The Ghosts of Old Fort Wayne, Detroit
Written by Wayne Miracle | M.P.I.
While most people hear the words “Fort Wayne” and think Indiana, there are a few who will instantly think of Detroit. Many people do not know that there is a pre-Civil War era military installation named Fort Wayne located right smack-dab in Detroit, Michigan.
Having won its independence from the British, a young America was still leery that border disputes with British controlled Canada could lead to another war. The Detroit area would have been a good place for the British to invade, so in 1841, Congress authorized a military fortress to be built to prevent such an invasion and construction was completed in 1851. The fort, shaped like a five pointed star and the barracks, were named Fort Wayne after the Revolutionary War general, “Mad” Anthony Wayne (who has his own ghost story by the way), but by the time Fort Wayne was completed, it was already irrelevant. The threat of British invasion had passed, so the fort sat vacant for its first ten years and was manned by one lone watchman.
Fast forward ten years to the start of the Civil War and the fort became relevant in the shaping of our great nation. In 1861, shortly after the start of the war, Michigan’s 1st voluntary regiment mustered at Fort Wayne. From that point all the way through Vietnam, Fort Wayne served the United States.
The history of Fort Wayne is monumental. Everything you can think of happening during war and peace took place there. Lives were lived, lost, found, broken and made there. Death occurred, atrocities happened, just as there were also heroes and happiness at the fort. Military personnel, along with civilians worked and fell in love there. Prisoners were even kept there and many stayed on after being released. Fort Wayne lived — and then Fort Wayne started to die.
It’s been a slow death for the fort. It was built to last, but mankind cannot stop the ravages of time and neglect, along with the wrath of Mother Nature. There have been a few good people who have tried and have for the moment, slowed the decay that haunts Fort Wayne. Of course, as the decay sat in, so did the stories of specters that haunt the fort’s halls.
How do I know these specters roam the halls? I spent six years of weekends looking for them. I am a member of Metro Paranormal Investigations. We were invited to investigate the fort back in 2008 and we never looked back. In 2009, we took over hosting public ghost hunts at the fort and continued them through 2014 in an effort to raise money for the restoration. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that place. Did we make a difference while we were there? You bet we did. The paranormal community can do amazing things when we set our mind to it!
The old fort runs the gambit when it comes to paranormal experiences. There are tales of apparitions, ghostly shadows, missing objects, footsteps, being touched, EVP’s, interesting photos, weird feelings and time slips. If you name it, there is probably a story about it. There are even paranormal stories documented back to the grounds before the fort was even built because the fort was built on ancient Native American burial grounds. Sounds like the story from the movie Poltergeist right?
During my time investigating there, I can honestly say I have witnessed things that I find hard to explain. I have found that most of the activity experienced is when you are least expecting it. I myself have seen shadows and heard footsteps and strange sounds.
The most profound experience I had was during the end of one of our public investigations. It was a little after 4 A.M. and I was at the main barracks building inside of the star fort. It was myself and fellow team member Jo. We received a radio call saying that all the guests had left the site and it was alright for us to lock down the premises. Jo went to shut the main gate to the star fort as I locked up the barracks building. I had made my way through the building and was in the process of locking the last door closest to the powder magazine when I looked across the fort towards the entrance to the main sallyport (tunnel-like structure). By that time, Jo had locked the gate and made her way between the barracks and the sallyport. As I was looking into the entrance of the sallyport, there was a ball of light in the entry I thought was a flashlight of some sort — no beam, just a light. My first thought was that someone from the tour was still on the grounds. This is the conversation and events that took place when I saw the light.
Wayne: Jo, do you see that?
Light goes out
Wayne: Run up and see if there is anyone in the salleyport.
Jo runs to the entrance and shines her flashlight down he tunnel.
Jo: I don’t see anyone.
Wayne: Run down to the exit and see if they are making their way towards the visitor center.
I catch up to Jo as she reaches the exit and no one is in sight.
Jo: Check up in the casemate (the area where cannons and munitions were kept) to see if they went up there
Wayne starts walking toward the entrance to the casemate and comes to the first step
Unknown Male Voice: Wayne…
I stop dead in my tracks and turn back to look at Jo. Jo has that look on her face. You know, the one that says, “Did I really just hear what I think I heard?”
Wayne: Did you hear that?
Jo: Someone just said your name.
There comes a point after doing this for a number of years that you kind of just shake off the unusual until you have time to rationalize it, so I shrugged the voice off and headed into the only entrance/exit of the casemate. There was no one there. Jo had a line of site from our location all the way to the visitor center from the time we got to the sallyport exit until we walked up to the Visitor Center. When we walked in, everyone else was packing up for the night. Jo and I were the last ones to arrive — the only two people on the grounds during the strange experience. I cannot say the light or the voice was a ghost and I cannot explain how both Jo and I experienced these things. All I can say is that things like this do happen. This one, along with many others, just happened to take place at historic Fort Wayne Detroit.
Photo Credits:Metro Paranormal Investigations
While Fort Wayne does not host ghostly tours of the facility anymore, it is still open for tours and the grounds and buildings are being restored and re-purposed. A great piece of U.S. and Michigan history to explore! Learn more at their website.