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May 23, 2021

The Grand Hotel: Mackinac Island, Michigan

After a year-long Covid retreat, I'm looking forward to visiting family in my home state of Michigan, where my parents settled after coming to America. Not taking into account its long harsh winters, Michigan is a wonderful place to visit in the spring, summer and fall, surrounded in a plethora of crystal blue lakes and green forests.

If you've never been to Michigan, I recommend you check out historic Mackinaw City, located in the northern tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula along the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac. Across the straits lies the state's Upper Peninsula. These two land masses are connected by the Mackinac Bridge, which is an experience in itself to cross. It's five miles long and is one of the top five longest suspension bridges in the world.

My favorite thing to do is to take the ferry from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island. When you arrive at the island, you find yourself lost in time in the Victorian era. There are no cars permitted on the island. Bicycles and horse-drawn carriages abound. The island is only eight miles in circumference, so you could walk. It will only take about an hour if you don't stop at any of the quaint shops and boutiques lining the streets along the way. Not to mention, the aroma of warm melting chocolate beckoning you to the homemade fudge shops found on every corner.

What definitely stands out, however, as the centerpiece of Mackinac Island is The Grand Hotel. The five-star hotel features the world’s largest front porch and hosts lavish afternoon tea and nightly dancing. All guests (even older children!) are required to dress up for dinner.

Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel was designated a State Historic Building in 1957. In 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. And on June 29, 1989, it was named a National Historic Landmark.

Mackinac Island is a prime candidate for hauntings, rich in its violent and colorful history where a military fort was built and a massive number of people were killed, amounting to a huge Native American burial ground.

The Grand Hotel is one of the hot spots for paranormal activity. Legend says construction workers uncovered human remains while digging the hotel's foundation and then failed to properly dispose of them. Since its inception, the hotel has maintained a reputation of being haunted with all sorts of metaphysical occurrences. One story tells of an "evil entity" which shows itself as a black mass with glowing red eyes. A maintenance man, working on the hotel's theater stage, reported that the black mass rushed after him, knocking him off his feet. Staff have reported seeing a man in a top hat playing the bar's piano. Others see a woman in Victorian clothing who roams the halls, even getting into beds.

But the main reason why I chose to bring up The Grand Hotel is because it was the setting of the movie, Somewhere in Time, the classic time-travel romance which starred the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The story is about a young playwright who becomes obsessed with a photograph of a young woman while staying at the Grand Hotel. As he learns more about the woman in the picture, he discovers that she was the same woman (although aged at the time) who gave him a pocket watch eight years earlier and pleaded with him to "come back to me." Thus, he travels back in time to 1912 to find the long lost love of his life.

In my novel, Chapter Thirteen, Katy Barton (my protagonist), brings a video cassette of her favorite movie, Somewhere in Time, to her boyfriend's house after she realizes how much she loves him. At the end of the movie she asks Mike (her boyfriend) if he'd ever been in love before. He appears to evade the question by making light of it, saying, "Maybe in a past life," and then adding, "You're the one I love, here and now." Katy seems satisfied with his answer, although it makes you wonder what he wasn't saying.

When I wrote Chapter Thirteen, I thought bringing up the movie "Somewhere in Time" seemed appropriate because, in essence, Katy and Mike's romance also stemmed from "somewhere in time."


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