Friday the 13th is serious business in my family!
Our Friday the 13th weekend this month was grand. On Friday the 13th itself, I got to stay home from work and mow our lawn. It’s a pain in the rear, but this past winter was so hard on us psychologically (which is ironic, considering how weak it was as far as winters go), it was a nice treat to spend several hours in the yard and not feel rushed. Then, about the time I’d normally be getting home from work, Brother Patrick showed up and we watched Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981). He was excited for two reasons: his younger brothers, who’ve started a rock band called CryFace, would be performing in our area later that evening, and he was gearing up to hop on a plane to Orlando and take over Disneyworld the following weekend. (I’ll never understand the fascination with Disneyworld, but whatever; when Patrick’s in a good mood, I’m in a good mood too.) My wife fixed up some stuffed peppers for dinner, and then Patrick and I went to go see his brothers’ show. It was at a little hole-in-the-wall bar on the other side of town – the kind of place Rob Zombie might like (which isn’t a compliment) – and there was barely anyone there. But CryFace were pretty great, so I’m glad we went. They seemed to appreciate me coming, too. If you’re interested in hearing what they sound like, click right here.
Then we went home, and I proceeded to fall asleep in my chair while Patrick was talking to me. The next morning, my wife and Patrick and I all hopped in the car to go cemetery sight-seeing. My wife and I really enjoy finding random graveyards to visit all over the state and spending an hour or two in each one, enjoying the history and getting a feel for the folks who are buried there. Since this was Friday the 13th weekend, however, we figured we wanted to go some place spookier than normal, and boy did we ever find such a place. We ended up in Pere Cheney, a place in northern Michigan (but south of the Upper Peninsula) that was once a small lumbering town, but which is nothing more today than a crumbling ruin. The town fell victim to a plague of diphtheria in 1893, which severely decimated the population. Those who survived ran for their lives, and Pere Cheney became a ghost town. Eventually the buildings were torn down, though pieces of them still remain among the trees that have now reclaimed their land.
I would have taken more pictures of Pere Cheney, but my smartphone died shortly after we entered the site. It was at 40% battery power, too, which I thought was weird.
The Pere Cheney cemetery was difficult to find at first, since it’s located right smack in the middle of the woods out in Crawford County, Michigan, and it’s only accessible by a two-track lumber trail. We almost thought we weren’t going to find it at all, but then we came across a clearing in the woods and we immediately knew we had found it. Now my wife and I have visited many graveyards, and some people think that’s pretty creepy; but none of the other places we’ve visited felt like this one did. Most of them are peaceful places that actually seem quite cheery in spite of the morbid fear and revulsion they tend to inspire in others. But Pere Cheney…I wouldn’t call it a “Bad Place” exactly (like the Overlook Hotel), but there sure is something wrong there. As soon as we left the car, the wind picked up and it started to snow. (Even in Michigan, snow in May is goddamn weird.) As the wind blew, it made the trees talk – and unlike normal trees, which whisper and lull you to sleep with their windsong, these trees croaked and screamed and made you afraid to blink.
There were surprisingly few graves in the cemetery itself, but there were hidden trails in the back that led deep into the woods, and one of them didn’t have any “No Trespassing” signs. So Patrick, my wife and I naturally decided to investigate, and we didn’t get too far before we came across some ruins. I don’t know if they were actually ruins from the 19th century; it seemed to me they were newer than that. But one thing’s for sure: that pile of wood and scrap was probably someone’s home at some point. All around us, the trees looked strange; they were twisted in odd shapes, and some of them looked half dead, as if they too had contracted the illness that had claimed the town. At one point, my wife was taking pictures with her camera and she thought she saw a little white house through the viewer. It wasn’t there when she looked with her own eyes, and there was nothing there when she looked through the camera viewer again. I might add that the entire time we were there in those woods, it felt like we were in something’s lair. It didn’t feel like an “evil” something, necessarily, but it definitely felt like something that could fuck us up real bad if we pissed it off. So we walked back to the cemetery as carefully, respectfully, and quietly as we could.
Upon returning to the cemetery proper, Patrick and I kept thinking we heard a young girl screaming or laughing somewhere on the other side of the woods; but my wife never heard it. Each of us, however, caught glimpses of things in the corners of our eyes. I thought I saw something really tall walking just past the tree line in the back for a moment, but it could have been anything. After a while, the temperature dropped down to the low thirties, and we had to get back in the car to warm up. (Neither of us was dressed properly for a snow shower in May.) We each felt that we should probably leave – we were probably pushing our luck hanging around out there for as long as we did, anyway – but we also didn’t want to. Being there at Pere Cheney for about 90 minutes was a keen reminder of just how close the spirit world can actually be.
One more snapshot I took just before my smartphone gave up the ghost.
We drove back south for a couple of hours as the sun went down; then we stopped in Big Rapids (not to be confused with Grand Rapids) for a hotel. The next day, we drove to Mouth Cemetery in Muskegon County. Talk about a complete 180! Pere Cheney felt like a sleeping giant that was ready to wake up and kill us at any possible moment; but Mouth Cemetery felt more like a monastery. Though it’s reported to be haunted as well, this place seemed much happier and less dangerous; we could have stayed there for days. I guess that’s the difference between a cemetery that actually starts off as a cemetery, and a cemetery that begins its life as a thriving village.
A historical marker for Mouth Cemetery in Muskegon County, Michigan.
Mouth Cemetery is legendary for housing Quismoqua Anderson, an Ottawa woman who died at age 110 in 1897. But the grave I found most fascinating was that of one Robert Craig Marklewitz, who was apparently a Taoist. Again, my wife and I have visited many cemeteries in this state over the years, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a headstone with the yin and the yang around here. I have no idea who Mr. Marklewitz was or what he was all about, but I figure he must have been a pretty neat person to know. A friend or family member of his named Michael wrote the following about Mr. Marklewitz on findagrave.com:
A beautiful soul inside and (definitely) out – heads turned when the man entered a space. I had the pleasure of his company in our youth. He was hard working, a man of ideas, gentle and balanced. I wish I had had the courage to get to know him more deeply. He had a lovely home in Highland Park and a burgeoning business. He had high hopes for himself and Detroit. Bless you Robbie – I wish I had a good picture. Gone too soon; remembered always.
This is Mr. Marklewitz’ headstone.
It was nice “meeting” you, Mr. Marklewitz; I hope you’re doing well out there on the Other Side.
After visiting Mouth Cemetery, we made the long trek home. There was one point where we stopped at a gas station out in the middle of nowhere. A bunch of pre-teen girls were standing around an ice cream machine, and when they noticed my wife’s tattoos and purple hair, they got excited and started asking her questions. We were there for maybe a good half hour before my wife was able to tear herself away, but she really enjoyed all the attention. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic Friday the 13th weekend; now it’s time to start getting ready for Midsummer.