The ballad has been popular in the region for over 100 years. It has been passed down the generations. Many versions exist.
'Twas long ago besides Lake Huron
She walked the sandy shore.
but the voice of one sweet Minnie Quay
'Twill echo ever more.
Sailors still hear her crying.
Young lovers hear her, too,
As she calls for them to join her
In the waters, icy blue.
Young Minnie loved a sailor.
The sailor loved her, too.
And on the shore, behind the trees
The pair would rendezvous.
But gossips soon got wind of it,
And tongues began to wag.
the tale was told to Minnie's Ma
By some old babbling hag.
Minnie's Ma got angry
And to her daughter said,
"Married to a sailor?
I'd rather see you dead."
They knew she'd been sneaking out
To see the lad at night.
They boarded up her bedroom door,
And kept her locked in tight.
He waited for his love, in vain.
A tear was in his eye
when he set sail next morning
without kissing her goodbye.
He never saw his love again
For alas, a storm arose.
That raging gale sank many ships,
And his was one of those.
The ship that carried Minnie's love
Sank like it was lead.
And when the news reached Forester
They said he was dead.
Minnie wore a dress of white.
She looked just like a bride,
When she plunged into the water deep
To die there by his side.
But Minnie Quay is not at rest,
Or so the people say.
Her ghost still walks the lonely shore.
You may see her to this day.
from Michigan Haunts and Hauntings
THE GHOSTS OF BOWER'S HARBOUR INN (excerpted)
Jutting out into Traverse Bay at Traverse City is a finger of land known as Old Mission Peninsula. Almost 18 miles long and a mile and a half wide, it is unusually beautiful.
It is no wonder that J.W. Stickney, who arrived on Old Mission Peninsula from Chicago in the late 1800s with his wife, Genevive, chose the spot to be their home.
As time went by, the Stickneys prospered and before long they replaced their farmhouse with a home befitting a lumber baron in that grand era. It was a mansion that still stands today on Mission Peninsula, surrounded by majestic oaks and stately pines overlooking Grand Traverse Bay.
Furnishing their new home, Genevive had a special gilt-edged mirror custom-made. She was a plump woman, and the mirror was designed in a special way to make her appear thinner. Approaching the looking glass, her reflection lost pounds with every step.
The historic old building changed hands several times after the Stickneys passed way. In 1959 Jim and Fern Bryant bought it and converted it into a commercial dining establishment still known today as Bower's Harbor Inn. They sold it in 1964 to Toni Scharling and her close friends, Bruce and Sally Towner. Toni Scharling and the Towners believe that the Bryants were completely honest when they said they felt the house was haunted. The Bryants said there had been weird happenings such as lights turning on and off, glass breaking, and objects falling when no one was near.
One day, a patron of the restaurant came rushing out of the room where Genevive's unusual mirror was standing. Almost colliding with Toni Scharling, she was trembling with fright. She said she had been alone in the room playfully enjoying looking at herself in the mirror, when suddenly she saw the reflection of another woman standing behind her gazing over her shoulder into the looking glass. The woman was dressed in clothing from another era, her long hair pulled back into an upswept twist held in place by an ornate comb. When the guest turned to speak to her, there was no one there.
Since then others have reported catching glimpses of the spectral lady when looking in the mirror.
During the time the Scharlings and the Towners lived upstairs over the restaurant, objects were often tossed at them by an unseen pitcher. They might have blamed the children, but these incidents occurred when the children were not present. Objects would disappear and later reappear as if never moved. There was unexplained knocking in the walls and rapping on doors or inside closets.
These eerie activities continued long after Toni and her friends sold the restaurant.
Ernest Hall denied believing in ghosts, but he could offer no other explanation for some of the things that took place there in the late 1970s when he was acting manager.
The door leading into the upstairs ladies' room always caught on the carpeting, making it difficult to open and close. Yet, at night, after the restaurant was closed and Ernest Hall was alone in the building, the door would suddenly slam shut with a bang, although no one had been anywhere near it.
from Michigan Haunts and Hauntings
THE HAUNTED GRAVEYARD, EMPTY HOUSE AND DEATH
from the Detroit News, October 1, 1980 and later appeared in updated form in Michigan Haunts and Hauntings as "Lost in the Woods"
THE LADY IN THE CHURCH YARD
The night was dark and foggy. Norman was on his way to pick up his wife who had been attending a baby shower in the basement of the new church in Farmington. He drove into the parking lot and decided not to stop there, but to circle behind the church and bring the car up to the doors at the front of the building where his wife would see him.
As he neared the back of the lot and began to turn toward the rear of the building, he saw standing directly in front of him the figure of a woman who looked exactly like his mother. He slammed on his brakes and brought the car to a screeching halt. He knew it could not be his mother for she had been dead nearly two years. The woman remained standing in front of the car, gazing directly at him. And now he felt he was losing his senses, for indeed it could have been no one but his beloved mother.
Norman opened the car door and stepped out into the mist. He approached the front of the car where he had seen his mother standing. No one was there. But what he saw made him gasp in horror. What he had thought were bushes in the fog were really treetops. The church had been built on a ledge overlooking a ravine. There was no driveway behind the building. Had he driven just a few feet further, his car would have plunged over the ledge and into the ravine below.
THE LITTLE GIRL WHO WASN'T THERE
The Clark family had moved into their large old house on Warren Avenue in Detroit when their youngest child, Rachel, was not yet three years old.
Even before the family had completely settled into the new home, Rachel announced that she had a little friend. She said her friend's name was Kenny Cobb. When her mother said she would like to meet him, Rachel explained that Kenny was a girl, not a boy, and that she was standing right beside her. Naturally, Mrs. Clark had heard of children having imaginary playmates, but she wondered how her daughter had happened to make up such a strange name.
Kenny Cobb soon became part of the household. Although only Rachel could see her, she kept the family well informed about everything Kenny said or did. Rachel's parents did not discourage Rachel since they had read that it was quite natural for a child to invent such a playmate and that it was, in fact, a sign of higher intelligence.
Rachel and Kenny Cobb remained friends for more than two years. Then, about a month after Rachel started kindergarten, her mother found her crying and asked what was wrong. Rachel announced that Kenny had come to say goodbye. It seemed that Kenny had told her that since Rachel now had other children to play with, it was time for Kenny to go.
As time went by, Rachel talked less and less about Kenny and the Clarks eventually forgot all about the little blonde-haired girl they had never seen.
Years passed, and Rachel had grown into a young woman when one night the Clarks attended a party on the other side of town. There they met several people they had never known before. When the Clarks mentioned where they lived, and older woman spoke up and said that many years ago she had lived in the same neighborhood.
"Exactly which house do you live in?" she asked.
The Clarks described their home, and she said, "Oh, yes, the old Cobb house. The Cobb family built that house but they didn't live there very long. They moved away right after their granddaughter was hit by a car and killed in front of the house."
The Clarks gasped at the name, Cobb. "What was the child's first name?" they both asked quickly.
"I can't remember," the woman replied, "but it was a boy's name. They called her by a boy's name -- Billy, Bobby, Kenny, or something like that."
The Clarks looked at each other in astonishment. Rachel had not made it all up. She really had been playing with the ghost of Kenny Cobb.
The Clarks no longer live on Warren Avenue. Rachel is married now and has children of her own. But she feels certain that if ever another lonely little girl lives in the old Cobb house, Kenny will come back to keep her company until she finds new playmates.
from Michigan Haunts and Hauntings
LOST IN THE WOODS (excerpt)
It was a cool crisp day. There had been a light dusting of snow the night before. Not far into the woods, Mike discovered fresh deer tracks and excitedly began to follow them. But as the morning wore on, the sun melted the snow and he lost the trail. Finally resigned to going home without a deer, he started back, planning to take the road. It was nowhere in sight, and he quickly realized that he was lost.
By his watch, it was already 1 p.m., and Mike had promised to be back at the cabin by noon. He began shouting, hoping that by this time his friends were out looking for him. After another hour of futile walking and calling out every few minutes with no response, he became frightened. He was exhausted and very hungry. He sat down under a tree to think. The forest was unnaturally quiet. There were no sounds, not even a bird chirping in the distance. Utterly dejected, Mike did something he had seldom done. He began to pray.
As he did, there was suddenly a crackling in the bushes. He looked up to see a young woman standing before him. Dressed in a long coat, knitted cap, and mittens, the woman smiled at Mike and asked him what he was doing down on the ground. When he explained, she assured him that she would lead him to safety. Her father owned a farm not far from there, she said, and she was well acquainted with the woods. Before long they were in sight of the road. Now knowing his way back to the cabin, Mike thanked the woman profusely. She smiled at him again.
And then she began to disappear.
First, the woman's image seemed blurred and soon he could see right through her. Then she was gone completely.
Mike rushed along the road and back to the safety of the cabin. His friends had just returned from searching for him. They said they weren't sure whether to rejoice because he was back and safe or be angry for the trouble he had caused them. By this time, all three were very tired and it was too late to be back home before dark, so they decided to stay one more night and leave early the next morning. Since all of their gear had already been packed, they agreed to go into the nearby town and have supper in a restaurant. There they could call home to their wives and explain the delay.
After their meal, they stopped in a local bar for beer. Feeling quite comfortable now, Mike told about the girl who had saved his life and how she had vanished before his eyes. His friends stared at him in disbelief. He hadn't had enough beer yet to be intoxicated, and they began to wonder if Mike's mind had been affected by his ordeal in the forest. But the bartender, who had been listening to the story, wasn't at all surprised.
"That was Leona," he said. "Her family used to have a farm back in there, though they're all gone now." He said Leona had been shot nearly 50 years before by a hunter who mistook her for a deer. Since then, her ghost had helped several people find their way out of the woods.
from Michigan Haunts and Hauntings
THE ONE HUNDREDTH SKULL
In 1961 I was teaching school in South Rockford when I met a young man named Jim Quick from Monroe. We shared an interest in Michigan folklore and especially in the collecting and telling of ghost stories. Jim was then teaching sixth grade in the Airport Community School District. He went on to become an English instructor at the University of Michigan, and in 1965 when I last heard of him, he was preparing to leave for Hollywood to become a scriptwriter. “The One Hundredth Skull” had been passed down through his family as a tale about some of his own relatives who had been among the very early settlers along what is now the Michigan-Ohio border.
In the late 1700s, a frontiersman named Bill Quick lived with his aged father in a log cabin a few miles west of Lake Erie. One day while he was out hunting, his cabin was ransacked and his father was murdered and scalped. Bill swore he would not rest until he had taken revenge one hundred times over. He set himself a secret goal; he would kill 100 Indians before he died.
Never a sociable man to begin with, Bill kept even more to himself after his father’s murder. And because he was an excellent marksman, he had little trouble in the first few years working towards his goal. He did not collect scalps like most men of that time and place; scalps were not enough for him. Bill Quick collected skulls. He lined the walls with shelves to hold his ghastly trophies, and one by one, his collection grew.
Year after year he relentlessly stalked his prey. He took his time, always waiting patiently until he saw a lone figure hunting in the woods or paddling a canoe on the river. Only when there was no one else about would his bullet zing through the air and into an Indian heart. The Indians were unable to retaliate because they never knew who was picking them off one at a time. So, as the years went by, fewer and fewer of them traveled alone in that area.
His game became more difficult to obtain as the Indians became more cautious, but Bill finally amassed 99 grizzly skulls. They stood in a row on the shelves of his innocent looking log house deep in the woods. He felt certain he would have no difficulty meeting his ultimate goal- certain that he could easily shoot the one remaining Indian needed to complete his revenge. But, before he had the satisfaction of making his one last kill, Bill Quick fell victim to what he knew would be his last illness. He summoned his only son, Tom, to his bedside.
The two men had never been close. They had little or nothing in common. Bill was a fearless hunter with a vicious temper and a cruel sense of humor. Although he enjoyed his whiskey, he did not drink to excess and no one could ever remember seeing him drunk. He never went without his rife and never had to shoot twice at the same target. Tom, on the other hand, was an easygoing fellow who never bore a grudge. Although he enjoyed fishing, Tom disliked hunting and had never learned to shoot well. He didn’t even own a gun, a rarity in those times. He was seldom sober, but he was a happy drunk and was often heard singing to himself as he stumbled home from the tavern. His mother had died giving birth to him and his maternal grandmother had raised him. Never in his life has his father spoken a pleasant word to him.
Because he knew that his father had always considered him worthless, Tom was more than a little surprised that the old man wanted to see him, even on his deathbed. But he didn’t hesitate, and went at once to his father’s cabin.
For the first time, Bill confided in Tom, telling him the story of the oath he had taken and the goal he had set. Pointing to the skulls grinning down at them, he demanded that his son fulfill the oath by obtaining the one hundredth skull. The morbid collection caused Tom to retch. As much a he longed for his father’s approval, he flatly refused to carry out the macabre order.
But Bill would not let him go. He threatened that if Tom did not do as he asked, he would return from the grave and haunt him until he did. Tom ran screaming from the cabin, the taste of bile rising in his throat. Soon after, his father died and Tom tried to forget the threat by losing himself in drink. But he was no longer a happy drunk. Wherever he looked, he thought he saw his father glaring at him. For the next two years his life was a nightmare.
Then one day, in a drunken stupor, he babbled the gruesome tale and soon people for miles around knew that the town drunk was under oath to kill an Indian. He became a laughing stock and the butt of cruel jokes. Every time an Indian came into town people would make sure Tom knew. They would tease him, telling him to get a gun or offering to lend him theirs. Their taunting echoed after him down the streets where little children would call out “Sic ‘em Tom!” as he passed by.
One clear, cold night in October when Tom was alone in his cabin, the door suddenly burst open and there stood the rotting corpse of his father. As he had promised, Bill had returned from the grave to haunt his son. And as he had done in life, he carried his rifle. Shaking it in the air, he screamed wildly for Tom to go out and get the one hundredth skull so that his ancestors could rest in their graves. He said that if Tom could not complete the task by midnight the next night he would return and bring Tom’s murdered grandfather with him.
Tom rushed into town begging for asylum, telling everyone he met about his father’s threat. It was clear to all who saw him that Tom had now gone mad. Everyone, even those who had earlier taunted him, now steered clear of him.
Throughout the following day, Tom searched in vain for someone, anyone, who would help him. As dusk fell, he was last seen stumbling down the road toward his father’s isolated cabin deep in the woods. It had remained undisturbed since Bill Quick’s death more than two years earlier. When he did not return by late afternoon the following day, a group of men decided to search for the unfortunate derelict, expecting to find him dead somewhere. When they reached Bill Quick’s cabin, they found the door standing open. Cautiously pushing it open, they searched the room. Tom’s body was nowhere to be found. Instead, there on the shelf so long reserved for the one hundredth skull was a freshly severed head. But it was not the face of an Indian that stared down at them.
It was the face of the town drunk, Tom Quick.
from Michigan Haunts and Hauntings
THE WEREWOLF OF GROSSE POINTE
from the Grosse Pointe News, October 28, 1999 and earlier appeared in the book The Werewolf of Grosse Pointe and Other Stories by Gundella
YOUNG GHOST IN THE NORTH WOODS
this later appeared in updated form in Michigan Haunts and Hauntings as "Lost in the Woods"