Creek in the winters often held enough ice for skaters. As the story goes, parents sometimes warned their children that they'd better be home on time, or the Phantom Skater might get them.
The Phantom Skater of Hickory Creek was an enormous figure in black tights and skull cap.
The blades of his skates flashed green sparks and blue flames. He would leap over bridges while giving out shrieks of eerie, horrifying laughs.
While a lot of children were frightened by stories of the Phantom Skater, only one man ever claimed to have seen him.
That was the late Harvey Seasongood, who once operated Harvey Seasongood Farm Supply on Glenlord Road in Lincoln Township.
Seasongood, who died in 1964, said he and other children were once skating along the creek and lost track of time. Then he heard the horrifying scraping of huge blades as the Phantom Skater approached.
Everyone scattered, but Seasongood got stuck in a barbed wire fence at the top of the ravine. Fortunately the Phantom Skater didn't see the horrified boy, but Seasongood got a good look at the spectral skater - hugely tall, wearing black, fiery skates and with cloven hooves where his feet should be. He cast no shadow in the moonlight.
The Phantom Skater concept may predate Seasongood, but Seasongood was one of the best storytellers in the area and there's no question he made the yarn his own and expanded on it. The story spread, too. People who had never heard of Seasongood knew about the skater.
The Bridgman Mellonheads
Mellonheads are more commonly associated with the Felt Mansion and the wilderness around Saugatuck Dunes in Allegan County. However Berrien County has its own Mellonhead legend. This one, interestingly enough is also near a state park, Warren Dunes, this time. The story goes that children who grew up near the Cook Nuclear Plant in Lake Township. Like the Saugatuck mellonheads, the Bridgman area children are alleged to have large craniums, or hydrocephalus, a disease more commonly known as water-on-the-brain. The cause is said to be exposure to radiation from the nuclear facility.
Benton Harbor High School - Third Floor
My husband was a custodian at Benton Harbor High School for a few yrs. He and other custodians swear the third floor is haunted. They have reported shadows, catching glimpses of figures going around corners. No one wanted to clean that area alone or especially at night.
Morton Home - Benton Harbor
Any creaky old home will have a ghost story or two, correct? The jewel of Morton Hill in Benton Harbor, the Morton Home was the homestead of one of the city's founders and located along the historic Territorial Road. Today the house is a museum and has plenty of odd happenings, as related by the Herald-Palladium, the Executive Director has
learned to announce herself when entering the 1849 building.
"I'm here quite a lot by myself, and it does make me feel uneasy sometimes," Tackett says. "A lot of times I'll come in and say, 'It's just me, and I'll only be in the office for a couple hours!'"
What has made Tackett and others uneasy about the Benton Harbor landmark are the little things. And there's been lots of little things.
"There's always been these little rumors about the Morton House," Tackett says. "One of the volunteers saw a woman coming down the stairs once when nobody was there. We had a caretaker here for a number of years who had little things happen like things being moved in different places."
There have been so many "little things" that a ghost hunter group from South Bend came to the Morton House in January and again this past summer.
"They thought they were getting readings and what they said was an orb coming down the stairs," Tackett says. "We have an old piano that isn't in tune or in good shape. There seems to be a lot going on with that. And I have to admit I thought I did hear the tone of a single piano key being pressed one day. But that's the thing with ghost stories. It's impossible to prove. You either believe it or you don't."
Munchkin Land Cemetery - Eau Clare
Just inside Berrien County is the Franklin Church and Cemetery - technically a graveyard since it's connected to a church. Located along Brush Lake Road where Cass County's Frost Street comes to an end, the graveyard is said to be haunted by a young boy
If you drive by there is also a head stone that glows green. You can hear giggling from insides the cemetery late at night. And you will sometimes see figures hiding among the stone.
In addition to the young boy, the giggling of girls has also been heard.
The Ghost Town of Galien
No, Galien isn't a true ghost town, there are still about 500 people living in the village, but as the Detroit News commented in a 2016 visit, after the closure of many of the towns businesses including supermarket, the village may be on its way to being a ghost town in the traditional sense. From the town's old jail to many homes, Galien likely has the most hauntings per capita in all of Berrien County.
The Haunted Michigan YouTube series chose Galien for its debut episode
Have a favorite Southwest Michigan ghost story? Tell us in the comments below.