OUTDOORS & RECREATION
Many Visitors Learn To Regret ‘Curse’ Of Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
Oct 31, 2020, 3:16 PM | Updated: 3:23 pm
ESCALANTE, Utah – Halloween will be a bit different in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and health department recommendations to socially distance and avoid large crowds. In Garfield County, it’s the same as it has been for years.
We’re not talking about trick-or-treating. We’re talking about a state park, where you shouldn’t take anything – or else.
KSL TV visited Escalante Petrified Forest State Park with the scary warning, good for any time of the year.
There are some places in Utah so beautiful and so special you almost want to take a piece of it home with you.
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Garfield County is one of those places.
Petrified wood that has been mineralized into rocks for millions of years is the main attraction, bringing in visitors from all around the world.
What’s not hard to believe is that some visitors actually do take a piece home.
Jamie Skidmore is a manager with Utah State Parks, and understands why some people would take a piece of petrified wood.
“They’re beautiful,” she says. “Some of them are really quite spectacular.”>
It’s an issue park managers wish wouldn’t happen, because as people take the petrified wood, that means less rocks for future visitors to enjoy.
“Those are the pieces that nobody else is ever going to see, because chances are they’re hiding in somebody’s closet in a rock box somewhere,” says Skidmore.
There are even signs warning visitors the park is under video surveillance, and to not collect anything.
Some visitors may think taking one little piece won’t do any harm. Skidmore says that’s not the case.
“Eventually there are no pieces left for anybody to see,” she says.
That may be why some visitors who took rocks send them back with letters saying “sorry.”
“I would say there’s probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 100 letters,” Skidmore says.
She says many of the letter say people felt guilty for taking the stones. Guilt can be a powerful motivator. So can fear of the “curse.”
“It’s amazing how many of them actually know about this curse,” Skidmore says.
The legend goes, that if you take a piece of petrified wood from the area, you get cursed.
“I think it’s pretty widely known in Escalante that there is an associated curse,” Skidmore says.
Many visitors don’t know about it until they read about the curse at the visitors center and still take a rock, thinking there’s no way.
However, in most of the letters they became believers once they got home.
“The guy says, ‘I’m not superstitious, but I’ve noticed since I took these stones, the coin has flipped to the bad side a lot more than it’s flipped to the good,’” Skidmore says about one letter.
Another letter from a visitor says he had the worst year of his life after taking some rocks.
Some letters are downright tragic.
“One of them was about a woman who picked up a few pieces. Her daughter was returning them. She had gotten terminal cancer,” she says.
All the letters that come with the stolen rocks ask park rangers to please put them back where they belong. One rock was 30 pounds that a guy bought from another visitor after seeing it on a trail.
“The letter that came basically said, ‘It is worth it to me to have paid for it, and paid for the shipping to get it back to you, so I do not experience the curse,’” Skidmore says.
The park has even received letters from some people saying after they returned those petrified rocks, their good luck came back.
“(For them, it’s) kind of an indicator that if you do something you shouldn’t, and you make it right, that your luck will return,” she says.
Even with all those letters and stories, does Skidmore believes in the curse?
“Ummm, you know – I don’t know if I do, but I haven’t taken any of the rocks, so I haven’t experienced the bad luck,” she says.
That may be the best advice of all – don’t take anything from the park and it won’t take anything from you.