Investigating Haunted Mackinac Island With Ghost Hunters' Amy Bruni and Uncovering the Nature of Spirits

How a Weekend on Haunted Mackinac Island Resulted in Strange Insight Into the Nature of Ghosts

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This past September, Greg and I were invited to visit Michigan’s beautiful and haunted Mackinac Island with Amy Bruni and the Strange Escapes gang. Never ones to say no to an adventure, we packed up The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult and headed off for the wonderfully weird island off the coast of Lake Huron to spend the weekend snooping for spooks at the infamously haunted Mission Point Resort. Little did we know that we were signing up for one of the strangest paranormal experiences we’ve ever had.

If you haven’t read the full history of Mackinac Island, check out Week in Weird’s in-depth background of the island, resort, and of course, its haunted history.

ARRIVING AT HAUNTED MACKINAC ISLAND

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Our adventure began at the ferry which takes guests to the island all spring, summer, and fall. Since Mackinac Island is a historically protected area there are no cars allowed, and for the most part, everyone gets around either by foot, horse-drawn carriage, or bike — and trust me when I say that the lack of motor-vehicles adds to the island’s spook-factor. Visiting Mackinac is like taking a step back in time, and there’s nothing like a midnight carriage ride into town to get pizza after a long night of paranormal investigating. Historically-accurate food be damned.

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While the notoriously haunted island sets the perfect stage for a creepy weekend, anyone who’s chased ghosts knows that it really takes the right group of weirdos to draw out any notable activity. Fortunately, Amy Bruni’s Strange Escapees are a famously wonderful group of people that come from of all levels of paranormal experience. It’s not uncommon to meet someone who has been investigating ghosts for years sitting right next to someone who has never held an EMF meter in their life. The diversity is an awesome change of pace that lets people learn and teach each other the tricks of the trade, making for a lot of fun and creativity. With a group like this, it’s no surprise that the Mackinac Island event didn’t disappoint when it came to evidence of the paranormal.

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THE INVESTIGATION

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During our investigation, Greg and myself were happy to find ourselves stationed inside “Harvey’s Suite”, a room where many believe Mackinac’s most famous spirit has taken up residence. While the island is full of creepy locations with their own tales of hauntings of heartbreak, this room seemed to be the epicenter of Mission Point’s weirder activity, which made it the perfect place to post up.

In life, Harvey was not a particularly happy person, mainly due to a bout of unrequited love. Eventually, after months of heartbreak, Harvey walked up the bluff behind the resort and shot himself. Today his suite has become one of the most requested at the resort. If you’ve ever seen the Ghost Hunters Mackinac Island episode, you’re probably already familiar with the infamous activity captured while Jason Hawes spent the night in Harvey’s room. Unexpectedly, and while Hawes was sleeping, a lamp on the right side table clicked on by itself.

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Lucky for us, our evening in Harvey’s old dorm room proved to be even spookier – and we were wide awake for the entire event.

Many of the groups that spent time with us in Harvey’s Suite experienced strange EMF fluctuations, the feeling of a disembodied touch, and even roaming cold spots, but it was one experience that took me by surprise, and has gone down to be one of the most compelling pieces of paranormal insight I’ve ever had the chance to experience.

THE PHANTOM ODOR

Bumps in the night and spikes on an EMF meter are great and all, but those of us who’ve dealt with even the most gentle skeptics know they have no problem disregarding blinking lights and disembodied noises. What really stumps them is when multiple people share an experience that’s not only unique, but defies all logic. Kind of like what happened next.

As the final investigation group was preparing to pack up at the end of the night, I began to smell a very strong scent, the kind of musk given off by a man who hadn’t bathed in many, many weeks. Despite the odor becoming almost overpowering, I resisted mentioning it for fear of offending anyone in the group.

That’s when the Escapee (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten – if you’re reading this, please give me a poke and remind me) standing near me reported the same smell. We both agreed it smelled awful, detailing the not-so-subtle notes of body odor and general uncleanliness, but as I had spent the entire night investigating the suite I had become very familiar with the sights and smells at that point. It wasn’t coming from a guest, as I had already spent upwards of 40 minutes inside the room with the same group of people. Not only could we not figure out where the smell was coming from, it appeared that only the two of us were experiencing the strange scent! The phantom odor lasted throughout the suite for roughly five minutes before disappearing completely and never returning.

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Mysterious scents are nothing new when it comes to paranormal activity, but here’s where things get really weird. Shortly after the night’s wrap-up, My fellow experiencer and I talked a bit about how Harvey might have smelled after months of depression, of hiding away in his room, and we both agreed that what we experienced was probably very close to that scent. The most fascinating discovery, however, came when my parter nonchalantly dropped a bomb that I’ve been mulling over for months now: she had lost her sense of smell years ago.

How did a woman with no sense of smell, well, smell the phantom odor? And stranger still, how was it that she and I were the only two people to experience it? What does that say about a ghosts ability to effect us? Can they draw upon our memories, influence parts of our brain, even causing us to “smell” something that isn’t physically there?

THE NATURE OF GHOSTS

Ask any skeptic and they’ll tell you that the problem with paranormal evidence is that the majority of it is subjective, that personal experiences are to be immediately disqualified from review. But what if the nature of the paranormal is that it must be experienced subjectively to be understood? After all, the old adage “seeing is believing” rings true, as we’ve seen with so many whose unbelief was changed by an extraordinary encounter.

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What if the presence of a spirit isn’t always dictated by physical manifestations, but by otherworldly manipulation of the circuits in our brains? Maybe so many ghosts appear translucent because they’re simply being projected into our vision from somewhere else, a vision only given to those with the fortune (or misfortune) of being in the right place at the right time. Or in the case of Mackinac’s phantom odor, what if the memory of a scent is easier to conjure up than the molecules required to generate said smells? In this case, smelling is believing.

Our motto has always been to “engage the strange”, and it’s more than just a snappy catchphrase – it’s a method of paranormal investigation. Whether we’re making a genuine attempt at being abducted by aliens, becoming Bigfoot bait, or receiving messages from spirits via complete strangers, it’s always been apparent to us that the best way to find answers to the paranormal is to subject yourself to it. In doing so, we’re given insight into the nature of the unexplained, insight that can only be gained by being there, by doing it. If you ask us, that’s why Strange Escapes events are so successful at raising spirits, so to speak.

STRANGE ESCAPES

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During our Strange Escapes investigation of Mackinac Island’s Mission Point Resort, many of us experienced possible paranormal activity, but for me, the phantom odor is not just one of the most interesting pieces of evidence collected that night, but is easily one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced on an investigation. What’s even cooler is that it didn’t require the latest ghost hunting gadgets, iPhone apps, or anything besides being present in the moment, which I believe is one of the most important “tools” that a paranormal investigator can have. It was a wonderful and strange experience that I will no doubt remember (and re-tell) for a long time.

If you’re thinking about attending a paranormal event, I seriously cannot recommend Amy Bruni’s fantastic Strange Escapes enough. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never investigated a day in your life or are a seasoned veteran of the paranormal. Everyone will welcome you with enthusiasm and you’ll learn a lot by taking in lectures by the likes of John E. L. Tenney, Chip Coffey, and Adam Berry, to name a few, who are some of the most fantastic speakers and teachers in the field.

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Week in Weird had a blast, and lucky for us (and you) Amy’s invited us and The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and Occult to hit the road this April and spend the weekend investigating the ghosts of Colorado’s infamous Stanley Hotel. If you’re looking for a paranormal vacation, book your tickets and come engage the strange with us. Who knows what kind of experience you’ll have.

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For more information about Amy Bruni’s Strange Escapes events, and how you can be part of the fun, visit the official website at www.strange-escapes.com. There’s a good chance you’ll find us and the Traveling Museum of the Paranormal and the Occult at an escape near you!

Have you “engaged the strange”? Do you believe that spirits communicate by rewiring the circuits in our brain? We want to hear what you think! Drop us a line on Facebook, tweet us @WeirdHQ, or start a conversation in the comments below!


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Dana Matthews

Dana Matthews

Co-founder, Editor, Writer at Week in Weird / Planet Weird
Managing editor, occult museum curator, and paranormal TV junkie, Dana has been actively investigating the strange and the unexplained for two decades. When she’s not telling ghost stories or penning articles about real haunted places, she's chasing mysteries with Planet Weird. Learn more about Dana.
Dana Matthews

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I do believe that strange smells are one way spirits communicate. Many years ago as my father was in the hospital in a coma and near the end of his terminal illness, I started having vivid dreams of him. It was one night in a dream that I saw him smoking a cigar while telling me he had to go. It woke me up and at the same time, my husband who was asleep next to me woke up and asked me if I smelled cigar smoke. When I told him of my dream just then, we both agreed it… Read more »

The note about the woman who had lost her olfaction smelling the same ‘smell’ is interesting, but it is of piece with parapsychological observations dating from at least the 1880s. I would refer you to Gurney, Podmore and Myers’ Phantasms of the Living for similar discussions, e.g., instances of people with oblique lines of sight seeing the same apparition in a full frontal view. The matter is also discussed in Gauld’s Mediumship and Survival as well. Question: Did you both ‘smell’ the ‘same’ smell or one that corresponds to seperate experienced or generic ‘musty man smells’?

I live in Michigan and I’ve gone to Mackinac Island multiple times. And every single time I’ve gone I’ve had a new freaky experience. I started going when I was around 6 or 7 and recently quit going due to these experiences. I remember going up to the fort when I was around 13 years old and seeing someone jump off the fort wall, I thought someone had just committed suicide in a public place right in the middle of summer! But, apparently no one else saw it and were all very concerned why this 13 year old girl was… Read more »
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