Thursday, September 15, 2022

HGB Ep. 452 - Ogden's Union Station

Moment in Oddity - Cow Chip Throwing

Fall is in the air! We love the Spooky season and all the festivities that go with it! A recent fall tradition we heard about is something not all may desire to participate in. It doesn't include pumpkin spice anything, no jack-o-lanterns, or even warm drinks. Well, we hope that what it DOES entail is no longer warm. This is an event held in Wisconsin with an average of 40,000 attendees. It's known as the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival. This event is comprised of competitors taking a dried cow patty and pitching the petrified putrid pie as far as the eye can perceive. The furthest distance on record is a whopping 248 feet. We dare think that it may have been procured from a bull that consumed a popular drink which gave the dried patty in question, "wings". This event certainly has a large draw and sounds like a blast with live music, "Tournament of Chips" parade and all the usual fun festival activities to enjoy with family and friends. Fall celebrations for us are always a draw with cooler temperatures and an anticipation of Halloween. However, in our city slicker minds, people competing in chucking parched pies for the greatest distance possible, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Typhoon Vera

In the month of September, on the 26th, in 1959, one of the most destructive typhoons in Japan's history struck Ise (Ee-say) Bay in the region of Honshu. This super typhoon was also dubbed Vera. Sadly, this storm killed more than 5,000 people, left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, and injured almost 39,000. On September 20, Vera began as a low pressure system in the Pacific Ocean. On the 21st it was already classified as a typhoon and continued to gain strength as it coursed towards Japan. When it made landfall, Typhoon Vera's winds were as high as 160 miles per hour, the same classification as a Cat 5 hurricane today. The seaside town was devastated, with the sea walls being destroyed, widespread flooding and thousands of buildings being decimated. Besides contaminated drinking water, most crops were ruined and thousands were stranded without shelter. Many areas became inaccessible due to the storm and the death count was contributed to by dysentery, gangrene and tetanus. With Japan's economy still recovering from WWII, Typhoon Vera was another huge blow. One good thing that did come out of this disaster however, was the formation of a disaster management council which would have measures in place to provide more effective emergency assistance in the aftermath of future storms.

Ogden Union Station 

Ogden, Utah may not seem like an important point in transportation today, but it was once the official transfer point for anyone set on getting to the West Coast. A train station has been located on this spot for over 150 years and the current Union Station has stood for nearly 100 years and in that time, thousands of people have walked through its doors. The station has seen quite a bit of tragedy. There was the Bagley train wreck, bodies from war, freak deaths, murders and suicides. Spirits seemed to have been left behind due to these tragic circumstances. Join us for the history and hauntings of Ogden's Union Station!

Ogden, Utah was once a lawless town. With everyone traveling through to get to the West Coast, that isn't surprising. Travelers would be looking for saloons and brothels. Before that, the Great Salt Lake Fremont Indians were here and then later the Northern Shoshone and Goshute Native American tribes. Trapper Miles Goodyear established a settlement here in 1846 and named Fort Buenaventura. Mormon settler Captain James Brown bought the land and fort in 1847 via a Mexico land grant and changed the name to Brownsville. The name would be changed officially to Ogden in honor of Hudson Bay Company's brigade leader Peter Skene Ogden when it was incorporated in 1851. That date made it the third incorporated city west of the Missouri River, after San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The city was built up with a central business district and farms in the surrounding outlying areas and they used the Ogden River to the north and the Weber River to the west as boundaries.

Union Station is a gorgeous building! Our friend from The Dead History, Jennifer Jones, says this is one of her favorite buildings in Ogden and has always held a special place in her heart. It's hard to miss this building with the Union Station moniker running across a wide part of the roof, especially at night when the letters glow a neon red. This is not the original station that once stood here though and it no longer serves its purpose as a train station. Today, it is home to the Utah State Railroad Museum, John M. Browning Firearms Museum and Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum. A junction for railroad travel was needed in the Intermountain West and the first station was built in 1869 near the banks of the Weber River. This was a wooden frame building on a mud flat that required a quarter-mile wood boardwalk to be built, so that people could get to the station. The citizens of Ogden came out to welcome the first train with banners that read, “Hail to the Highway of the Nations! Utah bids you Welcome.” This station served two narrow gauge lines and worked well for awhile, but people got impatient with having to travel across the boardwalk. The Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways joined forces forming the Ogden Union Railway & Depot Co. and they dedicated themselves to building a new station. The new structure was designed in the Romanesque Revival style and was completed in 1889. This structure had a large clock tower in the center and not only had the train station, but a hotel with 33 rooms, a barbershop, restaurant and other conveniences.

In 1923, a fire devastated the structure, but the Ogden Union Railway & Depot didn't want to go to the expense of building a new station, so they decided to rebuild. An accident that killed a man, which we will talk about in a bit, changed the minds of the company and they razed the building and began a new building that was designed by John and Donald Parkinson in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, which is clearly seen in the two Spanish-style arch entryways. The building was dedicated on November 22, 1924. The interior featured murals of the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad and the Grand Lobby had brightly painted trusses. Other buildings were added to the property including a mail terminal annex, Trainmen's Building, Laundry Building and five passenger shelters with butterfly canopies. In 1927, the station added a unique feature that was a tunnel built under the eleven train tracks. Stairways lead up to the surface of each platform. This not only made it safer for passengers, but kept everything running on time. When service was shut down, the tunnel was filled in, but restoration work in 2008 uncovered part of the tunnel and it was decided to place glass over this section, so people could see down into it.

Amtrak took over passenger operations in 1971 at the station. In 1977, the city of Ogden was given a 50-year lease and they started renovating so that the building could house museums. The museums were opened in 1978 with steam-powered equipment donated by Union Pacific and expanded through the years with the station officially becoming the Utah State Railroad Museum in 1988. As mentioned earlier, the building now houses four museums. Conventions and events are also hosted here and many weddings have also been performed here. The last passenger train left the station in 1997, but Amtrak has played with the idea of bringing service back eventually. There are many ghost stories connected to this property and there are several reasons why. Jennifer Jones loves to investigate this property and with all the stories of lights turning off and on by themselves, elevators moving on their own and full-bodied apparitions, it is no wonder.

The worst train wreck to occur in Utah happened on December 31, 1944. The wreck was 18 miles from Ogden, in a town called Bagley, and took place as a thick fog rolled in over the tracks. The wreck would be known as the Bagley Train Wreck and ended with 81 people injured and 50 dead. Southern Pacific's Pacific Limited was running two trains back-to-back on that day. One was a passenger train and the other was a mail express. The passenger train rode in the lead. A heavy freight train was having an issue known as a hot box on that patch of track just outside of Ogden. A hot box occurs when the box housing the axle bearings becomes extremely hot because the oil-soaked rags that helped prevent friction were dried out. This issue could cause a train to eventually derail. So the freight train was stopped. The passenger train was aware of the problem ahead of them and stopped, then proceeded with caution. The same was not true for the mail express. It continued full speed ahead because it missed seeing two stop collisions. Historians are not sure if this was because of the fog or because the engineer had had a heart attack before the crash. An inquest after the crash, ruled that based on positioning, the engineer was incapacitated before the crash.

The Ogden Standard-Examiner reported on January 1, 1945, "The force of the impact sent another sleeping car smashing through the dining car and farther ahead slammed one coach into the wooden coach ahead of it. Cars of the mail express section piled up crossways of the track behind the engine, some of them sliding down the causeway embankment into water. Most of the dead were taken from the rear Pullman car and from the telescoped coach. At least 28 were military service men. The train had left Chicago at ten a.m. Friday, bound for San Francisco." One of the reasons so many injured were able to be saved was because members of the Medical Corps were aboard two hospital cars that were part of the passenger train. Bodies of the dead were taken to the Browning Theater as it was transformed into a makeshift morgue.

In 1913, a grisly thing was discovered in a trunk at Union Station. The headline of the Ogden Examiner declared in a headline, "Nude body of ten year old girl found in trunk at Union Depot; mother charged with crime." That young girl was Frances Williams. Her mother was Minnie Ekman and she claimed that she had no place for her daughter, so she killed her. The story goes like many of our modern day tales with a woman who wants to be with a man who doesn't want a kid. In Minnie's case, she had been married to a man named Charles Anderson who had left her. She hooked up with a guy named George Williams and they had Frances. When Frances was ten, Minnie decided she wanted to get back with Anderson, but she had to get rid of Frances for that to happen. Anderson came to Salt Lake City to get Minnie and they checked their larger luggage into Union Station. A couple days passed, Minnie changed her mind and Anderson went to the depot to get the luggage. The baggage handler was moving the trunk onto the platform when he noticed a horrible odor. he then spotted hair poking out under the lid. The Station Master was called, as well as the police and they forced open the trunk. They found Frances. Minnie and Anderson were at the train station and promptly arrested. Minnie was later ruled insane and remanded to a mental hospital.

People claim that Frances wanders the former station. An investigation team out of Utah was recording in the Browning Theater and they captured an EVP of a little girl in the theater saying “Sit, sit.” Was this a victim of the train wreck or little Frances? An entire family was killed in the train wreck and there were two daughters. Women's voices have been captured on EVP in the Myra Powell Gallery and the PI-Team of Utah is one of those teams that captured a raspy female voice saying, "Help!" Lilac perfume is also smelled here.

As mentioned earlier, there was a fire here in February of 1923 when a hot iron caught a pair of pants on fire. The porter ran into the telephone operator's office at 7pm and yelled for him to call the fire department. It took until 2:30am for the fire to be put out. No one died during the fire, but someone would die shortly thereafter while work to repair the station was being done. One of the large decorative stone cones behind the large clock tower fell when a gust of wind blew over a roof support and knocked the cone loose. It crashed through the skylight of a room that had been set up as a temporary cashier's office. Inside sat Frank Yentzer who was the cashier and he was killed when the stone hit him in the head. And since that time, Frank has been thought to be one of the most active spirits at the station. 

The basement of Union Station is off limits to the public, but not to Frank. This area is creepy enough with its dark, narrow stairway leading down and long hallway with an array of junk and artifacts dotting the path. Holly Andrew is the Museum Curator and she shares a ghost story about Frank from the basement, "A number of years ago, an intern came downstairs to work in the collection vault. As she came downstairs, early in the morning, she noticed something strange was happening with a clipboard that they hang from a string outside of Door 10. The clipboard was swing in wide circles. She was super frustrated and super tired, so she yelled, 'Stop it, Frank!' and the clipboard completely dropped from the string to the floor with a clank."

There is another man who died here. A man named Amos Allred, accidentally shot himself in the head in an employee locker room. Apparently, a co-worker had brought a loaded gun to work and left it in the locker room and Amos must have been fooling around with it and shot himself in the head. Although, the death was initially ruled a suicide.

Robin Westover was the owner of Haunted Ogden, which now appears to be defunct, but she investigated in the station several times. She believed that she interacted with the spirit of an eighteen-year-old girl named Sarah in the ballroom. Others claim to have seen Sarah dancing in the ballroom, especially after music was played. The theory is that she was coming to attend a wedding hosted here, but died in a car accident on the way. There is another woman who haunts the halls of the second floor. She only interacts with men.

The Browning Theater is a part of Union Station as well. This is a large, open room with a stage on the north end and a theater annex that had once been part of an area with windows that overlooked the train platform. Jennifer Jones thinks this is one of the most active areas on the property. In her book Ghosts of Ogden, Brigham City and Logan, she writes about an experience she had that started with some EMF activity. She wrote, "We thought we heard footsteps in the annex, so we headed in that direction to see if another member of the team was in that area or possibly outside of the building, walking along the train tracks. When I got farther into the annex, it was as if the area had an electrical charge, like I had stepped through a wall of static electricity. The hairs on my arms and on the back of my neck stood on end, so I immediately stopped and just stood there. I looked up from my EMF meter and saw what appeared to be a shadow figure. It was shaped like a man, about six feet tall, and it moved away from us very quickly toward the south wall and disappeared into the darkness. Robert, a member of our team, and I immediately took off after it, but by the time we got to the end of the annex, there was nothing there. The former train platform was dark and silent, leaving no evidence of what we might have just seen and heard." 

It's possible that this shadowy presence belongs to a man named John Ross. He had become infatuated with a Glenna Carter who went by the pseudonym Mamie Evans as she plied her trade in brothels. She was in such hot demand that police asked her to leave town to stop all the fighting over her. She decided to head to Butte, Montana. John Ross asked her not to leave and told her of his love for her. She told him she didn't feel the same. Mamie was waiting for her train at Union Station on the night of April 24, 1897, when John Ross stepped out of the shadows where he was hiding and took aim with a gun. Mamie saw him and ran. Several bullets were fired and one got Mamie in the chest. Ross then ran to the end of the train platform and shot himself in the head. He died there at the station, but Mamie died a bit later on her way to the hospital. A note in Ross' pocket indicated that the murder-suicide was premeditated. So perhaps he is still hiding in the shadows of Union Station.

A handyman named Jarred had a jarring experience one night. he had locked up everything tight one night and headed home. About halfway home, he got a phone call from the security company letting him know that the lobby door alarm had gone off and that someone was walking around in the lobby. Jarred rushed back to the building and found no one in the lobby and the door was still locked. He headed back home and again was called by the security company that the same thing had just happened again. Jarred stopped to pick up his dad because he figured that a more thorough check needed to be done. They checked the upstairs first and cleared it. Jarred checked the first floor while his dad circled the outside of the building to see if any windows were broken or doors were forced open. Nothing. Jarred was about to set the alarm when he heard a door shut near the Browning Theater. He and his father rushed to the theater and they heard what sounded like two people running inside the theater. Jarred's father ran to the outside back door as Jarred ran in so they could trap the people and there was nobody in there. The men headed home again and Jarred got another security call. He told the company to disregard any further alarms that evening because the ghosts were just playing with them. 

The John M. Browning Firearms Museum also has hauntings. Volunteers claim to see apparitions of men dressed in military outfits out of the corner of their eyes. These spirits like to pat people on the back or shoulder. Jennifer had a chance to investigate in the museum and she caught an EVP of a male voice saying, "Hello." The elevator here also surprised her and her team when it all of a sudden dinged and the doors opened, even though no one had called the elevator. 

There are so many interesting stories connected to the Union Station in Ogden. Is it possible that spirits from some of these tragic circumstances have decided to stay here in the afterlife or perhaps they are trapped? Is Ogden's Union Station haunted? That is for you to decide!

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