The sunset glows orange on manicured lawns as children run about carefree between mailboxes and Halloween-themed lawn decorations. But tucked away in the valley, beneath the watchful presence of the Wasatch Mountain range, sits a city rife with grim and supernatural energy.
Although Salt Lake City’s founding was later than other traditionally haunted cities, it’s still home to some of the most active paranormal sites and gruesome happenings, in a state already infamous for its link to the otherworldly. According to a ThoughtCo article, Salt Lake City boasts some well-known haunted locations in the old Utah County Jail; the Capital Theater, where an usher was allegedly killed in a fire; and the McCune Mansion, railroad magnate Alfred McCune’s estate.
A tour guide for Grimm Ghost Tours, who chose to be addressed by her moniker, “Nineteen” — a pagan reference to the nineteenth of 24 deities that guide spirits to the underworld — claims it’s the area’s turbulent and violent history that amplifies the paranormal.
“Though we don’t have as long of a history as some of the places back east, we have a rich history tied to a lot of contention, particularly during the early settlement days of the Salt Lake Valley and Utah,” says Nineteen.
When members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, the land was considered territory of the Northwestern Shoshone, and settling it undoubtedly infringed on the natives and their beliefs connected to the land.
In addition, Salt Lake City and its surrounding territories were a popular stop for those interested in making a fortune in the gold rush or the construction of the transcontinental railroad. These events, according to Nineteen, brought a host of questionable characters.
“The debauchery, greed, and violence that accompanied those seeking a fortune out West was extreme,” says Nineteen, suggesting that the character of many early transplants was, in many ways, far from what early Mormon settlers envisioned.
Utah was also the site of several brutal massacres.
In 1857, the Utah Territorial Militia attacked a group of wealthy farmers and their families making the journey West from the Ozarks, known as the Baker-Fancher party, killing upwards of 120 men, women, and children.
Then, in 1863, the U.S. Army cut through the Northwestern Shoshone territory and its people, indiscriminately killing over 500 innocents. In 1866, the Utah Territorial Militia, again, slaughtered 20 Paiute Indians as settlers grew frightened of violent exchanges between settlements and natives.
Tragic as it is, there is a basis for unusual and unexplainable occurrences, says Noel Jensen, a resident of Salt Lake City and dedicated enthusiast of all things paranormal.
“All the energy from these vicious and violent events compound and the memory of those occurrences stay,” says Jensen, referring to a supernatural phenomenon much like the psychological notion of genetic memory.
In more recent history, Salt Lake City was home to one of the most ruthless and notorious serial killers in history, Ted Bundy.
Bundy, at one point a law student at the University of Utah, confessed to the gruesome murders of 30 victims across seven states, though published estimates suggest the total number of victims exceed 100. Many of the locations where Bundy would lurk or dispose of his victims’ bodies are places Salt Lake City residents pass by on a regular basis, Jensen notes.
“To have something like this happen in such an insular city leaves an impression,” he says, “and people associate it with Utah’s reputation for unexplainable occurrences.”
Whether or not Salt Lake City is a hotbed of supernatural phenomena, paranormal enthusiasts and fans of the supernatural show reverence for the city and for Utah by addressing otherwise forgotten pieces of its history.
To get in on the ghostly fun, order tickets online at grimmghosttours.com, or call 801-508-4746.