'You can't deny something's going on' | A tour of Lake Forest Cemetery
For some, Halloween means costumes and candy. For others, it involves trying to create a pipeline to the paranormal.
A West Michigan cemetery, tucked in the hills of Grand Haven, is claimed by many to be one of the most haunted in the entire country, and decades-worth of common, unexplained experiences have given birth to spooky legend.
"I got hooked on the whole idea of searching for the unknown when I was a kid," said Amberrose Hammond, who has authored many books on the paranormal, and runs the website, Michigan's Otherside. "It comes down to belief and experience."
Hammond is a native of Grand Haven, Michigan and has done exhaustive research on Lake Forest Cemetery, which is the oldest graveyard inside the city limits.
"I can still count on one hand how many times I've had something happen that I can't explain, and that amount of times is what keeps me interested and looking for more," said Hammond.
Lake Forest Cemetery has been in existence since 1873. Many of the founding-fathers of Grand Haven are buried there. Also buried in this cemetery are many people who suffered crime-related deaths, as well as thousands of unidentified people buried on top of each other in a mass grave.
"There are so many hidden stories in this cemetery for people to research," said Jeanette Weiden, who is in charge of local history and genealogy for Loutit District Library in Grand Haven. "People don't realize how much cool, local history surrounds them at all times."
Every October, Hammond and Weiden combine their knowledge and experience and offer a free tour of Lake Forest Cemetery. Amberrose primarily focuses on the paranormal claims, while Weiden makes her portion of the presentation about juicy back-stories that led to some of the deaths of the people buried there.
"You learn about [Grand Haven]; you learn about the people who created [Grand Haven], and you also learn about the stories of haunting claims that were made legendary many decades ago," said Weiden.
Three of the most talked about hauntings in Lake Forest Cemetery are "The Blue Man," "Potter's Field," and "The Ghost of Kate Koopman."
"There are many claims of people seeing a blueish figure standing atop Ferry Hill," said Hammond, referring to a hill inside the cemetery where Reverend William Ferry - and his entire family - are buried.
Ferry died in 1867.
"Over the decades, people have climbed to the top of Ferry Hill and desecrated the graves, including William Ferry's grave," added Hammond. "Many believe the Blue Man is William Ferry, guarding Ferry Hill, his tombstone and watching over the entire cemetery."
Potter's Field is an open portion of land inside the cemetery which has very few gravestones on it.
There's a reason for that.
"Potter's Field is where Grand Haven's poor and unidentified are buried," said Hammond. "It's believed there could be as many as 1,500 bodies buried there in one mass grave, with many of the bodies buried on top of each other."
Hammond speaks of an unexplained experience one of her psychic friends claimed to have had, while passing by Potter's Field.
"I took somebody who claimed to be psychic on a walk past Potter's Field one day," said Hammond. "This person wasn't told anything about the history of this spot in the cemetery beforehand.
"As we walked, he stopped and said, 'wait a minute; what's going on here.'
"The only way he could describe what he was seeing was how he said he saw oil slicks just moving through the air above him."
There's also the legendary story about the ghost of Kate Koopman.
"Kate Koopman was married to Peter Koopman, who owned a saloon in Grand Haven in the early 1920s," said Hammond. "Nobody knows the motive or the reason, but one night, Peter Koopman shot and killed Kate inside their Grand Haven Home."
The Koopman's home still exists today, and has been transformed into a consignment shop called, "Second Impression."
"The former owner of the consignment store would claim to have unexplained experiences while working," said Hammond. "[When she'd come in to work], she'd see stuff had been moved around, and clothes that were left in a pile upstairs, when she left the previous evening, were cleaned up.
"One of the girls who also worked there, who happened to be in high school at the time, said she saw a full bodied apparition come down the stairs, then disappear."
Kate Koopman was shot on the staircase that still remains in the consignment store today. Her body was found at the base of the stairs. It's believed that one of the holes in the drywall, near the base of the stairs, is where one of Peter Koopman's bullets ended up after murdering his wife.
Yvonne Lynch, a current employee of Second Impression, said she's also seen Kate Koopman inside the store.
"I saw her standing and looking out one of the upstairs windows," said Lynch. "I've also seen her in one of the upstairs rooms where we sell our formal wear.
"When I come into work each day, I unlock the door, and the first thing I say is, 'Hi Kate.'"
Hammond recently asked the owners of Second Impression if she and a West Michigan Paranormal group could do an investigation inside the store.
"While we were doing our recording, we picked up an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon)," said Hammond. "[If you listen closely], you hear a voice say, 'I'm not happy; I'm not happy; I'm not happy; Help me.'"
Many former and current employees of Second Impression consignment store claim the ghost of Kate Koopman remains restless inside the home where she was murdered almost 95 years ago.
"I believe there's something happening we can't explain," said Hammond, regarding the legendary stories from Lake Forest Cemetery. "A lot of people want that validation that there's something else beyond our mortal existence.
"Very rarely do you get something, but it's when you do get something unexplainable that keeps you searching."
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