Salt Lake Eerie | Cover Story | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

October 25, 2017 News » Cover Story

Salt Lake Eerie 

31 spots in and around SLC to get your spook on.

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  • Derek Carlisle

This hyperbolic appraisal of spine-chilling locations is based on personal visits, secondhand anecdotes and internet research, aka "Googling." Persons easily frightened by evil, the paranormal, poop, politicians, religious crackpots, heights, little people, serial killers, curses, shapeshifters, invisible children, weird sculptures, old buildings, urban legends, government surveillance, germs, deep holes, the dark and their own shadows should read with the lights on, deadbolt engaged and disbelief suspended.

Everywhere and everything is haunted. There's a ghost in every theater, hotel, body of water, forest, ruin, death scene, cemetery, religious edifice, deserted highway, abandoned building, work of art and repurposed medical facility—again, everywhere. That's why horror films and lame paranormal "reality" shows hosted by guidos and rednecks proliferate. We want to be haunted, because ghost stories satisfy two common human desires by adding excitement to our ho-hum existences and hinting at some kind of afterlife, whether it's heaven, hell, limbo, purgatory, the Terrestrial Kingdom or The Twilight Zone. But creepy doesn't always involve the spirit realm; in real life, governments, religions and the weird guy next door all give us plenty of reasons to shudder.

White Memorial Chapel - CHRIS BURGES
  • Chris Burges
  • White Memorial Chapel

1. Utah State Capitol
Overlooking Salt Lake City from high on a hill, the 101-year-old edifice is conveniently close to three rumored sites of diabolical rites: City Creek Canyon, Memory Grove and the Salt Lake Temple. Right on the property is an old Gothic church with a stained-glass pentacle. It's called the White Memorial Chapel—or the White Chapel for short, evoking Jack the Ripper. Used in magic, the pentacle is rejected as satanic by most forms of Christianity. So what clandestine hoodoo happens in the chapel when it's not booked for a Gentile wedding? More spine-tingling is the Capitol Building itself, where lawmakers legislate based on so-called sincerely held personal beliefs—but these self-styled white knights are really in it for power and filthy lucre.

2. Utah Data Center
Down around the Point of the Mountain are two huge buildings. One houses violent criminals. The other bookmarks all your favorite internet haunts, while claiming to have no internet service and poo-pooing the notion that they'd even dream of accessing and analyzing said information without a warrant. Which one frightens you more? The building where murderers and rapists are locked up tight, or the one where all your dirty secrets are on file so the government knows your favorite flavor of porn, right down to the color of balloons you like to pop with your butt? (Blue. HMU, Party City employees.)

3. Hi-Fi Murders
Ogden's Hi-Fi Shop, along with many of the surrounding buildings, has been razed—the address 2323 Washington Blvd. no longer exists. But you can still stand at the approximate location of the scene of some of the grisliest murders in Utah history. Why would you, when the city has gone to such lengths to rub out any remnant of the day when Pierre Dale Selby and William Andrews shot and tortured five innocent people, making some of them drink drain cleaner and shoving a ballpoint pen into a victim's ear? That's right—don't think about it, just keep walking.

4. The Jordan River
The question to this Jeopardy! answer is, "Where'd you hide the body?" The biblically named body of water is a famed dumping ground for murderers and, given its proximity to backyards and public parks along its 40-mile stretch to the Great Salt Lake, a common scene of tragic accidental deaths. When you factor in dead animals, leeches, broken glass, duck turds and that it's fed by Utah Lake, a longtime raw sewage dump—rrrrrrralph! Surprisingly, rotting corpses generally only increase risk of gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea). Clean-up efforts notwithstanding, the bacteria level remains nasty enough to land a guy (me) in the hospital. That, combined with the thought of pissed off ghosts swirling in the river's undertow, makes it a foregone conclusion that the Jordan River will make you shit your pants.

  • Frank Jensen

5. Mountain Meadows Massacre Monument
The idea that well over 100 people—including children—were murdered by a Mormon militia posing as Paiutes should make you queasy. That they were killed for no good reason exponentially increases the quease. Even worse, while standing at the monument erected by descendants of the victims and perpetrators, imagine how the victims themselves must have felt, cowering behind circled wagons, trying to fight back in spite of being woefully outgunned. Then, thinking they've been rescued, watching their menfolk slaughtered simultaneously by their would-be saviors before the guns turned on them. Which probably explains why visitors to the monument empathize with the victims' anguish and terror, which dovetail into profound sorrow.

  • Randy Harward

6. Gilgal Sculpture Garden
Devout Mormon Thomas Battersby Child began the first of Gilgal's 12 monumental sculptures in 1945, working on them until his death in 1963. While the garden of finely detailed formations was open for Sunday afternoon tours, thrill-seekers preferred trespassing for late-night peeks. In daylight, the works are puzzling: a sphinx with Joseph Smith's face, boulder-sized human hearts, a dismembered Nubian giant, a self-portrait of Child flanked by masonry tools resembling bondage gizmos, walkways engraved with esoteric text. At night, they're unsettling; you almost expect hooded acolytes with ornate blades to tie you to the altar (there is one). Gilgal's designation as a public park in October 2000, courtesy of the Friends of Gilgal Garden, somewhat tempers the adrenaline—but not the chills.

7. Salt Lake City Cemetery
When the zombie apocalypse happens, this body garden will yield more than 124,000 shufflers, including many politicians (Gov. Olene Walker) and LDS bigwigs (Spencer W. Kimball). Also, the "Mormon Samson," Orrin Porter Rockwell—a member of the Danites, a group portrayed by the faithful as the 19th century Mormon Justice League, and by non-church historians as barbaric enforcers. Hi-Fi murderer Pierre Dale Selby rests here, as does Lilly A. Gray, whose headstone reads, "VICTIM OF THE BEAST 666." Likewise, brewer Jacob Moritz, occupant of the storied and inexplicably named Emo's Grave, and Rock 103 disc jockey Barry Moll, inventor of the block-party weekend. Imagine that mob punching through the earth with lust for your tasty guts.

8. Salt Lake Temple
To many Utahns, it's a sacred place where families bond for eternity and the dead undergo involuntary religion reassignment. But to a consistently growing non-LDS citizenry, it's a foreboding castle symbolizing rejection of their lifestyle—and even their genetic composition, causing them to feel unwelcome in their own hometown. It's populated by elderly drones dressed for God's white party and the Danite Security Service who, upon spotting apostates and Gentiles with visible tattoos, arrive in their Mr. Mac suits to spirit them away, lest they disturb the presumptuous proxy-dunkings and marriages that purport to unite families while causing turmoil in clans not equally yoked. Oh, and there's a towering, milk-toned statue of a cis-white male patriarch-turned-zombie. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeam!

The author’s daughter sinks into the soft lake bed. - RANDY HARWARD
  • Randy Harward
  • The author’s daughter sinks into the soft lake bed.

9. The Great Salt Lake
Pennywise the Clown would love that everything floats here in the world's ninth saltiest body of water. Next time you're there, stand in the stanky water while facing the north shore. As your feet sink into the soft, sandy lakebed, imagine the Great Saltair in flames behind you—it's been set ablaze three times, including total losses in 1925 and 1970. As the bed swallows your toes, ponder the North Shore Monster, described as a croco-horse, and grave-robber/suspected necrophile John Baptiste, who was exiled to Fremont Island only to vanish soon afterward. Finally, as the fine wet sand grips your cankles, ruminate upon whale sightings, waterspouts, whirlpools that can suck you all the way to the Pacific Ocean—and underwater quicksand.

  • Derek Carlisle

10. Fun Time Kidz Kare
In January 2015, reddit user discogodfather6922 posted that, in five years living across the street from the bright green preschool at 1248 S. 300 East, he'd never seen children here. It triggered a conspiracy-theory circle-jerk. Fellow locals posted dittoes and detailed their own investigations. Images were analyzed, public records scrutinized. Some suspected it abandoned and haunted; others felt it was a CIA black site. Former City Weekly staff writer Eric Peterson covered the story for Vice, interviewing Fun Time's neighbors. He noticed fellow City Weekly contributor Bryan Young commented on the thread, saying that Fun Time is on the up-and-up, merely a means for the owner, whom he knew and who declined comment, to keep his mother busy. It remains open, sleepy and creepy.

11. Peery Hotel
The building at 110 W. 300 South isn't as sprawling and majestic as the Overlook Hotel, and it doesn't sit high in the mountains—but the 107-year-old Peery looks the part on the inside, from the 1920s vibe to the sparkly chandeliers in the lobby and redrum-colored carpets on the upper floors. There's also a seriously creaky, claustrophobic elevator named "Moaning Molly" for what's believed to be a perpetual spectral guest. The place has gotten a complete overhaul and is now the epitome of swanky, but that doesn't mean you won't catch yourself on the lookout for creepy twins in the hallway, checking the bathtub for demonic catfishing hottie-hags and wishing you still had your Big Wheel to ride around the place.

  • Doc Searls

12. Bingham Canyon Mine
At the end of Robert Rodriguez' 1995 vampire flick From Dusk till Dawn, an aerial shot reveals the Titty Twister bar's back patio as the ruins of an Aztec temple. It looks a lot like this mine. Once a mountain, after 100 years of steady mining, it's now the largest man-made excavation on Earth. At a half-mile deep and 2.5 miles wide, it's no fun for acrophobes (people who fear heights), bathophobes (depths) and trypophobes (holes). And megalophobes will have a really tough time with the 320-ton capacity haulage trucks. They needn't worry, however—a 2013 rock slide, which triggered 16 small earthquakes, forced Kennecott to close the overlook and visitor's center.

  • Sheriff’s Office Salt Lake County

13. Where Arthur Gary Bishop Met His Penultimate Victim
In 1981, convicted murderer and pedophile Bishop went to the Smith's at 3901 S. State to buy snacks for a movie party with other boys later that night. When 4-year-old Danny Davis wandered away from his grandfather, Bishop invited the child to his nearby apartment, where he molested and strangled him, placing his body inside a trash bag. In the morning, sheriff's deputies questioned Bishop with the bag visible through his car's hatchback window. A 1988 Deseret News story—published the day before his execution for the kidnapping, murder and often post-mortem sexual abuse of five boys—reports that Bishop told interrogators, "I just smiled." (Author's note: When Bishop was arrested in 1983, TV and newspaper stories showed that he lived in a home near 2100 S. and 600 East, where I'd been delivering grocery store ads for at least a year. Fifteen years later, I worked for CrossLand Mortgage—at 3901 S. State.)

  • Gerald Gundersen

14. Escalante Petrified Forest
Curses are just more superstition. But that's probably what visitors to the picturesque Escalante Petrified Forest State Park thought when they pocketed small pieces of fossilized wood in spite of bad juju warnings. Several times a year, a letter shows up with the pilfered wood. Its author claims to have had terrible luck since returning home with their ill-gotten trinket and believes returning it will lift the curse. Of course, there are no reports of updates—just a story that probably reinforces what is already against federal law. Don't remove anything from a state park. There will be blood—and fines!

  • Heather Davis

15. Suicide Rock
Some stories about this colorful crag located at the mouth of Parleys Canyon have people flying off of it like firework sparks, landing in coppery scented splats. The story handed down over time, however, says only one person has ever actually swan-dived into the sweet by-and-by from Suicide Rock—a young Native American woman distraught over the loss of her betrothed. Absent evidence for either side, where is the terror? Maybe it's in the possibility that a suggestible kid who feels like shit might decide to be No. 2.

16. The Devil's Highway: Route 666/U.S. 491
How awesome would it have been to blast Iron Maiden's "The Number of the Beast" on a 200-mile stretch of highway (at the posted speed limit, of course) called Route 666, barreling toward the end of the fucking line, which happened to be in wholesome-ass Utah? Sorry, folks—coincidence, superstition and religion conspired to screw us on this one after a combination of supernatural events (skinwalkers, mad truckers, ghost girls, demon dogs) and real-life tragedies (fatal car crashes) spooked people enough that lawmakers rechristened 666 as U.S. 491, a much less baleful—but totally boring—designation. "Four! Nine-one! The num-ber of-the beast!" just doesn't have the same ring.

17. Summum Temple
Claude Corky Nowell made all the right Mormon moves (mission, temple marriage), but lost interest in the church and divorced his wife in 1974. The following year, after encountering "highly intelligent beings" (probably aliens), he adopted the name Summum Bonum Amon Ra (Corky Ra, for short) and founded Summum, a cult practicing mummification and winemaking from a pyramid-shaped temple in downtown SLC. Called "Nectar Publications," their wines supposedly facilitate transubstantiation and divine resonations while dissolving obstacles, increasing understanding and perception. Translated: You can do anything while blotto. Ra was the first of his flock to be swaddled and spiced when he died in 2008. That ain't so special. It could easily have been Summum else.

  • Quincey Fisher

18. Tunnels!
Live here long enough and you'll hear about a network underground catacombs for which the Temple is a nexus. Their purpose varies with the storyteller. Explanations range from them being alternative transportation for LDS church high muck-a-mucks so they don't get mobbed like J-pop stars to absurd hyperbole. For example, maybe local politicians and church officials use them to slink back to their subterranean lair, where they shed their human skins, pop open a can of children's tears and binge on Grey's Anatomy. Tunnels are for transportation, and most cities have them. But the church has been cagey about their existence and purpose, so maybe there is a terrifying reason behind them—like that they lead to hatches that open into all of our homes.

  • Debra Fowler

19. Ted Bundy's House
Visiting the ruins of the former residence of a long-dead serial killer who had a reputation as a master manipulator sounds like the premise for a great horror flick. And also a bad idea, especially when the ruins are located in Emigration Canyon and consist of a hole in a wall, leading to a staircase that descends into the only intact room: the smelly, vandalized cellar. There could be anything down there: rabid animals, meth-crazed squatters, old copies of National Geographic, a copycat killer, Bundy's charming murderous ghost—or just garbage and the smell of human waste.

20. Rio Grande Depot
Public restrooms are a special kind of creepy, what with all that indirect butt-to-butt contact. Imagine, though, if you were just sitting there doing your business when you see a ghost. Visitors to the former train station downtown report a dark-haired female apparition in the ladies' room, which would cause anyone to lose their, uh, cool. Speaking of which, while on assignment for another paper in 1999, I felt the temperature drop and heard voices in the Rio Grande basement. I'm not saying it was a ghost, just that I felt and heard something and it made my spine wiggle.

21. Old Tooele Hospital/Asylum 49
Would you dare spend a night in an old haunted hospital and pay for the privilege? Would you pay a premium to add full-contact experience, giving license to horny teenaged "actors" to touch, grab or carry you away—even detain you for hours and strap you to a metal bed? What if half the place is still a nursing home, coexisting with the Asylum 49 haunted house? They say that late at night, you still see old Mr. Carlisle shuffling toward you in his non-slip socks and open robe, holding out his colostomy bag, staring with dead eyes as he wheezes, "It's fuuullllll ..."

22. Cottonwood Paper Mill
More popularly known as the Haunted Old Mill, the history of the old edifice at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon is ripe for horror stories. First, it's old—constructed in 1883 with granite leftover from the Temple. It has been many things before its condemnation in the mid-aughts: a mill, an open-air dance club, a disco, a Halloween haunted house and a craft boutique. There are stories of people dying in fires or committing suicide there, and reports of invisible barking dogs, and lights working without power. Rumors circulate that it's difficult to get inside the place. These are belied by YouTube videos that reveal it as just another rickety ruin.

23. Bear Lake
Bears. The tricky bastards emulate the much smaller and less threatening ursine species, known colloquially as the "Teddy," leading us to believe they're friendly. Then, when we try to pet them, they steal our pic-a-nic baskets and crush our skulls. Then there's the area's strange, cultic fascination with raspberries—they're everywhere and in everything. Most frightening is the lake's disturbingly clear water, which means that you'd see the 50-foot-long croc-snake-otter-manatee with 18-inch legs called the Bear Lake Monster well before it eats you, painfully prolonging the sense of impending doom. Good thing that legend turned out to be a hoax, eh?

  • Gentry Taylor

24. Kay's Cross
Exactly how a 20-foot tall, 13-foot wide stone cross engraved with the letter "K" appeared in a Kaysville hollow remains a mystery, but most accounts agree that it was built in 1946. Characters reportedly involved in its construction include a cult leader named Krishna Venta, a fundamentalist Mormon named Kingston and William Kay, who founded the town. Although some area residents refuse to talk about it, stories circulate about werewolf sightings, ghosts, murder-suicides, a human heart hidden inside it and buried treasure. Someone exploded the cross in 1992, but it remained an object of interest that one could only see by trespassing onto private property. In 2013, a deal was struck to make it into a haunted forest attraction at Halloween.

  • Derek Carlisle

25. The Alta Club
In 1883, before Utah achieved statehood, 81 Gentiles, aka non-Mormons, founded this club "to present the comforts and luxuries of a home together with the attraction to its members of meeting each other in a pleasant and social way." It seems only fair that non-members have their own exclusive place, but two years later, they decided to let Mormons join and it became known as a rich man's club. A place so old is bound to have some ghost stories. The Alta Club has two. One involves a fire started by a man who zonked out while smoking a cigar in the '50s. The other, called the Lady of the Evening, makes her presence known by her lilac perfume and frigid, invisible touch.

26. Voodoo Caves
In the mountains near the Beaver Dam is a pipe where scrawling on the walls alludes to satanists and witches using the location to invoke demons and cast spells. Supposedly anyone who enters the pipe and disrespects the lingering evil spirits or maligns the good name of Satan will be trapped inside as the water rises to drown them. A worker is said to have died while unclogging the pipe, but the stories never give a date or name. They do, however, mention that you'll know when his spirit is present because the water flows in reverse.

27. Capitol Theatre
Ah, the theater. Is there anywhere better suited to dramatic fiction? On July 4, 1949, a 17-year-old usher named Richard Duffin died when the theater caught on fire during a double-feature. (Super)naturally, he's now a poltergeist nicknamed George, and he plays tricks on theater staff and security guards, causing them to smell smoke where there is none and perceive his presence "every once in awhile," then-stage manager Doug Morgan told the Associated Press in 1999. George is most active during performances of The Nutcracker. If the Capitol Theatre still showed films, it might be funny to see what George thinks of Independence Day.

  • Derek Carlisle

28. Salt Lake Masonic Temple
Freemasons say they're prominent local businessmen who strive to make good men better and support the community. But if we've learned anything from The Simpsons, they're actually an ancient cabal that keeps the U.S. from adopting the metric system and the Martians under wraps. Even if those accusations were false (and they're not), they still don silly hats and aprons and do a lot of stuff in secret while mandating a belief in the Supreme Being, however each member defines him. That doesn't seem too scary, but neither do the words "Enter freely and of your own will," which describe the first step on the path to membership.

  • Randy Harward

29. Halloween 5 House
Tons of movies have been shot in Utah, including Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), starring Don Shanks in the title role. Last year, Shanks took City Weekly up into the Avenues neighborhood to see the house used for the Myers residence in the film. After doing an interview and reminiscing with the home's owner, who was an extra in the film, Shanks left. I stayed behind to get night shots of the home. Although Shanks had gone home, taking his mask with him, the darkness and a remarkable stillness on that fall night made the house feel like a sentient and hungry entity. This, in spite of no actual blood being shed here.

30. Skinwalker Ranch
Located in Ballard, at Sherman Ranch, as it's really known, you might see UFOs, Sasquatches, glowing orbs of light and ghosts. Which, of course, is all total bullsh—hang on. How many planets have we discovered that might someday support life? And how many do we know that might once have supported life? Makes you wonder if aliens do exist. If so, we have to seriously consider a few things. Will the aliens and Bigfoots and ghosts (oh, my!) openly or secretly assimilate? Should we stock up on Reese's Pieces? Root around in the trash for parts to create anal probe-resistant chastity belts and bear repellent? See a shrink?

31. Hobbitville, aka Allen Park
Many Salt Lakers have searched for Hobbitville, which, depending on who first told the story, was either the site of secret satanic rituals or a community of tiny homes populated by little people. Since hardly anyone could tell you Hobbitville's exact location, some pointed to the Memory Grove Park, Miller Bird Refuge or even Gilgal. The so-called "real" Hobbitville is called Allen Park and sits ensconced in trees across from Westminster College. While its dwellings are small, the private neighborhood was never a miniature mecca for little people, according to abundant online debunkings. That still doesn't keep the drunk and slow-witted from trespassing at night only to be chased away by a security guard.

Well, that's the story. So the next time your car goes on the fritz while cruising U.S. Route 491 or that piece of legislation you were backing blows up, before you call your representative, turn on all the lights. Check the closets and crawl spaces. Look under all the beds. 'Cause you never can tell. Arthur Gary Bishop might be in your house. J/k ... that fucker was executed by lethal injection in 1988 at Point of the Mountain.

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