Approaching Haunted Island from the Southwest

Once I had taken members from the Marion Boys Club on a hike from our wooded beachfront to our granary so that we could get some extra tent stakes. But unknown to them, that was not my only intent.  At that time we were also to pick up a second rowboat that was docked at my family pier just below our cottage.

As we shoved away from that docking area, the two boys that were with me observed the Haunted Island from a different perspective as we were slightly southwest of that island.  As we came along aside it, the boys took notice of the area that we would be landing at on the central part of that island.  I had moved in close enough for them to observe the rickety pier and the small hill that led to a path just above it. 

Of corse we would be arriving at that location at midnight instead of late morning but at least Andrew and Calvin had a chance to check it out for themselves in broad daylight first.  In fact, broad daylight would have been more than enough for Calvin as it were as he was VERY superstitious.  I reassured him that during the daylight he would not have to contend with ghosts but for some reason that did nothing to change his apprehensions?

Even so, it was a taste of things to come.  I only wish I could share with you what Calvin’s eyes looked like at that time. 

Frigid Haunted Island

At this time of year even the bone Pickers on the haunted island get chilled. Once there was a couple that lived on the island many years ago and they had a collie dog. The husband went out to shop for food on the rowboat. When he came back, he found the collie will an arrow through its heart. Even though his wife could not swim he never found her body anywhere even though he searched for days. Strangely enough, there is an old Indian burial ground on the island. Even though some say they hear moaning on the island at night even to the present day, some attribute that noise to loons. Others believe its the woman’s spirit roaming the island. No one knows for sure.

Aerial Haunted Island


As you can well see for yourself, the Haunted Island is nearly 99% desolate forest surrounded by Big Bass Lake. Can you even imagine how foreboding that might be at night when permeated by blackness? My Boys Clubs of America kids sure could since they were there for every trip that we made always at the stroke of midnight on the spookist night I could find. Sometimes that might have been the very first night of the trip.

In the 1970’s no one lived there yet now there is a property owner on that island. The errie cry of loons permeated that island and those cries could be heard from our wooded beachfront making the trip to that island even more perilous to the kids. I love this overhead glance at the Haunted Island as it brings forth the mystery and suspense that is known for this island especially to those who have visited her during darkness.

I wonder if Camp Martin Johnson ever visited this island at night? Hollywood couldn’t even write better material than nature often threw us even when nothing at all was planned for our midnight journies to Haunted Island. Wind, thunder, and even heat lightning often made the trip quite scary for the kids. As our rowboats entered the perimeter of the island, the shadows of the trees blacked out our approach to the island. That was the beginning of apprehensions for the boys.

The Haunted Island! What a view!

Fall at Haunted Island

This is a new way of looking at Haunted Island for me. This View is looking West from the Big Island. It is a side of the island I went to only once. In fact of the entire Island I only used the area around the haunted house and the docking area on the west side of the island. One of the downsides of the trips with the boys clubs there was we only went at night and never really fully explored the entire Island. Not even during daylight hours as that somehow would diminish the Spectre of that Island. If Turtle Island had been closer, I would have gone there at night as well. But that was a long row from where we were located. The side of the island I always wanted to explore was the south end where some really large trees are located. Plus there is an Indian burial ground just north of the haunted house. This was a rather interesting Island especially at night.

The Wintery Big Pines of Haunted Island

. I just love the contrast of Michigan green and blue with a little white thrown in for good measure. The tapestry even looks better on Haunted Island. I’ve always been impressed with the southern Pine and evergreen trees on the island. Don’t you think it’s beautiful? They drape The Island in a multicolored vestment fit only for royalty. I can almost smell the aroma of pine bursting through my nose. And yet I’ve never been to this side of the island. I’ve rowed past it a few times but never hiked there on foot. Most of our boys club trips to that Island were only at night and in the center part of the Island where the old haunted house stood. It is a major regret that I never traveled to this part of the Island.

Around the Next Island at Big Bass Lake

One of my favorite past times at Big Bass Lake was to go “Island Hopping” and since there were five to choose from, it was a great deal of fun.  I would take our motor boat and first encircle Haunted Island before turning slightly northeast and travel the shoreline of the Big Island.  As I finished that course, I circled Grandma’s Hat which took all of 30 seconds to do since it was the smallest island on the lake.

Then I turned northward and traveled through the narrows of Big Bass Lake to get to the two islands on the north side of the lake.  Four Winds Island was once home to Camp Martin Johnson and still has all the buildings that were used at camp yet today.  Then I took a turn around Turtle Island which is the only island on the lake owned by the Manistee National Forest. 

Then it was back through the narrows again to Haunted Island on the southwest side and back to our dock.  Private homes are today found on the Big Island, formerly Waite Island, and on both Haunted Island and Four Winds Island.  I’ve always loved going around the next island at Big Bass Lake and would recommend that journey to anyone.

Haunted Island From the Big Island

I think that this is the only photograph on this site that shows the Haunted Island (Matson’s Island) from the perspective of the Big Island just to its east. I call it the Haunted Island from the many trips there to the old house in the middle of that island in the 1970’s when I took various boys club camping trips to that location at midnight.

Just past the Haunted Island would have been our property on Big Bass Lake from just about the public landing all the way up the southwest shore almost to the north side of the lake. My grandparents owned just about everything on the west side of Matson Road to Big Bass Lake Road with just a few exceptions.

Now the Haunted Island has at least one cottage on it and that would be facing the Big Island. What makes Big Bass Lake distinctive among area lakes is that it has five islands on it. To my knowledge only Elbow Lake and Harper Lake have islands as well in all of Lake County.

The Foreboding Night Tree Line

On Any Given trip to the Haunted Island, as soon as we entered the tree line it got almost completely black. On this particular trip with the Marion YMCA as soon as we entered the blackness some of the boys wanted to head back to camp. Their courage seemed to be lacking. At the rickety Pier I docked the boat and we got out. We climbed a short Hill and begin walking on the pathway that led to the haunted house. The boys were ultra quiet. As we entered the clearing where the house was a big gust of wind hit us head on. Chris Alexander especially asked to go back to camp. The wind kept howling and I asked the boys if they wanted to go in the house for shelter. They all said no in accord. After a short ghost story I asked them if they wanted to go to the cemetery and they all requested to go back to camp which we at that time did. Once back at camp they all Marveled that as soon as we left the island the wind ceased. They couldn’t figure that out and frankly neither could I. You just don’t know what might happen at that Island.

The Haunted Island At Night


This picture was taken in the middle of the Haunted Island on the southwest side. A boys club group and I had just landed our rowboat at the rickety pier and climbed the short hill to the path that led to the haunted house. Before taking our short trek to the haunted house, I turned and snapped a picture back onto Big Bass Lake from my wooded vantage point. You can’t see a whole lot but what you can imagine is how spooky and desolate that area was at that time.

On that particular trip, our group had landed at the island just about a half hour before midnight. The weather that evening was cool enough for light jackets to be worn. A short ghost story was followed by an examination of the house from the outside. The inside floor may not have been safe enough to walk upon. I should add that there were no volunteers anyway to enter that house. In fact, most of them wanted to return to our wooded beachfront right after the story.

Yet on the way back to Illinois the kids were bragging about just how long they stayed on the island that evening. They were talking about a couple of hours when in reality it was less than thirty minutes. How time flies!

The Pointe of Haunted Island

One thing I haven’t mentioned a whole lot was on how many fallen trees surrounded the Haunted Island. That by itself added to the mystique of the island. If one where to row all around that island they could see what I mean. Almost every square inch of that shoreline is littered with dead trees.

In fact, it makes it quite difficult to row close into the island as it is an obstacle course of trees and branches.  In the 1970’s there was only one safe entry area and even that had an old rickety dock.  Yet, in the summer months, the area where the Haunted House was located was near impossible to see from any shoreline area.

The southern most Pointe of that island was where an old shack was once to be found in the 1950’s.  There were only two walls standing, if you could call it that, during those days.  It had all but disappeared in the 1960’s. 

At night, in near pitch darkness, it serves its name well and sometimes th cry of a loon can be heard which adds to the spooky atmosphere of Haunted Island.  Add to that all the fallen trees about the island and it all adds up to one most interesting place to visit at the stroke of midnight.

Natahki Drive on Big Bass Lake

My new blog friend, Joan, from “My Quality Day (Blogroll)” recently featured the northern two most islands (Turtle and Four Winds) on Big Bass Lake which she mistakenly thought were the two largest islands. She snapped the picture from Natahki Drive or Road on the land that used to be owned by Camp Martin Johnson. The area she outlined in yellow bears that out. In fact, Four Winds Island was owned by the camp.

From Joan’s satellite view you can observe the two islands in question just off the shoreline of what used to be Camp Martin Johnson.  However the two largest islands are south of there and can be photographed by either the Public Landing or by taking the bridge to the Big Island and gaining view of that island as well as Haunted Island to its west. 

I personally believe Haunted Island to be the most fantastic of all the islands on the lake.  Natahki is what Big Bass Lake used to be called in its early days.  There was even a girls camp under that name once on the lake. 

Here now are Joan’s two islands on the north side of the lake.

All of the islands on Big Bass Lake can be found in our Categories on the sidebar. And that even includes Sunken Island which is just east of the two islands pictured here. That underwater island is between the two islands here and the channel between Big and Little Bass Lake. Last December I did a multi-part series on Turtle Island featuring pictures around and on that island.

Its twin, Four Winds Island, can also be found in Categories and features many pictures of the remains of Camp Martin Johnson.  Also check out Grandma’s Hat Island, Haunted Island, The Big Island, and Sunken Island.  Of the latter one in a few days I will have a great shot of that submerged isle.  You also might want to check out the Category about The Big Bass Lake Channel for some excellent photographs. 

The Haunted House

This is the haunted house on Haunted Island. On one of our camping trips the Hoffman Estates Boys Club went out there at midnight. Five boys were on this trip. When we got by the house, a bird flew out of the upper window and the kids started to run in every direction. When they got under control they said they all saw a bird but thought it was a ghost. They began laughing. Two of the boys explored the first floor of the house while the others chose to remain outside. They came out saying that it was nothing to be scared about until a loon cried out. At that point they all wanted to return to the campsite. Even the two boys that went inside the house said they had enough that night. I wonder what the loon thought about all this? It also probably had a good laugh about what happened.

Our Wooded Beach to the Haunted Island


In this photograph, in the upper left side, in red, was our wooded beach area and the island encircled in red was the Haunted Island. To its right is the Big Island and then even to its right is Grandma’s Hat, the tiny island some now call Loon Island.

As you can plainly see, the Haunted Island is largely forested as was our beach camping area. It was always in plain site from our camping area. When we visited that island we always docked on the central western side. The haunted house was located almost in the middle of that island in a small clearing surrounded by large pine trees.

What my Uncle Joe once called “The Pointe” would be on the eastern most area of that red circle on our wooded beach.

In the future more such maps will be presented of our former family farm and the surrounding area.