HISTORY & HAUNTINGS OF
FOREST FARM HOUSE AT
In the introduction to this section, I commented on the rich history that the Mormons brought to the state of Utah. In fact, they created the state when they came here, escaping from religious persecution in the late 1840's. With all of the bloodshed and violence which accompanied their travels and western settlement, there is little chance that they would not leave a few ghosts behind. At the following haunted spot, however, it is not violence or death that has been responsible for the hauntinG -- perhaps it is only otherworldly presence of Ann Eliza Webb, the 19th wife of Brigham Young.
The Brigham Young Forest Farm House is located in a part of Pioneer State Trail Park, which can be found on Sunnyside Avenue in Salt Lake City. The house is one of a number of old homes which were moved from other locations in the city and placed in the park in the 1970's. All of the homes are original structures, except for two of them and they have been re-constructed down to the last detail. The display of homes is called Old Deseret and it brings to life the old buildings and lifestyles of the early Mormon settlement. The volunteers and staff members appear in historical costume and present a living history to visitors during the summer months.
The Forest Farm House was one of the homes of Brigham Young, who became the leader of the Mormon Church after its founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by an Illinois mob in 1844. Young led those of the Mormon faith to what would become the state of Utah. At that time, the region was a rough desert area but somehow the settlement survived and prospered. One of the controversial tenets of the early church was polygamy, and Young was an ardent follower of this. He kept numerous wives until the church outlawed the practice in 1890 so that they could officially become a part of the United States. It was in Young's nineteenth wife that he ran into problems. Her name was Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young and she was a strong-minded woman and an early feminist. After her brief time as Young's wife, she divorced him and began touring the country denouncing Mormonism and Brigham Young himself. She even published a book called Wife No. 19: The Story of a Life in Bondage.
Prior to this, Ann Eliza lived in Forest Farm House, a place she hated after having been rotated to it by Young to make room for other wives. For some reason, she particularly hated the fact that the stairs to the second floor started in the living room and she often complained about it to Young. He had promised when the house was built to not place the stairs in this way but in the end, he figured that no woman was going to tell him what to do, and he had them built however he pleased. This seemed to be the last straw for Ann Eliza, who had gotten restless over polygamy by this time anyway. There have also been stories that stated that Ann Eliza was envious of Amelia, Brigham Young's much younger, 27th wife. Ann Eliza shared the Forest Farm House with other women, while Brigham Young resided at what was called the "Lion House".
Could something so simple as this draw her ghost back to haunt the house? Perhaps she is still searching for the ghost of Brigham Young, hoping to continue to harass him on the other side? Or perhaps the animosity and discontent she felt in the house has left a lasting impression.....? You be the judge of that!
Many guides and staff members at Old Deseret report strange occurrences and happenings with such frequency that there is little doubt that spirits, or spirit energy, still lingers there. On one occasion in Forest Farm House, during a birthday party, a very reliable witness saw a woman appear in the dining room, staring out the window. Apparently, she was not the only one who saw her and later a number of people compared notes and became convinced the apparition was that of Ann Eliza. On other occasions, people tell of doorknobs rattling, phantom footsteps and even the voices of ghostly children cavorting in the house. They also tell of objects moving about by themselves and smells of food cooking.... even though there was nothing being cooked in the house.
Regardless of who the ghost, or ghosts, is they seem to be settled into the house to stay. Until fairly recently, the organization was reluctant to discuss the ghostly goings-on at Old Deseret, but as times change there is rumor of a log book which supposedly keeps a running account of the hauntings.
Old Desert is located in the Pioneer Trail State Park on Sunnyside Avenue in Salt Lake City. Take the Foothills exit from Interstate 80 and go west three miles until you reach the park.
© Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved
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