July 23, 2011
Hauntings at This is the Place Park
From its position at the mouth of Emigration Canyon sits a piece of Utah history. This is the Place Heritage Park marks the spot where Brigham Young and company first entered the Salt Lake Valley. At first a wooden marker was erected in 1917, but was later replaced with a stone monument. It was not until 1971 that a plan was put in place to create a living history museum at the site. In 1975 the first building was moved into the park – more on that later. The park now is a recreated pioneer village, complete with historic buildings, unpaved roads, and guides dressed in the garb of the pioneers.
Many have visited the park over the years. Some visitors may not be aware the living are not the only ones who walk the historic streets and buildings. The park is a hotbed for paranormal activity. Numerous employees and volunteers have experienced strange and unexplained phenomena while working in the park’s buildings.
What makes the park attractive to spirits of the dead? One possible explanation has to do with the pioneer graveyard. Llocated in a remote corner of the park, many visitors have mistakenly thought it was a reproduction of graveyards from times long since passed. Instead real pioneer remains are interred below the small collection of stone markers.
In 1986, during construction work in the area that was once known as Salt Lake City Block 49 (200 West to 300 West, 300 South to 400 South) workers stumbled across unmarked pioneer graves. Starting in 1847, the area had been used as a makeshift cemetery but these graves were long forgotten. The graves were uncovered most unceremoniously. Some of the remains were identified, but those that were not ended up in This is the Place Heritage Park. A very nice cemetery was constructed, including a fence, trees, and statues. Most of the unidentified bodies were children. The grave markers remain blank to this day, a reminder of the mystery surrounding who is buried below. The small markers are for the pioneer children, while the few larger markers are for the adults.
Some wonder if the relocation of these forgotten dead is not at least partly responsible for the activities in the park. Is the sound of children playing in some of the homes these unremembered children staying so near their new place of rest? Do these spirits wander the park, causing mischief and startling workers?
It seems fitting that the first building relocated to This is the Place Heritage Park was Brigham Young’s Forest Farm House. It is one of the most popular structures in the park, both with the living and the dead.
Paranormal activity was reported before the house was relocated in 1974. Park employee Brian Westover has taken an interest in the paranormal phenomena surrounding various buildings, putting together a log of different events. He reveals how previous owners of the home claimed Young and others visited the house, telling them even how to decorate it in 19th century décor.
Since the home was relocated to its quiet abode in the park, employees have reported numerous incidents while working inside. Numerous reports of doorknobs rattling on their own, footsteps sounding on the wood floors, and the noise of children playing upstairs have been recorded. Are these the sounds of Young’s children or the children in the nearby graveyard?
The paranormal events do not stop at sounds alone. Many have smelled foods of all types cooking in the kitchen. The kitchen along with the upstairs have been hotbeds of activity.
Most chilling is the experience of long-time park employee Stephen Shepherd. He claims he was a skeptic of the paranormal until his experience while working in the Farm House. In 1975, when the Farm House was new to the park, Shepherd was busy in the basement. He distinctly heard footsteps walking around the first floor of the house, even though supposedly he was the only one around. He checked the building to find no one around. Shepherd returned to his work, only to be disturbed once more by the footsteps. He went upstairs to find no signs of anyone, then checked outside. Fresh snow was falling, but Shepherd said no footprints could be seen anywhere outside the house. Shepherd locked the doors again and set the building’s alarm system, then returned to his work in the basement. The footsteps returned once more, yet the alarm system’s motion sensors detected nothing.
Does Brigham Young or his wife Ann Eliza keep watch over the home? Do their children still play in the second story? Many claim to have had experiences that lead them to believe they do.