Annual “Fort Fright” Blends History and Horror in Mackinaw City

Fort FrightAn 18th century fort and fur-trading village in Mackinaw City will be transformed into a haunted hot spot October 11th and 12th for the annual Fort Fright. Guest blogger Kelsey Schnell gives an inside look at what visitors can expect from this year’s event.

As visitors venture inside the gate, British Redcoats of a different order patrol the wooden fort. A closer look reveals they’re not ordinary men, but skeleton soldiers with bony fingers curled tight around their muskets.

More campfires crackle inside the fort, but are surrounded by friendly faces. French fur traders and voyageurs are telling more tales, singing songs and playing traditional instruments of the 1700s. One campfire boasts a large, black, cast-iron pot of apple cider simmering over the flames as a colonial woman ladles it into cups for visitors warming themselves. The fire offers a respite from the mythical creatures that prefer other places, like the upper stories of the wooden buildings where they throw open shutters and cackle, howl or prowl around the palisade. “The majority of the activities at Fort Fright will be suitable for the entire family,” said Steve Brisson, Mackinac State Historic Parks’ deputy director. “But we’ll also have a number of interesting and scary activities designed to appeal to older children and adults.”

Fort Fright

A tour of the haunted rowhouse, a custom designed exhibit for this occasion, will not be easily forgotten.  New for this year, “The Demon Walk” provides an additional scary element. In other wooden buildings within the fort and fur trading village, colonial ladies serve warm autumn treats like homemade molasses cookies and toffee, and others play music on instruments from the time period. Guests can learn about death and burial in the 1700s, and the various traditions and ceremonies for the dead from over 250 years ago in the church. In addition to creatures, colonial men and women with friendly faces roam the village, following the lantern-lit paths that wind throughout the fort, a unique nighttime atmosphere available only on these two nights.

Fort Fright“The event is not just held to scare folks,” said Katie Mallory, Mackinac State Historic Parks curator of education. “There’s an eerie but real background to the event, which stems from French-Canadian tales that were passed on from person-to-person as voyageurs and other people traveled, and so there’s a strong history of oral tradition behind Fort Fright.” That oral history is shared around campfires much in the same way it was shared over two-and-a-half centuries ago.

The characters that roam Fort Fright, such as were-wolves, lutins, and Le Dame Blanche, meaning White Lady (Ghost), are drawn from a book called Were-Wolves and Will-o-the-Wisps: French Tales of Mackinac Retold by Dirk Gringhuis. The collection of short stores, published by Mackinac State Historic Parks, is based on French-Canadian folktales brought to the Mackinac Straits area by the voyageurs during the height of the French fur trade.Fort Fright

This annual event serves as a type of “kick-off” for the fall. Admission to Fort Fright is $7 for adults, $4 for children age 5-17 or $20 for a family. Children 4 and under and Mackinac Associates Friend Level and above are admitted at no charge. Tickets can be purchased prior to the event beginning October 1 at the Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center in Mackinaw City or online at mackinacparks.com. For more information, call 231-436-4100.

Kelsey SchnellKelsey serves as the Public Relations and Marketing Officer for Mackinac State Historic Parks, a family of living history museums and parks in northern Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac, an agency within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Have you been to Fort Fright in Mackinaw City? Tell us about it! 

Trick-or-Treat Around Pure Michigan

Halloween is just around the corner, and there are tons of fun events around the state that are sure to put you in the spooky spirit! From haunted houses to family-friendly parades, below is your guide to celebrating Halloween in Pure Michigan.

Visit michigan.org full a full listing of Halloween events happening around the state!

Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village
Step back in time at Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford. Follow an endless path of hand-carved jack-o-lanterns and meet colorful characters along the way. Feel the whoosh as the headless horseman rides by, banter with a clever witch, and make stops at several treat stations spread throughout Greenfield Village.

When: October 26-28, every half hour from 6:30pm-9pm Fridays & Saturdays, Sundays 6:30pm – 8pm
Where: Dearborn

Spooktacular Weekend in Pentwater
It’s a Spooktacular Weekend in Pentwater October 26-28. The trick-or-treating takes place on Saturday, but the whole weekend is full of “spooky” events for the whole family including a parade, pub crawl, Rocky Horror Picture Show performance, a teen costume party and much more.

When: October 26-28
Where: Pentwater

Downtown Halloween Walk in Traverse City
Trick-or-treat your way around downtown Traverse City at participating stores during the Downtown Halloween Walk. Then, make a weekend out of it and bring your four-legged friend to The Dog Party! to celebrate the grand opening of Traverse City’s newest dog park with a costume contest and treats for both dogs and their owners!

When: Halloween Walk – October 26, 3:30-5 pm, Dog Party – October 27, 12-4 pm
Where: Traverse City

Halloween Trick-or-Treat and Halloween Spectacle in Marquette
Bring your little goblins and ghosts to downtown Marquette for the Halloween Trick-or-Treat and Halloween Spectacle. Fill your trick-or-treat bags with goodies from local businesses and stick around to see the zombie folk dancers, stilt walking spirits, a life-size dragon and skeleton marching band perform.

When: October 27, Trick-or-Treat 4-7 pm, Halloween Spectacle 7-8 pm
Where: Marquette

St. Ignace’s Trunk or Treat & Haunted Woods Walk
Make your way to St. Ignace’s Trunk or Treat & Haunted Woods Walk! In addition to the walk and hayride there is also a candy bar walk, apple bobbing, face painting, bean bag toss and football throw.

When: October 27, 7-8 pm
Where:  St. Ignace

The Treat Parade in Downtown Ann Arbor
Black and orange balloons mean treats in downtown Ann Arbor this Halloween. The Treat Parade kicks off with story time at the public library followed by 65 participating businesses that will have balloons outside to signify that you can stop in for a treat.

When: October 31, story time-9:30 and 10:30 am, Treat Parade-11 am
Where: Ann Arbor

For more Halloween-related events happening in your community, visit michigan.org. How will you be getting into the Halloween spirit this year? Share with us below!

You’re Invited: Live Web Chat with “Haunted Travels of Michigan” Authors

Petoskey's Terrace Inn - one of Kat and Bev's favorite haunted places in Michigan

Last year, we had the pleasure of chatting live with Kat Tedsen and Bev Rydel, the authors of  “Haunted Travels of Michigan,” where they answered questions on haunted places around the state, their eerie experiences and more. We’re excited that Kat and Bev will be back with us this Wednesday, October 24th at noon to answer even more questions on ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night!

We hope you can take a lunch break on Wednesday to join us at the box below!  All are welcome and we will answer as many questions as we can during the hour-long chat.

If you can’t make it, a replay will be available here afterwards. You can also check out some of Kat and Bev’s favorite haunted places around Michigan, which they shared with us earlier this month.

Have your questions ready for Wednesday and share with us in the comments section below what you’re most interested in learning about from Kat and Bev!