Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day (er, Night) hike sand dunes haunted by murdered woman’s spirit on Lake Michigan

Indiana Dunes State Park. Photo courtesy of Visit Indiana.

Apparition seen at Indiana park along Lake Michigan

The otherworldly, massive dunes in Indiana constantly shift and ripple about as if an apparition, but the next ghost-like form you see there may not be a sand but the spirit of a murdered woman.

Believers in the supernatural say the spirit of Alice Marble Gray, a daughter of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, makes her home at Indiana Dunes State Park along the Lake Michigan shore. A 1.25-mile foray into the park will allow you to enjoy the beautiful dunes – and provide an opportunity to experience the scare of your life.

To reach the dunes, from Interstate 94 take the Indiana Hwy. 49 exit in Chesterton. Head north on Hwy. 49 into the park. After passing the park office, turn right. At the next junction, go right once more. Drive past three more road junctions until coming to the North Picnic Area. At the fourth junction, turn left, parking at the nature center.

Diana of the Dunes
The trailhead for the Nature Center Trail is on the parking lot’s east side. Heading in that direction, you’ll soon reach the sand dunes, which line three miles of spectacular beaches along Lake Michigan’s southern shore. Sand dunes here can rise as high as 200 feet.

The Nature Center Trail serves as the stem for a lollipop trail through the dunes. Go counterclockwise on the trail. This places you on Trail 10 as you pass a marsh. Lake Michigan is to your left beyond the dune field.

During the 1910s, local fisherman began telling the tale of Diana of the Dunes, so named because they often reported a naked woman with the body of a Greek goddess frolicking about on the dunes and swimming in the lake. One man investigating the case soon discovered the woman was none other than Alice Marble Gray, who lived in a small lakeside cottage.

As the trail veers away from the marsh, Trail 10 breaks off and heads northeast, paralleling the lake. To make a loop, instead stay on the trail going north toward the lake.

Rather than rely on her family’s fortunes, Alice worked several years as an editorial secretary for Woman’s World. Upon amassing a little wealth, she moved to the lakeshore. Then, after five years of being alone, she met Paul Wilson, a drifter. In 1922, the corpse of a brutally beaten man was found near their cottage, and police questioned them. They quickly moved away to get out of the public eye.

A happier place?
In about an eighth of a mile from where Trail 10 broke off, the loop intersects Trail 9. Go left/southwest, making the opposite side of the loop.

Three years later, Alice died – from complications arising from repeated blows Wilson had suffered upon her. Wilson fled with their children. He later was found in a California prison, but no one knows what became of their offspring.

Shortly after Alice’s death, visitors to the dunes began seeing the ghost of a beautiful nude woman. Descriptions of her bear an uncanny resemblance to the young Diana of the Dunes who was so at peace with herself. Apparently Alice’s spirit has gone to the one place where her mortal self experienced true happiness.

In about 0.4 miles, the loop junctions with the Nature Center Trail. Go right/west, returning to your vehicle.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.