The Ghosts of Interlochen

As the leaves turn, so does the grave.

The vine on the southern face of Corson Auditorium

The vine on the southern face of Corson Auditorium

This story was originally published on Sept. 30, 2013.

In the nine decades since Interlochen Center for the Arts was founded, thousands of students, faculty, and staff members have called the institution their home.

Some, it seems, never left.

Over the years, many members of the Interlochen community have witnessed unexplained phenomena at various locations across the institution’s 1,200-acre campus. Few members of Interlochen’s faculty and staff have more strange stories than J Berry (IAC/NMC 73-75, AS 76, IAC St 80-92, ICA St 92-), Interlochen’s Assistant Director of Instrument Services and Music Operations.

A five-summer Camp alumna who has spent nearly three decades on the institution’s year-round staff, Berry has heard many ghostly tales from her friends and colleagues—and witnessed a few specters herself. Below, Berry shares a few of her favorite stories from Interlochen’s haunted halls.

Corson Auditorium

Corson Auditorium in 1975

Corson Auditorium shortly after its completion in 1975.

"Before I begin this tale, let me emphasize that no one has ever died in Corson," Berry says.

"Many summers ago, my friend and I were watching one of the stage crew members hang lights in Corson. It was late at night, and we were waiting for him to finish so he could take us to the beach. Out of nowhere he said, 'I’m hanging lights, and I’ll be done in a little while.'

My friend and I looked at each other and said to him, 'We know what you’re doing.'

He said, 'I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to Margaret.'

'Who’s Margaret?' we asked.

'The Corson ghost,’ he replied. 'A woman’s voice talks to us sometimes. We’ve named her Margaret.'

Of course, we got up and left—who wants to drive to the beach with someone who’s talking to himself?

Flash forward to the spring of 1993—it was the end of my first year working at Interlochen Arts Academy, late at night after Honors Convocation. I was looking for an E♭ clarinet backstage, and I was getting a little frustrated. I kept hearing noises and assumed it was my co-workers returning from the Honors Convocation reception. At one point, I heard a door opening and turned to say hi, only to find there was no one there.

I began to say unkind things to my friends, thinking they were playing around, when all of the sudden I heard a woman’s voice right next to my right ear say, 'What are you doing?' I turned, saw no one, and decided I needed a little sleep. I went to turn towards the door, and again, I heard a woman’s voice say, 'What are you doing?' Suddenly I realized, 'oh my god, it’s the Corson ghost!' So I responded, 'I’m looking for an E♭ clarinet, and then I’m leaving.' I turned, with every intention of running from the building, and tripped over the E♭ clarinet, lying right in the middle of the floor.

We don’t know who Margaret is, and she doesn’t make her presence known very often, but she is always helpful."

Pines Tennis Courts

Students play tennis in 1953

A group of students play tennis on the Pines tennis courts during the summer of 1953.

"Again, no one has ever died on the tennis courts, so who knows who this ghost is?" Berry begins again. "After Taps, counselors in all the divisions 'rove.' Night roving is done to check on cabins whose counselors have a night out and to make sure no one who is not supposed to be in the division is hanging around. Sometimes counselors see people out for a walk; sometimes, they see people heading back to their own cabins.

And sometimes, they see someone just standing around. So they say, 'Excuse me, it’s after Taps. You can’t be here.' The person doesn’t respond, so they move closer. At that point, they realize that the person isn’t so much standing on the tennis courts as they are hovering over the tennis courts. Then suddenly, the figure is just not there anymore. I like to think it’s a former counselor, still keeping watch."

Kresge Auditorium

Ottokar Cadek conducts a violin sectional in Kresge Auditorium, 1955

Former Arts Camp faculty member Ottokar Cadek conducts a violin sectional in Kresge Auditorium in 1955.

"Before the Chapel and Corson were built, summer faculty recitals took place in Kresge Auditorium,” Berry explains. “On a warm July evening in the summer of 1956, tragedy struck during the final number of the recital: a Brahms string quartet. Between the third and fourth movements of the piece, the second violinist, a man named Ottokar Cadek (IAC Fac 46-56), had a heart attack, collapsed, and died.

What makes this really creepy? If you look at the printed program, the program manager had accidentally forgotten the last movement. So let that be a lesson to you music majors—always proofread your programs!

Ottokar makes his presence known if the stage crew is working too quickly. He makes the lights flicker, and we always slow down!"

“Les Préludes” Picture

A digital copy of the haunted “Les Préludes” photo, 1956

A digital copy of the haunted photo, taken in 1956 during the dress rehearsal for “Les Préludes.”

"Of course, our most famous ghost is our founder himself, Joe Maddy,” Berry says. “One would assume someone who made such an investment in a place would stick around to see how it’s turning out.

There’s a big picture of ‘Les Préludes’ that was taken during the dress rehearsal in 1956. It currently hangs in the Concourse near Bonisteel Library, but it used to hang in the lobby of the Maddy Building. During my first years here, I had an office in the Maddy Building. One night, I was leaving around 11 p.m. and stopped to look at the ‘Les Préludes’ photo—I have many fond memories of playing in ‘Les Préludes,’ so I love to look at it. As I was standing there, I realized that standing next to me, also looking at the picture, was Joe Maddy. When I turned, he was gone.

Later, I mentioned it to a friend who also had an office in the building. 'Oh, yeah, [Maddy] stands there all the time,’ he told me. ‘It really freaks some people out!'”

Have you experienced a ghost or other unexplained phenomenon on our campus? Share your story!