The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Most Haunted: Local haunted history

Grand Rapids Most Haunted took me on a whirlwind hunt of ghosts, city history and my own beliefs about the supernatural.
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Grand Rapids Most Haunted


/Samantha Dine

My interest in the paranormal started at around age ten. I woke up one night sweating in my bed to see what I believed to be a dark-haired woman sitting on the edge of my bed while Marky Mark's Good Vibrations blared out of my boombox. When I sat up, she put a finger to her lips to say "Shhh..." and faded into oblivion, never to be seen again.

Since then, I have held at least semi-belief in the supernatural and it seems the rest of America cultivated a fascination with it along with me. There are countless TV shows and movies that try to make a connection between the living and the dead.

When I heard about Grand Rapids Most Haunted tours, which is run by Cityscape Adventures, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I hadn't considered that any of our dowtown buildings, while rife with history, could be worthy of TV style paranormal investigation.

Brenda Dyer, owner of Cityscape Adventures, said "Grand Rapids history has all the makings of a bestselling novel: romance, murder, mystery and mayhem- it’s all there." 

I was fortunate enough to find out for myself by attending both a tour of several haunted locations as well as a lock-in of one haunted location: Grand Rapids Community Media Center's own Wealthy Theater.

Before being allowed on the tour bus, I was required to sign a liability release. I obliged and found myself on a bus filled with a giggly corporate banking group and a few other thrill seekers.  On the bus, we got a run-down of the rules and where we were headed: St Cecilia's Music Society, The Masonic Temple and the Ritz Koney.

Saint Cecilia's

I had never been inside this impressive building before and going in under the context that I could expect, according to Dyer, "tugging of the hair, pulling on jackets, or sleeves, a sensation of having your hair stroked, whispers in your ear 'get out!' or hearing growls, grunts and groans, or seeing shadow people" did take away my focus on the building's beauty.

At Saint Cecilia's we were able to walk around the darkened stage and seating areas and explore for ourselves. We were encouraged to take pictures and see if any spots or graininess showed up, which could indicate possible paranormal activity. Saint Cecilia's was one of the places I did notice a change in temperature, and honestly, was a little creeped out and ready to leave as fast as I could.

Masonic Temple

The second stop was the Masonic Temple on Fulton. This historic building just looks haunted: winding staircases, high ceilings,  and dangling chandeliers. Here, our tour met up with the Michigan Paranormal Alliance. They showed us equiptment they use to investigate hauntings: EVP meters, EMP meters, dousing rods and night vision goggles. We sat down in the Temple's "Red Room" which is typically only open to high ranking members of the Masons. The paranormal alliance lead us through a group EVP reading where the group asks questions such as "is anyone here," "what is your name," or "how did you die." The questions ware recorded on an audio recorder and then played back to see if the recorder picks up any response we couldn't hear. Our EVP reading did not reveal any clear answers, but the tension was exciting and built needed drama into the tour.

The Ritz Koney

The final tour stop was the basement of the Ritz Koney. Before heading in, our tour walked down an alley off Ionia where Dyer shared stories about the buildings in the area, many of which were once "cathouses" or brothels. Union train station used to be in that area, as well as many local hotels, where travelers would stay and sometimes suffer from drug overdoses. Though this alley wasn't an official tour stop, it brought together local stories with a truly chilling atmosphere. As Dyer said, "The bustle of Union Station and its surrounding area along South Ionia Ave at times is unshakeable." I have to agree, easily the highlight of the tour.

As for the Ritz Koney basement, there we were set free to use the equipment introduced to us. It was a little distracting to try to get in ghost hunt mode with Blame it on the Alcohol  blasting from the upstairs bar, but I gave it a shot. Not being much of a techie, I tried out the dowsing rods, without much success. Several members of the group got together and tried to communicate with a presence they believed was named Henry. I didn't see much evidence of Henry, but they had a good time and seemed convinced.

After the tour, I felt like I wasn't finished with GRMH. I wanted more: another chance to come into contact with something, a legitimate encounter with the paranormal. At least a good story. 

Wealthy Theater

My second chance with GRMH was at a four hour lock-in at the Wealthy Theater. This one was a little different than the tours. It seemed the attendees were very familiar with ghost-hunting. Many had brought their own equiptment. We were broken up into two teams and we able to take turns exploring the theater stages and the basement of the building.  

Though I had participated in the previous tour, I felt like a little bit of a novice as everyone split and dove right into readings and advanced investigation techniques. It was interesting to see the Wealthy Theater from a haunted standpoint. I had been there many times for shows, meetings or events. I couldn't wrap my head around it as a haunted location: it didn't have any mystery, so I didn't really get my good ghost story, though again, I could tell the other attendees did. 

As a result of my experiences, I would have to say that Grand Rapids Most Haunted didn't turn this part-time skeptic into a full-time believer, but I enjoyed learning more abour our city's history and the experience overall. 

Whether you believe, straddle the fence or think it is just all spectacle, one thing is clear: our interest in the paranormal seems to be part of shared American culture. The answers to paranormal activity exist outside of our realm. Science (or pseudoscience as many believe) can only tell part of the story. In a society where the answers to most of life’s unknowns are a Google search away, the mystery of the paranormal leaves us with questions and a chance to search for something, even if it's just a night of fun.

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