Haunted history: Utah's spirited restaurants
Late in the evening, after all the diners have gone home, the ethereal apparitions appear.
Sometimes the chef will sense that someone is watching him as he cleans the kitchen. Or maybe a server, resetting the dining room tables, will see an image float by the window. Or the owner, closing the day's books, will hear children laughing.
It's all part of the haunted history at Log Haven, one of several Utah restaurants where friendly ghosts have been reported to roam.
"There's so many stories about ghosts at Log Haven," said Margo Provost, whose most vivid experience with the spirits came shortly after she reopened the 90-year-old mansion in 1994. She recounts what happened one night after diners had left and the kitchen was closed.
"A server and I were standing at the bar doing paperwork and we could hear children playing," said Provost. "We thought someone left their kids!"
Provost remembered that experience later, when she learned the bar area was once a children's bedroom.
Through the years, there have been at least a dozen other reported paranormal encounters, and the staff has begun keeping a list of the "sightings."
L.F. Rains, Log Haven's founder and owner of a ghost town outside of Helper, has been seen. So has a woman in Victorian garb. But the ghost that appears most often is a tall, thin man wearing a black suit and a stovepipe hat, Provost said. He is usually in the library and is believed to be the architect who built Log Haven in the 1920s.
Provost can't explain why the ghosts have stayed at the restaurant a few miles up Salt Lake City's Millcreek Canyon. "They must feel comfortable here or they don't want to let go," she said.
While Provost has never felt threatened by the spirited guests, she had one employee quit in the middle of a shift after seeing a ghost.
The staff doesn't try to communicate with the spirits or give them names, Provost said. "We just ask for their indulgence that we are here and have good intentions for the property."
Searching for spirits • Utah ghost hunter Erik Hutchings has a theory about why the spirits stick around.
"Usually it's because they have had a sudden or traumatic death," he said, noting that ghosts tend to stay in places where they felt comfortable, such as a home, hotel or favorite restaurant or bar. "They didn't have time to prepare for the transition."
Hutchings, who has been interested in paranormal activity since he was 10 years old, has collected ghost stories for buildings up and down Park City's Main Street. In mid-July, the 36-year-old had compiled enough scary stores to start a business, Park City Ghost Tours.
Red Banjo Pizza, which has reported ghostly happenings, is one stop on the twice daily tour. Another is the old William Kemp Saloon, now Cisero's Ristorante and Nightclub.
One of the regulars at the Kemp Saloon, Hutchings recalled, was John Westmark, a miner known for jumping up from his barstool and starting fights for no apparent reason. One day, instead of using his fist, Westmark pulled out a gun and shot Freddy Hagland, another saloon regular. Westmark confessed to the murder, but said he had to do it because Hagland was a union scab, which was considered practically a felony back then in the mining town.
Westmark served only one year in prison for the murder. "That's the reason Freddy still haunts the place," Hutchings said, "because of the injustice."
Ghosts at the Greek • John Daskalos has never seen a ghost at The Athenian restaurant he co-owns with his sister Phyllis. "But I've seen evidence of them," he said.
At night, the chairs and tables at the Ogden Greek restaurant will be arranged one way in the upstairs banquet room, but by morning the furniture has been moved. Employees will hear footsteps coming down the stairs, but no one is there. Doors that were closed suddenly open; doors that were left open are suddenly closed.
Daskalos has learned not to leave his coffee cup on a specific shelf in the kitchen. "Two or three times it's just bounced off," he said.
The previous tenants told the family about the unusual happenings. But that didn't keep the Daskalos family from relocating to the spot seven years ago. "They're friendly for the most part," said Daskalos of the visitors. "They don't do anything destructive."
Ogden's 25th Street is filled with ghostly activity, said Laurie Allen, a storyteller with Ogden Ghost Tours.
At one time in its history, "25th Street had so much unrest," Allen said. "There were murders, prostitution and gambling. It was definitely the Wild West and just seemed to breed unrest. Almost every building along the street is a hot bed of paranormal activity."
Besides the Athenian, Allen said the old Godfather's Pizza restaurant has a ghost, as does the Farr Ice Cream building.
Daskalos attributes the spirited feeling in his building to its unusual history. The Athenian is located in the old London Building, which more than a century ago was a house of ill repute. An ice cream parlor on the street level was a cover for the bordello that was operated upstairs by Belle London, the infamous Madam of 25th Street.
Spiritual mediums have told Daskalos that the upstairs activity may be two of Belle London's "girls" who were notorious enemies.
The other culprits are a young couple and a pre-teen boy who are rumored to live in the basement.
Occasionally, the child, named George, "comes upstairs and hangs out in the area where the ice cream was served," Daskalos said.
Haunt your own ghosts at one of these Halloween dining events:
Blue Boar Inn • 1235 Warm Springs Road, Midway; 888-650-1400. The chef has planned several Halloween specials on Saturday, Oct. 30, in addition to the regular menu. Guests are encouraged to come in costume to enjoy the Halloween celebration. Reservations recommended.
Grand America Hotel • 555 S. Main St., 801-258-6707. Dust off your broom and find the pointy hat, because it's time for the annual Witches Tea. The menu includes tea, finger sandwiches, treats and fruit in the hotel's lobby lounge. Cost is $16 per person. Seatings available at 1 and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 29-31. Reservations required.
Log Haven • 6451 East Millcreek Canyon Road, Salt Lake City; 801 272 8255. The 90-year-old log mansion becomes "Haunted Haven," on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 29-31. Chef "Dracula Dave" Jones offers a special Ã la carte menu that includes Jack o'lantern soup, "killer" New York steak, blood orange sorbet and creepy cocktails. Regular menu also available. All diners can enter a drawing for a free dinner for two. Guests are also encouraged to come in costume.
Snowbird Ski Resort • Highway 210 Little Cottonwood Canyon Road; 801-933-2160. Enjoy the four-course "Scary Aerie" Halloween dinner, Friday, Oct. 29, from 6 to 9 p.m. in Snowbird's Aerie Restaurant, inside the Cliff Lodge. Dinner is $39 per person and includes several choices, such as antelope steak, grilled rabbit in mole, monkfish and chicken. Enter the costume contest for a chance to win free lift tickets. Reservations required. Stay the night at the lodge and have breakfast the next morning for $89 per person, based on double occupancy.
Wild Grape New West Bistro • 481 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, 801-746-5565. Rick Longoria, owner of the small, family-owned Longoria Winery in Santa Barbara, will be at Wild Grape on Oct. 29 for an evening of wine and food pairings. A special three-course menu is $30 and will be available from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wine pairings are an additional $35. Salt Lake City artist Trent Call created the label for the Longoria Blues wine series. He will sign bottles of his new Cuvee label.
Learn about haunted restaurants and other Utah buildings during ghost tours offered in Salt Lake City, Park City and Ogden.
Salt Lake City Ghost Tours • Bus tours guided by professional storytellers are offered Tuesday-Saturday. Guests meet behind the Rio Grand Building, 300 S. 500 West, Salt Lake City. Tours last between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Tuesday-Thursday, tours start at 7 and 9 p.m. Adults are $15; students/seniors $12 and children $10. On Friday and Saturday, tours start at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Adults are $18; students/seniors $15; and children $12. Discounts available for large groups. Bring a canned food item for the Utah Food Bank and get $1 off. To make a reservation, call 801-529-4497 or visit http://www.storytours.com.
Ogden Ghost Tours • As above, these bus tours are guided by professional storytellers and are held Tuesday-Saturday. Guests meet in the parking lot north of the Union Station on Ogden's 25th Street. Tours last between 90 minutes and two hours. Tuesday-Thursday, tours start at 7 and 9 p.m. Adults are $15; students/seniors $12 and children $10. Friday and Saturday, tours start at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Adults are $18; students/seniors $15; and children $12. Discounts available for large groups. Bring a canned food item for the Utah Food Bank and get $1 off. To make a reservation, call 801-604-1218 or visit http://www.storytours.com.
Park City Ghost Tours • These 75-minute walking tours of Park City's Main Street take place daily, rain or shine, beginning at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Adults are $16; children 16 and under are $8. Meet at Miner's Mark, about 413 Main St. (across from Bistro 412). For reservations, call 435-615-7683. Learn more at http://www.parkcityghosttours.com.