Special Report: Investigating Lake Superior Mysteries

Is Lake Superior An Open Door for the Paranormal?

Lake Superior has taken the lives of roughly 10,000 people with fierce weather, and ever-changing conditions out on the water.

There are said to be about 350 shipwrecks in her waters, but what’s very unsettling are the dozens of ships that disappeared without a trace and still are yet to be found.

It’s said the lake never gives up her dead, but could that mean there’s supernatural activity in the water?

Employees on the William A. Irvin say they’re convinced the boat is full of spirits.

“It’s almost like this is a channel people pass through,” said employee Alex Dunning.

The Irvin no longer gets underway on the lake, but its new home docked in Lake Superior seems to stir up some kind of mystery.

Built in the 1930’s and retired in the 1970’s, there’s only one documented death on board. That happened when a man was killed in an explosion in the steam room in 1964.

Staff at the ship-turned museum say without a doubt the place is full of the unexplained like voices, footsteps and doors that open and shut on their own.

Staff even says at times they’ve seen images of people that don’t belong, like a woman dressed in white in the cargo hold.

“I happened to glance up and saw the top half of person going down the stairs and disappearing behind the wall panels,” said Dunning. “I went to intercept them and nobody was there.”

Employees say they find evidence that spirits of men, women, even children wander the ship.

Some believe the activity may have something to do with Lake Superior itself.

“My theory is water is a great channel of energy,” said Dunning. “We’re connected to the lake with a lot of shipwrecks, death and danger. It’s almost like we’re a conduit on it. Allowing it to be an open door which fuels the fire.”

One of the biggest mysteries on the lake dates back more than 100 years. Konnie LeMay of Lake Superior Magazine knows the story well, she served as the editor for the “Haunted Lakes” books written by Frederick Stonehouse.

She says back in 1902 a 200-foot freighter called the Bannockburn left Thunder Bay with a load of grain.

“It disappeared into the fog, and was never seen again,” said LeMay. “There was an oar, a partial ore that showed up on a beach near Grand Maris, the oar is said to have scratched into it ‘Bannockburn’ with blood in it.”

Legend says the ship is still out there, doomed to sail the icy waters with 22 souls on board forever.

“Although it disappeared physically, throughout the years after that other ships saw what they believed to be the Bannockburn as a ghost ship,” said LeMay.

Superstition says a ghost ship sighting is bad news for anyone on the water, the legends of sightings were always followed by some kind of stormy weather.

Violent storms on Lake Superior are no stranger to Lee Radzak, for 35 years he’s had perhaps the best view of Lake Superior out of his living room inside the light keepers quarters at Split Rock Lighthouse.

“There’s a lot of tragedies fresh to the people who lived here,” said Radzak. “A lot of shipping accidents happened close by, that’s why the lighthouse was built here.”

Like a fingerprint, Radzak says no two days are the same out on the lake. However, if you’re hoping for a spooky story from him you’ll be disappointed.

He believes lake phenomenon has much more to do with ‘fata morgana’ and weather conditions than paranormal spirits.

“Temperature inversion you get different layers of air, and different temperatures tends to work like a mirage and flip or stretch images,” said Radzak. “You see double.”

He says in his time at Split Rock, he’s learned an important lesson you can’t trust your eyes on Lake Superior.

“At times I’ve seen big Lakers that might look like a ghost ship because of weather conditions, it looks like it’s floating above the lake,” said Radzak. “But nothing close enough to give us pause and question if that’s really happening.”

Whatever the truth may be, what’s certain is the respect Lake Superior deserves.

“Remain open to the magic of the lake around you,” said Lemay.

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