The Whitney Restaurant
This 1894 mansion is well known today as one of the finest restaurants in the Detroit, Michigan area, as well as for its stories of ghosts and paranormal activity. It was initially built as the home of David Whitney Jr. and his wife Sarah. Following its completion after four years of constructions, a local newspaper described it as "the most elaborate and substantial residence in this part of the country." The house is a massive 21,000 square-foot home with 52 rooms, 218 windows, 20 fireplaces, and even a secret vault.
David Whitney Jr. would only enjoy his home for six years before passing away in 1900. However, his family would continue to live in the home until the 1920s when the home became the headquarters of the Wayne County Medical Society. It would change hands a few more times over the years until Richard Kughn purchased the home in 1980 with the vision of establishing a first-class restaurant. His dream came true on December 12, 1986 when the mansion reopened as the restaurant, The Whitney, which was described as "An American Restaurant in an American palace." After resurrecting the facility, he would sell the restaurant in 2007 to former-Chrysler executive, Bud Liebler, who immediately set on a course to revitalize the property and maintain its icon status in Detroit.
There is evidence to suggest that both David Whitney Jr. and his wife Sarah passed away inside the house, which might support the accounts of ghostly occurrences reported by past guests and staff. Reports of supernatural activity began to trickle in during the mid-1980s during the restoration efforts and continue to this day. Interestingly enough, while the accounts may vary, activity has been reported from all three floors of the facility.
One of the primary focuses of activity appears to come from the restaurant's elevator. People have reported the elevator moving between floors, despite no one being inside. Reportedly elevator repair technicians have tried to isolate what might be causing it to run on its own, but have been unable to detect anything wrong.
Apparitions have been reportedly spotted on the second and third floors as well. Some witnesses have reported seeing the figure of Whitney on the second floor, as well as other unexplained shadow figures. These claims appear to be different from those from the third floor, where people report seeing a man dressed in a short-waisted tuxedo. Still other accounts include the sound of dishes being stacked when no one is around, table settings moving on their own, and audio and photographic anomalies.
The Whitney Restaurant was the site of the paranormal-themed event, History, Mystery and Haunting: The Whitney; hosted by Kathleen Tedsen and Beverlee Rydel, authors of Haunted Travels of Michigan, along with special guest hosts, the Highland Ghost Hunters. Guests to the event were treated to a dinner at the historic restaurant, followed by a presentation and ghost tour that probed into the facility's haunted past. The October 2008 event was a complete sell-out with at least 200 guests taking part. On March 13, 2009, the group is returning with an event labeled, Friday the 13th - Return to the Whitney. For this event, the group is offering two seatings that will be at 5:00 P.M. and again at 8:30 P.M. For those interested, please refer to the Haunted Travels of Michigan site below.
The Whitney Restaurant continues to be a first-class restaurant serving the greater-Detroit area. For more information on hours of operation and upcoming events, please check their site below.
I would like to offer a very special thanks to Kathleen Tedsen and Beverlee Rydel from Haunted Travels of Michigan for their assistance in this article. For more information on their work, please visit their site below and check out Haunted Travels of Michigan for more fascinating stories from the restaurant's past, as well as more stories from the area.