HAUNTED MICHIGAN: The Strychnine Murders of Fife Lake
The Battenfield House at Fife Lake was home to one of Michigan’s most notorious mass murderers, Mary McKnight.
Turning back time all the way to 1903, Mary McKnight’s life was surrounded by murder. It seems Mary’s family members were mysteriously dying all around her: two husbands and all five of her children.
With no family left, she moved in with her brother John and his wife Gertrude on a small farm near Fife Lake in Kalkaska County in April 1903.
On April 22, 1903, Mary was left to babysit John & Gertrude's 3-month-old baby girl. The baby was later found dead in her crib. While John was out getting a coffin, Gertrude was poisoned and died an hour after her baby. Mother and daughter were buried in the same coffin.
It didn’t take long for Mary to knock off her trusting brother. In ten days, he was dead. The whole family is buried in Clark Cemetery, at the corner of Coster and Shippy Roads, two and a half miles southeast of downtown Fife Lake.
Suspicions finally arose about Mary. The bodies were dug up and examined, with the causes of death due to strychnine poisoning. Mary was arrested on May 31, 1903. Once she was in jail, her life was being scrutinized and studied; they discovered a handful of other murders that all pointed to Mary as the perpetrator. Had she also poisoned her two previous husbands and five children? She spent the rest of her life in a Detroit prison.
But why did she poison her family? It’s said that Mary somehow thought she could gain some kind of upscale social status by eliminating her family. No kinfolk meant she could attend all the social events she wanted without someone holding her back. According to an article on mlive.com, “McKnight had lost touch with reality and her poisoning of John and Gertrude Murphy was a twisted attempt to spare them the grief of losing baby Ruth”.
A different set of mass murders are said to have definitely occurred in this house but there is no record of who committed it or who perished.
Nowadays, the scene of the crime, known as the Battenfield House, is reportedly full of paranormal activity. People have witnessed flames of fire in the upstairs area which have no heat to them, along with the usual bumps, creaks, whispers, voices, and footsteps.
If you find this place, respect any owners of the house, townspeople, and all properties. Don't trespass without the proper permission.