Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Haunted Island

Every year, my family spends some time on Mackinac Island, which is in northern Lake Huron, close to the Mackinac Bridge.  Note to people outside of Michigan:  Mackinac (the island and bridge) and Mackinaw (the city) are pronounced the same, both ending with an "aw" sound. 

The Island is a step back in time, as cars are not permitted, and horses pull carriages through the downtown shopping district.  Below is a shot of the downtown area, on a typical summer day.  During the day, endless ferries carry tourists to and from the Island.  At night, the Island becomes quiet, as the locals and the tourists who are staying overnight settle in, free from the day trippers.  After the last ferry leaves for the day, the Island can be a little eerie, if one ventures from the beaten path between restaurants and pubs.  There is a lot of history on the Island, with stories of old Indian wars, plenty of spooky graveyards, and Fort Mackinac, which the British captured in the War of 1812.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb is set on a fictional "Grand Manitou Island", which Webb admits is based on the true Mackinac Island.  In the story, Halcyon, or Hallie, as she is called, learns unexpectedly that she has a connection to the Island, and travels there to learn more.  In the course of her trip, she uncovers a haunted house, and a ton of family secrets. 
On the author's blog, she boasts that The Tale made it to the North West Michigan Bestsellers list last summer.  Really, although I can see how this book would be attractive to people vacationing in Northern Michigan, there is no reason why it shouldn't enjoy a wider audience.  The Tale was suspenseful, not too predictable, and is a good book for anyone who enjoys a ghost story.  There may be some aspects of Grand Manitou Island which seem too hokey to be real, like the lack of reliable cell phone service, the necessity of horses and bikes for transportation, the big old Victorian houses, and the close-knit relationships of the Islanders.  As someone who visits Mackinac Island, I can tell you that there is such a place.  I was left with a few questions, which I will post on the Spoilers page for anyone interested.

One of the events that Webb incorporates into her story is the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, which affected all of the Great Lakes, and the surrounding states.  I had never heard about this storm before, and liked learning about it. 

Interested in spooky stories based in Northern Michigan?  The Tarnished Eye by Judith Guest is based on a true crime that took place in the northern lower peninsula in 1968, where a family was murdered in their summer home.  The crime remains unsolved.

Next up on CD:  Hopefully Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon - I have a hold on it at the library, but haven't gotten it yet.

Still Reading - Contested Will by James Shapiro

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