Ghosts and other Haunts at Detroit’s Own Haunted Mansion

Ghost Tour The Whitney Detroit

Once looming over downtown Detroit, the Whitney Mansion was home and host to some of the richest residents of the area. Built in the late 1800’s the former home of lumber Baron David Whitney Jr, and his second wife Flora is now a popular upscale restaurant and home to the iconic Ghostbar.

Today, guests are wowed by the hand-painted silk ceilings, the Tiffany windows, and the lighting fixtures (hand wired by Thomas Edison). But while they’re dining or sipping on custom cocktails, they may not realize that they aren’t the only guests in the former house-turned-event venue.

With the upcoming release of Disney’s new version of their ride-based movie Haunted Mansion, we were given a special tour of the Whitney downtown, to learn more about the ghosts that call it home.

The Main House

Whitney’s mansion was built in the late 1800s and was finally completed in 1894. Mr. Whitney, while a man of means was happy with what he had, however, his wife at the time Sarah wanted a more opulent lifestyle. Requesting only the best and more of everything while the home was being constructed. The home’s construction required its own personal railway to be constructed to bring in the heavy stone for the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which was later removed after construction was completed. While most of the fixtures in the home are not original, a few items remained with the home even after it’s changed ownership throughout the years including a large sideboard and several original Tiffany windows, clocks, and lighting fixtures.

Unfortunately, while the majority of the home’s design was directed by Sarah Whitney – she died a year before its completion and her husband and his new wife (her sister Flora) moved into the home after it was completed. This is one of the reasons the ghost on the third floor is often attributed to Sarah, as well as many photos showing apparitions that look similar to the original Mrs. Whitney. A crying woman is often seen in the third-floor women’s bathroom near the Ghostbar, or images of a woman with guests have been seen entertaining in the absinthe room at the end of the hallway.

While the house was a showpiece of his wealth and power, Mr. Whitney only lived in it himself for seven years before he died in his bedroom. His wife continued to live in the home for several years later. After her death, the house was gifted to the city and used as a convalescence home for tuberculous patients and ones with other maladies. A house that was once filled with expensive artwork (the whole third floor was an art gallery), was turned into a medical ward, and a pharmacy was added inside. The pharmacy still stands to this day, and so do the stories of the patients who were taken to the formal dining room as their final treatment place before they died in the house. Countless people have died within the walls of the Whitney mansion throughout the years.

Other unexplained activities have been accounted for in both Mr. Whitney’s bedroom, Mrs. Whitney’s bedroom, and drawing room as well as spirits being seen walking up and down the main staircase. Moving objects, candles that light themselves and more have been seen by guests and staff at the mansion.

But this isn’t the only place that ghosts seem to be on the Whitney property.

The Carriage House

When you visit the Whitney, you’ll be given the opportunity to have your car parked by Valet. The property only offers a small on-site parking lot, and at the very back is the original carriage house to the mansion. After all, the house was constructed long before Henry Ford completed his first Model-A, and the owners, staff, and guests would need a place to keep their horse-drawn carriages.

The space, now mostly used for storage is also a hot spot for spirit activities. The ghosts of two children as well as a man with a much angrier response to guests have been detected in the carriage house. While the young boys often will pull at guests’ clothing, or play with the toys they are brought – not much else is known about them. Using a BooBuddy Ghost Hunting Interactive Bear, you may just catch them tickling or interacting with him or other items that have been brought there.

Our experience in the Whitney was mostly filled with stories and images of past encounters except for one in the carriage house. While our host Deb was explaining what has happened there in the past, the BooBuddy said he loved to be tickled – which only happens when his stomach is being touched. There was a recorder next to the bear as well as an EMF detector, but we’re not sure if anything was picked up on either of the readers yet.

Just who are the children and the man in the carriage house? Other than possible names of Timmy and James for the boys, no one is sure. But they do know that no one takes kindly to the tea set by the window being moved.

Paranormal Experiences Available

The Whiney mansion is located downtown Detroit right off of Woodward Avenue and they currently offer two different Paranormal experiences for guests. If you’re interested in learning more or checking out the tours and hunting for ghosts there yourself, check out the Whitney’s website.

Late Night Paranormal Tours

Take a stroll on the Paranormal side of Detroit Nightlife. Tour the Iconic Whitney Mansion and Carriage House, while sipping on an Award Winning Witching Hour Cocktail & enjoying Passed Appetizers.  $39 pre-paid reservations are required for this tour & is available Friday night at 9:00 pm. 

Paranormal Dinner Tour

Join us as we “pull back the curtain” and our Paranormal Hosts guide you through the history and legends of The Whitney family and estate. Beginning at 5:00, this evening includes a Historical Champagne Tour of the Mansion, a 4-course dinner with selected spirits, followed by the Paranormal expedition through the Mansion, Gardens and Carriage House. Tickets are $199 pp and include Dinner, Selected Spirits, Tours, Tax and Gratuity – Valet Parking additional. Reservations limited, 21 and over only.  Due to the nature of this event, menu preferences and dietary restrictions cannot be accommodated. 

About Haunted Mansion:


Inspired by the classic theme park attraction, “Haunted Mansion” is about a woman and her son who enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts to help rid their home of supernatural squatters. Starring LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, Dan Levy, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Jared Leto as The Hatbox Ghost.


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