The Dead Centre: St Anne’s Cemetery, Mackinac Island.

On a lazy day I decided to ride through the cemetery visiting the departed – as you do. I have always been intrigued by cemeteries and used to see them as mysterious and poignant resting places for the departed. As I grew older and studied forensic science, saw way too many autopsy and murder documentaries and after a few odd paranormal experiences, the cemetery hasn’t lost its poignancy but has become both a sadder and real experience. I had never thought about the bodies underneath my feet, in various states of decay: I only saw the above ground tributes to the person.  How times change! As a child you see blooming flowers, now all you can see is how fast they wilt.

I decided to visit the dead centre of Mackinac Island. A triangle of three grave-yards but St Anne is often the first and the last one you see as you walk through the area. The parish records of St Anne’s date back to the 1600’s making it one of the oldest in the USA. The cemetery is still used by residents of the island and the hearse is a horse-drawn carriage. (Cars prohibited on the island).

The below grave is the oldest known grave in the cemetery dating back to 1833. It belongs to Mary Biddle who was the daughter of Edward and Mary Biddle, who owned the Biddle House downtown on Market Street and is one of the oldest residences on the island dating back to 1780. (apparently paid with a down payment of $100) The story of her death is quite simple but tragic.

In the winter the lakes around Mackinac Island freeze. In order to visit St Ignace one must snow mobile across the ice. The story is that Mary crossed the ice but it wasn’t completely frozen and she fell through. After being rescued Mary spent a week in hospital and died of pneumonia. Since her death at 8 years old, her father Edward Biddle, arranged for residents of the island to line a path across the ice with used christmas trees to safely instruct people across the ice. This “christmas tree path” is still used today in the winter.

This cemetery is the centre of many “ghost” or paranormal experiences which I will later investigate but I think the history of the cemetery itself is interesting enough.

How did you spend your Sunday?


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