Al and the Pick Fort Shelby Hotel
The Story: The
old boarded up Pick Fort Shelby Hotel has stood abandon for over twenty years on Lafayette
Street near the outskirts of Detroit's business district. For years it was shelter for
homeless men who would find there way inside the building to find refuge from the brutal
Michigan winters. For years the only paying tenant in the old hotel was the notorious
Anchor Bar a favorite
watering hole for reporters from Detroits two newspapers The News and Free Press, it
occupied a partitioned off section on the street level at the front of the hotel. For
years the Anchor had been known as a place where police, politicians, priests and pressmen
could go for a cold beer, a greasy hamburger and place a bet on their favorite horse race
or football game.
A local street person who was known only as Al found part time work doing odd jobs at the
bar. After leaving the bar late at night Al would make his way to the rear of the hotel
and re-enter the building through some boards that he had loosened. Al was a one eyed
black man whose face showed the results of years of drinking and living on the street. He
was quiet and polite but he was often seen driving away other street people who might try
to take up residence in the ruins of the old hotel.
They think it was sometime during the late 80's some rotted plumbing gave out in one of
the hotels basement levels and unbeknownst to the bar caused all of their sewage to flow
out into the hotel basement near the rear of the building. For several years people that
worked in an adjacent building
noticed and complained about the smell in the alley to city officials but it was blamed on
sluggish sewers in the area. The bar itself was spared the odor because it was totally
sealed off from the hotel proper and its entrance was at the front of the building.
During an unusually rare building inspection the startling discovery of years of
accumulated human waste was uncovered. They say that it was well over four feet deep. To
the inspectors horror, inside one of the rooms they found the skeletal remains of
Old Al. He did not drown in the sewage but it is suspected he became mired in the sludge
as he came down a stairway and could not free himself while in the dark and most probably
drunk. He must have died a terrible death of starvation or dehydration while held fast in
this sucking mire of putrid foul mud-like material. One of the medical examiners told us
that his bones had been stripped clean as if they had been boiled. What the rats did
not consume the cockroaches and insects finished.
As strange as his cause of death may seem the strange part of the story is that people
like myself that work in the area still see old Al walking through the alleys near the old
hotel. I personally believe I have seen Al on several occasions late at night sitting in
the alley behind the old Fort
Shelby Hotel and that was well after they claim he had died. Once after his body was found
I swear I saw him sitting at the rear of the building. I called out his name he looked up,
stood and turned toward me. I was somewhat frightened and I glanced over my shoulder make
sure I had a clear escape route but as I turned back it was if he had dematerialized into
the steam that pores from the old manhole covers in the alley. Some people that I know
claim to have seen lights moving through some of the lower floors of the building, and a
coworker has sworn that he has heard voices coming from inside the building.
The bar moved out long ago and the building is now well boarded and secure. The street
people give the old Shelby wide birth these days You wont even see them going through the
dumpsters during the day like they had done for years. Some claim it is the city steam
that pores from the manholes and pavement that people mistake for someone moving through
the alleys at night but I know its old Al still standing guard defending his turf at
the old Fort Shelby Hotel.
Submitted by Mr.
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