Ghosts in the valley

By Christie Franke, Red Pulse Writer

Italo Calvino, author of The Literature Machine, once said, “The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.”

If this is true, then Salt Lake City’s houses, hotels, businesses and historical monuments are crammed full8212;and not just around Halloween.

Hauntings are not necessarily the stuff in horror movies8212;all screams and evil, demonic activity. There are some like that, but the average haunting is something far different. Some dictionaries define “haunt” as “to reappear continually as a spirit or ghost” while others say “to remain persistently; loiter; stay; linger.”

Not all hauntings terrorize8212;but they can be scary and they sometimes last for decades.

The Salt Lake City-County Building

This monstrously extravagant, late-Victorian building was the result of a massive 1890s feud between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the newcomers who wanted them out of the Salt Lake Valley. Situated across from the Salt Lake City Public Library, the City-County Building is surrounded by trees and covered in gargoyles, sea monsters, Masonic imagery and beehives, to name a few. Inside, though, reside any number of ghouls and ghosts, from small children to former judges.

“There are kids who were playing during the renovation and the elevator shaft collapsed on them, so it’s rumored that they haunt the third floor,” said Alex Willis, who worked as a night shift security guard at the building. “Well, it’s not really rumored, it’s more like confirmed, because they do. I’ve heard them laughing and playing, doors slamming. There are other ghosts, too. One night I was locking up an office, and I opened the door, and I heard this voice telling me to get out, which was pretty cool. Really creepy.”

Apparently, if you work at the building long enough, you get used to it.

Rio Grande Railroad Depot

During World War I, a young, unidentified woman met her soldier fiance at the station. They argued, and in a fit of pique, the fiance grabbed her engagement ring and hurled it out over the tracks. The woman went to get it back, and was hit and killed by a train. Ever since, her ghost has haunted the depot. Sightings of a black-haired woman wearing an old-fashioned purple sequined dress have occurred and are still going strong. Several years ago, when the building underwent construction, one member of the construction crew told staff members that he and his coworkers had continually heard a lady singing in the women’s bathroom while they worked. A security guard in the 1990s reported hearing someone walk across the balcony every night at a certain time. Curious, he stayed on the balcony one night. As the time of the ghostly footsteps approached, he distinctly felt someone brush past him. Footsteps rang in his ears as the ghost passed him and made its way downstairs.

Capitol Theatre

This theater is not just a place to see plays and operas. The story goes that a young usher was killed in a fire at the theater in the 1940s. Nicknamed George by the staff, this ghost has never left and still haunts Capitol Theatre. There are many stories circulating among the staff about George. One is that minutes before a production of “The Nutcracker” began, all of the stage lights went out, and nothing the lighting team could do would make them work. Finally, one of the staff looked up and yelled to the room at large, “Damn it, George, knock it off or I’m going to have you exorcised!” The lights immediately came on.

Another story, also involving a security guard (many of whom are there late and are therefore susceptible to ghosts), goes that the night guard, bored on his rounds late one night, amused himself by hurling paper airplanes over the balcony in an attempt to hit the stage. He was more than a little terrified when later in his office, one of the abandoned airplanes came out of nowhere and hit his head.

The Shilo Inn Suites

A cool hotel in and of itself8212;it’s got an outdoor elevator, 13 stories, a swimming pool, a pinball machine and at least two ghosts. Apparently, back in the ’70s, a woman became so distraught with her life that she threw all of her children over the top floor balcony before jumping off herself. She wasn’t entirely successful with the murders because one of the kids survived. The ghost of the woman and at least one of her children haunt the building. The child has been seen playing on the downstairs pinball machine, while the mother is said to haunt the pool area, as well as the 13th floor, where the elevator engines are kept. They’ve haunted the building for 30 years and continue to do so today.

The McCune Mansion

Originally built in 1900 by business tycoon Alfred McCune, this building housed the McCune School of Music and the Virginia Tanner Modern Dance School for a long period of time. Today it is used as a reception hall for weddings and other events, but the past still has a strong presence. A little girl has been seen in the building, making her presence known by rearranging flower bouquets at weddings. She looks curiously like a child in one of the portraits on the wall and has been seen walking in and out of a mirror that hangs on the west wall of the mansion’s first floor.

Likewise, a tall man in a black cape has been known to appear to visitors, watch them for a time and then vanish without comment. Music and laughter has been heard, the lights are played with, and doors open and close at will. No one knows who the little girl is, despite her portrait on the wall, but the man is thought to be McCune, the mansion’s original owner. Guess he’s sticking around to make sure the place is treated right.

The next time you want something spooky in your life, try taking a tour of one of these places. Even if you don’t see a ghost, there is enough atmosphere to lend itself to your imagination. These places are old, they’ve been used, loved, torn apart and rebuilt. Their atmosphere of quiet watching pervades enough to make anyone believe in ghosts.

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Nate Sorensen

Rumors has it that children killed in an elevator collapse haunt the third floor of the City-County Building.

Nate Sorensen

The Salt Lake City-County Building, adorned with gargoyles, sea monsters and Masonic imagery, is rumored to be home to a variety of spirits and ghosts.

Nate Sorensen

Over the years, construction workers and security guards report hearing footsteps and feeling the presence of a woman killed on the train tracks behind the Denver and Rio Grande rail depot.

Greg Harlow

During the ?70s, a woman killed herself and several of her children at the Shilo Inn. The mother reportedly haunts the hotel with at least one of her children.