Explore the area’s dark side with Park City Ghost Tours.
Photography: Jill Orschel
Historic mining towns have stories to tell. And many of them involve longtime residents who simply don’t seem inclined to leave.
“Park City is the perfect place for ghost hunting,” affirms Erik Hutchins, the co-owner of Park City Ghost Tours. He says the town’s 150-year history is rich with the essential ingredients for paranormal encounters—mine tunnels, saloons, theaters, brothels, fires, avalanches, gunfights, gambling, murders ... all the juicy stuff that has a way of leaving earthly matters unresolved. Or as Hutchins puts it, “Park City was the biggest sin city between St. Louis and San Francisco.”
That often sordid past, laced with terrifying tragedies, produced grisly and mysterious tales of spirits, ghosts, and lost souls. On the good side, the fact that Park City ghosts’ haunts are concentrated in and around historic Main Street makes for a perfect walking tour. “We lucked out because all of these historic events were packed into a very small physical area,” Hutchins explains. Most stories can be told in front of the actual buildings where they occurred: Lizzy’s fatal night at the Imperial Hotel, the Egyptian Theatre’s organ-playing ghost, and spirits from the eleven deaths at Centennial House. At the base of Daly Canyon, tour-goers hear of Park City’s mining lore including the Man in the Yellow Slicker’s death omen, wicked tommyknockers tapping in the tunnels, and the apparition of a blond woman riding a white horse.
Hutchins, a documentary filmmaker, started Ghost Tours last summer along with Rob and Lela Newey, teachers and longtime Parkites, after years collecting local myths and folklore about haunted buildings, superstitions, and nocturnal sightings. The trio then set about documenting the stories, the locations, and the victims. After scouring cemetery lists and studying written documents, they met with old-timers and the history staff at Park City Museum and searched the archives of The Park Record, which has dutifully recorded daily events since 1880. And they went on location with compasses, plumb-bobs, temperature gauges, gaussmeters, and other ghost-hunting gadgets. New stories and details are always being added to their repertoire, many contributed by local business owners.
Tours begin at Miner’s Plaza on Main Street, proceed up to St. Mary’s Old Town Chapel, and then venture down Main all the way to the Kimball Art Center. Wearing period costumes, the guides are masters at weaving humor and more tangible historical detail into the chilling tales—in fact, they’ve been recognized by TripAdvisor as providing the second best ghost tour in the country. Past patrons have noted the extra spirit the guides bring to their work, which one can only assume they mean figuratively, not literally—although it’s certainly possible that listeners might tune in from another dimension.
After all, everyone loves a good ghost story.
Park City Ghost Tours Every day of the week, June 15–Oct 31, rain or shine. Dress for the weather. 8 p.m. Tours last 70 minutes. Meet at Miner’s Park, 415 Main St $20 adults, $10 children 16 and younger 435.615.7673 parkcityghosttours.com