Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Daily Ghost Post – M is for Minnie Quay

Even if you have never heard of Minnie Quay, it is likely that you have heard about someone just like her. Similar legends haunt many places.

Minnie Quay is famous in Michigan and beyond. She hails from Forester, which is located in a part of the state known as The Thumb. And why The Thumb? The town is situated on the thumb portion of a mitten-shaped peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan. A lumber town at the time of the story, Forester was home to this classic tale of struggle between parents and their teenaged daughter.

Back in the 1870’s, John and Maryann Quay lived in a small but cozy home not far from the beach in the lumber town of Forester, Michigan. They had a small son and a teenaged daughter, Minnie. Minnie loved to walk the beaches near Lake Michigan, gazing out to the lake, looking for possibility. Everyone knew when she passed by, for she always left a pretty trail of jubilant footprints zig-zagging across the sand.

One day, possibility sailed right in to shore. When the boat docked at the pier, Minnie met a sailor. She was 15 years old, he was older. And the local people didn’t like him. They never liked it when their young women took up with the sailors. Minnie’s parents were no different. She was told that she mustn’t see him.

“My girl,” cried her mother, “I would rather see you dead than be with the likes of him!”

But young love is a powerful force, like storms at sea. Just who is strong enough to stop it?

Minnie managed to sneak out and see her sailor whenever his boat docked in town. Everyone knew she met him, because they saw two pairs of footprints zig-zagging across the sand.

One day in 1876, Minnie’s parents put their feet down and forbid her to leave the house. Well there was an angry storm in the Quay house. But it was not the only storm that day. A rainstorm with the power and force of young love carried her sailor’s boat and crew to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

When Minnie heard, she was distraught. She never got to say goodbye.

From that day on, Minnie Quay stopped walking on shore. She simply sat near the pier, gazing out at the lake, looking for possibility. And one day, she found it. Dressed in a white gown, Minnie Quay walked to the edge of the pier where she always met her love and jumped into the water to join him.

Though her body was buried in a local cemetery, her spirit is restless. Even today, people see her walking along the beach, gazing out to the lake, looking for possibility – the possibility that one day she might find him.

Oh the people know it is the ghost of Minnie Quay – she emerges from the mists wearing a white dress, zig-zags her way across shore, but leaves no footprints in the sand.

The Minnie Quay story touches people to the core. How do I know this? It is a musical, a book, more than one ballad , and a beer. I mean when an artisan craft brewery in Massachusetts names a beer after a story from Michigan, it has almost reached meme status.

On a more serious note, this romantic tragedy encourages us to believe that sometimes love is strong enough to cross the forbidden bridge between life and death. Maybe that is the real reason why Minnie’s legend endures.

But then again, if people still see her ghost emerging from the mists, then that could surely explains why the legend endures.

Why do you think tales like this endure? Share your thoughts and let’s get chatting.

Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Dutcher, Denise (2014). Dead Reckoning: A Great Lakes Love Story.
Taylor, Troy.
Wikipedia – Minnie Quay

PHOTO CREDIT: By Royalbroil / CC BY-SA 3.O / Wikimedia Commons

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14 thoughts on “Daily Ghost Post – M is for Minnie Quay

  1. Great story! Love is a powerful force. Love always leaves footprints (or heartprints?) 🙂

  2. If his ghost not there to alongside her, it could be considered some kind of warning against reckless young love (like the ending of Romeo & Juliet).

  3. What a sad story. I wonder if stories like that persist because so many can relate. I mean, many people probably lost loved ones who were sailors, and this story encapsulates those feelings of lost love. Then, after a number of years, it persists by being a legend in its own right. Just my own rambling thoughts, anyway. 😉

    • Your ‘rambling’ makes a great point – stories persist because we can relate. That’s true of stories in general, right? That we relate to them, that they are ‘true’ to us. Maybe it is a metaphor for that feeling of loss that we experience – that period of mourning after a relationship ends or with a death. Now I”m rambling!

  4. Cool story! I think these tales last so long because they resonate with us as humans. Most of us can relate to a lost love and the pain associated with that. The story forms a connection with the reader.

  5. I think I have heard of this ghost. Hmm. Maybe. I am not really sure. Well, a ghost like her anyway.

  6. Star-crossed love with tragedy is an enduring theme – look at Romeo and Juliet. Love that goes on beyond death is a joy, but love that goes on in hopelessness is tragic and people love a good cry. I think it would be far more interesting if she and her sailor walked on the shore together leaving no footprints.
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • That’s EXACTLY how I wrote it Tasha. But then I tussled with it….satisfying, neat ending versus folkloric roots of the tale, sad and wistful…. and let the folklore root/theme win. I still may tell it the other way…. in future writings and in performances…and of course, R and J – the archetype of star crossed.

  7. linda brown on said:

    it was not Lake michigan its Lake Huron ty

    • Wow, WP never told me about this comment, I just bumped into it.
      That’s interesting! My research brought me to Michigan as the source, but my experience with folklore is that stories often jump from one place to another – even basically intact. I will look into this though, I’m intrigued. Thanks for lett me know.

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