The Ada Witch of Findley Cemetery
Amazing paranormal evidence? No. Ghosts or witches found? Nope. A brush with the law once upon a time back in 2005? Yup. Read on to learn about one of West Michigan’s favorite ghostly gals of local lore.
The Ada Witch has been a popular legend in West Michigan for decades. For years, people have claimed to have witnessed a paranormal classic: “the lady in white.” She’s been seen wandering around the area of Findley Cemetery and surrounding roads. But who is this mysterious “lady in white”? Over the years, this entity was given the title of the “Ada Witch,” but it’s nothing more than a nickname. Within the legend, there is nothing to support that she was a practicing witch or anything of that nature. It’s just a dramatic name that makes a good tale. The story was first published in the book Haunted Houses of Grand Rapids in 1982 by Gary Eberle. The book was reissued in 1994 and the Ada Witch story gained popularity, especially when the surprise hit movie, The Blair Witch Project was released. Ada had its own “Blair Witch” to look for.
During the 1800’s, a woman had been unfaithful to her husband and would disappear into the night to meet with her secret lover. Her husband started to suspect his wife was up to something and pretended to fall asleep one night. After his wife rose from the bed and quietly left the house, he followed her and found her in the arms of another man. Rage welled up inside of him and he attacked the adulterous couple, killing his wife first. The two men fought viciously until they both died from the wounds they inflicted upon each other.
For many years now, people say they have heard the sounds of a fight taking place around the Findley cemetery area, only to find no one around. The area at one point had been open for hunting before it was developed into a residential area. There have been reports from past hunters feeling a presence around them, hearing a ghostly fight and getting tapped on the shoulder only to find no one there. And of course, there are the sightings of The Lady in White a.k.a, The Ada Witch.
I took a trip to Findley Cemetery back in 2005 with the hope of glimpsing the “ghost lady” but we just encountered idiots and the police. It was a nice summer night for an outdoor investigation. The moon was full and the cemetery was lit up. The place is small but well taken care off. We wandered in and headed towards the back where it was wooded and more private. Small tombstones trickled into the woods making for an eerie little graveyard forest. It was also rumored to be a more “paranormally” active part of the cemetery so we started to set up some basic equipment – the usual audio and video recorders.
In the middle of the cemetery was a broken, old tombstone – its top half missing and the bottom held up by two wooden posts. At some point, it became known as the grave of the “Ada Witch.” People left trinkets, coins and candles by it so there was no doubt that we were looking at the right spot. Seeing there was no historical evidence backing the legend, there was no evidence that the grave actually belonged to the famed Ada Witch. But at some point in history, it was dubbed “the one.”
We knew we were in for an interesting and annoying night when a couple of lackluster “ghost hunters” showed up smelling like beer and stupidity. They introduced themselves and informed us they were part of a paranormal team. We talked to them for a bit and then they wandered off into the cemetery somewhere.
When the police decided to show up to investigate the cars parked beside the cemetery gates, the drunk couple ran from the front of the cemetery to the back yelling, “the cops are here, the cops are here!!”
No…that didn’t look suspicious or anything. Idiots.
We picked up our gear and proceeded to walk “calmly” to talk to the police. As we approached the gates, the cops stepped out of their cars and were already shining their flashlights at us. One of our gang a ways in back had started to jog to catch up with everyone.
An overzealous cop thought she was fleeing the scene and yelled, “Freeze…stop running!”
“I’m just trying to catch up!” she yelled back, irritated.
The cops had confused look on their faces as we walked out of the cemetery and lined up. Our range of ages were from 20’s up to 50. The cops thought they were going to find a bunch of teenagers partying it up in the cemetery, not a gang of people dressed in dorky matching black t-shirts.
“What are you guys doing here?” a cop asked.
“We’re ghost hunting,” we said, like it was the most natural thing in the world to be doing on a Saturday night.
The officer’s eyebrow arched. He asked for our ID’s and while he was looking at them, we explained we were a paranormal team (Great Lakes Paranormal Research back then) and what we did during our investigations. I was waiting for the cops to smell the beer on the drunken couple’s breath, but he never said anything to them. Damn.
The next thing we knew, a voice came through the officer’s radio and asked if everything was okay.
“It’s okay…they’re paranormal investigators,” he radioed back.
That was the last thing I had expected to hear. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud. He gave our ID’s back and told us to let the county know when we were going to be in the cemetery next time. (Nowadays this would never happen). They were happy they didn’t have to bust a bunch of kids and even told us to go back in and keep investigating because we’d probably scare the kids away for the night. Yeah but what about these drunk idiots next to us…take them with you!
The whole episode was kind of humorous after it was over. The police even asked us if we had found anything paranormal. We stayed on for a little longer but the Ada Witch wasn’t going to show up for us that night.
A few days later, “dirt from the grave of the Ada Witch” was posted on Ebay, sold by none other than the drunken ghost hunters who showed up that night. I wouldn’t have expected anything less from them. The dirt never sold.
Over the years, people have continued to visit Findley Cemetery, hoping to experience something paranormal. Many have visited respectfully, but those who haven’t have hacked away at the supposed grave of the Ada Witch to the point that even its bottom half wasn’t left anymore. In 2013, Nicole Bray was doing research for her book, Ghosts of Grand Rapids and learned that the destroyed grave had belonged to a Sarah McMillan who had died of Typhoid Fever in 1870 at the age of 29 – not her enraged husband. Her grave had become entwined with the west Michigan legend and suffered for it. Bray got in touch with a few monument companies and one gladly donated a new stone. Will the new grave continue to be associated with the legend? Hopefully not, but no doubt people will continue to report seeing the ghostly apparition of the Ada Witch, whoever she may be.
Have you seen the Lady in White of Ada Cemetery? Comment below.
I have always been very interested in the paranormal but until recently, I have not done any research on the subject. Looking at your cemetery section, I came across Findley Cemetery. I have lived in Grand Rapids my whole life and I have heard of the legend several times. One night in October, about three years ago or so, a buddy of mine and I finally decided that we would drive to Ada and see if we could spot anything.
We drove to 2 Mile and Pettis and we both had to pee bad! So I pulled over on the side of the road. It was a cloudless night with a beautiful full moon in the sky and very peaceful and quiet. I was at the front of my car and my friend was at the back of my car when all of a sudden I had a very cold chill come over me, almost like a cold wind was blowing. I’m not gonna lie. I zipped up and ran back to my car and sat there for a minute to gather my thoughts. I wasn’t paying attention but my buddy was in the car right after me and I told him what I felt and then he admitted the same thing to me. I don’t know whether it was just our nerves or if we really did feel some kind of presence that evening. I am not one to scare easy. I volunteered at The Haunt in Walker for the first three years and I loved it. I have always been intrigued by this kind of stuff!
–Adrian, Grand Rapids
**All cemeteries should be entered with respect. Leave them like you found them. Don’t liter, don’t vandalize anything or so help me, 10,000 demons will strike you down. If the cemetery has hours posted, respect that and enjoy the cemetery during open hours. I am a firm believer that spirits don’t just come out at night. I think it’s just “ghost hunters” who only come out at night. Respect nearby private property and don’t trespass where you do not belong.