Interesting locations focus: Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt lake City: Home to ghosts, monsters, crop circles and UFO’s!
Nestled in a valley between Utah’s Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City has its share of paranormal phenomena: lake monsters, ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs, mystery spots and mystic visions. While you’re watching the Olympic hockey games, figure skating or curling events – or if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Salt Lake during the games – keep in mind the many strange goings-on taking place in and around this friendly desert city.
Born of Mystic Experiences
Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by a group of pioneers led by Brigham Young, leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more familiarly known as the Mormons. Seeking a place where they could practice their religion free of ridicule and persecution, the Mormons found the valley ideal, and Salt Lake City today remains the headquarters of the church. The foundation of the Mormon religion, like many religions, is steeped in mysticism, miracles and visions. According to Mormon history, in 1820, a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith, while praying for spiritual guidance in a grove of trees near his home in Palmyra, New York, beheld a vision of both God and Jesus Christ. In this vision, Smith was told that his destiny was to restore the true church of Jesus Christ. Over the next 10 years, Smith claimed to have been visited by several other “heavenly messengers,” including the angel Moroni, who presented him with golden tablets in a strange, Egyptian-like language that contained the Book of Mormon – “another testament of Jesus Christ.” The Mormon church formally organized in 1830, and today its officials continue to make official church policy through revelations directly from God.
Ghosts and Hauntings
Salt Lake City and surrounding towns have no shortage of ghosts and hauntings:
- A book store in Ogden, a small city north of Salt Lake, is said to be haunted by several spirits. The Utah Ghost Hunters Society says it is one of the most haunted locations they have ever investigated, and they have recorded many EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) there.
- A Victorian-style house, also in Ogden, is filled with classic haunting phenomena: cold spots, unexplained footsteps, fleeting shadows and fearful reactions to certain rooms by dogs. EVPs, including one from a voice calling herself “Olivia,” were also captured here.
- The old Utah County Jail, a facility that is now abandoned, has been the site of such anomalous activity as: lights going on and off by themselves, doors opening and closing, and even voices emanating from the now-empty cells. One EVP recorded here warns: “Get out of here!” A video clip shows an orb floating around one room of the jail.
- The Capital Theater in downtown Salt Lake City is the site of several ghost accounts. Allegedly, an usher was killed there in a fire in the 1940s. Since then, lights switch on an off, doors lock and unlock themselves, toilets flush unattended and a Coke machine exhibits strange behavior. The Utah Ghost Organization has recorded EVPs and video there.
- The residents of a private home in Holladay, Utah have reported such activity as: an organ playing by itself, phantom footsteps in an upstairs room, motion alarms that are inexplicably triggered, disembodies voices and the eerie feeling of being watched.
- Promontory Point, Utah is famed for the spot where the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad were joined in 1869, forming the Transcontinental Railroad that linked the eastern and western U.S. One of the main workers’ camps at Dove Creek, once inhabited by Chinese laborers, is said to be haunted by unusual phenomena: a phantom steam locomotive, ghostly voices (in Chinese) and footsteps, and unexplained lights.
- The Brigham Young Forest Farm House is part of a restored Mormon pioneer settlement, called Old Deseret, in Salt Lake. Some claim that the home is still haunted by Brigham Young’s 14th wife (the Mormons were a polygamous group in those days), Ann Eliza Webb. Staff members at this tourist attraction have reported the apparition of a woman in the dining room, staring out the window. Doorknobs rattle, footsteps trod the wooden floors, smells of cooking are in the air, and the voices of children playing can be heard.
- The Old City and County Building is a site of repeated ghostly phenomena: giggling and apparitions of children on the fourth floor, unexplained temperature fluctuations, doors slamming, lights flicking off and on, and footsteps. One security officer claimed his hand was grabbed by some unseen entity.
One legendary ghost story concerns one of the first grave diggers ever employed by Salt Lake City, John Baptiste. Known as a hard worker, Baptiste lived in a small two-room house and was said to live comfortably – perhaps too comfortably for a man of his station. After many years, it was discovered that Baptiste had been stealing the clothing and other affects of the bodies he buried. Tried and convicted, he was branded and exiled to an island on the Great Salt Lake. When officials later visited the island to check on him, Baptiste had vanished. It is unknown whether he took his own life or somehow escaped the island, but stories persist of his ghost being seen on the shores of the lake – clutching a bundle of wet, rotted clothing.
You can find more information about these and other Salt Lake hauntings at:
- Utah Ghost Hunters Society
- Utah Ghost Organization
- The Salt Lake Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society
Loch Ness in Scotland, home of Nessie, and Lake Champlain in the U.S., home of Champ, may be two of the most well-known residences of alleged lake monsters. But the Salt Lake City area has its own legendary sea serpents.
Bear Lake, located northeast of Salt Lake City on the Utah-Idaho border, is a popular recreation spot for boating, fishing and camping. The stunning turquoise-colored lake, known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” is also home to large, snake-like monsters that have been spotted for generations. The Shoshoni Indians may have been the first people to see the creature. Describing it as serpentine with short legs, tribe members claimed to have seen the Bear Lake Monster spurt water and to occasionally crawl ashore. It was even seen to snatch unwary swimmers in its jaws and carry them away beneath the surface, according to their stories. The Shoshoni said the monster might have left the lake after the area buffalo disappeared in the 1820s.
Yet, sightings by others persisted:
- Reputable pioneer families reputedly saw the creature. In 1860, Marion Thomas and Phineas Cook’s two sons were out fishing on the lake when the monster surfaced. They said it swam so close to their boat that “they might have shot it with a rifle.”
- In 1871, Milando Pratt and Thomas Rich actually did shoot at it, but it just swam away.
- William Budge, a wagon train captain, reported his encounter with the monster to Brigham Young himself in 1874. About 20 yards from shore, the creature poked its head out of the water, Budge said. “Its face and part of its head were distinctly seen, covered with fur, or short hair of a light snuff color.” He further described it as flat-faced with “very full large eyes, prominent ears” and a neck of about four to five feet in length.
A more recent sighting was in 1946 when Preston Pond, an executive for the Cache Valley Boy Scout, gave such a highly detailed description of his encounter that it was difficult to dismiss. Hey, scouts don’t lie.
Several attempts have been made to capture the monster. After Budge reported his sighting, Brigham Young enlisted Phineas Cook to devise a plan to catch it. He linked a 300-foot length of one-inch-thick rope to a cable at the end of which he fastened a large barbed hook. A hunk of mutton was skewered on the hook as bait. The lure was then dropped into the lake with a buoy to mark its location. The ploy was attempted several times, and each time the hook was stripped of its bait, the pioneers assumed, by the clever monster. One tall tale blames the monster for crawling ashore and eating 20 of rancher Aquila Nebeker’s sheep… and, possibly, a large roll of barbed wire. The real thief was no doubt grateful for the monster legend.
Yes, Bigfoot stomps around the wilderness areas of Utah, too. In fact there are as many Bigfoot or Sasquatch sightings in Utah as there are in Oregon and Washington. This is just a small sampling of reported sightings:
- In 1977, two experienced hikers were leading five others along a trail in the mountains north of Ogden when they spotted a creature that stood eight to 10 feet tall and sported a mantle of white fur. They watched it for 20 minutes.
- In 1979, a husband and wife were elk hunting near Monte Cristo, east of Ogden, when they heard a strange noise and smelled a four odor. Shortly thereafter, the wife spotted a “hairy thing, with fangs” at water hole through the telescopic sight of her rifle.
- In 1980, an small-airplane pilot reported seeing a large, hairy creature trudging through the deep snow of the High Uintas.
- In 1981, the police chief of Garland, Box Elder County, saw a creature run in front of his car. Several other residents also reported sightings, and tracks were found that led in a northwest direction.
In 1988, ranchers near Garland reported seeing two Bigfoot-like creatures near their lambing pens after dark. Soon after, many tracks were found in the Garland area in deep snow and were followed for two miles.
Ron Mower, a construction worker, says he has seen Bigfoot nine times since 1968, one time at a distance of just about 30 feet.
Bigfoot has been seen so frequently in the Uintah mountains near Ogden that in September, 1977, a search party was organized to search for the creature. The hunt was put together, according to a newspaper account, after “two North Ogden men and six youths reported seeing the gorilla-like creature that ambled off into the timber after seeing them. The party was about one-half mile away on a ridge and watched the creature move off for about a one-half mile before it disappeared.” Unfortunately, the expedition turned up no conclusive evidence. Yet many more sightings in this area have been reported. In fact, one newspaper item “warned” that things could get “hairy” for Olympic skiers at the Snowbasin ski resort because they’ll be “treading on Bigfoot’s turf.”
Some researchers have even wondered if there is a Mormon connection to Bigfoot, which may be associated with “a spirit of ‘intrigue’ with evil and the devil, demons, and evil spirits only invites such influences.”
You can find more information about these and other Utah sightings at:
Utah might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about crop circles, but they’re there:
- In 1996, a crop circle that became known as the “glyph” appeared in a Providence wheat field. The design was a circle with two extended formations that looked like handles on either side.
- “The Smithfield Joe” crop circle appeared in a wheat field on the Hansen farm in 1997. The formation was of the pictogram type, and an investigation revealed no evidence of human work. One photograph taken at the crop circle seems to show a UFO above the field.
- In 1998, two crop circles appeared in northern Utah. The first, again in Providence, appeared in a wheat field and measured 102 feet in diameter. The second, near Cove, Utah, consisted of an outer circle, connecting rings and pathways.
In 1998, the “West Approach” crop circle appeared, named because it lay close to the west approach of the Cache County Airport. Its satellite design consisted of a three-foot-thick ring around a 20- to 25-foot center circle.
Utah has a long history of UFO sightings, many of which have been cataloged by About.com’s Guide to UFOs/Aliens, Loy Lawhon:
- In 1961, a lens-shaped UFO was sighted at noon above Salt Lake City by the pilot of a small aircraft as well as people on the ground. When the pilot began to close in on it, the object rose vertically very quickly, then zoomed away at great speed. Military jets were called, but the object had gone before they arrived.
- In 1967, a hospital employee, driving to Salt Lake City from Saint George, heard a noise similar to that of a truck, then saw a yellow light that stopped 30 meters away at 30 meters altitude. It was shaped like an inverted bowl with a dome on top and looked metallic. The witness became afraid and emptied his .25 Berretta pistol in the direction of the craft. He heard the bullets hit metal and the object took off at great speed.
- In 1996, A “long rectangular pie plate” UFO was seen near Duchesne, Utah. This object had “eight big circles” or protuberances on the belly, stretching 30 feet from the craft’s center to its stern.
- In February, 1998, two postal workers observed a UFO over Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. As they drove nearer to the lake to get a closer look, they noticed many dead seagulls on the side of the road. Then the lights on their truck began to flicker. They described the UFO as metallic, spherical, and 100 to 200 yards in diameter with rotating lights.
- In December, 1998, several witnesses watched three UFOs fly over the Wasatch mountain range in Park City. One of the witnesses said they saw “three bright white lights in a triangular formation silently streak across the sky at a tremendous speed, at first in a straight line and then make a left turn and recede until they disappeared, over the space of about five seconds.”
Utah is also home to the infamous Bigelow Ranch, otherwise known as “Utah’s UFO Ranch.” According to an article in The Deseret News, the owners claimed that the 480-acre ranch was “rife with UFO activity and other bizarre occurrences,” including football field-size UFOs, cattle mutilations, anomalous balls of light (one of which reportedly incinerated a dog), and a doorway or portal – possibly to another dimension – that appeared in mid-air. Millionaire Robert T. Bigelow bought the ranch and brought in a team of researchers and surveillance equipment in hopes of finding out what was going on. Much of the activity has continued.
Utah might also be the site of the “new Area 51,” according to an article in Popular Mechanics. The Green River Complex, Area 6413, at White Sands, Utah, could be the U.S. government’s newest facility for testing top-secret “black projects,” a few of which, some say, could be reverse engineered from crashed alien spacecraft. The base might at least account for some UFO sightings in and around the state.
You can find more information about these and other Utah sightings at:
For more on Utah’s ghosts, mysteries and more, check out these interesting selections to learn more about what Utah has to offer for those wanting adventure:
Restless Spirits: Utah’s Small Town Ghosts. Also check out The Utah UFO Display: A Scientist’s Report for more on the UFO’s sighted there.