The myths and Mysteries of Lake Superior are plentiful. Have you ever had the chance to experience a ghost story around a campfire? With the sound of wood crackling and the flickering of flames, you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder in a small circle. The fresh air feels crisper as the storyteller becomes animated while they explain the mystery at hand. There is darkness behind you and you can feel the heat of the fire just as much as the anxiety bubbling inside you. You try to gage the facial expressions of those around you as the person at the head of the circle goes deeper within the story.
Just when the story is coming to a close you feel more on edge than you should be sitting on a narrow stump. The circle becomes quiet with minds pondering what happened to the victim of the story. There is silence and you can faintly hear crickets somewhere in the depths of the woods and all of a sudden you hear a…CRACK! A large knot in the log within the fire caught flame. The sound made everyone jump and then erupt into laughter. Imagine that feeling of adrenaline and amusement but throughout 1,300 miles around Lake Superior.
Lake Superior is not only one of the biggest great lakes but also one of the greatest mysteries. Her waters run deep and so do the tales told along her shores. Storytelling is something that Miss Superior has been doing for a long time. From singing sands to disappearing waterfalls, she holds many secrets. We will share the same questions that have been asked around the lake for hundreds of years. While on your journey you can experience the magic yourself and maybe even discover the answers to some of the many mysteries that have taken place around her troubled waters.
Below are some of the biggest mysteries from each region throughout the Lake Superior Circle Tour. We hope you enjoy and after exploring for yourself maybe you will have your own story to tell around the next campfire.
Ontario’s Superior Country – The Sleeping Giant
The Sleeping Giant is a natural wonder and Provincial Park, located in Ontario’s Superior Country. It is also a long-time legend. Not only are the views amazing from the giant but so are the stories surrounding it. And so, the story goes…
There was once a great spirit within the deep-sea waters of Lake Superior also known as Nanabijou. Nanabijou became incredibly happy and pleased with a tribe of indigenous ancestors and their natural, traditional, and peaceful way of living. They were located on an island near Thunder Bay, Ontario called “Isle Royale.” To reward them the great spirit called upon the tribe’s chief and shared with him the source of beautiful silver, a large silver mine, today it is known as Silver Islet. However, in return Nanabijou sternly warned the chief that he could never share this secret with “the white man” or else a curse would be placed upon him and he would then turn to stone forever. The chief thanked Nanabijou and promised that he and his people would keep this information safe and they would be eternally grateful.
Like any great legend there is always a twist or turn. Some became curious and jealous of the beautiful silver items the tribe was creating. This envious group was called the Sioux Warriors, and they were ready to do anything to gain access to this precious silver. They were not successful in gaining the truth through torturing or even killing any of the tribe members as the tribe stayed true to their word. However, the warriors were cunning and clever and sent in one of their scouts disguised as one of the tribe members. Eventually the young scout learned the location of Silver Islet, the large silver mine, and the answer to the warrior’s curiosity. The scout was able to take a piece of the beautiful silver for himself and began the journey back to his people.
While on his journey he decided to stop at a white trading post. He did not have any money or goods to trade for something to eat so he used a piece of the silver. The white men noticed the silver and through persuasion and liquid induced interrogation they were told the story about Silver Islet. The men and the scout ventured out onto the waters in a small canoe towards the mine. A wild storm began which ended in the men drowning, the mine being flooded, and the great deep sea water spirit Nanabijou being turned to stone. We can now see this stone formation driving along highway 17 towards Thunder Bay.
Ontario’s Algoma Country – Agawa Pictographs
The next mystery lies within ancient messages dated as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries. This site is truly something spectacular to visit and to witness the form of communication between the ancient ancestors of Ojibwe. These messages are known as the amazing Agawa Pictographs located in Lake Superior Provincial Park within Ontario’s Algoma Country.
There is a short but rugged trail that leads you to where you can view these pictographs on a cliff face above the lake. When described by those who have seen them they say there are many paintings of different symbols representing wildlife and natural elements. It is believed that these were used to explain dreams, stories, and visions that the Indigenous experienced. It is important to remember when present at this site that it is sacred ground and to be extremely respectful of the site and surroundings.
Although we know how they got there the mystery and magic lives within the pictographs and the stories being told. This is truly something remarkable that everyone completing the Lake Superior Circle Tour should see for themselves.
Minnesota – The Devil’s Kettle
Our next mystery lies within the waters of Judge C. R. Magney State Park and the Brule River which flow into the great waters of Superior. Well, some of it anyway…
Two streams from the Brule River cascade over a rock formation creating magnificent falls just before Lake Superior. The logical thing to assume is that all of the water eventually flows over the waterfall and into Superior, correct? Well sometimes the most beautiful things are the most mysterious and this could be argued about part of a waterfall that disappears. You must be thinking how on earth does part of a waterfall disappear? You aren’t the only one with questions this has been stumping many geologists, scientists, and tourists for years.
This folks… is called The Devil’s Kettle, you could say that devil fills his kettle with the stream from the river and the real secret is WHERE does he empty it? This we may never know.
Michigan – Bete Gris Beach
This legend is a bit of an unrequited love story for all of the hopeless romantics out there. The legend goes that hundreds of years ago there was a maiden who was forcefully separated from the love of her life. Her on one side of Lake Gitchie Gumie and him on the other with the lake continuing to keep them apart. Sadly they were never reunited and they both eventually moved on to the afterlife. However, the mystery of this story lies within the sand the maiden walked on so many times. While alive and wanting to send messages to the one she loved she would sing out to him from the beach. When she passed the most remarkable thing happened. Her voice was encapsulated within the sand and people still claim to hear it today.
It has been said that when you are on Bete Gris Beach and place your palm directly in the sand and slowly rotate it you can hear the sand sing. It is believed that this sound coming from the earth is the voice of the maiden singing to her one true love. However, if you try to remove the sand from where it belongs it will lose its magic.
While on your journey around the lake it is up to you figure of the secret of the singing sand. Are her voice and spirit still there? Do you need to truly believe to hear it?
This is yet another great mystery among the shores of Lake Superior.
Wisconsin – Apostle Islands
If you have gotten this far you have learned about some great legends, mysteries, and even a love story. We certainly can’t end this article without a haunting ghost story or two. You need to get back to that campfire with some material to leave your family and friends on the edge of their seats or “stumps”. One place that has no shortage of supposed hauntings, ghosts, or spirits still present is the great Apostle Islands.
Before we begin if you are unaware of what exactly the Apostle Islands are, they are a large group of 22 islands on beautiful Lake Superior. The islands are located in the northern part of the state of Wisconsin. There are so many stories within the islands because there have been discoveries that trace activity back to the first century BC. Archeologists were able to prove that the first people to settle on the islands were indigenous and while among the islands found copper and created a lot of tools to assist them in fishing and hunting.
Due to the vast amount of land and islands the stories of hauntings and ghosts are immense. We wanted to highlight a few of them and some of the prime locations to go on your haunted hunt through the Apostle Islands. Maybe you will be the next to solve one of the mysteries and encounter a ghost or two.
The first story is about Mrs. Mcrea the loving wife to a quarryman and residents of Basswood Island. It is said Basswood still is home to her spirit today. On Christmas Eve in the late 1800’s she began the trek to Bayfield alone and unfortunately never made it home alive. After being gone for too long her husband Dan made the trek to find her. Unfortunately by the time he found her she died in the chilled winds of the Apostle Islands in her husband’s arms.
Another Island you should put on your ghost radar is Sand Island. Sand Island has been the topic in many magazine articles surrounding hauntings because it is only one of two apostle islands with the largest populations. Sand island had a community amongst it in the 1800s and is known for a mysterious story involving a tug boat and two-man crew. One day when doing a run the tug boat burst into flames causing the two men to try different techniques to get to safety but sadly they both drowned. Today there are still remnants of the burned tug boat which islanders had turned into a form of shelter. Not only has there been records of people claiming to experience the spirits of the Herring King (Tug Boat) but also Sand Island is known to be home to friendly spirits from more positive stories. They say today when on the island on a calm day or within the whips of the harsh Superior wind you can still faintly here children’s voices, their laughter, and the sounds of them playing.
These are only a handful of Lake Superior myths and mysteries among the wild waters of the greatest Great Lake. We hope you pick the ones that interest you the most and become Lake Superiors very own myth busters, ghost hunters, or mystery solvers.