The Death and Ghost of Minnie Quay

Forester, MI

Written by Michigan’s Otherside

Forever searching for her lost love who was killed on the Great Lakes, Mary Jane “Minnie” Quay appears now and then, walking the shores of Lake Huron near the small town of Forester, Michigan, gazing into the horizon, hoping for a ship to appear that never does and leaves her eternally heartbroken.

Or so the legend says…

During the 1800’s, the tiny town of Forester was busy with the lumber business. Fifteen-year-old Minnie Quay fell in love with one of the sailors who came to port. The last thing her parents wanted was their daughter running off with a sailor so the budding romance was forbidden by Minnie’s parents, Mary Ann and James.

Strong storms on the Great Lakes have taken many lives.

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900). Oil on canvas. 1849. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

People say they have seen the ghost of Minnie along the shores of Lake Huron. Some women have even claimed she has called to them from the water, trying to lure them to their death so they will suffer along with her in the dark, deep waters of Lake Huron.

The rocky shore of Lake Huron, where people have reported seeing Minnie’s ghost.

Photo by Michigan’s Otherside

Michigan’s Otherside took a visit to Forester in the fall of 2006 and stopped by the Forester Township Cemetery to pay our respects to Minnie’s tombstone. A sturdy, pink granite monument is adorned with flowers, tokens, and pennies from people who know the legend and her tragic story. We stayed in a cottage on Lake Huron with a long staircase that led down to the rocky shoreline.

The steps to Lake Huron at the cottage we rented.

Photograph by Michigan’s Otherside

The Quay family tombstone in Forester Township Cemetery.

Photograph by Michigan’s Otherside

We wandered out during the night, hoping to catch a glimpse of her spectral ghost, but sadly nothing was seen. Plus there’s that whole part of the legend where if you see her, she may try and lure you to your death, especially if you’re female. If that part of the legend has any truth to it, she can just knock that off. No one likes someone trying to lure them to their early death. Not cool Minnie. Not cool. 

The Ballad of Minnie Quay

This is the version of the Ballad of Minnie Quay that was printed in Marian Kuclo’s Michigan’s Haunts and Hauntings and has been around in some fashion for over a hundred years.

‘Twas long ago besides Lake Huron
She walked the sandy shore.
but the voice of one sweet Minnie Quay
‘Twill echo ever more.

Sailors still hear her crying.
Young lovers hear her, too,
As she calls for them to join her
In the waters, icy blue.

Young Minnie loved a sailor.
The sailor loved her, too.
And on the shore, behind the trees
The pair would rendezvous.

But gossips soon got wind of it,
And tongues began to wag.
the tale was told to Minnie’s Ma
By some old babbling hag.

Minnie’s Ma got angry
And to her daughter said,
“Married to a sailor?
I’d rather see you dead.”

They knew she’d been sneaking out
To see the lad at night.
They boarded up her bedroom door,
And kept her locked in tight.

He waited for his love, in vain.
A tear was in his eye
when he set sail next morning
without kissing her goodbye.

He never saw his love again
For alas, a storm arose.
That raging gale sank many ships,
And his was one of those.

The ship that carried Minnie’s love
Sank like it was lead.
And when the news reached Forester
They said he was dead.

Minnie wore a dress of white.
She looked just like a bride,
When she plunged into the water deep
To die there by his side.

But Minnie Quay is not at rest,
Or so the people say.
Her ghost still walks the lonely shore.
You may see her to this day.