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In the course of traveling, writing and researching about ghosts and hauntings in America, I have found that local and state historical societies are often staffed and managed by two different types of people -- those who, when you tell them you are researching ghost stories and legends, stare at you as if you have grown another head -- and those who realize that the ghost stories and the haunts are a rich part of their regional history and should be embraced along with the tales of the pioneers and settlers. Unfortunately, I have run into the former sort of staff members much more often that the latter!
Except for in Utah, for while it is still a pretty conservative state, as far as ghost stories go, the folks at the Utah State Historical Society are not adverse to discussing ghosts at all. Of course, they shouldn't be... since the building where they are located just happens to be haunted!

The historical society is located in the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot. The building was constructed in 1910 and while there seems to be no real reasons for the ghosts to linger here, there is little doubt that they do.  The most famous ghost here is that of the woman in the purple dress. She has been described as having raven-colored hair and is very beautiful to the eye. Her clothing appears to be from another period and she is usually seen near the Rio Grande Cafe, a restaurant which is located in the Depot.

There is a legend to explain the woman's presence in the building. The story dates back many years and according to the tale, she was engaged to a handsome, young man. It is believed that the lady would come to Salt Lake City by train and for this reason, many of the young couple's meetings took place there. One day, they had a terrible argument and their engagement was broken off. Angry, the young man threw the engagement ring onto the railroad tracks. The young woman, hurried to retrieve it -- never seeing the train that struck and killed her! Since that time, she has been seen haunting the depot.

And the woman is apparently not there alone....

There is also reported to be a "phantom party" going on in the cellar. One night, it seemed the lights were going on and off in the depot by themselves and a maintenance worker came to check things out. He went down to the basement to check the fusebox and was stunned to discover that there was a large group of people there having a party! Even more surprising was the fact that they vanished in a few seconds!

On a different occasion, a security guard heard the sound of someone walking on an upper balcony at the same time very night. He would always race up to the spot but would find no one. Finally, one night, he hid and waited for the person. At the right moment, he heard the footsteps and sprang his trap.... and yet no one was there, even though he could distinctly hear them walking. The footsteps came closer and closer and as they reached him, he felt something brush past and then hear the steps continue down the stairs.

How long has the old historic depot been haunted? Apparently, these are not recent occurrences. A visitor to the society told the staff that in the 1940's, he had worked in the depot restaurant. In those days, train crews who came in for coffee often spoke of the ghosts. It was common knowledge that the Denver and Rio Grande Depot was haunted in those days.....
And the ghosts don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon!

The Utah State Historical Society is located at 300 Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City. If you go there, ask about the ghost stories and you will find it refreshing to go to a place where they don't mind talking about them!

Copyright 2003 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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