The castle amphitheater on the Utah State Hospital grounds in Provo was once converted into a haunted castle every October by its patients.
The haunted castle originated as a Halloween party for the hospital, but became so popular the hospital made into a fundraising activity in 1971. Patients were the actors in the attraction, and all money raised went to the hospital’s recreation fund.
Twenty-six years later, the haunted castle was forced to close. The National Alliance on Mental Illness said using mental illness patients as actors in a haunted attraction was offensive to those who have a mental illness. While the haunted castle will never be done again, it has not been forgotten.
“Every once in a while people come through who went to the haunted castle as kids and ask why it was shut down and if we’ll ever do it again,” said Jamina Chilton, hospital historian.
The Utah State Hospital is not actually haunted, but there are many locations around Utah known for paranormal activity.
The old hospital in Tooele is one of 10 locations authors Jamie Davis and Samuel Queen visited while writing their book, “Haunted Asylums, Prisons and Sanitariums.”
The hospital is said to be haunted by many spirits. One spirit that several ghost hunters have seen is that of a patient who had Alzheimer’s disease, who is often seen in the room in which he died in at the hospital. Ghostly nurses have also been seen haunting the halls. There have been many sightings of floating orbs of light, ghostly shadow figures—many of them child-sized—and recordings of voices, according to asylum49.com. Davis said she has felt the presence of “angels.”
“Sam and I actually believed that we were in contact with some sort of angelic spirit in the nursery at Tooele,” Davis said in an email. “I never felt so much pure joy in my life as when I was sitting in that pitch black, empty hospital room. Needless to say, it was very strange.”
The hospital was abandoned in the early 2000s when the facilities were moved to a new location. The building remained abandoned until 2006, when it became the home to Asylum 49, a haunted hospital attraction that runs during October every year.
Asylum 49 is the first full-body contact haunted attraction in Utah. Both actors and guests at the haunted hospital have reported pranks being pulled by the spirits that haunt the building. During the rest of the year, the owners of the property rent it out to ghost hunters like Davis and Queen.
The Tooele hospital is the home of a large portion of reported paranormal activity in Utah, but it is not the only location with a haunted history.
Ogden was home to Lazarus Maze Haunted Hospital from 2006 to 2011, and was staged in what was supposedly Bellshire Hospital, a haunted former mental health institution. Legend says a doctor would use experimental treatments on his patients, causing them severe pain.
There are multiple reports of a girl walking down the stairs, screams heard and figures seen looking out the windows when the building was empty.
The building was actually the Exchange Building for the Union Stockyard built in 1930. In the late 1960s, Weber County ran County Mental Services out of the building. During that time, there were three reported suicides and one natural death on the property, according to hauntin.gs, a website dedicated to haunted locations. The building was abandoned in 1988 until it was converted into the haunted hospital in 2006.
Provo has its share of haunted locations. The old Utah County Jail on State Street has had several reports of hauntings. The jail was built in the early 1970s, and was vacated in 1998 when a new county jail was completed. It has been empty since then.
There have been several reports of figures haunting the labyrinth-like building. Ghostly footsteps have been heard along with other unexplained noises such as loud banging. Lights have turned on and off by themselves. Doors are reported to open and close with no human help. The cast and crew of the 2012 horror movie “Inside” said they heard many unexplained sounds while filming in the jail. According to the official “Inside” facebook page, a studio employee and Provo City employee saw a ghostly face while scoping the jail.
The old Park City jail is included on many lists of haunted locations in Utah. Guests to the jail who have put on the ball-and-chain for fun have said a force in the atmosphere make it hard to remove.
“As to whether or not the jail is haunted, we can’t comment, but the jail is now part of the Park City Museum and open to the public,” said Courtney Titus, curator of collections and exhibits at the Park City Museum.
[soundslides width=”620″ height =”533″ id=”341515″]
(Slideshow by Robin Rodgers)