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For the Little People: The mysterious miniature village on Madeline Island

I used to always hear stories about a mysterious fairy village on Madeline Island. Supposedly someone built an entire little village out in the woods somewhere. Every time I’m on the island, I bike down a fire lane or back road I’ve never been on before hoping to take a peek, but I’ve never found it.

Has anyone actually seen it and can attest to its existence?

40 Comments

Mary

about 10 years ago

I've never been there, but my parents were a looooong time ago. I don't know if my dad knows where it is anymore, but he used to read electric meters on the island and knew his way around pretty well ... they refer to it as the "Smurf village," but I don't know if that's what it actually looks like (or if that's just a nickname they used to give us kids a mental picture).

Mary

about 10 years ago

Also:  it's most likely they were there in the early 1970s, before they'd had me or my brothers, and that was a fairly long time ago.  So I'm not sure if the village still exists -- it might've fallen into disrepair or been completely overgrown by the forest at this point.  Maybe someone else with more current knowledge will pipe up?

akjuneau

about 10 years ago

It's kind of sketchy, and note the source, but Google turned up this reference to it.

enealio

about 10 years ago

I just found this too.

Todd Gremmels

about 10 years ago

I say if we can't find the little house place we build one ourselves!

How about a little Garden Railroad that runs through it? It could have a special car pulled behind the engine.

Gina

about 10 years ago

Hmmm. Don't know about Madeline, but one does exist on nearby Michigan Island on Park Service land. I've seen it. But that was years ago and it's hard to find.

Jamey

about 10 years ago

It does exist and it's on the north end of the Madeline Island on private land. I know someone whose dogs frequently run around the village. I believe it used to be open to the public, but now the owners request no visitors.

Jamey

about 10 years ago

Definitely Madeline. My co-worker lives next door to the property (I asked her 30 minutes ago). Not to say there may not be villages on other islands. They are strange and mythically isles full of ghosts and fairies.

Starfire

about 10 years ago

I have been there and am sworn to secrecy.

edgeways

about 10 years ago

I saw something like this a few decades ago on the island back when I lived in Ashland and worked in the Bayfield area, but for the life of me I couldn't give directions on how to get there now.

Pete

about 10 years ago

Yeah, I've seen it. I know I would not have found it without someone showing me where it is.

enealio

about 10 years ago

I don't want directions, I just want to know that it actually exists. It's fun to hunt for it.

EvanC

about 10 years ago

Here are four pictures of the village taken in the early 1970s.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Doctor

about 10 years ago

The "village" you refer to was the real-life Lillyput on which Jonathan Swift based his novel, Gulliver's Travels. The other village, Blefusco, was actually on Michigan Island. I should know, I brought Jonathan Swift there (by accident) and through a series of unfortunate events he was tied to the beach by the Lilliputians, hence giving him the idea for his famous novel.  

It was on Madeline where he met the talking horses in the stables of a certain Dr. Moreau, but I digress.

Both tiny villages were wiped out by disease and plague soon after white settlers arrived in the region sometime afterward.

Located on Grant's Pointe, the village was eventually buried by the waves and sand.  The village on Michigan Island still stands.

To learn more, visit Tom's Burned Down Cafe and madelineisland.org

Cheers!

The Doctor
Ratin (107,107,41)
2nd Life

marlena

about 10 years ago

There is a small village on Madeline Island tucked back in the woods. A friend who lives on the island showed us where it was just last weekend. It is on private land. There are signs all over before you actually reach it that say not for tourists and such like that. My camera was dead, so I didn't get any pictures, except on my cell phone. They are a little blurry and hard to make out, but the main sign when you get there says:

We need your help. Our little village is being work out by too many visitors. We ask please don't tell your friends or bring your guests or come yourself. Do not touch my houses. Do not walk my streets.
The rest was too blurry to figure out. Then there was one big main village. The church was dated 1956. There was also more little villages all over the forest. I am very curious as to why they are there and what they mean. There are pennies in the windows ... also something that made me ponder. Does anyone have any information about this? It does exist. I saw it with my own eyes ... but why and when was it built?

native

about 10 years ago

My family has pictures of the village but unfortunately the disc containing the photos is missing.  If ever founf I will post some of the pics.

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

These posts, the mystery, the hint of disillusionment, the mythology ... all makes me think of This American Life.  

I was on Madeleine Island only once as a kid that I can scarcely remember and then again in fall of '98 or '99 working on a documentary.  I picked up a local paper while there and it was one of the greatest things that I ever read.  All kinds of local personalities, details of island life, and even a few snarky letters to the editor.  I can't remember what it is called, but I highly recommend anyone visiting the island find a copy of the local paper.

penelope

about 10 years ago

I have been to the Village of the People many times.  As a child we had a cabin on Madeline Island.  I loved to go there.  You could tell the love that was put into each and every building.  I have not ben there for many years but would like to go again.

jennifer

about 10 years ago

I just visited the little people village last weekend!  The locals are sworn to secrecy, but through a friend who has a house in bayfield I was given clues on where to find it. My girlfriends and I had a blast on our "treasure hunt"!  As we carefully wound our way through the villages and its outlying hamlets, I thought I had never seen something so unique or amazing. The woods are beautiful and the house look so organic; like they grew up out of the ground and belong right where they are. I know you want find it. . .but it's a my own secret now.

Kyle

about 10 years ago

It does in fact exist, however, like those before me I'm sworn to secrecy on its location. It used to have carved lil' figures, but visitors thought they were keepsakes, thus ended the whereabouts of the village. As my father, who took me there as a child, then as an adult said, "This secret is meant for the kids of the island." I can't wait to teach my own son its location and watch his face beam with excitement as he learns the secret of the tiny village as well.

dropkick

about 10 years ago

A college friend of mine from the twin cities and his then-girlfriend made a great post on the Something Awful forums a few years ago featuring a photographic journey through this tiny town. It was the first I'd heard of it, and to this day I still do not know its exact location. But to see all the photos of their adventure and to read all the mystified posts from jealous others around the world was a treat.

Mark Phillips

about 9 years ago

My family spent our summers on Madeline Island. They own a couple summer homes on Nebraska Row. When I was a boy, my parents would take my sisters and me to the Fairy Village each summer. I have very warm memories of that magical place. My sister Lisa, an accomplished artist, painted a oil portrait of it. It was painted from memory and although her scale is off a bit, It is a beautiful piece.

Mark Phillips

about 9 years ago

I am happy to hear the village is in good hands and kept secret as it should be.

Tommy

about 9 years ago

The village is alive and well. There are signs telling you to not enter and not touch the village. It is very cool and I snapped off many pictures. Hint: its on Schoolhouse Road.

alina vizenor

about 8 years ago

I grew up hearing stories from my sister about the "hidden village." We had separate fathers and her side of the family would take her there once in a while. (You can only imagine the envy.) Finally one beautiful summer weekend my sister took my daughter and I there. It was a mystery to find because she was going off memory. It was incredible and profound. I do have some pictures that I will cherish forever. This is a rare example where "folklore" can actually be seen and experienced. I hate to see it ruined by the internet. Thank you for not asking for directions and hunting for yourself. Good luck on your journey. Maybe you have found it by now.

FranceneStarr

about 6 years ago

My friend and I were in Cornucopia last Friday talking to some partying young people who gave us detailed directions to get to the village ... after saying they were not supposed to tell us! We wanted to go but it was too hot, and we were not used to the heat -- so we went to the local (air-conditioned) bar instead. Someday!!!

Robert Hartzell

about 6 years ago

It is on South Shore road. Look for a big tree with lots of squirrels that speak French still from the French fur trading days. Do not trust them as they are sneaky squirrels, and if you ask directions they will make fun of you and direct you to angry locals back yards. Anyways if someone yells at you and says you are on private land and gets really mad at you, you are on the right path. The last sentence is true.

missk

about 5 years ago

Growing up I was told of the little village on Madeline Island by the elders. I was on the island over the weekend. We took hints from posts and locals and could not find where it was. We were very discreet about asking locals because the locals are sworn to secretly. We even visited the museum with no luck. But we were told it is still in tact. We were also told the owners are the nicest people you'll ever meet. But the children are the ones who put the signs all over. We did visit the local village that the children made in town. I would encourage visitors to see it. I am asking if anyone has any other hints that will make my journey easier to find the original village?

Roe Skidmore

about 5 years ago

It does exist. Locals will not tell you how to find this marvelous spot, and for good reason. It is very old and delicate with a complete downtown with paths that lead to farms, a complete village. It could never be replaced, so only the trustworthy are given its identity. I don't know the true story, but was told a man had a daughter and built a new building each year after the main village was erected for her. Has everything from city hall to the gymnasium. My daughters saw it at a very young age and my youngest believed that the little people lived there. Our dachshund was a giant in this small land. It is absolutely spectacular, but I will not tell you how to find it ... it is not a place for tourists unless the owner donates property as a preserved site someday.

Roe Skidmore

about 5 years ago

Please do not provide any directions to the Lost City on this blog. Too much information has already been provided. Those who know and understand Madeline Island will greatly appreciate keeping this little spot a secret. It would be a tragedy if this special place were ever "discovered."

Roe Skidmore

about 5 years ago

Mark Phillips, where can I locate the art of Madeline Island?

Mark Phillips

about 5 years ago

I'm sorry Roe Skidmore, but I will never divulge that secret.

Mark Phillips

about 5 years ago

"Please do not provide any directions to the Lost City on this blog. Too much information has already been provided. Those who know and understand Madeline Island will greatly appreciate keeping this little spot a secret. It would be a tragedy if this special place were ever "discovered.""

I'm sorry, Roe Skidmore, but after stating this, why would you ask me to do the opposite just one minute later?

Mark Bial

about 4 years ago

Where can one locate the art by Lisa? I can understand why Roe would not want others to give out directions to this hidden gem. Saw it when I was young, it is a fantastic find.

Ingrid Wendland

about 4 years ago

I went to the village a few years ago. It seems like a lot of the locals know about it. My sister bribed a sandwich guy to give us directions. We do have a lot of pictures, but we have refrained from sharing them. The village is very sacred and I would hate for it to become a popular tourist attraction. It's very magical once you do see, and there was a little note saying why the buildings were built, but I forgot what it says. I think it was dedicated to a little girl or something. Anyways, yeah, it does exist, it is on Madeline Island and it is really amazing.

Douglas Agustin

about 3 years ago

I saw the village in 1968 when my girlfriend brought me to it.  Very cool.

Mark Phillips

about 3 years ago

Roe Skidmore and Mark Bial, I am so sorry I didn't read your requests for my sister's art. Prints of her painting of the Hidden Village (as seen in an earlier post) and other work can be found at fineartamerica.com.

Mark Phillips

about 3 years ago

My sister, Lisa Phillips-Owen's painting, The Hidden Village (as seen in an earlier post) inspired me to write a short fictional story about my childhood encounters with the Village of the People. Please let me what you think in your comments.

The Hidden Village
By Mark William Phillips

I had just turned six, late in the Indian Summer of '66. My parents and I were on holiday in the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior when dad overheard some tourists on the mainland speak of a "fairie" village hidden deep in the woods of Madeline Island. Origin stories varied, but most centered around a grieving father chiseling the stone village decades ago in memoriam of his drown children lost at the bottom of the great lake.

The islanders were sworn to secrecy and wouldn’t reveal the location. So dad bribed an old ferryman at the docks into drawing up a map in honor of my birthday. The ferryman smelled of gasoline and fish. He stared at me, but wouldn't meet my eyes.

Due to my stubby, six year old legs, it took the better part of the afternoon to hike to the spot, but the village enchanted me on sight and put an end to any whining. Upon arrival, I spent an hour playing among the buildings.

In my mind, I was a giant and villagers ran screaming as I stomped through town. Dad made me swear to be careful and not hurt any of the buildings, but I still fantasized about knocking over steeples and kicking down walls.

In short order, hunger overtook us and we discovered a path to a birch glade nearby. My parents laid out a picnic blanket. I gulped down my food, eager to return to terrorizing the village. They let me head back alone, while they cleaned up, as long I promised to stay the path and not go beyond the village.

"Leave everything as you found it," dad reminded me, "so the next family can enjoy it as we did."

"Besides," Mom said with a sly smile, "you wouldn't want to anger any fairies."

Walking back, I smelled the roses before I heard her question.

“Do you like them?” The little girl asked.

She sat towering over the village town square. In her hands she clutched a bouquet of wild white roses. The flowers matched her dress and complimented the paleness of her skin. The gentle breeze carried their fragrance thick through the air.

Discovering her alone there, with no parents or adults, shocked me. I found myself just staring at her. I could hear dad talking to mom just beyond the tree line and thought about calling out to them, telling them about the girl and her white roses. The little girl scrunched her nose sizing me up then looked in the direction of the sounds of my parents. She looked back and smiled.

“The flowers,” she clarified. “Do you like my flowers?”

Suddenly, I felt incredibly shy and awkward. I couldn’t speak. She just giggled at this and buried her face in the blossoms. Her lilting laughter reminded me of wind chimes and my shyness lifted like fog off the bay. A warm breeze filled the boughs of the trees around us and I found my voice.

“Y-you’re pretty,” I blurted. “I mean... I mean they’re pretty.”

“Thank you.” She spoke through her laughter. “They love them.”

I felt a surreal wave of déjà vu and remembered dreaming this very conversation, maybe dreaming it more than once. The scent of the roses grew along with a increasing sense of lightheadedness. I started laughing with her, until suddenly I wondered just who she meant when she said, “they.”

I gulped back my giddiness and glanced nervously around again for her parents or siblings, but I saw no one else. In the distance I heard mom laugh and reconsidered alerting my parents. Then the sweet fragrance of the roses drew me back to her. She was beautiful. I smiled.

“Who? Who loves them?” I asked.

“The people, silly,” she replied.

“W-what people?”

“The villagers, of course,” she answered.

I looked around at the empty stone buildings. She was playing make believe. I loved playing make believe. I, too, had seen the people in my mind when I was playing the rampaging monster earlier. I raised my arms tight to my chest, in the fashion of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and lurched towards her.

“They love my monster, too!”

I roared and stomped. She jumped to her feet. Her face tightened into a scowl.

“No, they most certainly do not love your monster.” She scolded. “You stop that right now!”

Her words made me freeze with my right foot poised in the air. Movement beneath it caught my attention. Something small ran into one of the buildings, gone before I could get a look at it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw another thing dart through one of the doors. When I turned, something else ducked out of sight down one of the alleys. Slowly, I lowered my foot.

“Wait.” She commanded.

I stopped and looked beneath my foot. A tiny man cowered on the ground, no bigger than one of my green plastic toy soldiers at home, but dressed like someone from another country in one those old Saturday afternoon monster movies on TV. I carefully set my foot down away from him. He got up, dusted himself off and shook his fist at me as he ran away. I couldn’t help but laugh.

I squatted down and lost sight of him darting into a factory building. I tried to look in its door, but lost my footing. I grabbed the chimney shaft to regain my balance and the top of the smokestack broke off in my hands. I fell backwards into the street, landing hard on my butt. Slightly stunned from the fall, I looked at the little girl through the shaft of the small piece of chimney still in my hand. The insides were blackened like our chimney flue back home.

“You are a very bad boy,” the little girl proclaimed.

I felt a sudden afternoon chill in the air. I looked back down the shadow covered streets into the empty doors and windows of the hidden village. I sensed something looking back from the darkness within. I felt scared, but my fear was overcome by youthful anger. I was bigger than her and a whole lot bigger than toy soldiers. My fist tightened around the brickwork masonry in my hand.

“You are a guest here,” she said behind me, “and this is certainly no way for a guest to behave. It looks like we are going to have to teach you some manners.”

“NO, YOU ARE NOT!” I turned and stood to protest. “I’m gonna teach…

The little girl was gone and in her place there now stood a large building. It took a moment to recognize it as the village town hall. I was standing on streets of the hidden village, now no bigger than the toy soldier villagers. Then, out of the shadows, doors and windows, they came. They were all adults. More and more gathered around, scowling at me. I began to scream and cry for my parents.

Then I smelled the roses again. A shadow fell over the town square. I looked up and the little girl, now a giant, loomed over us blocking out the low sun. I tried to run, but the townspeople pressed in. I saw her hand come out of the sky, like the hand of a god. Its meaty fingers scooped me up and stifled my screams.

Right then, I heard my parents walking towards us down the path, smiling and chattering. I pressed to look through the cracks of my captor’s monstrous fingers. There, above me, stood giant versions of mom, dad, backpacks, picnic baskets and blankets.

“MOMMY! DADDY!" I howled, "HELP ME!”

“Having fun, son?” My dad's voice rumbled above me.

Fun? I felt wounded by his question, before I could form a response, I heard someone who sounded just like me answer in a booming voice, “I want to go home.”

“Are you sure?” mom asked. “We haven’t been here that long.”

“Yes,” the other me thundered, walking out of the village and onto the path. “I want to go home.”

“Ok sweetie,” Mom purred. “Are you having a happy birthday?”

“The best,” I heard the impostor say. “The bestest of the best.”

I screamed until my voice broke, but they didn’t notice. I could hear them singing "The Ants Go Marching In" as they paraded out of sight. Fake me turned back one last time and smiled, just as the girl dropped me into her massive bouquet. 

I bounced off enormous sheets of petals, overwhelmed by their pungency, and slid down the stems into huge, sharp thorns. I tried avoiding them, but they were too tightly bunched, so I just covered my eyes. I felt thorns rip and rend my skin and clothing away until, mercifully, all went numb and black.

I awoke naked and bleeding, surrounded by the villagers. Their gray eyes glared in envy at my tender age. The hidden village had robbed them of their childhood, as it would mine, and they would now beat and scratch and tear the remaining youth out of me. The little girl's shadow bathed the town square in its gloom and blocked out the setting sun. My ears rang with her rumbling laughter and I trembled in the twilight of a fading Indian Summer.

George Collins

about 1 year ago



I was there as a child. Fourth grade to be exact. My class, from Bayfield Elementary, toured the island as a class trip. We took our lunch here.

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