It’s time for Macabre Manistee County

Scary – and not so scary – events on tap throughout the month of October

MANISTEE COUNTY – Ma·ca·bre (muh-kahb).

According to the dictionary, this word means “gruesome and horrifying; ghastly and horrible,” but according to Vince Hancock, in October in Manistee County what it means is “fun.”

Six years ago Hancock and Linda Spencer of the S.S. City of Milwaukee were working on the very popular Ghost Ship at the historic car ferry when they started thinking about ways to extend that events popularity to other events in the county during October.

“The idea was to see if the Ghost Ship’s more than 3,000 patrons could be encouraged to continue making their way through the county for color tours, live theater, art and other events that are happening,” Hancock said. “So we started gathering information on events for Macabre Manistee County and publishing a map of where they are. This is our sixth year and there are more events than ever. The whole ideas is to simply let residents and visitors know that there’s lots going on in this neck of the woods during the month of October.”

Hancock said there were 17 events the first year and there are 33 on this year’s printed map. That number has grown, since several events have been added on the website.

He points out that although Macabre Manistee County has a scary name, it also celebrates autumn.

“It’s important for people to know that the events take advantage of both the harvest theme and also the Halloween theme,” Hancock said. “It’s not just for people who are oriented toward haunted houses.”

This large display on M-22 leads the way to other scarecrows that can be found throughout Arcadia. (Dave Yarnell/News Advocate)

Gatekeeper, one of the more scary aspects of the effort, is the official mascot of Macabre Manistee County. Hancock said he’s not sure what kind of a creature he is.

“That’s a good question, Hancock said. “His origins are mysterious. I believe he is a northern Michigan variant of the zombie. And for some reason he’s been noticed to leave little packets of salt here and there.”

It’s difficult to be sure when or where the creature will appear, according to Hancock.

“Gatekeeper tends to show up without a whole lot of advance notice,” Hancock said. “There are clues on the website where he will be, and those who want to can follow him on Twitter. Or, is he following them?”

Hancock mentioned two places Gatekeeper will be for sure — the Filer Township Halloween Parade and the 2-1-1 Action Team’s Haunted Blood Donation Station on Oct. 26 when Michigan Blood’s mobile unit visits the Kmart parking lot.

“He is scheduled to be there, and he is willing to give blood, but it remains to be seen if he has any blood to give,” Hancock said.

The Macabre map and website also tell people how they can get special deals from local businesses. For example, one merchant is offering 10 percent off to customers who walk in the store and say “boo” three times. At another, there’s a 25 percent discount for customers who carry in brooms and cackle like a witch.

A scary hallway in the Ghost Ship.

“I would have to thank the Macabre Manistee County board members for coming up with those kind of ideas, particularly John Kaser,” Hancock said. He noted that others on the board besides Kaser and himself are A.J. Batteaglia, Beth Ann Buckner, Gayle Crampton, Marsha Remick and Linda Spencer.

Another fun and important part of Macabre Manistee County is the home decorating contest.

“The deadline for that is Saturday the 19th,” Hancock said. “We always have participation from all parts of the county. Sometimes we see houses that are decorated and encourage them to enter the contest, and we’ve had times when someone nominates their neighbor’s house.”

Hancock said the prizes for the home decorating contest include $100 from the Blue Hare Magic Shop that can be spent anywhere in the county, a $25 gift certificate from Wahr Hardware and a $20 gift certificate from Northern Spirits Gift Shop.

Hancock encourages residents to keep checking the website for new events and updates. He also said any organizations with something that is not currently listed can get it included by visiting the website ( or calling the Macabre Manistee County hotline — (231) 794-2FUN (2386). Citizens who are not computer-oriented can also call the hotline for information and to have a map mailed to them.

Some of the more important additions to Macabre Manistee County are the 31 Cider Run this weekend in Bear Lake and an autumn harvest dinner tonight in Copemish to benefit a citizen undergoing cancer treatment. Also, the date for Manistee’s Boos, Brews & Brats event has been moved back one week from what is printed on the map — to Saturday, Oct. 27.

One more fun activity Hancock points to is the Manistee County Library’s Scary Story Contest.

“This is a great way for kids, or really anybody third grade and up, to write their own ghost story and explore what kind of things are scary to them,” Hancock said. “Last year there was a booklet published by the library with many of the entries, and that can be found at the library if anyone needs ideas about what kind of stories can be written. Gatekeeper even has a story in the booklet.”


Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

Leave a Reply