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I've seen some things—spooky things. I've walked 400 South and 400 West late at night. I've met the ghost of Joe Hill in the pale moonlight. Hell, I've even babysat 13 Mormon kids all at once. In a place like Utah, where things are pretty mundane even during the most riotous times, October stands out like Heavenly Father's illegitimate child. As the winds start to cool and the leaves begin to change, various haunted attractions ascend from the depths, promising adrenaline rushes and a drained wallet. I have nothing against the valley's various haunted house attractions, but this year I'm after a real, lingering fear.
I'm going out into the night, the woods; I'm looking for werewolves, witches, demons. Who's with me?
Behold this curated selection of mostly free (and barely legal) spook-spots—history lessons included, free of charge. Now, I'm not your mother, but be mindful of trespassing, curfews, and maybe bring some mace. Happy hauntings!
On the east side of the Salt Lake City Cemetery, you'll find two graves of considerable fame. The first, an obelisk of cement with an urn sealed inside, belongs to a Mr. Jacob E. Moritz (1849-1910) or Emo for short. The story, as urban legend handed it to me, is that Emo was a lonely child who stumbled upon a book of black magic and signed his soul to the devil—cool, right? Shortly thereafter he was destined to burn at the stake for his crimes. In reality, Moritz was a German immigrant who came to Utah and became a successful brewer, entrepreneur and politician, with no known dark ties. To meet his spirit, walk around his grave repeating "Emo," then look at the steel plate for a pleasant surprise.
The second grave belongs to Lilly E. Gray (June 6, 1881-Nov. 14, 1958). Her headstone lies flat on the ground and is fairly nondescript, aside from the inscription, "Victim of the Beast 666." Some say ol' Lilly was working in her house, minding her own business, when the Devil popped up out of the ground and dragged her straight to hell—I mean, it's probably not the worst way to go. Others, like historian Richelle Hawks, suggest that Lilly's husband, Elmer L. Gray, was something of an asshole, and might have put that message there as a prank. Either way, if you visit her grave, it's customary to leave a small trinket as a sign of solidarity for her pain in the here and hereafter.
Salt Lake City Cemetery, 200 N. E St., Salt Lake City, Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-dusk, free.
Vampire Lip Service
There are two kinds of vampires: energy vampires and blood vampires. Energy vampires can, simply by laying their hands on a willing vessel, drink energy or life-force, making themselves stronger and the vessel weaker. Much the same happens with blood vampires, except they actually drink the blood. (Blood-borne illnesses, anyone?) According to VampireWebsite.net (highly original name) there are vampires among us, here in Salt Lake City, and they prefer virgin blood. If you are feeling daring or are just sick of lugging around all those heavy platelets, head over to Area 51's Sanctuary room, where the goth ki—I mean, vampires, gather. Bella Swan, your Edward is calling.
Area 51, 451 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City, Wednesday-Saturday, 9 p.m.-2 a.m., 18+, $7, Area51SLC.com.
Hey, remember that time an infamous serial killer prowled the streets of Salt Lake City wantonly killing, hiking and—uh—fondling? No, me neither; the '70s were a long time ago. But isn't the internet a joy? With modern technology we can learn all there is to know about Ted Bundy's short stint in Utah. Accepted to the University of Utah's law program in 1974, Bundy left his home in Washington and relocated to SLC. Many believe that he lived in a small shack less than a mile up Emigration Canyon, and though the shack has since been demolished, the cellar remains—and some say that screams of his victims can be heard inside. The cellar story is romantic, for lack of a better word, but Bundy actually rented a room in the second story of an Avenues home—though, it's likely that a few decapitated heads lined his dresser top there. Bundy was arrested in West Valley in August of '75 for aggravated kidnapping and attempted criminal assault, but later released. He is known to have abducted and killed a girl from Viewmont High School, along with a girl from BYU. One of his victims was later found frozen in Provo Canyon.
Bundy's Cellar, 115 Burr's Lane, Emigration Canyon, private property, closed to the public.
Avenues home, 565 First Ave., Salt Lake City, private property, closed to the public.
Memory Grove Park is a weird place, right? There is a meditation temple that's never open, several war memorials scattered around, a wedding reception center, an altar to sacrifice the young and a crumbling cobblestone foundation commonly referred to as the Witches House or Witches Cabin. Before coming to the Witches House, one walks right by a stone altar sitting atop a set of grandiose stairs. There are no chairs or reasonably heighted benches surrounding the slab, so one can be sure it isn't used for picnics—and with blood-colored markings on the top, I certainly wonder. A plaque next to the altar provides little insight, reading, "In memory of Captain James B. Austin, killed in action in Argonne Forest, Oct. 9, 1918, in the World War." The Witches House, just a bit farther down the trail, isn't covered in blood—thank God! There is no record of a witch actually occupying the space, and if she had, no doubt someone would have gotten rid of her Mountain Meadows Massacre-style. Visitors often report seeing disembodied lights and hearing voices near the house. Some see shadow figures, like brothers Skye and Kaden Garcia, recent visitors to the Witches House. "It rose out of the darkness, from the foundation, a tall silhouetted figure," Kaden, a 16-year-old Roy resident, says. "I've never been so scared in my life," older brother Skye, 18, adds. "We ran all the way back to the car."
Memory Grove Park, 375 N. Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, Sunday-Saturday, sunrise-sunset, free.
A Little Lycanthropy Never Hurt Nobody
You'll be glad to know that Salt Lake City is the most werewolf-friendly city in the United States—and to all my werewolf friends, I'm sorry, you've been outed. According to Christina Lavingia, in her article titled "The Definitive List of Werewolf-Friendly Cities," SLC is the perfect place for werewolves to live for four reasons: First, it's dog-friendly, with plenty of dog parks and trails; second, there are a low number of gun retailers and manufacturers, with only 0.5 per 10,000 people; third, the low presence of silver and silver production (silver bullets, you understand); and fourth, with a population density of 1,691.7 people per square-mile, a werewolf could navigate the landscape in near anonymity. This might go to explain, by extension, some Ute and Navajo stories of "Skinwalkers," shape shifting creatures that are impervious to bullets, appearing as large wolves near Ballard, Utah. I see the bad moon arising.
Sherman Ranch (Skinwalker Ranch), southeast of Ballard, private property, closed to the public.