Former Iron Mountain resident author of book
‘Red Jacket’ tells of Calumet tragedy
MARQUETTE — Have people gone through previous lives? This intriguing topic is at the center of the new book “Red Jacket,” which is set in the Upper Peninsula amidst a tragic event.
The author of the historical fiction tale is Richard Lassin, a semi-retired exploration geologist who has worked extensively throughout the U.P. The former Iron Mountain resident now lives in Lansing.
“Red Jacket” was inspired by Lassin’s personal experience as it relates to the copper mine strike of 1913 and the related Italian Hall disaster in which 73 people perished.
“It’s really about my own visions I had about the Italian Hall,” Lassin said. “It’s really a story of reincarnation.”
The book synopsis reads, “After the loss of her daughter and a broken relationship, Evangeline Attwood escapes from her life as a middle-school teacher and takes refuge at her brother’s cabin in northern Michigan. But instead of finding a quiet haven for reflection, she is inexplicably drawn to a museum in Calumet.
“Taped to a set of plain wood doors is a sheet of white paper with the names of the people who died in an event known as the Italian Hall Tragedy. As Evangeline peruses the list, a pair of names strike a chord deep within, turning her life upside down.”
According to an Associated Press story, Calumet on Christmas Eve dedicated a granite memorial with the names of 73 people who died in a stampede during a 1913 Christmas Eve party for striking miners.
The tragedy occurred 105 years ago in the village, then known as Red Jacket. More than 600 men, women and children had gathered at the Italian Hall for an event to cheer the striking miners.
After someone reportedly shouted “Fire!” hundreds of partygoers rushed down a steep stairway. Out of the 73 people trampled to death or suffocated, 59 were children, the youngest only age 2.
Further compounding the tragedy was the fact there was no fire.
The Italian Hall was razed in 1984, according to a Facebook page dedicated to the Italian Hall Tragedy Victims Memorial, but the sandstone and brick archway from its front door entrance was reconstructed and became the focal point on the grounds where the building stood.
“It’s doing pretty well,” Lassin said of book sales.
He said “Red Jacket” encompasses two story lines: the “here and now” and 1913, with locations being Calumet and Delta County.
Lassin said the book sprung from something that happened in 1986, which he didn’t talk about for 25 or 30 years.
When he went to the Coppertown USA Mining Museum in Calumet, he saw doors from the old Italian Hall with sheets listing the victims’ names.
Lassin said two of the names jumped out that he knew — but not in this life.
After returning to Lansing, he told three friends about the experience, and all three knew those names without being prompted.
Lassin said while walking down Pine Street in Calumet, a vision unfolded “like he was dropped in another world.” That vision was from an event that actually happened.
“I could see the procession of caskets moving down the street, with people on the sides, watching,” Lassin said.
Lassin noted other things have happened to lead him to believe in the possibility of reincarnation, although he was a skeptic at first — he is a scientist, after all.
He does acknowledged there might be other explanations for his experiences.
For “Red Jacket,” he tried to fit those experience into the life of his main character, Evangeline Attwood .
“It’s not exactly a romance novel or a detective novel or a spiritual novel, but it has aspects of all of them,” he said.
He had to carefully craft the tale. “It is pretty bizarre, and I tried to make it an entertaining novel and not make it just about death and doom,” Lassin said.
Instead, the focus is more on healing spirits.
“Maybe we do get a second chance in life and maybe things do work out,” Lassin said.
The 282-page book, which retails for $20, also is available on Amazon.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250, or firstname.lastname@example.org.