HAUNTED MICHIGAN

THE OLD SHOPBELL HOUSE
Lake Odessa, Michigan

The old house that sat at the corner of Tupper Lake Street and Sixth Avenue in the small village of Lake Odessa, Michigan was a mystery to many in the town. There was no doubt at all that the place was haunted.... but just what spirit still walked there remains a mystery.

In 1903, a couple named Daniel and Cora Shopbell came to Lake Odessa. Tired of life on the farm, they had come to the small village for a new life. Cora's parents, George and Delilah Hepner lived in Lake Odessa and across the street from their house was an empty lot that Daniel and Cora decided to build a house on. Daniel built the house by hand, constructing it on top of an old stone foundation that was already there. It had been left behind by a house that had burned down several years before.

Dan built the barn first and he and Cora camped out there until he finished the house, installing the first indoor bathroom in town. When it was finished, they moved into their new home.... it wasn't long before they realized that something was very wrong with the new house. They rarely talked about the strange events that were taking place. In fact, the only family member who would ever talk about the place was Leona Gardiner, Cora's niece, and even she didn't talk about it until many years later.

The Shopbells had just settled into the house when the noises began. Usually the sounds were banging and knocking noises from the ball of the house, but they also spoke of a sound that rolled across the porch like a big, solid ball. Sometimes knocking an slamming would come from the front door. When they went to look, they saw no one. In the sitting room was a wood-burning stove and often the door would swing open and slam shut.... as if some specter were checking the fire.

They made their decision to move out of the house one night when Daniel was siting in his chair in the living room and he was suddenly picked up, chair and all, and held aloft for a few seconds. They had no explanation for how this could have happened. The Shopbells sold the house for a small amount and moved back to their farm.

The young couple who bought the farm were Gottleib and Anna Kussmaul, first generation Americans who were well-liked in the village. They had one daughter, Hattie, a pale, thin girl who would later marry young and die soon after in the flu epidemic following World War I. This family had much more patience with the ghostly occupant of the house. Once realizing that Hattie was not playing pranks, like putting the cat outside the house at night and knocking on walls and doors, they learned to accept the supernatural antics. They were rarely frightened, outside of the time that Hattie ran to the nearby Mosey house, telling the neighbors that she had seen a man in the bathroom, shining his boots on the edge of the tub.

One other frightening occurrence took place, and was witnessed by a neighbor, when the family reported the sounds of men fighting in the house. There were dull, heavy blows like men beating each other against the floor and horrible grunting sounds. The house was searched but, of course, nothing was found that could have caused the noises.

The family was often interviewed about the spirits and freely admitted the house was haunted. In fact, Anna even credited the ghost for saving her husband's life. One night, Gottleib had a seizure while sleeping and Anna was awakened by the ghost of a gray man standing next to the bed. She tried to wake up her husband and when she couldn't, she knew something was wrong. She quickly summoned medical help and her husband was saved. She always believed that the man she saw there was a spirit trying to warn her that her husband was dying, for he would have certainly died if she had not awakened and gone for help.

The Kussmauls stayed in the house until 1946. During all of those years, they were harassed with odd noises, groans and phantom footsteps. What could have caused the house to be haunted? Many believe that the spirit, or spirits, were present because of the house that had once rested on the old foundation. According to the stories, the man who had lived in the house before had been a land speculator or real-estate buyer from out of state. He was a stranger in town, but whoever he was, he had a large sum of money with him. The stories say that he was murdered in the house and then it was burned down to hide evidence of the crime. This would certainly make sense as the witnesses claim they heard the phantom sounds of fighting in the house that might stem from the crime that took place. And what of the spirit that saved the life of Gottleib Kussmaul? Perhaps the murdered stranger wanted to do what he could for the family who now lived in his house....even if that meant saving another man from a death that came too soon.

Lake Odessa is located in the central region of the state, between Lansing and Grand Rapids. The house stood at the corner of Tupper Lake Street and Sixth Avenue but has since been torn down and has been replaced by a newer building.

Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor

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