Demented Mitten Tours is offering a glimpse of Lansing’s macabre by moonlight.
“These are places you probably don't want to get in your car and drive to alone,” owner and founder Jenn Carpenter said.
Half tours of true crime scenes, and half visits to paranormal sites, Demented Mitten Tours forgoes jump scares and gore for documented details of murder and firsthand encounters with ghost hunting equipment at haunted locations.
“You are not just hearing the stories: You’re there,” Carpenter said. “There are paranormal investigators with all their equipment on hand, they show you how it works and you see things happen you can't explain.”
True crime locations include Greater Lansing’s most dastardly and controversial crimes, ranging from the turn of the century to the ‘70s.
First stop on the tour is the site on Detroit Street and Michigan Avenue, where Reverend Earl Little, Malcolm X’s father, was allegedly beaten to death by the Black Legion of Lansing — a group akin to the Ku Klux Klan. According to his Ingham County death certificate, the official cause of death is Little being run over by a street car.
“We would start here and people would argue that it did not happen here. We get back on the
bus and I see people on their phones looking to see if I’m wrong,” Carpenter said. “People from Lansing think they know a lot about a specific subject. To see that change throughout the night is a lot of fun.”
The most recent stop for the true crime tour is the site of the “Burning Bed” in Dansville. In 1977, Francine Hughes burned down her house while her husband slept, because she feared for her life after suffering 13 years of physical, sexual and mental abuse.
The story became national news when the Hughes’ first degree murder trial ruled in her favor, as she successfully plead temporary insanity. Hughes’ tribulation inspired the 1980 book “The Burning Bed” and a 1984 movie of the same name starring Farrah Fawcett.
“There is no house there anymore; just an empty field; ironically with a fire hydrant.”
While the Turner Dodge House carries no tales of infamy, it’s still visited on the tour because it’s allegedly a hotbed of paranormal activity.
Carpenter said that they only had one person leave the tour from being creeped out.
“I don't even think it was dark out yet, and we had 20 people in the Turner Dodge House and this girl was not comfortable.”
The girl installed an app on her phone mimicking an Ovilus ghost hunting tool, a word bank able to string along phrases based on environmental readings, Carpenter said.
“It said out loud ‘Who is Victoria?’ That was her name,” Carpenter said. “She was done, called her boyfriend to get her and was gone.”
The idea for a haunted tour company in Michigan began in Chicago. Carpenter visited the Congress Hotel while on a spring break trip.
“It looked beautiful, but it was very cheap. I thought what’s the deal: Is it in a bad neighborhood?” Carpenter came to find that not only did the hotel host guests like Al Capone and Teddy Roosevelt, but also had a reputation as one of the most haunted buildings in Chicago.
“In researching it, we found a group called Weird Chicago Tours. We went on the tour and visited the site of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre and Congress Hotel.”
It was a few months later when Carpenter was in Bath with her son that the idea to bring a haunted tour to Lansing dawned on her.
“We were sitting in the car between baseball games, and I told him about the Bath School Bombing. He thought it was really crazy and said, ‘Someone should one of those Weird Chicago Tours about that,” Carpenter said. “I thought, ‘Hey! I could do that.’”
Researching local paranormal folklore and true crime, Carpenter said the first tour was done with friends and family.
“Before we could even secure transportation for the first public event, we had a waitlist longer than we were able to fill,” Carpenter said. “We had to run well into November that season just for people on the waitlist — all done with no advertising.”
Carpenter said groups have tripled. “The bus we used our first season was a 12 seater and now we are on a 34 passenger bus. We’ve also sold out a 52 seater bus — it doesn't matter what size it is.”
Though some people were disappointed from the lack of horror movie-esque thrills, Carpenter said that the purpose of the event is educational and the creeps come from the details.
“By the time we are done, you are going to know what this person’s favorite cereal was.”
For more information and tour dates, visit www.dementedmittentours.com