Oh Eloise the Stories You Must Know!

Artifacts in the Eloise Museum
Artifacts in the Eloise Museum

I have always been fascinated with the old asylums and mental institutions and poorhouses. I remember my parents pointing out the Kalamazoo State Hospital when I was a kid, and it loomed like a haunted house on a hill. In high school, my dad and I busted into the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane. An “adventure” we’d call it. The energy in that place was heavy, sluggish, and very real.

And I’d always heard murmers about Eloise, the famous institution in Detroit. So when writer Steve Luxenberg got in touch, I jumped at the chance to meet him. He discovered he had a secret aunt who spent most of her life institutionalized behind Eloise’s mighty gates. He wrote a book about it, called “Annie’s Ghosts.”

Here’s the story I did for Michigan Radio:


Eloise Grave Marker
Eloise Grave Marker

5 thoughts on “Oh Eloise the Stories You Must Know!

  1. I just learned that I had a great uncle who spent half of his life at Eloise, after a tractor accident left him with brain damage at the age of 22 in 1930..
    I am trying to find any records on patients, as well as who was buried, and where, in the Eloise cemetery, but I am finding nothing but dead ends so far.

    1. Hi Julie,
      There’s a chunk in Steve Luxenberg’s book where he has the same problem. (At one point he reaches a state/historic official and tells them “I’m looking for my family member who lived at Eloise” and she responds with something like, “Yeah, and so are a million other people.”)
      You might find it helpful to read Steve’s book, which details his step-by-step search for his aunt. You could also try contacting “Friends of Eloise,” a tiny group that runs the museum and helps people like you. -Kyle

  2. Thank you so much, Kyle and Andrea, for the tips! I’m sorry for not responding sooner, Kyle…for some reason I didn’t get notification of your reply – or maybe I deleted it without realizing what it was :D. It wasn’t until I got notification of Andrea’s reply that I realized you had replied, as well.
    I will definitely check out Steve’s book and contact Jo. Thank you so much, both of you!


  3. I just wanted to let everyone know why alot of searches turn up dead ends. It is because when the asylum was closed there was a ton of paperwork left behind! File cabinets full left in the rooms there. I saw this firsthand. I grew up on Palmer rd. directly across the street from Eloise. After couple years when I was about 8 or 9 (it closed in 1981 when I was 6) I started to go over to the grounds and by the time I was like 12 I had already been in alot of the buildings. Alot of the file cabinets were overturned and files all mixed up. I picked up a bunch of files off the floor and kept them. It was a mash up of supply orders to payroll records to even patients xray records (not actual xrays but the comment portions of the record that said what they found on examination and also the mental state of the patient) very sad that the patients of Eloise were not treated with more respect and privacy! Who knows what hapened to the rest of those records but I have a few still in storage! I have done alot of research over the years and its appalling what happened there and many other asylums!

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