The Haunted Old Mill

Copyright 1994 Brandon Gillespie (the Lynx)
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 1994
Story-type: Actual Haunted Building
Type: Ghost
Location: Salt Lake City Utah, U.S.A
Source: News (alt.folklore.ghost-stories) / Submission

Ever since early highschool I was involved in commercial 'haunted houses' around Halloween (i.e. professional spook alleys). I do not know how popular they are in other area's, but in Salt Lake City they are quite a large production, and there are many around. The first few years I worked in the Haunted Old Mill, which is an old paper mill dating back to pioneer times. The setting around the Old Mill is perfect for a creepy building. It is nestled in the small valley at the mouth of Big Cottonwood canyon. The surrounding area has an aged and slightly rundown look. Because of the building's odd nature and ownership it only had the minimal care given to it and everything is overgrown. Needless to say, it is definitely a place which will give you the willies, even driving by it in the daytime.

I'll just cover the Old Mill's history now, and then go into the other stories in later posts.

ASCII Map:                                 .
                  .   -  Mountainside '
           -  '    +--------+                                N
                   |        |                                ^
                   |Central |     ..........                 |
                   |        |.........Path...
                   |     *  |..   ...       ..
                   |        |-------------+  ..
          `        |Building|             |  ..
           \`      |        |  Courtyard  |  ..
             \`    |      +--+            |  ..
         \     \`  +------|  |------------+  ..
           \road\`        +--+      ::.........
             \    \` - - - - - - Fence - - - - - - - -
               \    \
                              Parking Lot

                          * This is where the room is for the Heart of the
                            Old Mill is (explained later)
The Old Mill has burned down twice. The latest form it has taken is divided into two major portions, as you can see above. It is several stories tall, with a basement only beneath the southern half. The Courtyard was at one point part of the main building, but was not ever rebuilt in the last fire, and is now a cement pad with crumbling walls which nearly look like those of a castle due to the second story windows which have crumbled and lost their arches.

The Central building is broken into 2 major portions, with the south end being a large open room with a tall balcony. Both the main floor and the balcony have locked doors to the tower which was condemned years ago. The northern end is more economical, broken into 3 stories. The central section of the northern half is divided by a stone wall. It has massive fireplaces on each floor, but is only two stories as where the middle one would be, it is an open space to the large entrance chamber below (the ceiling in the entrance chamber has ornate paintings which are faded with age).

The 3rd story of this section is considered the heart of the Old Mill, where most of the ghosts are supposed to reside. From personal experience I can say that by simply walking through the room one can notice a considerable drop in temperature, and if you stay in it alone for more than a few minutes, an eerie almost panicked feeling seeps into you. A portion of the eastern wall in this room is unusual. Rather than the normal large bricks, which are approximately 1-2 feet thick, it is mottled and covered with twisted cement and other stones leaving a jagged surface. In the evening when the sun is setting and the shadows are long you can watch this wall, and you will begin to see movement which cannot be pinpointed. Sometimes you can even make out forms of some type.

I have forgotten the exact date the Old Mill was built (I did some research on it, at one point), but it was back in the 1800's. It served for quite a few years as a productive paper Mill. Then, one winter's night, it burned to the ground. The official historical entries I could find simply said some oily rags caught fire from a lantern. However, one of the folklore stories relates a conflict between two of the evening caretakers. They were up in the central room to the Old Mill having an argument. One of the two struck the other, who hit the table knocking the oil lamp the the floor. The second caretaker's dog began barking at the first one, as the fire ran out of control he fled. The second caretaker and his dog never survived the fire, although their burnt bodies were found in the fireplace (presumably to escape the flames). More than one person working in the Old Mill at night has heard a faint barking which couldn't be tracked down.

The Mill stayed that way for a few years, until just after the turn of the century when it was rebuilt to be a dance hall. It had a bit of activity through the twenties and thirties, but when World War II hit it shut down. For years it stayed empty, until one night when it burned to the ground again. The official historical sources simply record it as a fire started by transients, but the folklore recounts a story from the transient who survived, which was presumably ignored by the officials. He said they had started a fire in the fireplace up in the 3rd story room (the Heart), to keep themselves warm. Early in the morning he woke up hearing a barking and what sounded like yelling. He looked around himself confused, as it was much too loud to be outside but he didn't think anybody else was in the building. That was when he saw the fire run across the floor. He insisted it did not start from their own fire, but needless to say it engulfed the room and destroyed the building again. The transient that did not escape was found curled in the fireplace. One version of the story says there was also the remains of a dog, even though the two transients did not have one. (As a side note I seem to recall that it burned on or around the same time of year as the first fire.)

When it was rebuilt the last time only the western section was finished. Since then it has had many roles, from that of a disco in the 70's to what it is now. The building even is riddled with catacombs below, which were at one time used to channel water around.

Actual Stories relating to the building:

The second year I was working on the haunted house the evening caretaker shot himself. They lived in an appartment on the northwest corner of the mill. His wife said he had been torn with indecision for a few months, as a part of the north east corner on the courtyard was very unstable, and he was afraid it would crumble and fall on somebody in the upcoming haunted house. They had both known the Mill was haunted, and he told her he felt the Old Mill didn't want the portion of the wall destroyed. But one day he made his decision. He left their living quarters almost as if he was upset. She heard the tractor start and drive around the building, then it idled for a few minutes. Before she was about to go check on her husband he suddenly appeared in the apartment and made a beeline for the cabinet housing his weapons. He withdrew a revolver, filled all the chambers and pointed it to his head. He looked at his wife and stated, "lets play Russian Roulette," then stroked the trigger once, killing himself.

I'm not sure if the caretakers (whomever they are now) still live in the building anymore, although I doubt it.

[more to come...]