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Explore the haunting past of Grand Rapids this Halloween with the “Ghosts of Grand Rapids” tour

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Downtown Grand Rapids (Kayla Tucker/The Collegiate)

By Mia Kerner

Most people are familiar with the witches of New Salem and the menacing demons of the Amityville horror house, but many would be surprised to know that the city of Grand Rapids has its own fair share of hauntings. 

Hosted by the authors of the “Paranormal Michigan” series, Rev. Robert DuShane, Nicole DuShane and Julie Rathsack, ghost tours are taking the city by storm this October. These paranormal experts will lead you around the most haunted locations of downtown Grand Rapids, taking on the personas of real historical figures and recounting the chilling histories and stories.

Rathsack’s interest in the paranormal was initially sparked at a young age, growing up in a haunted house on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. She pursued more information about ghosts and hauntings after continuously witnessing objects move, shadowy apparitions lurking about, and hearing a child calling out for its “Mommy”. She eventually would go on to attend Grand Rapids Community College in 1994 while working in the Mckay Tower and actively searching for more potential hauntings occurring downtown. Rathsack said she would enter buildings that many GRCC students walk past every day in an attempt to record any and all first-hand paranormal encounters. 

Rathsack mentioned that she had “… never heard of any hauntings at GRCC, however, directly behind (GRCC’s)  main building on the corner of Division and Fountain is the old Michigan Bell Building. It is considered the most haunted location in Grand Rapids.” 

Rathsack also added that “there is an entire chapter written in our book about it.”

Accompanied by DuShane, a Catholic Demonologist, and his wife, an experienced paranormal investigator, Rathsack puts all of her acquired stories and information to good use when conducting the “Ghosts of Grand Rapids” tour. Having met each other at an all-night Radio show challenge in the reportedly haunted Felt Mansion, Mrs. DuShane and Rathsack have shared many paranormal experiences while exploring the most bone-chilling locations in Michigan. Upon meeting her now husband, DuShane decided to record her research and experiences in the co-written “Paranormal Michigan” series. Rathsack soon teamed up with the couple to provide valuable insight for their “Ghosts of Grand Rapids” book, which is soon to have a sequel.

The tours based on this chilling collection of true stories not only equip audiences with eerie information, but may also provide them with their very own paranormal experience(s). There have been many unexplained events that have taken place during the tours – to the audience’s delight or dismay. Rathsack recalled a specific tour when upon relaying the story of a gruesomely tragic death that took place in the Trust Building, a large orb of light appeared in the very spot that the death had taken place. 

“(The tour group) all watched as the bright ball of light, about the size of a softball, floated its way through the office up to the top of the window and back down through the wall,” Rathsack said. 

Many tour goers have also reported finding what look like people or figures in the photos that they took while on the tour.

Rathsack’s favorite stories to tell on the tour are about “the buildings that people walk by every day and have no idea where they are standing.”; including the building on the southeast corner of Division Avenue and Fulton Street, currently a DTLR store, but previously the seemingly cursed six-story Livingston Hotel, the scene of a deadly fire in 1924. Rathsack reccounts, “A fire broke out and occupants were literally jumping out of the windows to escape the flames. Several people died and many more were injured. Of course there is a ghost story associated with it. It’s always fun to see people’s faces when they find out about local history they (have) never heard before.”

Grand Rapids has many skeletons in its closet that can now be explored through the “Ghosts of Grand Rapids” tour;  conducted weekly (times vary) and starting outside of the Grand Rapids public library. For $15 per ticket, you can take a step into the haunting past of the city. To experience the must-do halloween activity of the year, schedule a tour with the experts. Rathsack suggests “If you are into hearing local ghost lore and discovering the history behind the stories, our tours are for you. Come check us out!”

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