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Posted on Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

Washtenaw County spirits reported to be mischievous but friendly

By Tom Perkins


The owners of Bone Heads BBQ in Willis say the restaurant is frequently visited by various ghosts and spirits.

Tom Perkins | For

When Nikki LaChance turns on lights in a dark room at Bone Heads Barbecue, she does so gingerly.

She keeps her body in the room that’s lighted, reaches around the corner, feels for the switch and quickly flips it on. Then she’ll take a peek and make sure the coast is clear.

When LaChance and her husband, Jim, bought the restaurant two years ago, they also inherited the spirits, ghosts, and hauntings the owners say are part of the downtown Willis structure. The spot is among several in Washtenaw County that have been visited by local paranormal societies and ghost hunters and verified as haunted.

The Ghost Hunters of Southeast Michigan have recorded unexplained whispers and photographed orbs and what they say is a transparent human in the restaurant. The organization gave a presentation at a dinner at the restaurant Oct. 16.

LaChance reports three ghosts haunt Bone Heads. Several employees and guests have seen a woman - dubbed Nellie by staff and regulars - in her 40s, while others witnessed an apparition appearing to be a younger girl in her teens. Still other guests have stopped the LaChances to ask why there’s a cat in the living room.

The only problem is the cat, “Pickles,” died years ago and is buried underneath the steps on the building’s west side.

One employee said she dropped a lighter, only to have it kicked back to her before she bent to pick it up. Another saw a different face than her own when she looked in the bathroom mirror. A bulb on a homemade decorative wreath hanging in the bathroom exploded on its own while several women were inside.

Lights in the upstairs office flick on and off by themselves, the owners said; doors open and shut; guests said a vase floated by several them before crashing to the ground and an employee reported someone ran fingers through her hair while she was all alone.

But Nikki LaChance said none of this bothers her that much.

“I find myself adapting to it,” she said. “It’s more of a ‘Casper’ type thing. I can deal with that, I just don’t want anything evil. I asked God to bless the restaurant and chase away any evil spirits when we moved in.”


Nikki LaChance shows where a bulb on an ornamental wreath mysteriously exploded in the Bone Heads bathroom.

Tom Perkins | For

LaChance said the older ghost is believed to be a mother whose son was a blacksmith and died on the tracks near the home. The story says that she is still looking for her son. The younger ghost came with a 12-foot apothecary cabinet brought into the restaurant. It’s believed to date back to the mid-1800’s, though no one can explain why the young ghost seems to be attached to it.

In Salem is a home in which a murder took place in the 1800s. Three men had come across money, and while one man went to the store, another shot the third man and left with the cash.

The Michigan Paranormal Society suspects that man is still haunting the Dickerson Street house. Members of the society investigated it in April and posted photos of orbs and recordings of unexplained voices talking during their investigation. They also discovered cold spots which couldn’t be explained by natural causes, said Christina Johnston, who owns the Paranormal Society with her husband, said.

In an interesting twist to the story, Johnston grew up in the house and mentioned that she wanted to investigate it just weeks before a phone call came in from the home’s owner. The investigation’s results, Johnston said, brings some validation to the things she heard and saw when she was younger.

Among the unexplained things she remembers form her youth are footsteps walking up and down the stairs, doors opening and closing, the television changing volume on its own or objects moving inexplicably.

The new owner experienced the same issues, and, like Johnston, wanted some kind of validation.

Johnston said the Paranormal Society performed an electronic voice phenomena, which involves using a digital recorder to ask spirits questions and sometimes get responses. She said the recorder did pick up responses in the Salem house, though the words were not audible.


A ghost was reportedly sighted in he second story window on the left side of the Dow Home in Ypsilanti, pictured above.

Tom Perkins | For

The Paranormal Society also took pictures, capturing orbs, and employed the skills of its spirit medium, who does automatic writings. The team asks the spirit questions and the spirit replies via writings through the medium. The society concluded the spirit is a male who was shot in the house.

Johnston said the homeowner doesn’t mind the spirit because it’s generally friendly, if not mischievous.

“More or less, they were looking for validation - they were hearing and seeing all these things, yet for some reason no one believed them. We feel, in our opinion, that there is something there,” she said.

In extreme cases in which the spirit is evil or much stronger, Johnston said, a Catholic priest could be called upon to perform an exorcism, but she added such a measure is rare and requires approval from the Vatican.

Johnston cautioned people who suspect they’re facing a haunting to be selective in who they choose to investigate. Ghost hunting television shows have become popular in recent years, but she said unprofessional groups may only worsen the problem, she said

“You need to have respect for the people living in the house and whatever else might be in there,” she said.

Ann Arbor historian Wystan Stevens said the most famous ghost story near Ann Arbor is the Dixboro haunting, which made headlines in area newspapers in the 1840s.

When Joseph Van Woert and his family rented a home from Joseph Crawford around that time, Van Woert reported he was visited multiple times by the ghost Crawford’s mother, Martha. Martha said she had been cheated out of her property and driven insane by her brother-in-law, James Mulholland, before her death several years prior.

Van Woert said she told him she had been killed and feared for the safety of her son, from whom Van Woert was renting the house. The details of those visits were provided in sworn testimony before a William Perry, ESQ, in Ann Arbor in 1845.

Van Woert’s account led the people of Dixboro to exhume her body and determine if she was poisoned, which they found she was “by some persons unknown.” When Mulholland could not be charged with the crime, he fled town and was never heard from again.

The house burned in a suspicious fire sometime in the 1860s or 1870s.

“I don’t happen to believe in ghosts, but I happen to think this is a darn good story,” Stevens said.

Historians in Ypsilanti are acquainted with a ghost story, but one set right in their own building. Historian George Ridenour, documented a haunting in the Ypsilanti Historical Society's building at 220 North Huron St. and witnessed several strange incidents.

Standing behind the Dow Home where the Historical Society used to be housed, Ridenour noticed a lady in the second story of the Dow Home. She appeared “lonely and forlorn” and Ridenour turned to his friends and told them he had just seen a ghost.

They said he had just seen “The Gray Lady”, who was known to haunt the building, so Ridenour investigated further. While inside the Dow Home one afternoon, he was hit by the strong odor of perfume. There were no flowers or anything else that might have provided such a scent around, so he went to the stairs and up to the second floor to where he had seen the Gray Lady.


The Gray Lady allegedly haunts this room in Ypsilanti's Dow Home.

Tom Perkins | For

Two friends who were in the house joined Ridenour in the room, where he again smelled the perfume. One of his acquaintances agreed that there was a strong odor, but the other only shook his head.

Another member of the Historical Society reported hearing the sound of a woman singing over a ventilation fan while in the bathroom of the Ypsilanti Archives.

The Gray Lady is thought to be Minerva Dow. Asa Dow, who owned the Dow home, married Minerva of Miles, Ohio, in 1848. The family moved in 1860 to Ypsilanti, where Dow was a bank president and business partners with Daniel Quirk. But Minerva Dow died in 1864 and Asa Dow is thought to have left the area.

In April 2009, the Huron River Paranormal Society visited the home and found cold spots that could not be attributed to natural causes, such as drafts. Additionally, the group videotaped a red light overlapping the green light on their equipment, though no one present saw the red light until the recording was reviewed.

The group's conclusion - the Historical Society is haunted by a spirit, but one that is friendly and means no harm.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for To reach the news desk call 735-623-2530.


S. E. Stacy

Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

Forget about the ghosts - the food is great. I have never heard anyone say they had food disappear from their plate.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

I just heard and had to add this to the addendum. 51% of Americans said they would live in a haunted house rent free and mortgage free. So, for those 49% that need a place to live? Might want to check it out.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 7:02 p.m.

Of course, those who've never seen don't believe. Many people don't believe in things they can't see or explain through science. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 11:48 a.m.

I can say from experience that Bone Heads is a great restaurant. The staff is very friendly, the service is quick, and the food will make you want to visit again.


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

Once you have an encounter you start believing. My one bus number was the same as the year my grandfather died. I never put two and two together, but I had problems with that bus until I realized the significance of that number from a numerologist. Then I got on that bus and told him to stop it. My fathers remains are in our home. Weird things go on here as well. So, to the non believers? What ever. But you will believe once you have experienced it for yourself. Our daughter was in a church after dark, the only lights that came in where from the street. She told me and the docent that was a pretty good trick for a woman to come down the stairs to scare her. He said there was no one else in the building as he was locking up. Wow. But this stuff even after Halloween is a money maker. Try some of those ghost tours in Quebec or Kingston. Happy haunting everyone!

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 5 a.m.

it appears we have some nonbelievers among us... BOO! (and boo)


Mon, Oct 25, 2010 : 3:05 a.m.

with Ypsicat to fjord... an even bigger razz! and BOO!


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 10:51 p.m.

@fjord A huge raspberry.


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 10:47 p.m.

Trying to get on that ridiculous "Ghost Hunters" show? Real news please! Not fantasy like "ghosts" and "god".


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 9:34 p.m.

Well, at least the ghosts haven't given up on our great state and are still hanging around. This is a very nice article and I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg in paranormal activity in the area.


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

I am not going to let ghosts/spirits keep me from trying Bone Head BBQ!! I had never heard of it (or the town of Willis) but plan to go there soon!


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

A fun article for Halloween. Thanks!


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 6:28 p.m.

Well I was going to try that place out but I'm afraid of ghosts. Not good for business.


Sun, Oct 24, 2010 : 12:27 p.m.

I have a request that the next story be about the fairies that live behind the fairy doors in Ann Arbor.