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Ghost Stories: The Story of Mary Kate

Ghost Stories: The Story of Mary Kate

by Florence Galek

As a teenager, I lived with my mother, two sisters and a “foster” sister, Dotty, in a two-story house in a small town in Michigan. A lot of strange things happened there and a lot of strange noises, but we didn’t pay too much attention because there were five of us in the house. Until another sister came for a visit.

A few days after her arrival, my visiting sister decided to explore the attic. One attic had a door leading off the upstairs hallway and it was easy to walk into it. I don’t know why none of the rest of us had never explored, but I guess we weren’t as nosy as she was. I think we were a little spooked by a trap door that wouldn’t stay shut no matter how firmly it was closed. Eerie sounds emanated from that attic, but my mother told us it was just the wind – always a good excuse for strange noises.

In the walk-in attic, my sister found a large portrait of a young woman. The picture was done in oils and was pretty dusty but she cleaned it off and discovered a picture of a very sad-eyed young girl. She also found a packet of love letters dated back to the late 1800s. They were pathetic letters from a sweetheart who had been forbidden to see her. Both of them were in their late teens. When we looked more closely at the painting, my sister felt what she thought was a bulge under the canvas and took it out of the frame. The bulge turned out to be a very faded, but legible, suicide note.

Apparently the girl had sneaked out to meet her lover and then she found she was pregnant – or, as they said in those days, “ruined.” She said the only way out was death.

My sister, with time on her hands and a background in genealogy, started searching records and found a record of deeds to the house, establishing the name of the family. Then she wrote to Vital Records in Lansing and got a copy of a death certificate with the cause of death “strangulation by hanging.” Then she started searching the local paper for that date and found a report on the death. The girl in the letters had been found, hanging out of the doorspace in the ceiling of the upstairs hall. The report said it was “deemed” suicide although no suicide note had been found.

Shortly after that my mother found another house to rent.

And so endeth the story of poor little Mary Kate. Left to haunt her attic space….

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