2010-04-10 / Top News

Is Island House Caller a Gentleman Ghost? Paranormal Team Says Yes

"They've got some sort of paranormal activity going on in the hotel." – Daniel Mackin, investigator
By Karen Gould

At left: With some of their equipment in hand, the Michigan Area Paranormal ghost hunting team prepares for a second night of investigations at Mackinac Island's 157-year-old Island House Hotel October 12. Pictured are (from left) Justin Hawkins, Roger Geraci, and brothers Daniel and Dave Mackin. At left: With some of their equipment in hand, the Michigan Area Paranormal ghost hunting team prepares for a second night of investigations at Mackinac Island's 157-year-old Island House Hotel October 12. Pictured are (from left) Justin Hawkins, Roger Geraci, and brothers Daniel and Dave Mackin. Charlie the gentleman ghost was back at the Island House hotel last fall, staying long enough to wander through a fourth floor guest room and have his picture taken. Convincing paranormal investigators strange things are happening at the Mackinac Island hotel, Charlie has been making his presence known to guests and staff, who began talking about him more than 15 years ago.

For years, said hotel president Todd Callewaert, rumors have circulated about a stately gentleman ghost, affectionately called "Charlie" by staff members.

"Doors would open and close and nobody would be there," he said. "Things would move in the rooms and [staff] would always say it was Charlie."

Is the dark silhouette Charlie the Gentlemen Ghost on the left of the photograph? Paranormal investigators Roger Geraci (right) and Dave Mackin are pictured with the aparition October 11, 2009, in a room at Island House Hotel on Mackinac Island. "At a glance, we think it looks like a guy probably about five foot, six inches [tall]. It looks like somebody in a black coat or overcoat with a top hat on," said Mr. Mackin. The photograph, he said, was taken in the dark and enhanced. (Michigan Area Paranormal Investigative Team photograph) Is the dark silhouette Charlie the Gentlemen Ghost on the left of the photograph? Paranormal investigators Roger Geraci (right) and Dave Mackin are pictured with the aparition October 11, 2009, in a room at Island House Hotel on Mackinac Island. "At a glance, we think it looks like a guy probably about five foot, six inches [tall]. It looks like somebody in a black coat or overcoat with a top hat on," said Mr. Mackin. The photograph, he said, was taken in the dark and enhanced. (Michigan Area Paranormal Investigative Team photograph) Paranormal investigators descended on the hotel in mid- October shortly before it closed for the season. They came to Mackinac Island to provide logical explanations for ghostly tales that for years have circulated around the hotel among guests and staff. After two nights of monitoring rooms, however, the four-member Michigan Area Paranormal Investigative Team discovered things that couldn't be explained as simply reflective lights, shadows from trees, or sounds from water pipes.

"They've got some sort of paranormal activity going on in the hotel," said investigator Daniel Mackin, who presented preliminary findings three days later, October 16. "Hopefully, we can check it out again sometime. It was a pretty interesting event."

Over the next few months, the investigators will review 14 hours of filming on each of six cameras and listen to audio recordings several times before they will have a final report on their paranormal investigation.

"We're out to disprove before we're out to prove," said Dave Mackin. "We'd rather disprove a haunt than prove a haunt, if we can."

When investigating a site, the men often are able to offer ordinary explanations for sightings, including lights bouncing off mirrors.

"We can't say that they are not [seeing ghosts], but we can give them a reason why they are seeing things," he added.

That was not the case with the Island House.

After two nights of filming, watching, and making audio recordings, the Traverse citybased group recorded unexplainable whisperings, a responsive knocking sound, and captured three photographs of a silhouette of a ghostly figure of a man wearing a top hat.

"We tried to debunk it, figure out what it is," Daniel Mackin said of a photograph containing the figure. "It blocks the TV so it seems like it's got three dimensions. We haven't come up with anything to debunk it to say that it is anything other than possibly a picture of an apparition. We are not 100% sure yet, but it was more than what we had hoped to catch ."

Brothers Dave and Daniel Mackin and their cousin, Roger Geraci, started the team three years ago and don't charge for their services .

The three men grew up in a "spooky" house, which helped to fuel their interest in the para- normal. Now, as adults, they decided it was time to find explanations for strange happenings, and, when their day jobs allow, they spend time investigating paranormal activity.

Mr. Geraci's wife, Megan, helps with paperwork and his brother-in-law, Justin Hawkins, joined the team last summer. The Mackin brothers have three teenage sons who also help the team occasionally.

The men began their investigations in 2006 as a hobby. They have studied the Traverse City Opera House and, in November, they are going to Moundsville Penitentiary in West Virginia, formerly called the West Virginia Penitentiary, which was closed in 1995 and has a reputation for being haunted.

At the Island House, the team worked from Sunday night, October 11, to Tuesday morning, October 13, working from about 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Equipment include a night vision camera.

Working at night, they said, makes it easier to catch light anomalies and night hours are quieter, improving the ability to pick up sounds.

"You hear a lot of instances of hauntings where things do happen in the daytime, so it is not a necessity to do it in the night," said Daniel Mackin, "but it is just that quieter atmosphere and a chance to catch things in the dark. You can capture something on film that you might not see in the daylight."

The men set up recorders and cameras in some fourth-floor rooms and had hand-held equipment they carried with them, including a thermometer to detect drops or spikes in room temperatures. Sharp modifications, they said, can indicate paranormal activity.

Before the men arrived, the hotel sent e-mails to past guests inviting them to join in the investigation and to share any unusual occurrences they had experienced as guests of the hotel, said Mr. Callewaert. Most responses pointed to guest rooms 400 and 409, and they became the focus of the investigative team, but not the only rooms they checked out. The hotel closed the fourth floor to overnight guests for the two nights.

In room 409, the jacuzzi tub turns on for no reason, reported previous guests.

In room 400, a housekeeping employee said she set a cleaning bucket on the bed in the bedroom. When she did that, the door closed and the shower turned on. She thought it was a maintenance employee, and entered the bathroom.

"She opened the door and the water just stopped," said Dave Mackin. "She heard a noise behind her and her bucket flew off the bed, out the door and into the hall."

Daniel Mackin was in room 407 Sunday evening when he heard a knock.

"It was periodic and I couldn't get it to respond to me," he said. "I thought, 'If this is Charlie or whatever, can you do that knock again?' I could not get it to respond to me, but every time I started to lose a little interest in it or get ready to walk out of the room, the knock would happen again."

He put his hand on wall to feel any vibration, but as soon as he pulled his hand from the wall, the knock happened again. Later, the men looked at the video taken in the room at the same time and it showed a light by the foot of the bed that moved away very quickly.

"All of that together is pretty interesting," said Daniel Mackin. "I tried to get it to respond on command, but I could not get anything out of it. . . . Was there something there and was it kind of playing a game with me? Because every time I seemed to lose interest was when it would try to get my attention back. It was very interesting."

During their first night, the men saw temperature swings in room 400.

"We had a 10-degree temperature drop within an instant," said Dave Mackin. "When you're sitting still and it drops 10 degrees, there is no reason for that."

Without any other explanations like an open window, said Daniel Mackin, sudden temperature changes are an indicator paranormal activity is happening.

"The theory behind a temperature drop or temperature fluctuation is always that a spirit or an entity, if they are there, can draw the energy around them to cause something to happen," said Daniel Mackin. "They're kind of drawing the heat energy out of the air. The thermometer is an indicator. If you get a fluctuation on your thermometer, this might be a good time to take a picture. Something may be trying to happen here so you look at it from that scientific perspective."

Getting knocked over by a ghost, said the men, is about the only thing that would scare them. Dave Mackin said he would like to be hit by his camera bag, which happened to one paranormal investigator.

"Right in the face," he said. "It knocked him right down and they got it on video. Literally you could see the bag come up and hit him. To me, that happens, that's awesome. I'm going to get back up and say, 'Can you do that again?' Then, if it does it again, I'm going to be a little nervous."

Built in 1852, the Island House has 93 rooms and is open in the summer.

The Mackinac Island hotel has been designated a Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The distinction is given to hotels that faithfully maintain their historic integrity, architecture, and ambiance. Four other Michigan hotels are considered historic hotels by the National Trust, including Grand Hotel, also on Mackinac Island, The Inn at Ferry Street in Detroit, The Landmark Inn in Marquette, and Stafford's Perry Hotel in Petoskey.

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