Local History
12:00 am
Thu October 25, 2012

Haunted tales of Kalamazoo: A brief collection of ghost stories from local experts

The Gibson Guitar Factory in 1984
Credit Kalamazoo Public Library

Hear a few Kalamazoo ghost stories

Friday night at 6 p.m., the Kalamazoo Jaycees will take residents on a ghost tour through downtown Kalamazoo. Although the tour is mostly historical, it reminds us of just how many haunted tales the city holds. 

Eric Schmidt is a tour guide and helped found the Ghosts of Kalamazoo tours.  

“The story of Burdick’s and the Radisson has always been kind of a fascinating one. We’ve had numerous reports from a lot of people that you’ll have things like glasses moving across the bar. Supposedly he’s a very—whatever the prescence is, it’s very mischievous. It’s very up to no good, you know, altering music stations, things like that,” says Schmidt. “Most of our stories will come from former workers. People that have been in the location or worked at the location, been there late at night cleaning up. You know, you see all kinds of things.”

At the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, there’s Thelma the ghost. Ben Zylman is the director of marketing at the Civic:

“Well, as best I can remember—cause it was so long ago—I actually think it started at Chenery Auditorium. She was an aspiring actress that was never cast in a role. And in her despair she threw herself to the stage floor and died, and has haunted the theatre ever since,” Zylman says.

The Civic’s summer youth program at the time was housed in Chenery Auditorium. Zylman says when the program moved to the Civic’s auditorium, Thelma supposedly moved with it.

“Although I have never seen her, there are stories of music being played and strange women being seen back stage and so forth,” Zylman says. 

East Hall on Western Michigan University's campus
Credit Western Michigan University

Sharon Carlson is the director of the Western Michigan University archives and regional history collections. She says the Southern Michigan ParaNormals investigated WMU’s East Hall about four years ago and posted a Youtube clip of some of the things they found.

“Western in East Hall had, of course, the regular classroom for the university, earlier the college. But they also had a training or a lab school and this was a fully functioning K-12 program," Carlson says. "And some of the voices that they have picked up appear to be possibly the voices of the children that went to that training school.”

Kalamazoo Valley Museum historian Tom Dietz shares a few more tales.

“Cold stream flour mill down on—near Portage and Jackson Street that was so widely reported to have been a haunted mill after it had been abandoned that literally hundreds of people went there for three or four nights in a row waiting to see the ghosts that people claimed were there. The claim was is that someone fell into the mill, got his head crushed into the mill stones at the mill. Places that I’ve been around where people claim they are haunted, oftentimes someone has met—in some way shape or form—an untimely end there. Either they’ve been murdered or died in their youth or their younger years, not necessarily children."

Dietz continues, “Something wrong happened to that person and now they’re hanging around or perhaps, what I think is perhaps what I think is the most well-known ghost story locally is that Orville Gibson continues to haunt the old Gibson Guitar Factory."

Dietz will talk about more ghost stories of the past and how 19th century Kalamazoo residents celebrated Halloween at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum on Sunday at 1:30.