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HISTORY & HAUNTINGS OF AMERICA
HAUNTED UTAH

THE PHANTOMS OF DOVE CREEK CAMP
NEAR GOLDEN SPIKE NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
KELTON, UTAH

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In May of 1869, one of America's greatest achievements was realized... the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, linking the east and the west. A multitude of laborers, most Chinese on the Central Pacific side, had worked feverishly to complete the monumental task. The efforts on both sides came together at a place called Promontory Point, Utah. A grand celebration was held and crowds cheered and bands played as dignitaries from the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads placed a golden spike into the final section of rail.

There was celebrating from coast to coast in the cities and small towns, but when it was all over, the headlines faded, the speeches were over and the workers themselves vanished from the saloons and dance halls of Promontory Point. They left the camps that had been hastily constructed along the railroad grades and went to seek other work, perhaps with other railroads on in the gold fields of the mountains. Many of the Chinese laborers returned to the West Coast. They abandoned the primary Chinese camp, at the Sinks of Dove Creek. Since that time, more than a century after the last rail was laid, the camp has been emptied out and forgotten, swallowed by the desert. Or has it? Some claim that the camp is not empty at all -- that something still lingers there. Perhaps it is the bustling energy of the workers who once lived there. Or perhaps it is something else altogether.

Over the years, there have been many adventurers, hikers and even park rangers who have wandered out to the old camp and who have had experiences with things that cannot explain. One ranger, named Steve Ellison, had an encounter there in 1979 that has continued to stay with him. Since that time, he has wondered if the energy of the workers may still be keeping the camp "alive" -- and whether it is still keeping the Central Pacific Locomotives running too!

A dangerous road now occupies the grade which one supported the rails and ties for the trains crossing the Great Basin. Ellison, and some friends, on a historic re-enactment march, spent the night camped on the site of the Dove Creek Camp. Ellison was walking the late night guard shift along the old grade above the camp when he heard a sound in the distance. As the muffled roar came closer, he realized that it sounded like an old steam locomotive. He could see nothing but the small light of what appeared to be a lantern in the darkness. Frightened, he returned to his tent and retrieved his old rifle, trying to convince himself that nothing was going to hurt him. And that was when he heard the sounds of the voices and footsteps!

He began to hear the sounds of whispers and men walking about and became convinced that the voices were speaking in Chinese. Then he saw what appeared to be dozens of tiny lights, like sparks flying up from steel rails. The lights fluttered around him for a short time and then vanished.

As time passed, and Ellison told others about the strange experience, he learned that a number of other people had encountered similar things in the area. The old Central Pacific grade had apparently been the center of a number of weird tales over the years. People who have explored the area know of strange sounds and noises and of the ghost locomotive which is said to still travel on the long vanished rails.

Apparently, before those old tracks were dismantled, engineers told stories concerning trains that came toward them from the desert. They claimed the trains were often lights in the distance and some of the engineers would see them and try to stop -- only to have the other train keep coming! Then the light would either vanish or simply pass through the solid train on its travels.

And the ghostly workers? Many people don't talk about them. They may be simply residual energy from time gone by... or the actual spirits of the Chinese laborers, still lingering at the site of the camp. It is a well-known fact that thousands of Chinese workers were killed in the construction of the railroad as many of them faced unsafe working conditions and dangerous tasks. Could these spirits be those of workers who died completing the railroad? We may never know for sure -- but few recommend spending the night at Dove Creek Camp to find out!

The Golden Spike National Historic site is located about 38 miles west of Brigham City on Highway 83, near Promontory Point. The sinks of Dove Creek are near Kelton and can be reached by a primitive railroad grade. For directions and advice, visit the Historic Site before venturing out alone into the desert.

Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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