The Haunting Of
By James Donahue
About 100 miles north of Detroit,
Highway 25 winds along the shore of Lake Huron on its way to the tip of Michigan’s Thumb District. Among the small towns
and settlements it passes through is the tiny community of Richmondville.
Once an active port lumber town
and stagecoach stop, Richmondville was all but destroyed during a forest fire that swept much of the state in 1871. Today
the place is comprised of a bar, general store, a few summer homes and a row of abandoned buildings. Across the highway from
the bar stands the Quay House, a building that once served as a stage coach stop, inn and town Post Office.
Some years back I was fortune
enough to meet and interview an elderly woman who then occupied the building, by then converted to be a rambling old home.
I have long forgotten her name. She was a direct descendent of the man for whom the building bore its name, Captain Quay.
The woman had a ghost story to tell that not only involved the house, but the town.
It seems that the Quay family
always occupied the house, even when it was an inn. There was a teenage daughter, Minnie Quay, who fell in love with one of
the sailors that worked on a ship making regular calls at the town’s dock.
The mother did not like the
thought of her 15-year-old daughter getting involved with a traveling sailor and demanded that she stop seeing the man. When
the daughter disobeyed, she was locked in her upstairs bedroom each time that particular ship made port.
Like all teens, the daughter
found ways to escape and continued nightly rendezvous with her lover. In a frantic effort to break up the relationship, the
girl was moved into a bedroom that could be entered only through the master bedroom where the mother slept, and that mother
kept a watchful eye on Minnie’s whereabouts the next time the ship made a stop.
The girl pleaded and sobbed,
but was prevented from reaching the arms of her love that day. The ship sailed. There was a storm, and the ship was lost.
The young sailor was never seen again.
Minnie was heartbroken. She
spent her days walking the shore, and standing on the dock waiting for her lover to return. The day that news of the loss
of the ship reached Richmondville, it was said that Minnie put on her best white gown then waded out in the water and drowned
herself. To this day her spirit is said to walk the beach at Richmondville. On misty dark nights, summer vacationers report
seeing the pale white figure of a weeping young woman in a flowing white gown..
Quay House also is haunted.
The old woman told me that things had a way of falling from tables, pictures drop from the walls, and electrical appliances
sometimes turn on without anybody being in the room. She said she knew it was the spirit of Minnie Quay still wandering the
house and expressing her anger at what had happened.
There is a contemporary part
of this story that makes it even darker. After I wrote this story for the newspaper I worked for at the time, a group of religious
fanatics from a Detroit area church decided to come to Richmondville and conduct an exorcism.
Since it involved spiritual matters,
they assumed the haunting was “of the devil.” The event received a lot of publicity when the Detroit newspapers
picked up the story. The whole affair turned into a circus, and the people of Richmondville wanted no part of it.
As I remember the chain of events,
the story caused such a ruckus, the county sheriff’s department dispatched officers to the town to keep that bus-load
of church folks from entering the cemetery where Minnie Quay lies buried.
Marion Kuclo of Detroit, who at the time was a well-known practicing “green witch” under the name Guendella, included the Minnie Quay ghost story in her
book, Michigan Haunts and Hauntings, which gave the community even more notoriety.
As far as I know, the ghost
of Minnie Quay still walks the beach along Highway 25, waiting for a ship that will never return.