Rock legend unveils 'Alice Cooper Court' at abandoned asylum in Westland

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Westland — More than 100 people gathered on a damp, gloomy afternoon Thursday to witness the unveiling of a new street name outside the Eloise Asylum. 

Their phones and digital cameras at the ready, their clothes increasingly wet, they got a look at Alice Cooper as he emerged from behind a parked black hearse.  

Cooper, a Detroit native, was introduced by WCSX-FM's Big Jim O'Brien to celebrate the radio station's newly minted Alice Cooper Court. 

"Welcome to my house!" said Cooper of the abandoned asylum to the crowd, some proudly showing off tour T-shirts beneath their raincoats. 

"I love the idea that they're naming streets after rock stars," the singer said. "I think there (are) more rock stars than politicians." 

Native Detroiter and horror aficionado Alice Cooper, with wife Sheryl Goddard, on a short tour during a preview of the Eloise Asylum haunted attraction in Westland on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021.

More: New attraction converts Eloise psychiatric facility into immersive haunted experience

"God, I hope so!" responded O'Brien, who touted the new street name as a fan initiative that came as a surprise to Cooper. The renaming was strictly ceremonial, Westland Mayor William Wild said, adding there was no action by the City Council as the court is located in a private commercial development. Westland City Council member Michael Londeau participated in the ceremony.

Cooper's remarks followed a live performance by The Nightmare, a cover band that received Cooper's stamp of approval as well as the fans' who attended. 

"They did all of my favorites," said Cassie Smith, 54. "They were awesome! I would go see them again."

Smith was there with a group of her friends, all members of the group Phenomena Paranormal Investigators, who said they had spent a lot of time speaking with the spirits at Eloise Asylum in previous years. The new haunted house attraction opens for the season on Oct. 1. 

Eloise began in 1839 as the Wayne County Poorhouse, according to the building's current owners. The building, part of a larger complex at the time, was converted in 1894 to an asylum, largely for people with mental health problems. It was at one point the largest asylum in the U.S., the owners say, and it was one of the first to perform lobotomies on patients.

Eloise Asylum owner and developer John Hambrick (from left), Alice Cooper and Westland City Council member Michael Londeau with a street sign dedicated to the native Detroiter and horror aficionado during a preview of the Eloise Asylum haunted attraction in Westland on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021.

The Kay Beard Building now houses a multi-level immersive haunted attraction that incorporates the location's past. During the 40-minute experience, visitors are invited in as new patients to the asylum following a fictional storyline that takes them from the building's original dayroom into spaces that feel much more sinister.

Smith has been friends with fellow paranormal investigator, Renee Pascas, 53, since they were both in the second grade more than 45 years ago.

What brought them together? A mutual love of Alice Cooper, whom they said they had seen perform together some 40 times.

"We met by asking each other, 'Who's your favorite singer?' said Smith, before she and Pascas yelled "Alice Cooper!" at the same time. 

Smith said she was missing Cooper's Saturday evening show in Clarkston because of her concerns about the coronavirus but was sure there would be more opportunities for her to watch him perform again. 

A fan wearing an Alice Cooper sweatshirt waits for the native Detroiter and horror aficionado at a ribbon-cutting outside the Eloise Asylum haunted attraction in Westland on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021.

“Alice Cooper Court” is the third street name created by WCSX honoring Motor City rock icons. Other landmarks include “Bob Seger Boulevard” and “Glenn Frey Drive."

O'Brien, in his speech introducing Cooper, talked about the impact of the pandemic on the music industry, lamenting the many canceled performances over the past 18 months. He said things were looking up, however. 

"This is a reminder that we can still do cool things in Motor City." 

Reporter Hayley Harding contr