Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ghost Story #6: The Foxtown Moulders

The Detroit Free Press, February 20, 1861

If you've been to a Tigers or Lions game or caught a concert or play at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit then you've seen the iconic St. James Episcopal Church on the corner of Woodward and the Fisher Freeway.

Built in 1859 it is the oldest remaining church in Detroit. The skulking Victorian Gothic structure has seen the rise of the city into an industrial titan and its subsequent demise into a relative modern urban ghost town. What can't be seen is that which has been forgotten: it's haunted past.


Perhaps one recorded incident in 150 years doesn't constitute a history but regardless of the frequency of episodic events, the self-monikered Patriarch of Piety Hill continued to be built after its facade of rubble limestone was secured, the hammer beam trusses strung together and the adorning gargoyle heads were cemented in. Not just literally, as it has undergone several renovations and even been moved 60 feet to the east of its original site, but figuratively as well in the form of ghostly workmen.

Laymen, on the whole, have never been a quality source of great literature or story-telling so perhaps the "gentleman of veracity" mentioned in the Free Press article was somebody higher up in the occupational food chain. Which is hardly a measure of veracity but seemingly a proper gauge towards the right direction.

All castes aside, the story goes as such: from the beginning of 1861 to the article writing in February of the same year, noises of construction (i.e., hewing, planing, sorting, driving of nails) could be heard at various intervals of assumed building down times.

So noteworthy were the disturbances that guards on staff were alarmed enough to follow the sounds with a pistol only to come up empty-handed each time. The staff and the rector William Armitage and his family were greatly annoyed by the ruckuses but no culprits were ever captured and no source ever established for the occurrences. Perhaps the great thunderstorm at the commencement of ceremonies for laying the cornerstone served as the impetus for the busy spirit or maybe pathos merely took hold in both the human and ethereal realms.

The Detroit Free Press, June 7, 1860 (enlarge)

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