WFMK-East Lansing DJ John Robinson wears multiple hats. However, research and writing work on Michigan’s urban legends and paranormal phenomena is certainly its most interesting title. Author, musician, DJ and actor has documented over 250 Michigan urban legends and ghost stories.
Its flagship column “Haunted Michigan” is updated almost daily with stories of mystery and macabre in the muffle. Some of its stories take place in the usual suspects of paranormal activity, including cemeteries, ghost towns, and decrepit buildings. Others are more devious. He told the tales of the end of the line at Seven Gables Road where shadows stalk onlookers, the Mackinac Island Skull Cave burial site filled with bones and the witch Ada wandering through Findlay Cemetery. .
What experience did you have that led you to become a paranormal writer?
It’s a long story. In the late 1800s, there was this little girl named Mary McNaughton who lived in Jackson. She died around the age of 7 or 8. Her mother doesn’t believe she is really dead, but they end up burying her anyway. The mother finally convinced a guard that they had to dig her up because she was not dead. A few days later, they dig her up, open the coffin and find scratches on the wood. Indeed, they had buried her alive.
Since then, over the years, rumors have multiplied. People say, âIf you come out where it’s buried, you can hear it scratching. Of course, the children drank alcohol and vandalized it. It is a very old part of the cemetery. All the graves were embedded in the woods.
I went there with a few people to the newer part of the cemetery on the west side of the woods. We go out there in October with the wind blowing and I hear a scratching sound. I said, “Where the hell did that come from?” I begin to shine the flashlight all around, eventually located on a blank concrete slab on the floor. I thought maybe there was a leaf blowing on it because it was windy. I turn on the flashlight and I still hear the scratching. I thought maybe there was some kind of bug crawling on it making a noise, one of those hard-shelled beetles or something like that. I’m getting a bit closer and there are no bugs. I thought it was ridiculous. I could still hear that scratching here. I get on all fours, my face a few inches from the noise. Nothing was causing the scratching on the outside, but I could still hear it coming from that concrete slab.
I never understood it until a few months later. I started talking to the guard there and he tells us the story of little Mary. He said the vandalism got so bad that they had to close the old cemetery. What they did was dig up little Mary’s body, but left the marker behind.
They transferred her to an unmarked grave in the new cemetery where we were, where I was when I heard the scratching. I didn’t know it at the time and it got me thinking.
How do you balance the afterlife and the paranormal activity you are studying?
The older you get and the more you read, the more your mind opens up. I consider myself a skeptic on some levels, but I learn more and more and find people who have experience. I have never used the ghost hunting gear that so many people use. If anything has to happen to me, it must be for real.
What was a real moment for you?
I spent the night in a funeral home at one point, sleeping in the room where they kept the bodies to see them. It was dark and I’m lying on my left side trying to sleep when I feel those cold fingers walking along my side. So I went back a week later on another Saturday night. Again, I hadn’t fallen asleep, but was ready to drift into the twilight zone. My arm was pulled from the bed. So I shouted at him to leave me alone. I wasn’t scared, I was just angry. It stopped. I go back another Saturday, greedy for punishment. I was lying in bed at 3 a.m. with a computer on at the foot of my bed. Then I heard the sound of a little girl giggling. I didn’t think about it. I thought it could come from the computer. I mentioned this to the owner and she said she could hear the little girl laughing too.
Your column is updated almost daily with a new Michigan ghost story. How do you find your stories?
I’m just doing research and trying to find different sources so that it’s not just one person making something up. With more than one source, there may be some sort of basis for this. When it comes to these stories, you think most of these urban legends have to have a factual element to begin with.
There are a lot of things that I find to be true BS, but it’s part of our urban legends and part of what makes life in Michigan fun.
Visit John Robinson’s column on 99wfmk.com/tags/haunted