whenever I’ve visited my friends’ lake house in the irish hills of michigan, there has never been a shortage of lakes and trees to be enjoyed. on one recent visit they took me on a walk through a very special place that I’d been wanting to see since hearing about it. at first impression it appears to be a beautiful, rolling, wide open natural space, but there is much more to it than first meets the eye.
once known as aiden lair, and now known as mccourtie park, it was formerly the 42-acre estate of herb mccourtie, a cement magnate. its trademark is its concrete bridges artistically handcrafted to resemble wooden structures. a visionary who loved architecture for art’s sake, mccourtie showed the versatility and beauty of the product he manufactured in 17 bridges that he commissioned to be created on his property using the 19th-century lost art of “el trabajo rustico” (the rustic work) in faux bois (imitation wood).
for more than 10 years, two mexican artists, george cardoso and ralph corona, created the bridges that span the creek on the property, as well as two concrete trees that cleverly hide the chimneys to his rathskeller. the bridges were individually created from wet mortar to resemble ropes and logs simulating native trees, such as oak, walnut, cherry, birch and beech. the intricate details include knots, insect holes, saw cuts, wood grain and even moss, lichen and beetle holes. an elaborate system of underground wires provided lights on and under some of the bridges. in addition, he created two huge pools, one for use as a swimming pool and the other as a fishing pond for his guests’ enjoyment.
(stills hidden in the cement ‘trees’ mixed among the natural trees)
throughout its history, the park has been the subject of rumors and legends. mccourtie’s rathskeller, which features a large bar, fieldstone fireplace, and vault, is rumored to have been a speakeasy during prohibition and a stopping point for al capone and other gangsters who bootlegged whiskey from chicago to detroit on U.S. 12.
it’s also been rumored that there are tunnels under the park property that served as stations for runaway southern slaves on the underground railroad. some people have reported sightings of a ghostly “lady in blue” strolling the grounds in old-fashioned clothing.
(a peek into the window of what used to be the ‘rathskeller’ – a bit creepy now)
in 1991, mccourtie park was named to the state register of historic sites by the michigan historical commission. the next year, it was added to the national register of historic places by the national park service.
Over the years, reported sightings of the legendary — and mystical — Bigfoot have made headlines across the United States. He’s been spotted in parks and campsites by people who claim the giant Sasquatch is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.
The legend of the beast has grown over the years as there are whole groups of people who search for Bigfoot and track his “known whereabouts.”
According to a new TV show, “In Search of Monsters,” Michigan is one of the top places to encounter Bigfoot as there have been 1,131 sightings reported in our state over the years.
Did a Northern Michigan eagle cam catch a Bigfoot sighting? An unknown figure can be seen walking below the eagle’s nest at the Platte River State Fish Hatchery.
In a description of their findings, the show — which airs on the Travel Channel — says many of the reported sightings were near the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Peninsula. They even describe a scenario where a woman claims Bigfoot walked up to her car and looked in while her baby was inside. She said there was a foul odor in the air and then she saw the massive creature.
In the fall of 2016, there were at least three reported sightings of Bigfoot in Michigan in the span of a few weeks. All of these occurred in the Upper Peninsula.
“the inclination to believe in the fantastic may strike some as a failure in logic, or gullibility, but it’s really a gift. a world that might have bigfoot and the loch ness monster is clearly superior to one that definitely does not.”
-chris van allsburg – author of the polar express
credits: mlive.com, matt durr, grand haven tribune