Ghost Tours Offer Spooky Look At Park City’s Past

By Brian E. Clark Special To Channel 3000

PARK CITY, Utah — Long before this Wasatch Mountain town became a world-famous skiing/snowboarding center and home to the Sundance Film Festival, it was a bawdy mining camp filled with saloons, gamblers, prostitutes and, of course, thousands of lonely miners.

Some of them, or so says Amanda Bachman, are still floating around, phantasmagorically speaking.

Bachman, a thespian whose family turned its Ogden garage into a haunted house each Halloween, swears she has seen more than a few spirits flitting about Park City. Which makes her perfectly suited to assume the person of Molly Allen, a part-time “seamstress” (a polite term for a hooker back then) who met an untimely death here in the late 1880s.

Molly’s tours start at Miners Park on Main Street, where she gives her charges a brief history of Park City, which has little to do with the Mormons who dominate the state.

Troops under the command of a Col. Patrick Connor — who were sent from California because of the threat of a possible Mormon uprising — discovered a vein of precious metal in the 1860s. That strike sparked a rush into the mountains that over time produced more than $400 million in silver, gold, lead and zinc ore.

(Connor, Molly told us, was a native of Ireland who was not terrible fond of his posting. After several years, he successfully lobbied to be transferred to Missouri.)

By 1872, the first boarding house was established in a collection of tents and shanties. But 1880, the population had swelled to 3,500 and the town had 300-plus buildings, boardwalks, two railroad spurs and a weekly newspaper. More than 1000 miles of mining tunnels honeycombed the bowels of the city.

It also had nearly three dozen saloons.

Molly, dressed in a long, dark purple skirt that swept the pavement, lead us up Main Street to the Imperial Hotel, which is now under renovation. The hotel is home to Lizzy, who is the ghost most-often seen in Park City. Molly told us that Lizzy — who was moonlighting as a seamstress — was done in by her gambler husband. He found her in bed with another man in Room 8, so the story goes. Then he shot her.

Molly said she’s seen Lizzy poke her head out of the room’s window several times. And while I didn?t see Lizzy on my stroll with Molly, I swear I saw a flash of light in the room.

A little further up Main Street, we stopped at St. Mary’s Old Town Chapel and learned the story of poor John Tick, who met his maker in a mine accident — of which there are many in Park City’s history.

Tick, Molly said, aspired to be a priest.

“But he was all but decapitated when he pushed an ore cart into an elevator shaft and the elevator wasn’t there,” she said. “He fell hundreds of feet and broke nearly every bone in his body.”

For years, Tick has been helping out St. Mary’s priests, even to the point of taking confession from parishioners, she said.

Near the end of our stroll up Main Street, Molly explained that Marty Howard, a working Park City policeman, ran into a man in a yellow slicker — a harbinger of death in these parts — up in Daly Canyon. Howard, Molly said, now refuses to go on calls up that canyon, because miners who’ve seen the man in the yellow slicker have died shortly after those encounters.

“He’s something of a premonition ghost,” she said.

Miner Richard Dill saw the man in the yellow slicker back on July 14, 1902. He worked in the Daly West mine and he wanted to call in sick after his vision, but his wife made him go to work because they needed the money. The next day, a dynamite cache in the mine blew up and killed 34 men, Dill included.

On the way back toward the center of town, we passed the Centennial House, which was built nearly a century ago by a grumpy fellow who died shortly after he finished it and still grouses about the building sometimes.

Another ghost, Molly informed us, is named Jack. He was a ski bum who lived in the building when it was a crash pad in the late 1960s. He died from a drug overdose.

Further down the street, near Flanagan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, Molly told us the story of 17-year-old Hope Daisy, who was shot and killed by her uncle in 1892. He caught her with her boyfriend — of whom he did not approve — and did in his niece when he tried to shoot the boy.

“But Hope isn’t angry,” Molly said. “She is our cupid ghost. She just wants share in some of the true love that was taken from her, so she follows couples on the street who seem very happy together.”

The ghost my children (ages 9 and 11) were most fascinated by was Ms. Hagar, the former Washington School principal. (Yes, she’s grouchy, too.) The structure has been turned into a posh boutique hotel. During its renovation, Ms. Hagar made workers’ lives miserable, Molly said, and she’s still known to walk the halls and scrape the chalkboards.

One of Molly’s favorite ghosts is Blanche, who played piano and organ at the Egyptian Theater on Main Street.

“She never wanted to leave and when she died in 1982, at age 94, her spirit stuck around the theater,” Molly said.

“Often, she hangs out in the costume room,” Molly said. “And sometimes, she performs with the cast, appearing as a woman in her 30s.

“Occasionally, before a performance starts, you can hear organ music. But there is no organ in the theater anymore,” added Molly, a twinkle in her eye.

And Molly’s story?

After her husband was sent to prison for his misdeeds, she became a seamstress to support herself. And because she was so pretty, she did quite well.

Alas, a robber killed her. But she’s still walking the streets of Park City, looking for a good time.

If You Go:

For details on the Park City ghost tour, which runs about 75 minutes, see www.parkcityghosttours.com.

The cost is $20 for adults and $10 for kids 16 and under.

For more information on Park City, a four-season resort community about 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, see http://www.visitparkcity.com/.