Pere Cheney Cemetery & Ghost Town
Pere Cheney, now a ghost town not found on any map, was once a small lumbering town in Crawford County, west of Grayling. Pronounced “pair-a-shaney", the town got its start in 1870 when lumbermen following the railroads set up camp. Soon, the town had a school, grocery store, post office and much more. Thirty years later, the timber industry in the area moved on and the area didn’t offer much in the way of supporting a thriving town. In the early 1900’s, only eighteen people were living in Pere Cheney. It was declared a ghost town in 1913-14. The only remnants left of this town are a small cemetery and some old holes in the ground where buildings once stood. Sicknesses such as scarlet fever and smallpox took the lives of many people, including children, during the few decades Pere Cheney was in existence. This fact has given fuel to the legends of Pere Cheney.
Over the years, vandals ruined what was left of the town. According to the book “Ghost Towns of Michigan,” as a teenager, a Crawford County sheriff vandalized the cemetery and was said to have driven around with “a human skull in the back window of his car”as a teen.
Pere Cheney Legends and Ghost Stories
No ghost town is short on actual ghost stories. One Pere Cheney legend says a witch lived in the town and was hung in a big oak tree in the cemetery where she is buried under. People say she wasn’t a witch, but a woman who had a child out of wedlock.
Some say the town was cursed from the start because it was built on Native American land or the classic, “a witch cursed it!” is another popular reason. In an online posting I found, one person stated, “There are no witches buried at Pere Cheney. The townspeople would not have buried her in the town graveyard. (Hah! I love this little quip. It’s so matter-of-fact.)
Everything that’s paranormal has been reported coming out of Pere Cheney. I think a large part of this is because Pere Cheney is remote, spooky, been heavily vandalized over the years and is also the last remaining piece of a ghost town. It has all the classic elements that make up some good breeding grounds for legends!
Throughout the years, I’ve heard tons of stories about Pere Cheney. People have reported all the usual paranormal occurances such as cold spots, apparitions, disembodied voices, ghost trains and everything else under the sun. So is Pere Cheney really haunted? Being that the ghost town is the perfect breeding ground for legends, most of the stories circulating are nothing more than urban legend and over active imaginations…but you never know. You’ll have to visit Pere Cheney to find out for yourself.
New Reader Story Submission 2013
My nephew who is handicapped and in a wheelchair, talked his mother and two aunts into taking him ghost hunting. We started with tours, then graduated to overnight lock downs (Mansfield State Prison, West VA Prison just to name a few) and have been perfecting our techniques with various equipment.
So being all residents or former residents of Northern Michigan we decided to conduct a hunt at Pere Cheney. We had planned to conduct the hunt at night, but thought it wiser to try and find the place during the day, since it is remote and hard to find. So the three sisters set off and of course took our equipment with us. We had just purchased the new Ghost Box Ovilus III (incredible piece of equipment). After many wrong turns and a stroke of luck we found the place.
We got out of the car and turned on the equipment and immediately started getting words, which after some question and answer sessions got some very interesting replies. Including several names of Murphy, Pat and several others. We were warned that the "rabbits" that had been left on the gravesites were evil and told about paranormal accidents that happened in the area.
The area during the day was somewhat peaceful and as we explored the gravesites and were saddened by how many children were there. It was tragic to see the amount of destruction that vandals had done to the gravesites. About an hour or so into the hunt "Murphy" warned us to run, to leave, that the demons where there, that is was evil. We asked why and who? We never really got a response but after the third warning we left. As we were leaving I just started taking pictures and had some very interesting see thru forms show up.
At about 11 pm we arrived back there with our nephew and proceeded to get all the equipment out, the ghost box, the EVP recorder, the scatter lights, headlamps etc. It was very creepy especially given that fact that the location is isolated and there is only one way in and out. It is just a two track barely large enough for one car. In fact, we never really got very far from the car we were spooked and we have been on some very scary overnight lockdowns.
My sister was working the scatter light and saw areas where the "lights" were completely absorbed and black holes. We tried to take pictures but they did not show up well on the camera. The strangest part was when my other sister armed with the camera and I armed with the ghost box stepped out of the car and tried to take steps on the actual cemetery property we felt like a layer was there that we could not cross. We felt this every time we tried to walk on cemetery land. So stayed close to the car and communicated again with "Murphy". There was just a feeling of heaviness, too much silence, and just overall feeling of being watched. It was a very short experience (probably about an hour) since "Murphy" keep saying to run, evil and to leave.
Needless to say, we left. We conducted our cleansing ceremony and away we went. We believe in respectful hunting and usually do tobacco offerings before we begin where we set the rules and always, always do a cleansing ceremony when we are completely off any property that we are hunting on.
This was an interesting experience, I would certainly go back and hunt the area, but I think we will do it at dusk next time.
Submitted by Big Al and the Hunters
If you have had a similar experience or would like to share something with the authors of this submission, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Reader Story Submission
I read your article about Pere Cheney cemetery and I had to laugh as it brought back memories of growing up a couple of miles from there. My friends and I would ride our bikes there at night during the summer and wait for people to show up. We would hide in the woods and when someone showed up we would start making noises like breaking a branch or throwing sticks around. Once we caught their attention, we would start making more noise such as running around or even laughing and yelling. Once, my friend snuck up to a car, started it and ran off.
Honestly, I never really thought about what we did back then until I read your article. While we never vandalized, I know we scared some of the vandals away. We figured if people were going to come there at night, they would be expecting something! I'm just glad we never gave anyone a heart attack or got shot at! By the way, I have been there over 50 times, mostly at night, and have never witnessed anything unusual. Thanks for your time.
Reader Story Submission
Growing up at Higgins Lake, we would always go to Pere Cheney at night trying to scare people by hanging ketchup dunked dummies from trees and throwing stuff at passing cars. It was so much fun telling stories about the one eared Indian and the caretaker that lived in the shack at the top of the hill. We would go beforehand and set up our plans.
About the witch’s grave stone, we heard a story about three guys from Roscommon that were obviously drinking and dared one another to break the glass insert that contained the ashes. After breaking the glass they were about to leave when they had car trouble. Upon opening the hood to see what the problem was, one of them broke an arm. The hood didn't fall or anything to hurt him he just broke it. The two guys didn't make it back home but the third did to tell the story. The next day they sent out a search team to try and find the two guys but to no avail. I'm not sure how truthful this story is but that was one of the stories we had heard growing up. Maybe someone else has heard the same story. We had some great times out there and thank god we never vandalized when we were there. We always picked up after ourselves and didn't disturb anything out of fear of ghosts coming to get us. I still go back every now and then just to see how much it has grown over. Thank-you for this website!
Michigan's Otherside Forum Member Checks In After Visiting Pere Cheney Cemetery
I went to the famous Pere Cheney Cemetery last night. It’s in Crawford County near Roscommon and Grayling. I took a lot of pictures and tried to capture some EVP’s but I didn't capture anything unusual. I spent thirty minutes cleaning up beer bottles, cans and broken glass off the headstones. Most of the stones are missing, others are smashed. I walked around the cemetery and all I felt was a peaceful feeling. I did upon entering the cemetery, tell the nearby residence why I was there. I have been to other cemeteries and had really bad feelings, but this is the first time I felt so relaxed. I am going back tonight and meeting up with Mid Michigan Paranormal Investigators. I still need to check out the remains of the town.
Pere Cheney was the first settlement in Crawford County and was settled by lumberjacks and sawmill hands who followed the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw railroad north towards mackinaw city. G.M. (papa) Cheney built the first sawmill in town and began lumbering operations there. In 1879, the County was organized and Pere Cheney was the first County seat. It was changed shortly thereafter to Grayling. The town, which was located about seven miles southeast of Grayling, had a hotel, general store, three sawmills, a railroad depot, school and post office which operated till 1911. By 1918, the town was nearly abandoned. In 1920 there were two residences.
Pere Cheney Cemetery was actually named Center Plains Cemetery back then. There isn't much left of the town, only one foundation left. Also if you go looking for the town, it’s not like a town with buildings side by side. It’s spread out over at least seven acres. A lot of it is in woods that have been growing since 1920. I got a map of the town, and then I did a satellite image. I then made the image transparent and laid it over the original map. I am going over all the death records I could find too and found the sources while having some of the same names; I also have different names so I am rebuilding both and combining them. The map of the Cemetery is poor but I am trying to figure out each section and figure out who is laid out where. When I finish with all my research I will post the interesting stuff. It’s truly amazing how much the vandals and partying destroyed this place. There are only a few graves left and a lot of them are smashed. If any of you decide to check this place out, do so during the week. On weekends its party central.
For a great interesting page visit here.
Common Rumors About Pere Cheney
1. The ground is cursed by a witch or Native Americans
2. The town was killed off by sickness and then rebuilt again and again.
3. A fire ravaged the entire town.
4. Mass burials are all over Pere Cheney
5. Bad luck follows you if you take something from the town (although some will swear this is true and happened to them!)
Wakefield, Larry. Ghost Towns of Michigan Vol. II. Thunder Bay Press, Holt. 1995.
Internet Resource: http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/mi/percheny.html