I first learned about “Michigan basements” in 2010 when my husband and I were shopping for a home. One of the first houses we looked at had a partially finished basement, and a whole section that was definitely… “Pure Michigan Basement.” It was high on the list of reasons we did not end up buying that house. I decreed early on that we would not be buying any house/condo that had a “creepy” basement – especially one that involved me having to duck to maneuver around. As a tall person, I’m not a huge fan of having to duck – or smack my head if I happen to forget to duck (which I WILL do)! Our home-buying story had a happy ending, since we bought a condo with a finished basement. We replaced the carpeted area with vinyl flooring (that carpeting was so DISGUSTING)! Now we have a nice “rumpus/storage” room attached to a full bathroom and laundry room.
Me at Mammoth Cave National Park in 2009. This section of cave was named “Tall Man’s Agony.” This is also a good simulation of me if I had to walk around a Michigan basement!
So what’s a “Michigan basement?” It’s typically a really creepy-ass basement with an earthen floor – a step up from a crawl space, if you will. To learn more about these basements, click here. Thanks to serial killer John Wayne Gacy, crawl spaces have kind of a…bad rap. Gacy’s crawl space underneath his Illinois home was just perfect for burying the bodies of more than 20 young males whom he had stalked, sexually assaulted and killed. When he ran out of room in his crawl space (and other areas on his property) for burying the bodies, he began dumping them in the DesPlaines River. He was convicted of 33 murders in total, and was executed by lethal injection in 1994.
Gacy would sometimes dress as a clown character named “Pogo” when luring young boys to his home. Perhaps the fear of clowns, also known as “coulrophobia,” is a very rational fear!
Now I’m definitely not saying that Gacy became a serial killer BECAUSE he had a crawl space with a dirt floor. But having a crawl space with a dirt floor probably did help give him a “nudge” in that direction! I’ve seen way too many episodes of “Forensic Files” and “Cold Case Files” where people wind up burying corpses in basements with earthen floors. These basements might as well have flashing directional signs in them saying, “Bury your corpses here.” I also think that every self-storage facility has at least one unit with a corpse in it because of these shows, lol…
So even though Gacy’s legendary crawl space was just a…crawl space, let’s just say it was a “Michigan basement” in spirit, even if it was located in suburban Chicago!
Long before I even learned about John Wayne Gacy, basements and crawl spaces were creeping me out on epic levels. When I was a kid, our basement in our split-level house was finished and had red shag carpeting and wood paneling (it was the 1970s…the decade of poor taste). But the bright red shag carpeting wasn’t enough to make it not creepy to me…especially when it was dark and the furnace made noises! This house also had a crawl space adjacent to the laundry room, which I would never, ever enter. Just peering in there once was enough to convince me of this! During daylight hours, I had plenty of fun in that shag-carpeted basement! We had speakers down there, so that we could play records upstairs, and not worry about bumping the record player! Because bumping the record player was a party foul if you were a Gen-X kid!
My cousin from Florida visited a few years ago and brought his two kids to my parents’ house. The very first room they wanted to see was the…basement. Why? Because homes in Florida, which is the unofficial sinkhole capital of the world, don’t tend to have basements. So my mom took the kids down there and showed them the washer and dryer, the dehumidifier, the laundry sink, cupboards with non-perishable food, cat litter boxes and dad’s workshop area. How exciting, right?
I certainly didn’t have the same enthusiasm for seeing the basement in my great-great aunt’s home in Flint! This turn-of-the-century abode used to be in a “doctor’s neighborhood,” though by the 1970s/1980s, this neighborhood kind of became a bit more “unsavory.” Houses became run down, and windows would be boarded up (just see the movie Roger and Me if you want to learn more about the downfall of Flint). Some areas near my aunt’s house can be seen in the movie. This house still had some nice features, including hardwood floors, a screened porch, an attractive wood staircase, and even a dumb waiter in the kitchen! It also sported a Michigan basement, which I could see from the top of the stairs, but would never, ever explore. My aunt’s basement probably looked kinda like this…only filled with more stuff. And cat litter boxes. And the overall creepiness of it overwhelmed my curiosity.
I’ve largely gotten over my fear of going into the basement. But some basements will ALWAYS just be too creepy for me to want to enter!