EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in October 2016. Some details have been updated.
ALLEGAN COUNTY — Some of the region’s most haunted legends are found in Allegan County. Below are six of the spookiest places to visit this Halloween season.
Regent Theatre, Allegan
Francis “Falky” Falk was born and raised in Allegan. Orphaned as a baby, he grew up with his aunt, who put him to work at the Star Theatre in downtown Allegan at 10 years old.
When that theater closed in 1919, he took a job across the street at the newly opening Regent Theatre at 211 Trowbridge St.
Falk performed a number of duties, working at the theater through its vaudeville years, the silent pictures and the first record-sound movies referred to as “talkies,” which is when he became a projectionist.
Moving about in the booth that overlooks the theater’s auditorium, Falk switched from reel to reel. The crowd watched eagerly as the figures danced across the screen.
He remained a projectionist at the theater essentially the rest of his life, right up until his death in 1999.
But as almost any employee at the Old Regent Theatre would tell you, “Falky” is still hanging around the theater in his afterlife.
The day after Falk’s funeral in 1999, Craig Phillips, another projectionist at the time, and Vicki Knuckles, the theater’s manager, were leaving the theater when they saw, clearly, Falk looking down at them from the window that overlooks the street from the projection booth.
That was just the first sign that Falk wasn’t ready to let go of his theater days.
“Things are restless, if you want to take it that way,” said theater manager Parker Johnson in 2016. In two years at the theater, he’d already seen firsthand Falk’s pranks on his former place of employment.
“The neon marquee is turned on manually upstairs. You have to pull the switch to turn it on,” he said. “So I’ll turn it on and will walk downstairs and look up and it’s turned off. Just in the amount of time it took me to walk down there. This happens all the time. Then I walk back upstairs and the switch is turned off. People always tell me, ‘It must be Falky.’”
Other employees have told stories of feeling their hair be flicked, something Falk would regularly do when he was alive, and turning around to find nobody there.
Johnson said he still hears Falk walking around in the balcony with inexplicable footsteps and the creaking of wood when he’s alone at the theater.
But the story of Regent Theatre’s hauntings go back further than Falk.
Johnson said he’s heard stories of customers who have left the theater frightened after feeling a hand on their shoulder or breath on the back of their neck.
One of the more infamous stories came from a first-time visitor at the theater. About a decade ago, the woman came with a group to the theater to catch a flick.
“As she walked into the auditorium, she asked her friends what the people on the stage were doing and her friends didn’t see anyone,” Johnson said. The woman had seen a group of people dressed in “old-fashioned clothing” standing on the stage. “After that, she was visibly shaken. She refused to enter the auditorium.”
The theory, at least for those who believe it, is the apparitions were actors from long ago, not ready to move on from their stage days.
“There are very few benevolent spirits, that’s just made up,” said David Christine, founder of 4th Dimension Paranormal Research Institute and Investigations. He’s been in the Regent Theatre and is convinced it’s haunted.
Like the “actors” at Regent Theatre, spirits are caught in a “fourth-dimension time continuum,” often afraid to let go of the living world and fearing judgment in the next.
“There’s something unresolved that they want help with before they go. That’s usually the construct,” he said. “Most of them don’t mean to scare.”
Felt Mansion, Laketown Township
Chicago inventor Dorr Felt built the mansion in the 1920s as a summer home for himself and his family, but it wasn’t long before tragedy struck.
Just six weeks after the family moved in, Felt’s wife, Agnes, died of a stroke in the home’s master bedroom. Felt died in 1930.
Since then, the home at 6597 138th Ave. in Holland has served a number of purposes.
The Felt family sold it in 1949, after more modern calculators had been invented, essentially making Felt’s comptometer, an early-version calculator, obsolete. The mansion served as a seminary for Catholic boys.
Then, after the house and a neighboring structure were purchased by the state of Michigan for use as a prison, the mansion housed state law enforcement agencies.
After that, the house sat vacant for years, in a growing state of decay, until a group of volunteers dedicated themselves to restoring it. But throughout the years, despite the changes, one thing that remained constant: the tales of ghostly figures milling about in the third-floor ballroom.
In the early 2000s, the West Michigan Ghost Hunters Society hosted ghost tours of the mansion.
A writer with Michigan’s Other Side attended one of those tours and had this to say:
“I personally saw some of the wildest shadow people on video while recording in the ballroom on the third floor,” the unnamed writer stated. “In the far corner of the ballroom, which is now next to newly installed restrooms, a shadowy figure stepped out from nowhere. Everyone in the room suddenly came down with a case of the chills and goosebumps.”
The site also has a video of a door opening and closing on its own, one of the more common sightings at Felt Mansion.
German Castle, Laketown Township
The sightings at the castle in privately-owned Castle Park are all the same; the tortured, saddened face of a young woman in the window of the castle’s tower.
The woman is said to be the daughter of Chicago real estate mogul Michael Schwartz, who built the scaled-down replica of a German castle in 1890 as a feudal estate, isolating his family from the American society he wasn’t fond of.
So, when his daughter fell in love with a local Dutch boy and eloped on a moonlit night, he wasn’t happy. Legend has it Schwartz took his daughter back and locked her in the tower, separating her from her American love interest.
Those who attest to the castle’s haunting say they see the girl staring forlornly out the tower window, longing for the boy she loved.
The Robinson Manor, Allegan
Built in 1909, the building known today at The Robinson Manor began its life as a hospital, psychiatric ward and tuberculosis ward until its closure in 1948.
The building at 701 Marshall St. became a lodge in 1961, then an event space after a family purchased the property for renovation in 2017.
The story goes that many people died in the building when it was a hospital, and several have stuck around in the afterlife.
Tales of shadow figures creeping around the basement where the morgue was located and indiscernible conversations, the ringing of the doorbell and knocking on the door add to the legend.
In 2011, the Ghost Research Society conducted an investigation at the manor and on its website noted its findings. Kass Hillard, one of the investigators, told The Sentinel in 2010 she had previously been at the manor — then known as Allegan Elks Lodge — and experienced some of its other-worldliness.
“A lot of interesting things happen at the lodge. … It’s a really great historic building, but it’s really creepy,” she said, shortly after telling of her experience seeing a teen boy with slicked-back hair she believed was likely alive in the 1920s or 30s.
Allegan Old Jail Museum
In 1906, the Allegan Old Jail Museum — which now houses the Allegan County Historical Society — was built to house the sheriff, his family and the county jail at 113 N. Walnut St.
The front of the building is a two-story residence with two parlors, a formal dining room, bedroom, kitchen and a keeping room. The rear houses three stories of jail cells.
The story of its haunting stems not from the sheriff, but his wife, who was known to make home-cooked meals for the inmates.
According to the tale, a female entity is seen throughout both areas of the building. Footsteps have been heard coming from the upstairs where the couple’s master bedroom is located. A mannequin placed as a display in the master bedroom is said to mysteriously change outfits on its own.
Witnesses have also claimed seeing an apparition working busily in the kitchen.
The museum still hosts tours and embraces its haunted fame.
The Grill House Restaurant, Allegan
Built in 1836, the The Hubbard House — named after builder Samuel Hubbard — served as company headquarters and a boarding house for local lumberjacks at 1071 32nd St. in Allegan.
Hubbard, a Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice, dabbled in real estate and was granted the 25,000 acres of land that eventually formed Allegan.
Just about a decade after it was built, The Hubbard House, which also served as the area’s first tavern, was the scene of a grisly murder.
Legend has it a lumberjack aptly named Jack was killed in a barroom knife fight in 1847, and his body was buried in an unmarked grave on the property.
He’s made himself known ever since.
“He has all too frequently been known to move chairs and leave candles burning,” according to the website of the restaurant, now known as The Grill House.
“Dimming the lights, changing radio stations, opening and closing doors and rattling dishes are other parts of his repertoire. On rare occasions, a single shot of whiskey, Jack’s drink of choice, will even be found sitting on (the bar).”