Monday, January 30, 2012

A Local Legend

Legends, We've all heard them. Sometimes, they are nearby to us or we may have experienced something that supports them. This is one that has been circulating around S/E Michigan for longer than I have...

The Legend of Morrow Road
Written in 2009 by Francis J. Sampier, based on extensive research acquired for the film Morrow Road in 2005.
The Legend of Morrow Road, one of Michigan's oldest legends,  spans back to the late 1800s and is primarily about a ghost that haunts the road to this day looking for her lost child.

    Morrow Road is a southeast Michigan rural road that until recently was entirely a dirt road.  The 2.5 mile road's southern portion rests in Clay Twp (on the outskirts of Algonac) and northern portion rests in Cottrellville Twp (on the outskirts of Marine City).  The entire road is a straightaway and has very few citizens living on it.  Recently more citizens have moved into its southern half.  The road began as a cow path in the 19th century and later became a narrow dirt road, which was eventually widened.
    The road also has two creeks that run under it, one on its north end and one near its center-point, just south of where the only other fully intersecting road is.  Hence, there used to be two small, simple-railed bridges.  Both of these were tore down and converted into culverts.  As with most back roads, Morrow Road started out with no electricity running to it and had one two-story house.  An old house was torn down recently, although it may not have been the original house.

    In the late 1800s a woman supposedly with the initials "I.C." apparently died a tragic death searching for her child boy.  Many believe that the death was so tragic that her ghost spirit remains haunting the road to this day, still searching in an eternal frustration for that impossible to achieve answer of what happened to the boy.

    What makes the legend more interesting and startling is the different beliefs of what exactly happened to the mother & child.  Research shows there are about ten theories as to how this occurred and each has slight variations.  Nearly every version of the legend has these common denominators:  A middle-aged woman died in her nightgown searching for her child, and that her spirit remains as a vengeful ghost to this day--still searching for the young boy.  Here's where the versions alter:  (See if you've heard any of these :)

    Many believe the boy was kidnapped and that the mother searched in desperation, and died searching.

    Some believed the boy drowned when the mother took her eyes off him for a moment.  This version is a rare version where she apparently did find the boy face down in a nearby creek.  In despair, the mother hung herself.

    Some believe that the two-story house they lived in was burglarized and that they were murdered.

    Some believe that when the mother last saw the child not too far away from a fire...and then he was never seen again.  The mother searched for the boy around the fire, fearing for the worse.  Never finding the child's remains, she died searching for the boy...some believe she even died in a fire herself.  (This is why you see her face in a fire if a fire is lit near the bridge--explained below).

    Others believe in an entirely opposite type of death:  That they both froze to death.  The boy wandered out of the home, the mother unaware.  When the mother realized he was gone, she searched frantically for the boy during an unprecedented winter storm, and froze to death in her unsuccessful search.

    Still others believe in a simple theory:  That the boy was murdered, which led to the mother to search for the boy near the bridge they lived near.  The murderer (motive unknown, possibly rape) waited for the woman to search near the bridge and kidnapped and murdered her.

    Early versions of the legend actually didn't involve a mother!  This radically different (and unpopular today) theory involved a monster that ate babies/children!  It was called "The Morrow Road Monster" by locals, and was a popular theory in the 1950s.  There is no evidence to support this theory.*

    Contrasting, a hugely popular theory involved local Natives.  Some believe that local Natives savagely attacked the mother while she was searching for her missing child.  Some believe she haunts the road to this day because a nearby Indian burial ground may have been near the death site of the mother.  There is no evidence to support this theory,* but local Natives of the time included Algonquin, Huron and Erie.

    Finally, one of the most popular theories was that the mother had the child out of wedlock.  Simply not wanting the baby, she went to the bridge and left the boy under the bridge--abandoning him.  Feeling shame and remorse on her way back home, she decided she couldn't go through with it and upon arriving at the bridge the baby was gone.  This was the beginning of years of searching, until she finally gave up.  Upon her early death, many believed she was cursed for her actions and her eternal punishment is to haunt the road searching for the lost child.

    A startling fact is how many people claim to have seen the woman, heard the child, or witnessed other paranormal occurrences on or near the road.  These include many witnesses to seeing the ghostly woman herself, always wearing a light blue nightgown (believed by many to be the outfit she wore on her death) searching with bloody hands for the child.  Many claimed she has morbidly asked or screamed "Where's my baby?" as driver's drove past.  Others claim she has slammed her mysteriously bloody hands on their car window in addition.
    Many locals have claimed "if you start a fire on the road where the southern bridge was, you will see her face in the flames."  (That is illegal by-the-way, so don't try it).  This supports the theory that something tragic happened to her and/or the child on or near the bridge and their lives ended in flames.  Currently this element to the legend hasn't had an eye-witness account in many years.
    Many believe that if you honk your car-horn three times on the bridge you will hear the baby cry.  Also, many claim to have vehicle trouble when driving down the road.
    There are more eyewitness claims to seeing "orbs" on the road and in the woods than any of the above.  Many other people also state the orbs went as far as to chase their vehicle.  Most claim the orbs were light green, but some say they've seen them red, purple and light blue, all in small, varying sizes.
    Naturally, local police have had many "false claims," that turned out to be young adults playing pranks.
    All accounts are claimed to have been seen or heard only at nighttime.

    Channel 4 Local News with Carmen Harlan did a news report near turn of the century on the legend, and the TV Show "Unsolved Mysteries" had a filler-feature on an episode, watering down the legend to be a filler between the episode's two major features.
    Paranormal research has been done many times, always with interesting results.  The legend has been all over the Internet and an independent feature film based entirely on the legend is in the works.  For more information on the film and legend, visit

*A legend by definition is something that cannot be proved or disproved.  (facts can be proved, myths can be disproved.  This can be disproved by the fact that there were no reported deaths of babies from the area in that time.
**The Indian burial ground portion can be disproved by the fact that there has never been an Indian burial ground near the area.  However, it is conceivable that Natives were traveling through the area and a crime or ritual could have occurred.
Here's some facts for you...
The nearest town to this infamous road sits at the tip of a peninsula. It's an out of the way kind of town. Not "on the way" to anything. It was the hometown of CrissCraft boats for many years. And has a large number of cabins for people from the Detroit area, most of which were built in the 50's and 60's. It's close to the city, yet just far enough for a quick get-a-way. Most of the land is swampy. To the point that all of the graves that we dig out there, are shallow, since we hit water only two or three feet down. It has become an area known for young adults to move to when they don't want to go to college. They only want to hang with their friends, smoke and drink. We often joke that on your twelfth birthday out there, you are handed a pack of smokes and a bottle of beer.
That being said, it only stands to reason that rumors of this legend would be so prevalent. Morrow Road today is in the middle of no where and can be very creepy at night. Over a hundred years ago when this state was new to the union, and many cities had not yet been established, this would have been an area that would take weeks to get to. Life out there would have been pretty rough and who knows what sorts of things might have happened and never been reported. Judging from the many versions of the story, I think we'll leave this one as a legend and won't put too much stock into it.

So, do you have a local legend or experience that you'd like to share with us?


MorningAJ said...

Exellent tale Stew!

laurak@forestwalkart said...

even that name MORROW sounds creepy.

i have this's called Weird Florida. it talks about places all over this state that have ghost legends...and stuff like that. we;ve been to a few of the places mentioned...but have never heard any screams or felt a cold breeze brush my neck...or had anything grab my ankles...


Stew said...

That could make an interesting vacation, going around to all the ledgends and trying to spook yourself.

Jim said...

We have a few around here that are creepy too. In 1917 there was a huge explosion in Halifax Harbour when two ships collided. The face /silhouette of a man's face who was thrown through a church window remains there today!

No that wasn't my Dad in Saturday's post....thanks for dropping by Stew. Where have you been? Busy at work, I bet!