NMU Archives and the ghost stories within

Harry Stine

In the NMU Archives, student worker Eliza Compton waves away naysaying coworkers while she gives her theory as to why they might have a ghost messing with one of the filing cabinets. After sharing how the cabinet simply would not lock, she adds that she was trying out a few different sets of keys the day she encountered the phenomena, then resigns herself to the fact that there probably is not a ghost.

The archives hold many stories, from the names of the first few students to enroll at NMU, to the details of the founders and other big names of Northern, to reports of the otherworldly and the supernatural residing in the Upper Peninsula, including on Northern’s campus.

According to an IPSOS poll from 2019, 46% of Americans believe in ghosts, with 32% going as far to say that aliens have made come to Earth.

From the now demolished Payne Hall, the NMU archives hold yet a tale from the unknown. Two separate submissions to the archives in 2003 report drinking fountains turning themselves on, and an incident during one particular break from classes where all the doors in the hall would be found open, only to be found closed later. One of the reports details a resident having her roommate move out of the dorm, only to hear the bunk bed above her shift and find the shape of a body sunken into the mattress later on.

Could it have been the ghost of Lucille Payne, an NMU English professor who advised the Gamma Phi Alpha Sorority, and passed away in 1991?

The archives are also host to an old Mining Journal article dating back to July 17, 2007, which reports on the Bigfoot Field Research Organization searching for evidence of the sasquatch in Marquette County. One of the researchers said that they may have recorded a bigfoot call but added that there were plenty of radio problems while they were in the field.

University Archivist Marcus Robyns, who oversees a large portion of the archives, does not share these experiences.

“I’m always really annoyed by the fact that I’ve never really had a ghost experience,” Robyns said. “People have said that or a UFO experience and I’m always irritable because I’ve never had one of those experiences. I often wonder why. Maybe it’s because I’m so rational, or I just reject the notion.”

Robyns added that the archives see a wide variety of people looking for plenty of information, not just ghost stories. Student workers at the archives can be found digitizing old issues of a Native American newspaper, deep in focus on a digital processing project or working on the UPLINK project, a digital preservation project and access service focused on the history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“I like to think this is a place where students gain a lot,” Robyns said. “It’s not just a job where they’re gaining a lot of experience, I give them a lot of responsibility. They are integral, they are part of the decision-making process to decide to try something different.”

The NMU Archives are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and feature a wealth of information not just about NMU, but about the Upper Peninsula as well.