There is a neighborhood just to the east of downtown called Heritage Hill. It is full of historic homes dating back to the mid 1800s. Slated for demolition in the 1960s, the neighborhood banded together to save and restore these important beacons of the city’s past. The houses have been restored appropriately to ensure accurate representation of their original grandeur. Most of them serve as residential single-family homes but some have been split into rentable apartments.
Every spring, a group of these homeowners open their doors to the public for touring. Slews of locals and out-of-towners wait on sidewalks and front steps to don blue disposable boot covers and shuffle across the refinished hardwood floors of these beautiful, elegant, and impressive manors. Elaborate chandeliers, ornamental crown moldings, and intricate stained glass patterns of days gone by are complimented with modern luxuries like granite countertops and copper fixtures. The words in everyone’s heads and on everyone’s lips are “dream home.” Ever since I moved here, it has been a dream of mine to buy and restore one of these treasures.
Of course, historic building always have their quirks. Some are physical, like rusted pipes or creaking floors. Some are more of an abnormal nature. It is rumored that Heritage Hill is the most haunted neighborhood in Michigan.
A friend of mine lived in one of the houses. It was a creepy looking building for sure. Rust-red brick gave way to green scalloped siding halfway up the house. A heavy wooden door that took two hands to pull open guarded the entrance, and inside, a dimly-lit foyer was empty except for a grand staircase of dark wood; antique oil portraits of Victorian strangers hung on the walls.
This friend swore that a ghost lived in his bathroom. It made things clatter and rattled the door while he relaxed in his bedroom. I’m not inclined to believe in ghosts, and nothing supernatural ever happened when I came to visit. Yet, when I was over, I put the call of nature on hold, and when I left, I stared at my feet and ran down the historic steps, ripping the door open with both hands as I bolted towards my car.
The Heritage Hill neighborhood is peculiarly quiet and peaceful, even though it is adjacent to a bustling and boisterous downtown. And while I always enjoy walking through the tree-lined streets in the warm summer sun and admiring these stately dwellings, I always sense something eerie lurking not too far behind.
I, too, lived in one of these historic homes for a spell. The house I lived in was built in 1907 and hadn't yet received its dream home renovation. It was mostly rented out to college kids. I lived there with three other girls, and the house clearly had its quirks. It had a narrow stairway, creaky floors, and you had to walk through one of the bedrooms to get another bedroom.
Like I said, I don't believe in ghosts. So when I would wake up in the middle of the night and my lamp would be turned on when I knew for sure that I had turned it off before going to sleep, I would use the rationale that lightswitch was faulty. And when I heard banging while taking a shower in the ancient claw-foot bathtub, I would tell myself they were just the sounds of a 100-year-old house settling.
These are my explanations. But who knows if they were the right explanations? In houses that old, you can never be too certain what is hiding behind the walls.
For more information about the Heritage Hill neighborhood, visit their website