New ghost tour explores history of Salt Lake City

Jan 5, 2023, 5:12 PM | Updated: 5:17 pm
Undated photo of Capitol Theatre. (Deseret News Archives)...
Undated photo of Capitol Theatre. (Deseret News Archives)
(Deseret News Archives)

SALT LAKE CITY — A new ghost tour hosted by US Ghost Adventures, a travel company that boasts ghost tours in the most haunted cities in the nation, has just launched a new tour in Salt Lake City featuring historic places that are said to be haunted.

The tour website says “the historically spiritual city is overflowing with a disturbing past, miles away from holy.”

According to their website, Salt Lake City is a famously haunted city because historically, pioneers came here looking for new beginnings in a holy mecca — but some of those people only found horror, and some never left. Other stories in the tour stem from railroad construction and the pit stop that Salt Lake City was during the 1850’s gold rush that brought emigrants seeking financial gain.

One site featured in the tour is part of the story of a cult leader and his familys’ suicides in August of 1978.

Immanuel David, a cult leader who believed he was god, took his life knowing that his arrest for fraudulent fundraising charges was pending with the FBI. His family of eight closely followed his lead when each one of them jumped or were thrown to their death off of the 11th floor of a Salt Lake City hotel.

David was 39 years old when he borrowed a white ford pickup truck and drove to the mountains where he was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning two days later. When he was found, there was a hose coming from the exhaust pipe and towels sealing the window.

The morning after his wife Rachel David heard what happened, she helped their seven children step onto chairs stacked on their 11th floor balcony, where they dropped to their death. Lt. Roger Kinnersley said the last three children were pushed off.

Another location on the tour is at Capitol Theatre, formerly known as Orpheum Theater, where an usher died after being trapped in a fire.

Despite the building’s advertisements of fire safety, it went up in flames on July 4, 1949. The assistant manager noticed smoke and sent two ushers to the basement with fire extinguishers to investigate the fire. While one usher and over 600 visitors escaped the fire, 17-year-old Richard Duffin was trapped in the basement and could not be saved.

The flames were mostly confined to the basement where Duffin was trapped due to the fire-proof construction of the building that included firewalls, concrete, steel, asbestos curtains, and even modern day fire sprinklers.

Before the Capitol Theatre was even there, another theatre occupied its place called the Grand Opera House. Oddly enough, it was destroyed by a fire 59 years earlier on July 4, 1890.

Orpheum Theatre at it’s opening in 1913 in Salt Lake City before it was renamed Capitol Theatre. (Utah State Historical Society, Deseret News archives)

The tour also visits Whiskey Street, described by US Ghost Adventures as one of the most infamously haunted spots in the city. This site became notorious after the release of a Netflix documentary series called “Murder of the Mormons,” which explores part of the haunting story.

On Oct. 15, 1985, Steven Christensen was killed outside of the Judge Building when he was supposed to make a trade deal with a known document enthusiast. When he picked up a box with his name on it, it exploded and killed him instantly. He was one of two victims killed by the home-made pipe bombs.

US Ghost Adventures claims the tour of Downtown Salt Lake City’s historic streets will change the way you see Temple Square, the Federal Courthouse, the State Capitol and more.

Tours begin Jan. 5 and continue every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at 8 p.m.. Tickets are purchased in advance and range from $16 to $25.

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New ghost tour explores history of Salt Lake City