Fenton Seminary - The Spookiest Place I Ever Visited #hauntedmichigan

Photo by Andrew Jameson CC Flickr

Before its demolition in 2015 the Fenton Seminary, which stood at 309 High St and State Road, was one of Fenton’s most haunted locations and definitely the one with spookiest aesthetic.

I first discovered this haunting beauty back in 1990.  My boyfriend at the time had grown up in the Fenton area and wanted to show me the spooky place all the kids were afraid of. They all heard rumors about how haunted the place was. The house was bought and sold numerous times but no one would stay in it very long.

We drove there one night and the visage of this hulking stone structure against the backdrop of darkness was utterly terrifying. I was so scared I wouldn’t even let him pull into the driveway.

I don’t spook easily and it is rare for me to have such intense feelings of fear, but when I do, I know to trust my gut. Even back then I knew that something was wrong and we shouldn’t even step foot on the property.

Even though the place terrified me I was fascinated by its history. I told my friend Jenny about it and she got her cousin who was in college studying architecture and design, to contact the real estate agent. He got the keys to the place so he could sketch it. She invited me to join her on the exploration.

So I returned during daylight hours to visit the spooky stone structure. We walked around the main levels and explored a bit. It was remarkably clean for a place that had been empty for years. I planned to explore the entire building but after a rocking chair started rocking by itself in one of the second-floor bedrooms and a door slammed on me in another room I decided to cut the exploration short. That was enough spooky for me. I didn’t get to see the basement or the sub-basement which Jenny said had a stream running through it. Later I saw some of the photos she took. There were so many orbs, weird lights, and strange blurry smudges in them none of them came out very clear.

Several years later another friend told me about his experiences in a haunted house in Fenton. Turns out it was the old seminary. He detailed a story about a group of teens that would sneak in and party in the place. They had a nice spot on one of the upper floors. One night he needed a place to crash and ended up in the old place all alone. He heard a strange and creaky squealing noise then a small door on the wall popped open. It was a dumbwaiter and something jumped out at him. He didn’t get a good look at it; he just took off running and flew down the stairs. Whatever it was had sharp claws that tore the back of his t-shirt to tatters. He showed me the shirt that he had kept as a reminder to never return to that cursed place. The shirt looked like Freddy Krueger had raked his razor-sharp glove across it.

Locations that used to be seminaries, asylums, hospitals, and nursing homes have tons of supernatural activity, probably from all the people that lived and died in the location. Even if nothing “bad” happened there, residual energy builds up. My theory is that a location where many people go out of this world creates a doorway. Like a hospital, where people die every day, a gateway opens and sometimes something might slip through that shouldn’t.

The building was originally built to be a Baptist seminary in 1868. It was a preparatory school for students attending Kalamazoo College. Later, around 1886, it was given to the Baptist Aid Society as a retirement home for ministers and their wives and was used as such until about 1938.

In 1899 a fire gutted the interior and destroyed the roof and the original two-story veranda with its balustrades and divided front steps. “The three-story stone structure was originally constructed in the Second Empire style, complete with a mansard roof, dormers, and rounded arch windows. During the building's reconstruction in 1900, the porch was altered to feature two stone piers, the front stairway was built as a single flight, and the third story was eliminated and replaced by a truncated hip roof. The new roof's details included a centrally placed stepped gable dormer flanked by fanciful metal dormers.”

For a short time in the 1940s, it was a learning center for kids. It was later used as an apartment building. In the 1950s the elderly filled the halls while it was a nursing home. Several times it was privately owned but residents never lasted very long. It had been mostly vacant since 1967.

In November 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. For years it was one of Fenton's most prominent 19th-century structures.

Penny Crane purchased the building in the mid-1990s with hopes of returning it to its original glory.

Soon after purchasing it in 1995, she opened the monstrous structure to the public as a haunted house. With every window and doorway closed off from the outside world, the interior was dark and shrouded in mystery.

I bet it was terrifying. The multi-story monster would be so easy to get lost in.

In an article from May 2013 in the Tri-City Times Crane said:  “I didn’t believe in any ghosts or spirits but I sure do now.”

Fenton city officials quickly closed the haunt’s doors and condemned it until the proper permits could be approved for renovation. Crane fought with the city for years to lift the condemned status so she could transform the monastery into a usable facility. For over twenty years she struggled to try to renovate the building. She even tried to walk away from it once but the ownership reverted back to her.

The hulking 10,000 square foot building would have been the perfect set for a horror movie. People would get spooked just looking at it. Dark, decrepit, and filled with dark corners and spooky shadows it was an entity all its own. The massive stone stairs lead to a chained off entrance while a tattered condemned sign hung from a ground-level door. A no trespassing sign hung on one of the windows. I’m sad I missed out on that.

In 2004 the building had a fire.

In November 2013 the building was severely damaged by storms. In 2014 it was damaged by more storms and a portion of the structure crumbled. Also in 2014, the city of Fenton took ownership for $20,000 of back taxes that were owed. In 2015, it was deemed a dangerous building by a structural engineer and was demolished in September of that year.

Bricks and other materials from the old seminary have been used to erect a monument that now stands in Section B of Oakwood Cemetery in Fenton.

The land the seminary once occupied is now an empty lot. My son suggested we pull into the driveway to take photos. I had the same reaction I did the first night I laid eyes on the building. Nope.

The land still emits that energy even though the structure is long gone.

I tried to take photos of the lot with my cell phone camera, first, my camera went to a black screen and wouldn't do anything. I closed out the camera, opened it back up and everything rippled across the screen. My daughter saw the weird ripple as it happened. We were spooked and noped through the intersection to reassess and turn around. She pulled out the big camera and snapped a few photos with it. 

It's just a grassy lot. Doesn't look spooky at all. 

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