There’s no doubt about it: Detroit is a fascinating city. While much of our history has helped shape America as a whole — from the introduction of Motown music to the production of automobiles — we’re no stranger to oddities. Here are nine utterly weird events that have taken place in Detroit over the years.
1. Harry Houdini’s death in the Motor City
Did you know that the world-famous magician died right here in Detroit? Following what would be his final performance, Houdini passed away at Detroit’s Grace Hospital on October 31, 1926. It’s speculated that Houdini suffered severe abdominal injury after being punched in the stomach by a fan who wanted to test the theory that the magician’s abdomen could sustain any blow.
2. That time a tiger got loose inside the Packard Plant
In August 2015, a photographer brought several live animals (including a tiger) into Detroit’s iconic Packard Plant in order to stage a photo shoot. The only trouble was that the tiger broke free — and began roaming freely around the plant. Animal trainers quickly returned the tiger to its cage, much to the relief of local security guards.
3. When Metallica played a concert at Belle Isle
When you think about our beloved Belle Isle, perhaps Metallica isn’t the first association that comes to mind. But in 2013, the iconic band played a surprise show ahead of the park’s Orion Music + More Festival. Over 40,000 fans rushed onto Belle Isle to enjoy the music — and what a show it was!
4. The St. Aubin Street Massacre
In 1929, the body of religious healer Benny Evangelista was found seated at his desk in the family home on St. Aubin Street. His head had been cut off and placed at his feet, while the bodies of his wife and children were found upstairs. The murders remain unsolved, and the spookiness of this gruesome Detroit event never seems to wear off.
5. The introduction of a floating post office
Did you know that Detroit operates a one-of-a-kind floating post office? That’s right: the J.W. Westcott II was introduced in 1949 and remains the only floating post office in the United States. The boat delivers mail to vessels situated on the Detroit River. Talk about dedicated service!
6. The opening of a salt mine under the city
Located 1,200 feet below the city of Detroit sits a massive salt mine, which began operating around 1910. For over 100 years now, the mine has produced massive amounts of salt — all of which is currently used as road salt. While the mine is now closed for public tours, there’s nothing more fascinating than imagining a whole new world below the streets of our city.
7. When we were a bootlegger’s paradise during Prohibition
When prohibition outlawed alcohol throughout the country in 1920, Detroit quickly became a hotspot for bootleggers. The Detroit River provided an easy transport route for those looking to smuggle in booze from Canada. Because of this, estimates state that 75% of all illegal alcohol brought into America during Prohibition entered through — you guessed it — the Motor City!
8. That time the Red Wings played in the longest NHL game ever
This event didn’t take place in Detroit, but it did involve one of our beloved sports teams! In March of 1936, the Red Wings faced the Montreal Maroons in a game that would ultimately stretch into six overtimes, ending around 2:30 the following morning. It was all worth it, however, when the Wings took home a win!
9. The Alhambra Apartment poisonings
In 1905, a disheveled cleaning employee at the Alhambra Apartments made her anger known by putting arsenic into the food of approximately 40 families residing in the apartment building. Two people died as a result, but the culprit was ultimately acquitted of the crime — for better or for worse.
Tell us, Detroiters: do you remember any odd events from our city’s history? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.
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