HISTORY & HAUNTINGS OF
OLD MAIN SPIRITS
Cedar City is located at the mouth of Coal Creek in southern Utah. On November 11, 1851, thirty-five men from Parowan established an ironworks on the north bank of Coal Creek. These settlers and miners were of English, Scottish, and Welch descent and they opened the way for a hundred families to arrive a year later for the iron mission. They built small cottonwood log houses and named the place Fort Cedar. They used their wagon boxes as a temporary fort wall and then moved the fort near their blast furnace for the ironworks.
When Indian hostilities arose and the fort became too small to house the new settlers, the fort was moved once more to the south bank of the creek. The Walker Indian War in July of 1853 forced the settlers to evacuate. In June of 1855, Brigham Young had another site surveyed where flooding would not be a problem and this is where Cedar City is now located. The ironworks closed in 1858 due to several difficulties including flooding, hard winters, crop devastations, finding skilled workers, fluxing the ore, and Johnston’s Army bringing in their own iron. The town changed its focus to agricultural endeavors and by the 1920s there were many cattle ranches in the area. In 1923 the railroad came to Cedar City making the town a gateway to the many nearby National Parks and providing an outlet for the iron mines.
In 1984 a book was published on POPULAR BELIEFS and SUPERSTITIONS FROM UTAH collected by Anthon S. Cannon and published by the University of Utah Press, page 335. “People going past the old Branch Agriculture College Auditorium at mid-night have heard weird strains of ‘Deep Purple’ coming from a piano somewhere in the darkness. The performer is said to be a young woman, and accomplished pianist, who had suddenly died of a heart attack after completing a rendition of ‘Deep Purple’ at a recital in the auditorium.” One librarian at the school said that an elderly Cedar City native, gave this account of the haunting of the Old Main building. The woman claimed that this incident had taken place some seventy years ago. “A young lady by the name of Little was practicing playing the piano in the Old Main Building for the Junior Prom.
Apparently there was a piano in the upper room. The piece she was going to play for the dance was something like ‘Deep Purple’. The day before the Junior Prom Miss Little died of a broken appendix and did not play at the Junior Prom. Since then people have heard her playing this tune on the piano in the bell tower of Old Main. When people pass by late at night they can hear this music coming from the building.” Most people agree on the song being entitled “Deep Purple” and that for many years after this, the song was never chosen for the Junior Prom because it was considered bad luck and this was the song that people heard echoing from the bell tower around midnight.
Over the years students at the college have added amazing stories to this original haunt. Their creative additions can be traced to various parts of the school’s history and Old Main itself. One of the stories began with the laying of the foundation for Old Main’s construction in 1897. According to the student stories over the years, “. . .a laborer was guiding a large slab of sandstone into place when letters began to appear as if written by the finger of a supernatural being. As the finger traced the letters the workmen read them aloud, “Virginia.” As the workmen said this, the stone began to bleed human blood where the inscription had been. It is claimed in this article that the inscription can be seen in the special collections section of the college library, though the librarians’ in the special collections department say they have never seen any such thing in their library.
However, the stories of bloodstains on the brick in front of Old Main have persisted. An example of this is the story the student tour guides used to tell to visitors on campus. The guides had been asked to stop telling the story by the administration because they believe that this story is not true. A little old couple lived up in the rooms by the bell tower. The man was a custodian for the school. The couple had a fight and the man got very angry with his wife. He ended up murdering her near the bell tower and dragged her down the stairs to the front of Old Main. Her blood dyed the bricks red there. (“The Haunting of Old Main,” by Tom Braun, THE THUNDERBIRD, SUU, Thursday, October 31, 1991, p.5 and “Dr. Spear exposes haunted Old Main,” by Chris Taylor, The University Journal, SUU, Monday, October 31,1994, pp.3-4.)
The premiere murder story about Old Main was probably fabricated, although there is the possibility of some historian investigating any part of it as truth. The story concerns a young sixteen-year-old girl murdered near the site of Old Main in 1886. Perhaps the murder has some truth to it, although the rest of the story is rather hard to believe. Two years before Old Main was built a young woman named “ Virginia Loomis, was murdered east of Cedar City in the red hills. Her throat had been slashed and her blood soaked body was left lying over a large red sandstone boulder. The stones used in the construction of Old Main in 1898 were out of the same red sandstone boulder quarry in which Virginia was killed.” Supposedly the only suspect was her boyfriend but he was released due to lack of evidence and left town.
Years later the boyfriend returned to Cedar City just two weeks before the fire in 1948 when he took a job tending the furnace in Old Main, at the unbelievable age of 78, if he was 16 at the time of the murder. Either this boyfriend was the man crushed under the bell in the basement during the fire or even more bizarre, in Dr. Spear’s version the murdered girl’s apparition appeared in the flames laughing as her murderer received his retribution. It is rumored that one can hear the voice of Virginia in the dead of night echoing through the bell tower along with other voices from the spirit world.
Even in those days students came up with wild stories based on this tale. Bessie Dover remembered the story that she heard from friends who went to the old agricultural college in the 1940’s. “I had always heard that it was a ghost of a former ballet dancer and she had died from an infection she got in a blister from dancing a lot,” she says. “I heard that the ghost was dancing up in the auditorium to that old poplar song ”Deep Purple.” While the stories of today far surpass the ones of old in their colorfulness and blood and gore, the one thing that has been constant for decades has been the reluctance of students to pass by Old Main late at night or especially to enter the building and stay on the third floor alone. I am sure school officials discourage this practice as well.
The transformation of this ghost from a forlorn and mournful yet gifted artist whose life was cut short, to a malevolent force out to spill blood on the stones from which this building was built, is quite interesting. It is a reflection of our changing times and decades, and the many students whose generations signal those changes. One can assume that we step over quite a few stones where history has been laid down and then transport these same stones to somewhere else to build an even newer tale in an increasingly unsteady world.
© Copyright 2003 by Linda Dunning. All Rights Reserved.
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