Alan Lamont was carefully dusting some rifles and placing them back into the cabinet when he felt a gentle pat on his right shoulder. He looked back, expecting to see his boss, but no one was there.
“I wasn’t afraid,” Lamont said. “I had already been told of some of the ghost stories of this place.”
Lamont had only worked at the James M. Browning Firearms Museum at Union Station for two months when this happened. “I think it was Mr. Browning letting me know I was doing a good job.”
That’s one of the many stories told about Union Station. Visitors include attendees to the Night at the Museum, which features tours guided by paranormal investigators. For three nights in October, visitors can experience their own ghost hunt.
Ghostface Paranormal Society of Salt Lake City is one of the organizations that leads the 45-minute tours through the upstairs, downstairs and basement vaults of Union Station — all in the dark. Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras and flashlights.
There are plenty of reasons people support the theory that Union Station could be haunted.
On Dec. 31, 1944, a horrific two-train collision killed 48 people, 29 of which were military. Their bodies, along with the 79 who were injured, were all taken to Union Station for identification and triage.
Deseret News reporter Lynn Arave wrote in 1995, “The wreck ironically produced a bloody carnage at home only rivaled by World War II overseas.”
Dustin Cunning, equipment technician and investigator, told a story of previous tour groups and employees who have seen a soldier standing in the John M. Browning Firearms Museum. “The soldier also likes to touch and rub people.”
The Browning Theater is one of the “hotspots” of Union Station that has the most activity.
“This is probably because this is where the bodies were brought in for sorting,” Cunning said.
Another “ghost” sighted in the theater is that of a young boy in the rafters. At other times, people have claimed to hear children’s voices or laughter that sounds like children playing.
Trey Burningham, also an investigator, said he has heard these things firsthand. Audio recorders have caught what sounds like a child talking or counting. The investigators will have to analyze the recording several times before they can determine if that was indeed what they heard.
The annex is another area that was used for body sorting. Visitors have claimed to see shadows moving across the walls, and some employees believe the ghost of 10-year-old Frances Williams is still there.
The story goes that in June 1913, Frances was killed by her mother Minnie Ekman, who was looking to start a new life away from Salt Lake City with a new man. Upon realizing that having a daughter might pose a problem for her, she decided to kill her and place her body into a trunk. She then traveled to Ogden with the trunk and, a few days later, decided to go back to Salt Lake City. At Union Station, a baggage handler noticed hair and a foul odor coming out of the trunk and decided to investigate. That is when he discovered little Frances’ naked body.
These are only some of the ghost stories experienced by employees and visitors to Union Station during the paranormal tours. Visitors to Union Station can experience these events twice a year. The Night at the Museum event is in October, and Spring Scream is in April.
Marco Lopez, a visitor from Pocatello, Idaho, said this will not be his last time doing a ghost tour.
“I had a really good time and I learned a lot,” he said, “but I really like this kind of creepy stuff anyway.”