"Ypsilanti Ghosts and Legends" feature in forthcoming book by Ypsi authors

"Ypsilanti Ghosts & Legends," a book by two Ypsilanti authors detailing hauntings and other spooky tales of Ypsilanti, is set for publication this September.
"Ypsilanti Ghosts & Legends," a book by two Ypsilanti authors detailing hauntings and other spooky tales of Ypsilanti, is set for publication this September. Authors Crysta Coburn and Kay Gray's book deal resulted from the "Haunted Mitten" podcast the two have hosted since 2019.

Coburn and Gray have known each other and shared interests in steampunk, horror, and spooky things for about 20 years. Gray ran a blog about ghosts and the supernatural for several years and asked Coburn if she was interested in doing a podcast on the same topic. 

In a stroke of good luck, Coburn, who has worked as a clerk at the Ann Arbor District Library for many years, says staff there were being encouraged to use newly-acquired podcasting equipment so they could provide more informed help to patrons who might want to use the gear.

In 2019, Coburn and Gray became co-hosts of the "Haunted Mitten" podcast. They are about to start recording their sixth season. They've detailed Michigan-centric myths, legends, and hauntings ranging from the Michigan Dogman to 1960s UFO sightings to true crime and shipwrecks. Coburn does much of the research, while Gray says she's the one who "gets weird with it."
Doug CoombeCrysta Coburn and Kay Gray at The Ladies Library building in Ypsilanti.
Gray says she knew very little about Michigan urban legends because she's originally from Los Angeles. That meant the legends and stories Coburn was digging up were largely new to her. 

"Most things have been a surprise so far, which is great," she says.

Near the end of "Haunted Mitten"'s third season, The History Press reached out to Coburn and Gray to see if they wanted to write a book. The publisher told them they could pick any topic that wasn't already covered in The History Press' Haunted America line.
Doug CoombeKay Gray at The Michigan Firehouse Museum in Ypsilanti.
"We live here, we love Ypsi, and we had enough stories to fill a book," Gray says.

The book will include some true crime, a little bit of alien menace, and Ypsi's two most famous reputedly haunted sites: the Ladies Library building and the Michigan Firehouse Museum, formerly a working firehouse.

The Ladies Library was formerly the home of city founder Mary Ann Starkweather, and many believe her ghost haunts the building still.
Doug CoombeCrysta Coburn at The Michigan Firehouse Museum in Ypsilanti.
"She and her husband were some of the first settlers in Ypsilanti and they had a nationally-known award-winning orchards where Eastern Michigan University now sits," Coburn says. Starkweather's ghost has allegedly been seen on campus as well at the hall named after her family.

"I feel like maybe she's looking over the city she helped build," Gray says. 

"She's a city spirit," Coburn adds.

Part of Coburn and Gray's job is not just looking up legends but busting misconceptions when they find them. For instance, rumor has it that former Ypsilanti Fire Chief Alonzo Miller haunts the Firehouse Museum because he died in a fire, but that's far from the truth. He died of old age, at home, surrounded by loved ones.
Doug CoombeCrysta Coburn and Kay Gray at The Michigan Firehouse Museum in Ypsilanti.
"Chief Miller lived a great life. He was beloved, and he did not die in a fire," Gray says. 

She and Coburn say they both believe that it's better to dispel rumors and get to the truth of a place or a person's life, because "sometimes the truth is more fascinating."

"A rumor started after his death that weird things would happen around the firehouse, and the men were half joking, saying, 'Maybe it was Chief Miller,'" Coburn says. "He was supposed to be a practical joker when he was alive, so the men thought if weird things happened, maybe it was him still playing tricks on them."

The two co-authors hope to host a book launch party at the Back Office Studio in downtown Ypsilanti in September. You can pre-order the book here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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