"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Monday, April 22, 2024

That Horrid, Hissing Hag

"Detroit Free Press," November 4, 1962, via Newspapers.com

In 1961, a 28-year-old auto worker named Bill Adams, along with his wife Lillian and their five children, moved into a seemingly perfectly normal rental house on Detroit’s Martin Street.  They soon earnestly wished they had found a different place to live.  Before long, the young family found themselves in the middle of what has been described as “Michigan’s most terrifying haunting.”

Almost immediately, the Adamses sensed that there was something strange about the back bedroom.  Bill, who worked the midnight shift at a Cadillac plant, slept there during the day to avoid the noise of children playing.  He soon began having dreadful nightmares, “The kind where I’d see all kinds of horrible things and wake up screaming.  In the morning, I’d never be sure whether they were dreams or whether I had been awake all the time.”

In August 1961, Bill’s grandmother, who lived in Atlanta, Georgia, came to visit.  She spent one night in the back bedroom.  Emphasis on “one.”  Bill later said, “She told us she heard sounds like someone was trying to get in all night.  She wouldn’t sleep there again.”  One night, they locked the family dog in the bedroom and the poor creature “nearly went mad” until he was let out.

In late October 1962, Shirley Patterson, a cousin of Bill’s, came to Detroit to buy a car.  He spent the night with the Adamses.  Without any warning from anyone--which seems rather unkind--he was given the back bedroom.  Patterson later recalled, “I went to bed at about 11:30 Saturday night, right after Bill left for work.  I was in bed for only a couple of minutes, facing the wall, when something turned me over.

“Don’t ask me to describe the feeling.  All I know was that it rolled me over and then I saw it standing outside the bedroom door.

“At first I thought it was Lillian but I started to tremble.  It was a woman with long hair and she had her back to me, looking into the kitchen.”

Patterson screamed and leaped out of bed.  “At that second,” said Patterson, “every light in the house went out.”

The terrified man ran into the kitchen, where he ran into Lillian.  The lights all went on again.  Then, from the back bedroom they heard a bone-chilling “crying groan.”  This was followed by a terrible stench that sickened them both.

Unsurprisingly, neither of them got any more sleep that night.  When Bill returned home, they told him what had happened.  The trio called in the police (the third time they had done so since moving in.)  A search was made of the house and basement, but nothing was found.

Bill had never believed in ghosts, and stubbornly refused to consider that something otherworldly was going on.  He decided to sleep in the bedroom again, just to see what would happen.  While he was in bed, but still awake, he heard a noise in the room.  “I turned to look,” he later said, “and the face was inches away from me.”

“It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen.  The eyes stared past me and the mouth moved to talk but only a hissing noise came out--and a terrible stench.”

Adams ran screaming from the room, so hysterical he was pulling handfuls of hair from his head.  The same horrible smell permeated the house.

The Adamses had seen more than enough.  They gathered up their children and fled, leaving all of their possessions behind--not to mention forfeiting the month’s rent for November they had already paid.  They moved in with Lillian’s parents in Dearborn until they could find another place to live.

After the “Detroit Free Press” covered the Adamses bloodcurdling tale, the “Horrid Hag of Martin Street” became a fixture in local legend.  In 1973, the “Free Press” interviewed the then-current occupant of the home, Mrs. Grace Willis.  She scoffed at the old stories, noting that she now slept in the back bedroom--although she admitted that she couldn’t sleep unless her back was turned to the door.  The “Free Press” reported that locals had various explanations for the “haunting.”  Some believed that the Adamses invented the whole story to get back at their landlord for threatening to evict them.  Others said that the incidents were the work of a “deranged boy” lurking in the house’s basement.

Mrs. Willis did admit that one peculiar thing had happened during her six-year residence in the house.  One day, she and her sister-in-law heard what sounded like a “crashing cascade of breaking dishes” in the kitchen.  When they rushed into the kitchen, they found no broken crockery--all the dishes were neatly stacked in the cupboard.

If that incident was the work of “The Hag,” that appears to have been her swan song.  As far as is recorded, the paranormal has fled Martin Street.


  1. There's a song! https://genius.com/Acid-witch-5508-martin-st-lyrics

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Wow what an interesting read, I am interested in such things, I watch a lot of paranormal shit on TV

  4. And seemingly confined to the back bedroom, except for the crashing dishes, after the Adamses had left.

  5. Thank you so much for posting info about the original newspaper source! This story has fascinated me ever since reading about it as a kid in one of those skull-adorned pulpy 70s era "REAL STORIES OF THE UNEXPLAINED!!!" books for which my elementary school library was just a treasure trove. Like many of the stories in those books, I had always assumed it was just made up out of whole cloth, and/or was some even older pulp fiction magazine yarn re-spun as "100% TRUE!!!" But as it turns out, there in fact exists at least *some* degree of documentation on this one - to the point that we even get tantalizing hints of suspicious neighborhood gossip about the family involved attempting to pull off a hoax, and the utterly baffling "deranged boy lurking in the basement". (!?) I would absolutely love to know if any other sources exist in this vein, or if the family or, perhaps especially, the neighbors, were ever interviewed later. I'd also absolutely love to know the history of this property - the house doesn't seem particularly old for 1962 (looks like it may have been built in the 20s/30s, maybe? although I'm hardly an expert, so correct me if I'm wrong), so what stood on the land before the house was built? Has this ever been looked into? And does this story still survive in local urban legendry? I doubt we're ever going to know, sadly - but if anything this just makes it all the more fascinating. Thanks again for all your hard work in bringing us the very best in vintage spookiness!


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