Friday, February 22, 2013

Ghost Story #1: Peter Erb & the 8 Foot Spectre

The Detroit Free Press, April 23, 1873

I've been sitting on a pile of Detroit area ghost stories for a while now in hopes that I could further each history beyond the lone mentions in newspaper articles but unfortunately I've been unable to do much with that premise. Hence, I'm going to dump them here with a brief synopsis and see if they joggle any spirits with knowledge of the incidents and invite them to come forward and testify.

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Putting the vagaries of names and points on a map aside, the haunting of Peter Erb was strange enough that the ghost may have been none other than himself. Seeing as his name was popular enough that it covered the ranks of saloon keeper, fireman, womanizer and local ruffian we can only surmise who this Peter Erb was.

From the lone newspaper account he resided at the corner of Dequindre and Marion. Which, if my accounting is accurate and certain grid marks hold true to present day form, would be out Hamtramck way. On the outskirts, at least, where city meets city within the confines of Detroit.

After an evening of shopping in the Midtown area he was accosted by an 8 foot ghost. An ethereal titan, really, which audibly approached with foot soles slapping hard down on the pavement that announced its coming. Erb turned to greet the fellow. They shook hands. One mortal paw meeting the icy claw of nevermore. It gave sir Peter a fright. He attempted to flee from the abominable no-man but Fate had no recourse other than to see him struck by the apparition and crumple down to the sidewalk.

Several hours and an inch of snow later pedestrians found the stricken man prone where he lay. Thinking him dead they retrieved the corpse and took shelter inside a nearby house. There the Good Samaritans found that a sliver of life remained in the frigid vessel of flesh. A doctor was summoned and by the rituals and advancements of 19th century medicine, à la the great elixir whiskey, he was roused from his prolapsed state. Thus began his supernatural tale.

With a doctor and policeman as witness and family en route, Erb raved and ranted, then became clear-minded and spun the aforementioned yarn. No amount of coaxing or forensics could convince him otherwise. He saw it. Lucid as any teetotaler. Only a scientist could disapprove the earnest retching of an honest and occupied gentleman with his own staid opinions. And the good physician did just that. You're damned well right he did. But being that we are the keepers of the faith shall we not demure on the saner side of reason?


Anonymous said...

Love the posts! Keep em coming. The history is fascinating.

the said...

Why thanks. I think I will. :-)