When a passerby stops and tells you that your house is haunted, and that “You know she’s still there,” it makes you wonder about certain things that you’ve noticed around the place. This is what has happened to homeowners Valerie Hiltz and Kevin Sharpe at their historic red brick home on Main Street near Rite Aid. They’ve lived in the house since 2015 and love it. The house was built in 1885 on land that is part of the original plat of Eaton Rapids.
A bit of its history: Isabelle (Belle) Stirling (1863-1937) and Millard Densmore Crawford (1864-1955) lived in the house in the early part of the twentieth century. They were married in 1886 when Millard was a farmer in Springport. Belle was a member of the Eaton Rapids High School class of 1881 and later attended Albion College to become a teacher. Willard started out as a grocery clerk, went into real estate, auto financing, and the insurance business. Stirling and Crawford grocery store was the grocery, assumably in partnership with Belle’s brother. Belle taught school and was very active in the community. They had one daughter, born in 1890, Genevieve, who married Francis Quinn Murphy from Williamston. It is believed that the house remained in the Crawford family for over 100 years.
Belle Crawford was an unusual woman for her day. She was very active in the community, from teaching school to being president of the Eaton County Federation of Women’s Clubs, to being on the ERPS Board of Education and also the library board. Her name was well known to everyone.
W. Scott Munn, author of the 1952 book “The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth,” with his sister, Lena, were neighbors to the Crawfords at one time.
The house itself is a local historical treasure. With its ten-foot ceilings and original woodwork, it feels a bit like walking back in time. The fireplace in the parlor at the front of the house is surrounded by elaborate woodwork and has very unique mottled green and brown tiles surrounding it. Hiltz converted it from coal-burning to wood-burning and they enjoy fires in it on chilly days. Multiple large pocket doors block off the parlor from the rest of the house when needed.
There are four bedrooms and two baths. Hardwood floors run throughout the house. A large porch, braced with delicate columns, surrounds the front and one side of the house. Two of the gables have an original stained glass insert in them; they plan on recreating the third one that is needed.
“I love you, house! I’m gonna take care of this house,” Hiltz exclaimed. “It’s always been a positive place, full of warmth and welcomeness to me,” she added. “I love the weirdness. I love the quirkiness.” They discovered the home in one of their frequent drives around Michigan looking at old homes and antique shops, with a mission to visit every dot on the map.
Some unexplainable stories are part of the quirkiness. They were told that the previous owner was working in the house and heard a woman’s voice ask him “What are you doing?” When he looked up there was no one there. A woman in a flowy white dress has been seen in the house.
Sharpe woke up one night with the feeling someone was looking at him. He saw a shadow; it was shaped like a human, but he was unable to see any details of it, standing at the foot of his bed. His first reaction was to throw his pillow, which went right through the apparition, which then left.
“We try to debunk this kind of thing,” Sharpe said. “Try to figure out a likely explanation so as not to look like a fool!”
“Nothing has ever scared me or even creeped me out,” he added. They’ve heard cupboard doors close, and dishes rattling. “But it’s never been anything malevolent,” he added.
A previous owner told the story of a dresser drawer being opened and clothes rapidly flying out of it, which he found very frightening.
The property also has the original carriage house in the back. Sharpe had an incident in there that he can’t explain, also. There is a cutout area in the ceiling to access the hayloft in the building and in the winter, he covered it over with an oversized piece of cardboard. Unexplainedly, the cardboard, which would have to have been forcibly pushed through the small hole, was found on the floor below. He has had dust particles fall on him from the planks above like there was someone up there walking.
“I would love to find photos of the house from the past,” said Hiltz, “if there are any out there. We have a postcard photo of three women sitting on the front porch, but that’s it.” They are preparing a sign for the front porch designating the home as “The Crawford House.”