I have spent my entire life collecting legends and researching the mysteries and aspects of the human experience. Over the years, I have amassed a treasure trove of “Utah Folklore Stories.”
Most of these stories involve what people would define as the “supernatural or miraculous: spiritual-phenomena, strange and out-of-place creatures, and faerie-folk, for example. Some of these tales are so fanciful they almost defy belief. Take the giant race of lizard men that reside beneath the Salt Lake City Temple. (You’ll have to look that one up for yourself.)
During my adventures, I have stumbled upon a large number of so-called “hauntings” and “strange creatures,” with a good many of them found in Provo. So many, in fact, that I decided to create “The Original Provo Ghost Tour with Danny B.Stewart” It’s a two-hour walking tour of Downtown Provo, although it only incorporates about ten percent of the local lore I have dug up over the years.
The tour is not meant to cultivate fear, but is based on traditional storytelling. I attempt to shed a tiny bit of philosophical and historical light on this misunderstood topic, but with a humorous twist, although my personal “clown sighting” was pretty damn creepy, and at the time, not funny at all!
It was April, 2013, around 1am. I was driving west on Provo’s Center Street. After crossing 500 West, Pioneer Park is just to the right. From behind the wheel, I noticed a very colorful figure marching through the park. It was a clown dressed in full regalia! It had the striped red and white suit, orange wig, tassels around its neck, hands, and feet, and the most terrifying feature of all—its giant clown shoes!
I hit my brakes and stared at this bizarre manifestation. Suddenly, the clown paused in mid-stride (bear in mind that we are about seventy feet away from one another), turned its head, and stared at me for about thirty seconds. Then it moved in my direction. At this point, I freaked out and drove away faster than Donald Trump from an unscripted interview!
Experiences like this are known as “Phantom clown phenomena/folklore,” or out of place clowns—something that became part of folklore during Roman times, then reemerged in the United States in the early nineteen eighties.
East of Pioneer Park is City Limits Tavern and good ol’ “Shakey Jake.” Back in the day, City Limits was a male-only establishment, and Shakey Jake was a regular. One day he went to a nearby motel and took his life, but he returned to his favorite “haunt” and has remained there ever since. He’s a practical joker and likes to tease the ladies. Objects move on their own, items are propelled across the room, and the jukebox turns on without warning.
I have been allowed to investigate the basement on several occasions and have witnessed the moving objects, clanging beer barrels, and unusual groans that have also been heard by employees from time to time.
Further east on Center, we come to Taylor Maid Beauty Supply and the “ghost in the attic.” The employee’s claim that the spirit of an unknown man haunts the establishment. In what seems to be a recurring theme, he is a tease and a trickster, but there is nothing malicious in his mischief. The manager, Jessie, tells me he has seen and heard items being picked up off the shelves and dropped or thrown, and that after closing, when no one else there, the spirit can be heard running from one end of the attic to the other.
This is just a small sampling of the odd and wonderful folklore of Provo, Utah. I have my own theories regarding this kind of phenomena. I like to lean towards a more “fae” based origin for a lot of it.
Many of the stories stories I’ve collected relate to Provo’s Lions’ Park and the Mystery Vortex just west of Provo’s Columbia Lane … but that’s a story for another time.
Danny B. Stewart is an “anomalogist”—a scientist of anomalies, a performance artist, lecturer, and professional storyteller. He is also on a first name basis with that thing that lives in your closet.