6 Haunted Places in Utah and the Terrifying Stories Behind Them
Tis the season of ghosts, haunts, and paranormal phenomena. To get you in the Halloween mood, here are six Utah myths and haunted places as well as the terrifying stories behind them.
Sherman Ranch, also known as Skinwalker Ranch, has been reported as a hub for paranormal activity ranging from UFO sightings to strange beasts with red eyes. This 500-acres of isolated land located between Ballard and Vernal, Utah, abuts a Ute Indian Reservation. The lore around Skinwalker Ranch inspired a series of investigative articles and later a book describing how the National Institute for Discovery Science acquired the ranch to investigate the strange phenomenon, and the History Channel announced earlier this summer that it plans to create a series looking at the bizarre occurrences surrounding the ranch in a series called “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch.”
The Sherman family acquired the ranch in the 1990s, but Native American myths of skinwalkers, witches with the ability to shapeshift into various animals, have haunted the region for centuries. Before the Sherman family inhabited the ranch, the spot became known as “UFO Alley,” and the Desert News reported in 1978 that nearby residents spotted a dome-shaped UFO over the ranch that was surrounded by a glowing green light.
The supernatural activity didn’t end when the Sherman family inhabited the ranch. The family reported doorways of light appearing in midair, cattle that vanished, animals mutilated on their property, crop-circle-like patterns in the surrounding fields, unidentified flying objects or orbs, and invisible objects emitting destructive magnetic fields.
While investigating the disappearance of cattle, one man reportedly saw a large beast, like a wolf but larger, harassing cattle near the ranch. The man fired a bullet at the creature. Though the bullet struck the creature, it didn’t even slow down. The man shot at the creature numerous times, but the animal escaped seemingly unscathed.
The Utah Lake Monster
In August 1868, Lehi resident Henry Walker reported having seen a strange, monstrous creature that looked like a “large snake . . . with the head of a greyhound” gliding in the waters of Utah Lake, according to the Deseret News. Others reported seeing a serpentine creature with “wicked-looking black eyes” in the Jordan River, which flows into Utah Lake (Andy Weeks, Haunted Utah).
Those were the first of many sightings of a creature lurking in the depths of the lake. In 1871, William Price and C.G. Webb from Goshen, Utah, reported seeing a creature a mile from the shore that “had a snakish appearance and stood several feet out of the water like a section of a large stovepipe,” according to the Deseret News. Price estimated that the creature must be around 60 feet long.
Whether hysteria or something supernatural, it’s clear something was haunting the waters of Utah Lake in the 1800s. A year before, in September 1870, fishermen from Springville dredged up a bizarre skull from the lake that had eye-sockets the size of an ox’s and “a five-inch-long tusk that projected from the rear section of the jaw,” according to the Daily Herald.
But the most terrifying encounter with the creature was reported a decade later, in June 1880, when two boys were swimming in the murky waters of the lake. Both the Deseret News and Utah County Enquirer reported on the eerie events. Willie Roberts and George Scott were bathing in the cool lake waters when they noticed something they said looked like a beaver or dog heading toward them in the water. They quickly disregarded the animal until they heard a loud roar. While looking closer at the creature, the boys noted that its head was two to three feet long, with a snout like an alligator that looked to be 18 inches wide. The animal swam toward them, "occasionally raising itself out of the water and showing its four legs which were as long as a man's arm."
Being quite a distance from the shore, the boys frantically swam toward safety, noting that the animal continued its pursuit, making “savage gestures.” The boys made it to safety in the nick of time, when the creature was only a few yards from shore.
The Ghosts of Rock Canyon
Despite the sunlit hills and wildflowers along the popular hiking and rocking climbing destination of Rock Canyon in Provo, Utah, this canyon has a dark, sinister side. The canyon is riddled with a tragic history. In 1850, after years of conflict, battle sprang up between Latter-day Saint settlers and 70 Native Americans led by Big Elk. After many of the Native American warriors were wounded or killed, the remaining fled, some escaping to Rock Canyon. There, at the mouth of the canyon, Big Elk died from his wounds (Andy Weeks, Haunted Utah). When Big Elk’s wife saw the militiamen approaching the canyon, she allegedly tried to climb a cliff to escape but fell to her death.
Many rock climbers have similarly perished in Rock Canyon, falling to their deaths. “Evidence of satanic rituals and the bodies of murder victims also have allegedly been found here,” writes Andy Weeks in his book Haunted Utah. But aside from tragic deaths, strange noises, and unnerving feelings, are there any ghosts that haunt Rock Canyon’s cliffs?
According to multiple sources, a ghost has been spotted in Rock Canyon on several occasions—a man dressed in 1970's clothing. Hikers have reported seeing a man standing atop the rocky precipices staring at people as they pass. Then, without warning, the man plunges down the cliff, running or gliding down the canyon wall at an impossible angle. But just before he hits the ground, he vanishes. Whether or not the terrible tales are true, be sure to take care the next time you are in Rock Canyon.
The White Lady of Spring Canyon
Once a bustling mine town, now little exists in Spring Canyon besides rusting mining equipment and ghosts—the ghost of the town as well as that of the white lady. According to local lore and legend, a woman in Spring Canyon lost her husband to a mining disaster, and his body was never recovered. The widow was left with two young children and no means of supporting herself. The woman went to the Latuda mine officials begging for assistance so she could afford food for her starving children, but the mine turned her away. In a desperate moment of insanity, the woman drowned her children in a creek.
After realizing what she had done, the woman fled Spring Canyon, eventually arriving in Salt Lake City, where she checked herself into a psychiatric hospital. Years later, the woman returned to Spring Canyon, but the guilt and pain from all she had lost caused her to hang herself near the mouth of the mine. After her death, people reported seeing a woman in white near the mines. According to some legends, the specter roams the canyon searching for her lost husband and children. According to others, the woman in white lures people to the mines and certain disaster. Along with the white lady, visitors to Spring Canyon have reported seeing strange green lights in the old town and near the mines.
The Midnight Massacre
At midnight on July 8, 1945, two months after the end of WWII in the European theater, American private Clarence V. Bertucci reported for duty at a prisoner of war camp in Salina, Utah. He had been drinking earlier that night and claimed that "something exciting is going to happen tonight." After the midnight changing of the guard, Bertucci climbed the guard tower and loaded a .30-caliber Browning machine gun. Bertucci then began to fire into the tents of German prisoners of war, raining 250 rounds of ammunition down on the sleeping men. Nine men were murdered and another twenty wounded.
Time magazine dubbed the bloody night the “Midnight Massacre,” which is remembered as the “worst massacre at a POW camp in U.S. history,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The victims of the massacre were buried with full military honors at Fort Douglas Cemetery. Bertucci was declared insane and committed to a hospital in New York. A museum at Camp Salina now honors the lives of the men killed in the Midnight Massacre, but those who visit the site report strange sounds, electrical disturbances, and other strange phenomena.
The Man in the Yellow Slicker
One of Park City’s most infamous ghosts is that of a man wearing a yellow slicker with a darkened, indistinguishable face who haunts the hills and mines near the town. This ominous figure has been considered the harbinger of death, and residents reported seeing a man in a yellow slicker before an explosion in the mines claimed the lives of 34 men. Some legends paint the ghost as a helpful entity warning people of danger. Others say he is the ghost of a murdered miner whose body was cast down a 600-foot shaft.
According to Park City Ghost Tours, the ghost may be that of a man noted as “a friendly stranger” on his death certificate who died in the mines. The man had come to Park City to make a fortune in the mines. Like many miners, he wore a yellow slicker to keep off the cold damp, but it was later discovered the man had been cheating two mine companies, providing tools for rent to one company and then smuggling them through back shafts in the mine to receive payment from a competing company. The man’s body was later discovered in that back shaft with his head crushed in. The cause of death was listed as a mine collapse, though no other part of the man’s body was injured, and no one further investigated the incident.
In fact, Park City Ghost Tours shares the story of a local police officer who was called out one evening to investigate an abandoned car by the mines. After inspecting the car, the officer began heading toward the mines to see if the owner of the vehicle might be trespassing when he saw a figure emerge from the mines. It was a man in a yellow slicker, but where his head should have been was only shadow. The officer ran to his car and began driving back toward town, but in his rear view mirror he saw something yellow dart across the road behind him. Moving faster than was humanly possible, the yellow object continued to dart across the road behind the car, growing closer every minute. At one moment, all the officer could see in his window was a yellow slicker, and the image was so detailed he could even see the stitching and buttons on the coat. When he reached the lights at the edge of town, the ghost vanished.
Was the man in the yellow slicker warning the officer away from the mines and certain disaster? Or was the specter looking for revenge for his own unjust and cruel murder? Whatever the answer, it seems there is something supernatural haunting the mines of Park City.