Best Salt Lake Haunts

Rowan MacIntyre, News Editor

We’ve all heard the stories.

The tales of the specter that roams the graveyard when the sun goes down.

The legend of the ghostly woman, who’s tragic cries echo through the night.

The rumors that tell of doors that open on their own, footsteps that belong to no one, or hands that reach from the shadows to pull you into the darkness. 

Every city has its ghost stories, and the more moments in history that city has witnessed, the more the spirits tend to stick around.

Our very own Salt Lake City is no exception. The Utah capitol has been around since 1847, and has collected its fair share of phantoms since then. In fact, most major landmarks around town are host to their own poltergeists. 

As our landmarks attract the attention of tourists and historians, their ghosts attract the scrutiny of a few with a goal to see more than just the walls and furniture of an old building. Among these few is paranormal investigator Wendy Pettett, who has shared some of her favorite haunts around Salt Lake below:



Fort Douglas Military Museum

The Fort Douglas Military Museum just might be the first place to come to mind if you were to ask any paranormal enthusiast about a good specter in Salt Lake. The former military base, located on the University of Utah campus, is rumored to be inhabited by the spirit of a civil war soldier, who has been affectionately named Clem. According to Pettett, Clem is said to be more troublemaking than malicious. 

“None of [the staff] are scared of him, they all welcome him as another staff member.” Pettett said. 

“But they know that Clem is dead and well at the museum. 

He is known for moving items around, opening and closing doors, and turning on and off lights around the museum. Patrons and staff members of the Fort Douglas museum have also reported hearing children and dogs playing in the museum. The mysterious children’s noises are often attributed to the fact that the men once stationed at Fort Douglas sometimes brought their families to the base, while the dogs are said to be a result of the museum being a former veterinarian clinic. 


Memorial House (Memorial Grove)

Memorial House, an event center located in Memory Grove by the Capitol building is another Salt Lake locale that is said to have its own resident spirit. Pettett says that the Purple Lady (the ghost that haunts Memorial House) was Mrs. E.O. Howard, one of the women who was instrumental in turning Memorial House into the event center it is today. Now, it seems that she isn’t quite ready to leave behind all of her hard work. Mrs. Howard has been dubbed “The Purple Lady” because she is often seen wearing purple. There is also a portrait of Mrs. Howard in Memorial House that depicts her in the color purple. Pettett says that The Purple Lady becomes most active when there is an event involving the color purple. 

Pettett herself has had experiences  with the Purple Lady.

“I’ve seen doors open and close in Memorial House, and I’ve heard footsteps and I’ve heard whispering,” said Pettett.  

However, it’s not clear why The Purple Lady continues to haunt Memorial House. It may simply be that she enjoys a good purple party, even in death. 


Rio Grande Depot

Home to another purple poltergeist, the Rio Grande Depot’s ghostly resident has a much more tragic origin than that of the Purple Lady of Memorial House. Legend has it that the Purple Lady of the Rio Grande Depot is the spirit of a young woman who perished on the tracks. After getting into an argument with her fiance on the station platform, the woman’s ring was thrown onto the train tracks by one of the lovers in a fit of anger. When the woman went to retrieve the ring, she was struck by an oncoming train. According to Pettett, she has been spotted in various locations around the depot, but is most often seen in the ladies restroom, messing with both the faucets and the patrons. 

Pettett says that the staff that work at the Rio Grande do have experiences in the depot. 

“They will say that they can vouch for her [the Purple Lady],” Pettett said.

“They will have, again, doors open and close, things moved, they will hear voices, hear footsteps.” 

The Rio Grande is also said to be home to a lesser-known spirit that likes to stick to haunting the basement. 


The list of haunted places extends well beyond Fort Douglas, Memorial House, and the Rio Grande Depot, as would be expected from a city with a history like Salt Lake’s. In fact, it almost seems like anywhere you go downtown, you can expect a ghost to be right there with you. 

Walk into the Capitol Theater, the City-County Building, or even the downtown Holiday Inn, and you just might find a plethora of poltergeists. 

However, there are more spooky spots in Salt Lake than just buildings that host ghosts. Several gravesites in the Salt Lake cemetery are home to resident spirits who don’t seem to want to stay under the headstones. 


Emo’s Grave

 Unlike a visit to your typical gravesite, Emo’s grave comes with a ritual. Walk around the grave (which is really a mausoleum) three times, all the while chanting “Emo, Emo, Emo”. Look into the mausoleum’s glass window and, if you’ve done it right, you’ll see the glowing red eyes and pale white face of Emo staring back at you. 

Unlike many ghostly legends around Salt Lake, no one quite knows why the lore around Emo’s grave exists. However, Pettett has her own theory.

“I think that a lot of kids get bored, and they invent really interesting things to go and do, to scare each other and scare everyone else.” Pettett said. 

The actual inhabitant was a man named Jacob Moritz, a German brewer who resided in Salt Lake for 39 years. He died in 1910 from complications due to cancer. His ashes were interred in a local mausoleum, around which the legend of Emo’s grave is centered. Moritz’s ashes have since been moved to be reburied with his wife, and the glass window in the mausoleum was replaced with metal after the attention his grave received over the years. 

“Unfortunately, because of the lore, his gravesite was extensively vandalized,” said Pettett.

“That’s the downside to some of our lore. Here’s this guy who just brewed beer, but his gravesite was vandalized. It’s sad that that would happen.” 


Victim Of The Beast 666

The headstone belonging to Lilly E. Gray looks like any other small, squared-off gravestone in the Salt Lake cemetery. It’s quite ordinary, that is, until you get close enough to read what was engraved on the stone. Under Gray’s name and her dates of birth and death, her headstone reads: “Victim of The Beast 666”. This seemingly Satanic epitaph has inspired lots of speculation about Lilly E. Gray and her life.

“A lot of people over the years have made up their own stories as to why someone would have such a horrible thing on their headstone,” Pettett said. 

“There’s been a lot of ‘Was she possessed by the devil, did she have an exorcism, did she die a horrible tragedy, is she haunting the cemetery.’” 

However, similar to the truth behind Emo’s grave, Gray’s life and death were remarkably normal compared to those of other subjects of ghost stories. 

Pettett says that even though the truth about Gray’s life isn’t hard to find, many stories involving a more Satanic origin of her headstone still persist.

“People don’t want to know the whole story,” Pettett said.

“They want to believe the craziness because that’s more interesting.”

Gray’s third marriage was to Elmer Gray, whom she met after he was released from serving a sentence in Sugar House Prison, the site of which is now Highland High School. Gray died from natural causes. Shortly after her death, her husband had the infamous line engraved on her headstone. Elmer’s reason behind the epitaph is a secret that he took to his own grave.