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Date Posted: 23:43:08 11/02/02 Sat
Author: JD - BSPR Director
Subject: Haunted news - Haunted Holly hotel
October 28, 2002
The Oakland press
HOLLY - A local historian once told George Kutlenios, owner of the Holly Hotel, that good things come to those who own the landmark building. In 1978, when the restaurateur was struggling to rebuild and make the burned-out hotel into a success, those words from long-time Holly resident Vera Cook Husted were comforting
But little did Kutlenios know things are so good at the Holly Hotel that many of the previous owners and guests in the hotel's 111-year history have never left.
Kutlenios contends that his hotel, which he rebuilt after a devastating fire 24 years ago and turned into a nationally renowned restaurant, is inhabited by the spirits of people from the hotel's vibrant past.
From the cigar-smoking John Hirst, who built the hotel in 1891, to the mysterious ghost of an American Indian who has been seen in the hotel's dining room, the Holly Hotel is a haven for those who have not completely passed on to the afterlife.
"There are absolutely spirits in this restaurant," said Kutlenios, 49. "But I feel this is a safe place. There's goodness here."
In fact, Kutlenios, and his wife, Chrissy, 45, say they embrace the ghosts who haunt their Victorian-era hotel, and they attribute much of the restaurant's success through the years to those spirits who watch over them.
"But I like to think it's my cooking," Kutlenios, a third-generation restaurateur, said with a smile.
From the beginning, Kutlenios said the hotel has held a certain fascination for him that he's never been able to explain.
He first saw the hotel in January 1978 after it was destroyed in an unexplained fire.
Ironically, the fire took place 65 years to the day and hour after a similar blaze swept the hotel Jan. 19, 1913.
In both fires, the blaze began about 11 p.m. and was extinguished by 5 a.m. the next morning.
Having just moved to Michigan from his home in Pittsburgh, Kutlenios was so intrigued by the photos of the building that he went to the quiet village in northern Oakland County to have a look at it himself.
Despite the damage, he saw potential in the ruins.
"I fell in love with the architecture," he said. "I'm a junkie for old buildings."
On the spot, Kutlenios bought the hotel for $5,000 - nearly all of the money he had set aside as a down payment on a home. From there he went to work, painstakingly rebuilding and restoring the hotel to its original condition.
It was during this two-year reconstruction that Kutlenios said he began to notice strange things taking place in the hotel.
"I was working here late one night on the renovation and I heard a piano start playing upstairs," he said. "Then I heard little girls running up and down the stairs, giggling. It sounded like a birthday party."
He said he was afraid at the time to tell people about the experience because he thought they might think he was insane.
He eventually chalked up the incident to stress. But in the years to come, the little girls and piano would turn out to be just part of the ghostly phenomenon experienced by staff and patrons at the Holly Hotel.
John Hirst, the man who built the hotel in 1891, is also believed to still walk the halls and dining rooms of what was called the Hirst Hotel more than 100 years ago.
He built the hotel to serve passengers on the 22-passenger trains that passed through Holly daily at that time.
Hirst ran the hotel until the first fire nearly destroyed the structure in 1913, when he sold it to new owners and moved on.
He died sometime in the 1920s, according to Chrissy Kutlenios.
While Hirst may have died long ago, he is still thought by many to haunt the historic building he was so proud of in its heyday.
Chrissy said Hirst's ghost does not often appear, but there are less obvious signs of his presence.
Patrons and staff have noticed the smell of cigar smoke wafting through the hotel. This odor ranges from strong, to sometimes just a faint smell, and is attributed by the owners to Hirst, who was known to have an affinity for fine cigars.
Another well-known ghost at the Holly Hotel is that of a woman who once lived there named Nora Kane. She is considered to be the hostess of the house and her spirit appears from time-to-time, usually wearing a beautiful gown with her legs ending at the knees, leaving her floating above the floor.
Nora's perfume, a flowery scent, is also often smelled, and music from a piano playing, sometimes with a woman singing, may also be attributed to this lady of the house.
The ghosts of one or more children are also believed to inhabit the Holly Hotel, according to the Kutlenioses. One is often found in the kitchen where she has been known to make cooking utensils move.
The other is the child Kutlenios heard playing on the stairs during the reconstruction, who continues to make her playfulness known today.
Chrissy said at least one of these ghosts may be that of a child who was trampled by a horse at the livery stable, which used to be next door to the hotel 100 years ago. Another child was a daughter of Nora Kane's who died there when she was between the ages of 9 and 13.
Two other known phantoms in the hotel are that of a dog, which once belonged to the Hirsts and can be heard running down the halls and sometimes brushing up against the legs of people, and that of an American Indian, who appeared once as an apparition to Chrissy.
"I walked around the corner and he was standing in the middle of the dining room, just from the waist up," she said.
"It was the weirdest thing in the world. It only lasted a few seconds and we've never seen it again."
There are no accounts of an American Indian ever living at or around the hotel, and Chrissy said the area is not known to have had a significant native population.
Kutlenios said the haunting of the Holly Hotel is very real, and has been verified by experts - ranging from Norman Gauthier, a professor of parapsychology who came to the hotel for more than a week in 1989 and recorded a variety of phenomenon, to amateur ghost hunting groups from around Michigan.
All accounts by these people, who are versed in the paranormal, suggest the hotel is filled with spirits - a fact George and Chrissy Kutlenios say they embrace.
"If there was something bad here we'd be the first ones leaving," Kutlenios said. "There are things in life we can't explain. I can't explain this ... I just know it happened."
As for the reassuring words of his friend, the late Vera Cook Husted, who told Kutlenios to be patient about the fate of his venture to turn the hotel into a restaurant, he said her advice was golden.
"Even after the Sept. 11 (2001) attacks, when people weren't going out to eat, our business was up by 20 percent," Kutlenios said.
"People came here because they felt they could go back in time and nothing could hurt them. There is a safe harbor feeling here. We're not afraid to be here."
And neither are the likes of John Hirst and Nora Kane, who still call the Holly Hotel home, decades after they checked out of this life and passed over to the next.
ŠThe Oakland Press 2002
JD - Hauntednews.com
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