History is said to repeat itself — but in some places, history never dies. In celebration of Halloween, Rapid Growth explores a few of Grand Rapids' most notorious haunted properties.
History is said to repeat itself — but in some places, history never dies. Whether to learn more about this city's past or investigate the paranormal, these are real places with stories you may not believe. If you live here or are looking to visit, here are the places that will make your Halloween extra spooky!
The Grand Rapids Public Library and the Grand Rapids Historical Society encourage residents and visitors to explore the city's history this Halloween season.
Grand Rapids Public Library
Library staff have witnessed a specter in the library’s basement. The spirit that has appeared is of a man, dressed in a dark green military uniform, believed to be Samuel Ranck. Ranck served in WWI as a wartime librarian and later as the director of the Grand Rapids Library. He is usually cataloguing material — but shush! Keep quiet in the library, please.
Source: Colleen Marquis
Last reported on 1923 are the hauntings on 540 Cherry Street. Samuel Ransom Sanford, over a century ago, designed and built the house as a love nest, but his mistress died before she could move in — and the house remained deserted for years. The next resident, a tormented civil war veteran, also died in the old house. Don’t worry though; the house has been well behaved for nearly 100 years now.
Source: Dec. 11 1923 GR Herald Article.
The Ada Witch
The spirit of an 1800s woman, believed to be Sarah McMillan, clothed in white and surrounded by a blue mist, is said to haunt Findley Cemetery in Ada. The woman was apparently slain by her jealous husband before he killed her lover and died himself. Those who visited her grave have seen the lady in white and heard the men fighting. Her stone can be visited, and is set back in the woods, broken in half and held up by posts, surrounded by coins and trinkets from visitors — but it is ill-advised to ask her for candy on Halloween.
A Pantlind Hotel room.
Shortly after purchasing the property, owners of the “Honest to Goodness Tattoo” shop discovered a secret room in the building. Scents of perfumes, flickering lights, footsteps, unknown handprints, and moving objects have appeared in the building ever since. Built in 1891, a hotel and grocery that became a prohibition smuggler’s hideout and a bordello eventually came into ownership by Frank Lamar. He converted the property into the LaMar Hotel and Horseshoe bar, a famous blues club. Owners believe multiple spirits remain in the building, and none of them have paid their share of rent to date!
Lowe Garden, part of the Lowe Estate, which was later donated to Aquinas College.
Holmdene Manor – Aquinas College
Children’s laughter, lights, faucets running on their own, and sightings of a child in the building’s windows have been reported. The manor, built in 1906, has many legends. The most popular is about the original owner’s adolescent son who apparently drowned in the garden pool. Those who have experienced sightings argue that his spirit still remains. In 2005, a demonologist visited the manor and confirmed the presence of multiple spirits … but college students will tell you they are more afraid of exam week than any ghosts.
Pantlind Hotel / Amway Grand Plaza
Built in 1913, filled with stunning architecture, and even ranked among the top hotels in the nation, the Pantlind was acquired by the Amway Corporation in 1979, but many residents never checked out. The stories of residents’ deaths, including a woman’s death in an elevator, are all a part of the character of the Amway. Hotel guests can still discover mischievous ghosts who clean, dance, and roam the halls — it’s quite a party here anytime of year.
The oldest neighborhood in Grand Rapids holds many secrets. TV shows, books, paranormal experts, and even exorcisms have taken place to explore and even rid homes near Fulton Street of their spirits. Residents report waking with nightmares, sounds in the night, doors opening on their own, beds shaking awake, and things moving at night. Most addresses and information are withheld to protect homeowners and ghosts who don’t want to be bothered.
Michigan Bell Telephone Company
Home to many of Michigan’s ghost stories, the Bell Telephone Company building (previously the Judd-White Rooming house) is among the most famous scary Grand Rapids sites. In 1910, the building’s most notable residents, Warren Randall and his wife, met their end. Randall apparently went insane and clubbed his wife with his wooden leg before killing himself. The Michigan Bell Telephone Company purchased the property and tore down the old, reportedly haunted house in 1924, but didn’t rid itself of the Randalls. Instead, they gave the old, crazy ghosts phones to make spooky prank calls at night!
Eberle, Gary. Haunted Houses of Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids, Silver Fox Publishing, 1994.
Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Library Archives.
Stuart Clapp is a Michigander with a love and focus for Michigan culture, life, music, and people. Stuart studied English and psychology and has earned a Master's Degree, but currently focuses his time on his writing, music, and family.