Construction of the infamous Felt Mansion began in 1925 when Dorr E. Felt purchased pieces of land in Laketown Township, Michigan. Felt was a businessman who struck it rich with the invention of Comptograph, a key-driven mechanical calculator. After visiting the Saugatuck area during a roadtrip, the Felt family (consisting of Felt, his wife Agnes, and their four daughters) decided to settle down in Laketown Township. Felt soon purchased over a thousand acres of dune land to construct his dream farm.
The Felt family moved in shortly after the completion of the three-story, 25-room Felt Mansion in 1928. However, barely six weeks after moving in, Agnes passed away in the mansion from an unknown illness. Two years later, Felt died of a stroke while living in Chicago with his new wife.
After the death of Felt and his wife, Felt Mansion was willed to their children, who owned the property till 1949 when it was purchased by The Saint Augustine Seminary. The estate’s carriage house became St. Augustine Catholic Seminary preparatory school while the mansion housed priests and students. In 1963, a seminary building was built on the ridge west of the Felt Mansion.
Felt Estate, which included the mansion and the seminary building, was purchased by the State of Michigan in 1977. The mansion was converted into a police post while the seminary building became Saugatuck Dunes Correctional Facility. However, due to low usage, the state decided to close down the station. In 1995, a 50 acre section of Felt Estate surrounding the mansion was sold to Laketown Township for a sum of $1. This comes under a condition that the historic mansion is to be preserved and operated by the public, and is not to be sold or used for private enterprise. The remaining 950 acres of land became Saugatuck Dunes State Park. In 1996, Felt Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its historical significance.
In 2001, Patty Hoezee Meyer chanced upon Felt Mansion on a hiking trip and decided to embark on a restoration project on the abandoned property, determined to restore it to its former grandeur. The Friends of Felt Estate was established five year later to get the local community involved in the preservation and operation of the property. Today, Felt Mansion operates as an events venue for a variety of functions including wedding, corporate meetings, and graduation ceremonies.
Melon Heads at Felt Mansion
Legend has it that Felt Mansion once served as a hiding place for melon heads. American folklore describe melon heads as small humanoids with an abnormally large, bald head. It is said that melon heads in Michigans were children afflicted with hydrocephalus and kept in Junction Insane Asylum near Felt Mansion. After years of abuse in the asylum, the children were released to the forests in Saugatuck Dunes State Park; some of them were said to have taken up residence at Felt Mansion when it was abandoned.
The story then takes a dark turn, saying that the melon heads conceived a plan to return to the asylum and kill the doctors that had abused them. After the murder, the melon heads allegedly disembodied up the doctor and hid pieces of the remains in every corner of Felt Mansion.
As such, Felt Mansion is said to be haunted by the melon heads and bodiless doctors. Visitors who have visited the mansion have reported seeing ghostly figures of children with an unusually large head. Voices of children running down the hallway was also heard by staff working in the mansion. Apart from sightings of the melon heads in Felt Estate, many have also reported seeing groups of children lingering in the woods throughout the area.
In spite of the popularity of the folklore, Allegan County Historical Society has come out to content that Junction Insane Asylum never existed.
Hauntings at Felt Mansion
It is believed that Felt Mansion is haunted by the spirit of Agnes Felt. Visitors to the historic mansion have reported seeing a lady walking along the hallway before disappearing into walls. Volunteers working on the restoration of the mansion have also heard doors open and close at will on the second floor.
In one incident, Meyer, project manager and estate director of Felt Estate, was setting up decorations for the Christmas holidays when a red rug laid out in Agnes’ bedroom was mysteriously rolled up. After multiple occurrences of the same incident, Meyer grew frustrated of the pranks. She returned to the bedroom for the last time and was shocked to find it completely gone, only to see it laid out neatly in another bedroom on the same floor. Meyer became a believer of the supernatural after multiple occurrences of the same incident.
Another story tells of the mysterious lights to the yellow and blue bathroom on the second floor. Despite turning it off for several times, the lights repeatedly turned on by itself. An inspection by an electrician revealed that the lights to the bathroom was not even wired.
Shadow figures were also reported on numerous occasions on the third-floor ballroom.
Felt Mansion Tours
Visitors looking to tour Felt Mansion may participate in the guided or self-guided tours that run from September through the end of December.
A guided tour of the mansion lasts an hour-and-a-half and includes a full introduction of the property as well as the history behind it. Visitors will also get to hear stories of the restoration project by estate director and preservation specialist Patty Meyer who, together with countless volunteers from the community, spent the last 20 years restoring Felt Mansion to its 1920’s grandeur. Tickets for the guided tour are priced at $30 for adults, $25 for students and seniors, and free admission for children below the age of 12.
Visitors on a self-guided tour will be given a booklet that includes the historical and architectural details of Felt Estate. While a self-guided tour lasts about an hour, visitors are free to tour around the property within the stipulated time. Tickets for the self-guided tour are priced at $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, and free admission for children below the age of 12.
Special haunted tours are also offered at the mansino throughout October during the Halloween season. For individuals with mobility issues and are unable to view the upper floors, a short documentary titled “The Man and His Mansion” is available.