The runway still cuts across Lake Michigan’s North Fox Island, faded like an old scar. The airstrip is the first thing that Francis D. Shelden built after buying his hideaway.
In 1960, the millionaire outbid the state government for the island, shaped like an upside-down teardrop, that hovers 19 miles off the coast of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. The state offered the owner, an elderly widow, about $3,500. The Detroit Free Press reported Shelden gave her $20,000.
He wanted isolation and he got it.
The 3,000-foot stretch of green was where Shelden, a former Michigan Air National Guard airman, would touch down in his private plane. It’s also where the young campers would arrive in the summer, before they were ushered into cottages concealed by beech and elm trees. Before, survivors say, they became stuck in a spider’s web of sexual abuse and child pornography.