The camp was was founded in 1882 by the leader of the local spiritualist group, James Haslett. The spiritualists believed that it was possible to contact the spirit world to receive guidance on earthly issues and knowledge about the afterlife. This was done through special individuals known as mediums. The mediums adopted alternate names, such as Doctor or Mistress, when they worked and each medium relied on the help of a spirit guide or â€œcontrolâ€ to relay messages from the dead. In 1890 a special house was built on the camp grounds for the mediums. It provided rooms where the mediums could stay while at the camp and where classes on developing their abilities could be taught. In 1889 thirty-one people had registered for such a class organized by Frank C. Algerton. The participants came from as far away as Syracuse, Nebraska.
By 1896 the camp facilities included an auditorium capable of holding 2,000 people, a dining hall which could serve 250, and a large stable. The camp offered numerous amenities for the visitors including daily grocery delivery and an entertainment program was provided on Saturday evenings. Campers could rent a tent or bring their own. It was not unusual for there to be over 100 tents pitched on the grounds during the annual summer meeting.
In addition to its public face Haslett Park also had a secret society. It was established in 1888 and called the Haslett Park Club Circle. The purpose of this group was â€œfor the spiritual advancement of allâ€ as well as the promotion of the yearly spiritualist meetings at Haslett Park. The circle consisted of eight men and women from the Lansing area. This included Mrs. M. J. Mead, a medium from Mason who used the name Lady and was assisted by spirits named Yunundeo and Yokie.
There had been hopes that Haslett Park would become the national headquarters of the spiritualist movement. Attendance, however, gradually petered out after the death of James Haslett in 1891. The site was eventually abandoned and later turned into an amusement park.
You can learn more about the Haslett Park and Mead family by visiting the Local History Collection at the Capital Area District Library.
This selection was produced by Sarah Hegge. Sarah is currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan working on a Masters of Information with a specialization of Archives and Records Management. She has just completed a term of indentured servitude as the 2010 Local History Intern at the Capital Area District Library.