Tales of local hauntings have sent chills up my spine since I began hearing about them as a little girl. The first account of an actual haunting that took place in Saginaw was revealed to me by my grandfather. Before his death, he retired as Captain of the Saginaw County Sheriff Department after serving on the force for 25 years.
I remember well his most interesting case, investigated by the Saginaw Police, the FBI, and the world-renowned parapsychologist, William G. Roll. My grandfather worked with Roll on the investigation of a house on Dice Road that has been ravaged by a torrent of poltergeist type violence. He told me how the house mysteriously shook with explosions and how dishes flew from cupboards to shatter against walls.
In his case file the cause for the activity was listed as ‘unknown’. The house was nearly destroyed by an unexplained fire that started from within the seams of the wallpaper.
Today, the rebuilt house on Dice Rd. in Saginaw County is vacant. It rests on a hill, the windows peer like hollow eyes that disguise the secrets of an entity that once dwelt within the refurbished walls and floor board.
Throughout the years I heard that Dice Road was the center of local folklore. Because of my preconceived belief that the house on Dice Rd. had been haunted, I collected the ragged legends, filing them away while piecing them together.
Recently, a close friend told me about the ghost named Anna that she saw in the Dice Road Cemetery. I was immediately intrigued. She offered a morsel of the broken legend handed down through the century about the ghost of Anna Rhodes Millerton; and I began researching the interesting details of her past and the hauntingly sad circumstance surrounding her suicide in 1830.
As legend has it, this lost soul spirit wanders the forest hills around Dice Road Cemetery in Richfield Township, Saginaw County. Here she waits patiently for her lover’s return, perhaps unaware that she had been dead for nearly 200-years.
Hauntings at Dice Road Cemetery – A Collection of True Accounts
Jennifer (16, Saginaw) “Me and my friends have gone out to that cemetery a lot. At night is the scariest time to go. I’ve never seen anything, but the feeling I get in there is Evil. You can’t explain it; it’s an invisible presence and you can just feel that it’s there. I guess that’s why we go there; because it’s so scary.”
Tina (24, Saginaw) “Sometimes it’s peaceful there and the spirits are at rest. During these times I’m not afraid to walk through it. Then there are times when you can really sense evil. Maybe there’s an Indian Burial ground underneath it. Who knows?”
Joshua (32, Freeland) “I grew up in the Hemlock area and heard the stories of Anna before I actually saw her. I was 10 years old when I first saw her in the woods around the cemetery. I had been riding my bike down Dice Road and glanced towards the cemetery and she was standing there in the woods, staring at me. I wasn’t afraid because she seemed sad or lost and was very pretty. She looked transparent. People say ghosts are white, but she was a light blue, pinkish-type color. I’ve seen her several times since. When I was a kid I took friends there to see her, but they claimed they saw nothing. It may sound crazy, but after you see something like that, it changes you. It makes you aware of things that you never thought were real. For some reason, Anna doesn’t allow a lot of people to see her. I’m glad she chose me, and she is not evil and has never appeared to be anything but calm and gentle.”
Urban Legend • Before Death
The girl named Anna Rhodes Fazio lived and roamed the countryside hills in Saginaw County during the early 19th century. Trees standing near her home are perhaps the ones that can be seen today; their branches strong and silent, their colored leaves blown on the Autumn wind to rest upon Hemlock ground in Richfield Township, where secret memories of her life have been buried for nearly 2 centuries.
Neither time not transition can erase the legend of the ghost girl Anna, said to haunt the forest that populates hills near Dice Road Cemetery. Murder & madness, the forbidden secrets of Anna’s past, were kept from her. But the truth could no longer be evaded when Anna’s parents were burnt alive; their ashes swept away with smoke from the fire that consumed their home in Italy.
This took place in the year 1816, when Anna was five. She was the only survivor – timid and shy, unaware that her own father had gone mad, starting the fire in an attempt to kill his family. It is unknown how Anna was saved from the fire.
She sailed to America to live with her mother’s sister, Stella Rhodes. Stella lived alone in the wilderness of Michigan, so Anna came to live the remainder of her short life in ‘O-Sag-a-nong’ (Saginaw) which meant; Land of the Sauks.
While she grew up her aunt was careful to conceal the history of insanity that ran in her father’s family. Stella denied Anna of her true name, Fazio, so she became Anna Rhodes, carrying the name of her mother’s family. No one knows what the child had witnessed the day of the fire. She never spoke of her parents and it was as if she had forgotten them completely.
Anna was a quiet, sensitive child, adapting immediately to country life with her aunt. She made friends with the Sauk Indians that populated the land and an Indian boy named ‘Dar-k_chaw’ (Dark Hawk) became her childhood companion. They played together in the forest and Dark Hawk showed her the sacred ground where his tribe buried the dead. The clearing is in the location where the Dice Road Cemetery was later built.
The village of Dark Hawk’s tribe surrounded this area as well as Forest Hill. Stella’s homestead was located a half-mile north of the burial ground. At this time there were few white settlers living on this land.
Stella trusted the Indians, respecting their beliefs. The Sauks were superstitious and believed in the spirits of Good & Evil. Their religion centered on Nature and the Great Spirit in the sky. Dark Hawk’s family knew the secret of Anna’s past, but kept silent to protect her from hearing there was evil in her blood. It was believed by them that the blood of her father had been tainted by evil spirits. To keep Anna from becoming possessed by the same blood, the Indians called for the help of the Great Spirit. They asked that he bless the earth from which grew healing herbs that had the power to starve off evil.
Dark Hawk’s mother, Singing Sparrow, mixed the herbs to make tea – a healing potion that would empower good spirits to overcome traces of wickedness in Anna’s blood. Stella gave the potion to Anna every night at bedtime, telling her it was a remedy that would give her pleasant dreams.
Year’s passed and Anna’s adventurous boyish nature could no longer deny the beauty of her classic Italian features, revealed when she was 14-years old. She spoke softly one day to Dark Hawk about a man named Jonathan Millerton. Her eyes danced with adoration for this white lumberman. Dark Hawk turned away, disliking Jonathan, unable to understand her feelings, as he had always been Anna’s protector, not this strange white man.
As she spent more time with Jonathan, it was evident they had fallen deeply in love. Dark Hawk made no effort to conceal his rage, believing no man could care for her the way he could. But while Anna had grown up near the Indian culture, she never truly understood their customs, nor had she truly been a part of the tribe.
The Indians had expected Anna to remain loyal in honoring Dark Hawk by giving her hand in marriage when she reached the right age. Anna was unaware of this and confused by Dark Hawk’s sudden hostility. Stella & Anna felt their vague separation, as it was evident they were no longer welcome friends of the tribe.
During the 3 years Jonathan courted Anna, a change began to settle on the land. In 1825 the lumber era advanced and expanded the community and more settlers were brought to the Hemlock area by way of the St. Louis Railroad; and it seemed the Indians were being pushed off their land.
Millerton became the target of the Indians anger; and Dark Hawk instigated the tribe to turn against the lumberman. Anna knew Jonathan was a kind and peaceful man. He told Anna that he believed in the future growth of Hemlock, thinking perhaps the Indians would sell their land. Jonathan thought the Indians needed more time to learn how to trust them and would eventually agree to sell, not realizing Dark Hawk’s bitterness towards him was the true reason why the Indians were reluctant to trust the lumberman.
Jonathan’s fellow men of the trade decided to pursue a different route without his approval. They tried to frighten the Indians away using brutal methods. Anna & Jonathan shared mutual respect for the Indians and sought to reconcile the misunderstandings while the lumber merchants continued their violent pursuit to take the land by force.
Anna planned to restore her relationship with the tribe by reasoning with them. Determined to make things right, she alone made the journey through the forest to their village. It was two years since she had spoken with them and the village in the clearing appeared desolate, so she followed the lonely cries of a child, finding herself at Dark Hawk’s tent.
Kneeling, she peered inside the open flap and there sat Little Bear, Dark Hawk’s younger brother, crying for his mother. Dark Hawk’s mother lay face down and Anna lifted her head to wipe the blood gushing from a wound on her mouth. She looked away, shocked at seeing how Singing Sparrow’s beauty had been badly beaten beyond recognition, and listening as she spoke to Anna in a hoarse tone.
Singing Sparrow mumbled how there were Evil Spirits near, white men had raped & beaten the women of the tribe. The warriors left to hunt and then the white men came. She warned Anna to leave before Dark hawk discovered her.
Anna held tightly to the woman that had helped raise her, looking into her eyes brimming with pain & sorrow. Singing Sparrow tried to speak, but the words were caught in her final breath. She died in Anna’s arms, reeking, soaked with her own blood.
Indian women gathered around as Anna peered through the sea of frightened faces to rest her gaze on Little Bear. He stood there looking at her with huge pleading eyes. Anna turned away, her limbs numb as she stumbled toward the forest. Memories came flooding back. She saw a great fire, she saw her own mother, heard the terrifying screams…she remembered the silence, the pleading eyes of her mother when the fire consumed her fragile body on that day in Italy long ago.
Anna’s Descent into Oblivion
The Michigan Historical Research Foundation for Paranormal Activity (MHRFPA) obtained pages of Anna’s journal in the late 1800s. The remnants of Anna Rhodes’ history were researched and documented and placed under the protection of their archival facility. Anna’s journal was used to help pieced together the story behind her suicide. While the researchers have not found specific reasons why Anna still haunts the area around the Dice Road Cemetery, their extensive studies of her behavior reveal that her spirit is simply unwilling to cross over. Indeed, Anna is the oldest known ‘ghost’ recorded in their files of Michigan hauntings.
Forest Hill • August 1828 • Stella had been dead for 3 days, Anna & Jonathan married for 3 months. Anna was 17 when she married Jonathan on a crisp spring day that seemed to herald the dawn of hope. She felt estranged after remembering the forbidden secrets of her past and the fragmented memories of her mother’s death in the house fire frightened her deeply, but she kept those fears to herself, not wanting to upset her loved ones.
The excitement of her marriage was short-lived, though, as Jonathan had been called away to sail the Great Lakes on a voyage for the lumber trade. The lonely days after his departure were spent preparing for his return, as Anna dreamed of their future plans, resisting the urge to sink into despair.
Anna was alone now, no longer a child. Stella’s death was a devastating tragedy and Anna was unprepared to deal with it. She began to slip away mentally, as the force of insanity that ran in her father’s family would never be smothered out. Anna could see the dark cloud of disillusionment approaching, intensifying the fact she could no longer find strength to pull herself from the clutches of her deteriorating mind.
Gone were the pearly ornamented memories of her wedding day, the Indians she had loved, as they had fled their village in terror after Singing Sparrow was murdered. Memories like the very breath of life existed quietly in images moving vividly around the rooms of her mind. Memories that would eventually mesh, divided her from reality. Finding comfort in writing was her only solace in those dark desolate days, her past & dreams, letters to Jonathan which she never intended to send. Night after night she sat rocking in her chair, writing as she slowly lost her mind.
The Severed Mind • Spring 1829: Believing in a false reality to find release from the terrors of her mind, Anna wrote in her journal thoughts she was experiencing. The empty corridors of Forest Hill were filled with laughter according to these pages. A child padded down the stairs smiling by the light of the fire. In a chair her lover Jonathan lay curled in a colorful quilt that Stella had knitted for him. Anna fought her loneliness in this way, believing Jonathan was there as their future child’s laughter echoed through the silent rooms. Stella was alive, asleep upstairs in her bed. Death had not stolen and carried her into the depths of the earth. Anna convinced herself of these things to make her pain evaporate. Memories of her mother being burned alive were dreams, nightmares, nothing more. And she fought the visions of fire, the women in the flames that called to her.
Anna looked up from her writing. Voices in her mind called to her – opposing voices telling her Stella is dead and Jonathan gone far away. There is nothing left by this empty house. You are childless – you are alone. Meanwhile, other voices cried for her to slip back into the dream and capture it in the pages of her journal – dreams of life and happiness.
Dancing between reality & fantasy divided her mind into two realities – one pleasure, one paint. Jumping from one to the other Anna could no longer determine which were dreams and what had really happened. Sometimes she forgot Jonathan entirely while she lived in the world of childhood memories; other times she wrote that Jonathan was there with her. She repeatedly referred to their ‘child’ – a little boy with dark hair & eyes, perhaps derived from her relationship with Dark Hawk or his brother Little Bear.
Dark Hawk’s Revenge • Summer 1829. One night a storm swelled in the deep of night, lightning flashed, and the sky was ablaze with white light. The moon outside of Anna’s window was covered by the presence of Dark hawk, glaring as he gazed at the beautiful young woman as she slept. He had come seeking revenge for his mother’s murder; to take back what had been stolen from the women of his tribe. His heart had long ago been embittered; he felt no guilt for intending to rape Anna, whom he once loved. Throughout the last year of Anna’s life, during Jonathan’s absence, Dark Hawk proceeded to assault his childhood companion. Anna told no one of these attacks, although she wrote about them in detail in her journal.
The following is an exclusive look inside the pages of Anna’s journal, obtained from the MHRFPA for the use in ‘Urban Legend.’
October 8, 1829. Jonathan, my love. I care for him not! You must believe that yours are the lips I crave. I fear that I can no longer tame Dark Hawk’s pursuit. He waits for me, veiled by the darkness of night. He comes for me while you are away. My love, I am ashamed for what has been done, my sorrow great. I cried for you, but you did not wake from your sleep. I beg your forgiveness my love and know you will come save me. I wait for you to wake.
August 12, 1930. News came today. The talk of the ship that sank into the heart of the sea My love he’s buried beneath the dark waters. I shall no longer abide in the sanctuary of my lover’s earthen heart, for my love has gone. I shall no longer think of the sorrow of his family. I cry for him not for I have felt his embrace in the night. My lover waits behind the door of death in fields of gold; he waits calling for me to join him there. I prepare for death fearing not the grave. My love has passed beyond the sand and sea, the moon and stars. I leave not my home, but I enter into it. My lover leads me there. I shall go to the forest. I shall go to the shed. I leave not in sorrow. I cry not for my lost love. My lover calls to me as darkness sets in the sky. This is the last time I shall see the moon, the last of the stars. I shall make my way to the eternal land – tonight my lover waits for me. Anna.
After hearing the news that Jonathan’s ship had sank, Anna lost all hope. Perhaps despite the progression of her mental illness, despite the delusions that Jonathan had not gone away, she knew that the vision of her slumbering lover had not been real. Knowing that Jonathan was dead and that no one would save her, she believed that peace could be found in death; that her lover beckoned her to join him in the life beyond death.
Her body was found two days later after she wrote her final journal entry. She hung from the rafter of the small shed (which was later made into an outhouse) near the back of the Dice Road Cemetery. In her time this had been an Indian Burial ground where she had played with Dark Hawk as a child. The small outhouse remains there today. According to legend it has not been torn down because her ghost protects it. Her transparent spirit has been seen by several local citizens throughout the years. It is said that she haunts the forest that surrounds Dice Road Cemetery.
October 30, 1830. Less than a month after Anna’s burial, Jonathan returned – his penchant for adventure had extended his journey, leading him to explore an unchartered direction home. When his ship had not reached the port on time, word was sent to the last post where his crew would have stopped for supplies. Word returned that the ship had never reached port and there had been a shipwreck abroad. This information led townsfolk to believe that his ship had sunk, the return of the delayed crew had come as a surprise.
Jonathan was not greeted by his lovely wife but with the devastating news that after Stella had died, Anna went mad, leading her life in solitude; and that when she perceived him to be dead, she had hung herself. Jonathan’s grief was unbearable, thinking of what she endured in his absence. He left her only because he believed she would be safe in the care of her loving aunt. His self-blame and grievance for her tragic death did not leave him. Never remarrying he lived alone at Forest Hill until his death in 1879.
Anna carried her secret of Dark Hawk’s revenge with her to the grave. She sealed her journal in the walls of the shed, where it was later found by a member of the MHRFPA. Anna had not wanted anyone to know Dark hawk had raped her repeatedly, as she believed that she had been unfaithful to her husband.
Fall 1831-1879. The townsfolk shunned Jonathan after he claimed that his dead wife visited him in the forest near the shed. The religious movement of that time believed the act of communing with the dead was the work of the Devil himself. Jonathan felt that Anna was simply waiting for him to join her, although he did not take his life to be with her, he visited with her until he died of natural causes at the age of 74.
1842-1895. Members of MPRFPA hear of Anna’s haunting in the forest hills of Hemlock. They quietly observe Jonathan’s behavior, recording data regarding his encounters with the spirit world. An interesting record made in 1895 reveals that a member by the name of Howard Trip stumbled upon Anna’s journal that had been sealed within the walls of the shed by Anna herself 65 years earlier. Trip took particular interest in the ghost of Anna, making an in-depth case study of her haunting. He wrote in his case study that “the ghost of Anna Rhodes Millerton remains in the forest because she has unfinished business here. I believe she is trying desperately to tell me how to help her find peace. I am afraid that I will never know the secret meaning in what she searches for. I can only home that someday she will find peace.”
1971. MPRFPA releases Anna’s journal to the local police department after hauntings of the area on Dice Road are reported.
October 1999. The Legend of Anna Rhodes Millerton is published in two segments in Review Magazine.
16th November, 2023