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Magers defended the film because of the “interesting twist” that Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. I argued a better twist would have been if the kid was just a liar.
Ultimately, we agreed it was best to move back to the card room.
We then headed to the lower level of Building 32, which acts as a storage area for the museum. The main room in the basement is filled with gravestones removed from the cemetery just up the road. The gravestones, which were laid out on tarps, are mostly from the graves of the soldiers who once occupied Fort Douglas. The museum staff brought them inside because the graves were made from sandstone and the names were beginning to weather away.
While we looked over the names, Kramer explained where ghosts typically come from. “Disturbing gravestones, desecration of burial sites, things like that, seem to conjure up activity,” he said. Ghosts “also go back to spots that they felt safe, a place that was their escape. You also find ghosts in places where they spent a lot of time—routine locations.”
On the other side of the “gravestone zone” is the card room, which we piled back into for the last leg of the night. The strategy remained the same. Playing off the knowledge that this was once a room where gambling, drinking and whoring took place, Kramer set up his recorder and asked aloud, “Apparently, there were some shenanigans in this room. Does anyone have any cards?”
“Does anyone have any whiskey?”
“How about any hookers?”
Kramer suddenly placed one hand on his headset. “Did someone just make a sound?”
I put my hand to my stomach. No grumbles.
“So apparently, hookers are where it’s at down here,” he continued.
“If you’re into hookers, maybe you should talk to Jen?” Kramer said.
“Great. That’s great.” Doane responded. “That never works.”
“Are you a hooker?” Kramer asked the prospective ghost.
“Well, they did sneak in a lot of hookers in here, and this would’ve been a great place,” Doane said.
“It sounds like I’m picking something up; it might be conversational,” Kramer said. He switched to a yell: “We can hear you, but you have to speak up!” He then pulled out a metallic Zippo lighter with a cool little skull on it. He lit it, set it on a shelf and said, “In case you need a light.”
Everyone in the room stared intently at the flame for a seemingly endless amount of time, hoping that we’d see a ghost roll up and light a stogie.
“Feel free,” he said. “I’ll share my fire.”
The flame remained still.
“I swear there’s a voice there,” Kramer said while staring down at his recorder. “I need instant gratification,” he said as he rewound the tape.
Everyone gathered around Kramer as he played back the faint, two-second blip through the tiny speaker on his recorder. The ghost hunters claimed to hear a distant female voice. But to me, it just sounded like crackles over a microphone.
Even though these three absolutely believe in the existence of ghosts, they understand that what they do will never be taken seriously.
“You can’t re-create a ghost experience in a lab, I get that,” Kramer said. “So, in that sense, ghost hunting is not a science and it never will be. But that doesn’t mean these strange things don’t occur and that they can’t be documented.” Doane, Magers and Kramer mentioned a few of the more memorable hauntings they’ve encountered over the years, like the time they heard an entire dinner party in the upstairs of a hotel only to discover that no one was in the building.
“You know, there’s people that are never going to believe, no matter what,” Doane said. “You could have a ghost walk right up to them and smack them in the face and they’re still not going to believe it.”
After sitting silently in the card room for what seemed like an hour, no contact with the outside world except Twitter, I secretly wished a ghost would backhand me across the face.
But it didn’t happen. We left Fort Douglas around 11 p.m. without coming in contact with anything remotely paranormal. I wasn’t disappointed, though; I knew that would be the case.
There’s something about sitting in a weird, dingy room under a Civil War-era fort, surrounded by people who really, truly believe in ghosts, that makes you want to believe in ghosts, but ghost-hunting is simply a fun way to learn about local history while occasionally whispering, “What the hell was that?!” To me, that makes it worthwhile work.
About a week later, I received an e-mail from Doane filled with a hefty collection of her Fort Douglas murder PDFs and some selected audio clips from our ghost hunt.
As I read over the newspaper clippings about Colonel Clem, Silas the teamster and various pissed-off prostitutes, I listened to Kramer’s recordings. Most of them echoed the clip we heard in the card room—mic muffles and dead air. However, one stood out. It came from the microphone Kramer had left in the enclosed courtyard area, a spot we hardly paid any attention to that evening. At three seconds into the clip, a very soft and breathy voice could be heard saying what sounded almost like “help now,” followed by a small clunk.
I called Kramer to get his analysis of the clip.
“When you look at it on a wave spectrum, you can see the break of a human-voice wave pattern. So, I feel pretty good about that one,” he said. “It’s almost like someone was reaching out for help. But it’s one of those things—you can hear the whisper, but I struggle to say what the voice was saying. It could be saying anything. It could have been an air duct, or a noise from outside, but sometimes, the paranormal stuff just makes more sense.”
To be fair, I have no idea. I’d like to believe it was a ghost soldier saying “help now” or “hell now” or “eyebrow.” But I guess there’s no way to know. My money is on Beau Burgess, the museum curator, tripping over a broom in the dark. That would be one hell of an M. Night Shyamalan twist.
Utah’s Top 10 Most Haunted Places
If you’re looking to catch a ghost, check out these notoriously spooky spots.
Union Station Museum,
2501 S. Wall Ave., Ogden
Rio Grande Train Station/Rio Grande Cafe, 300 S. Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City
50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
This Is the Place Heritage Park,
2601 E. Sunnyside Ave., Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City & County Building,
451 S. State, Salt Lake City
Pioneer Village at Lagoon, 375 Lagoon Lane, Farmington
Skinwalker Ranch, Duchesne
The Great Saltair,
12408 W. Saltair Drive, Magna
340 W. South Temple
Memory Grove Park,
300 North Canyon Road