Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I’ve been busy working on a project that I will hopefully be able to share soon. Since it’s now October (my favorite time of year!!) I thought I would write about one of Utah’s most well-known haunts that also happens to be practically impossible to get into.
I first heard about the Old Mill from my friend Helmey a few years ago. One of his ancestors was the first mill foreman, and he’s always been drawn to the creepy derelict building. It’s also rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Utah. Since I’ve lived north of Salt Lake City since moving to Utah in 2007 I really didn’t know too much about it.
Like many other haunted locations that have reached almost a mythical status due to being off limits, the spooky stories surrounding the Old Mill are fairly vague. The most often repeated story I found says that two vagrants died in a fire along with their dog and they have haunted the mill ever since. There is also a report of a caretaker committing suicide at the location. Neither story mentions when these events occurred.
People have reported cold spots, hearing a dog barking when none can be seen, doors opening and closing on their own (sometimes slamming shut), lights being turned on and off, and lights being seen in the building long after electricity to the building was cut off. Those that have visited or used to work at the mill say it has a very oppressive and eerie feel to it.
I began to research the history of the Old Mill to see if there were historical events that could help account for the stories of paranormal activity that people have experienced but came up mostly empty-handed.
The mill has been referred to by a few different names over the years: Old Mill, Cottonwood Mill, or Deseret News Paper Mill, Old Mill Club, and the Haunted Old Mill when it was used as a haunted house. The original name of the mill is the Granite Paper Mill.
Located near the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, construction began on the mill in 1881 and was completed by 1883 at the cost of $150,000 (about $3.5 million in today’s dollar). Some of the granite used to construct the mill was leftover from the construction of the Salt Lake Mormon Temple.
The Old Mill was constructed by the LDS church to help supply enough paper to meet demand due to their extensive record keeping and publications. It would also make them self-sufficient and not reliant on paper manufacturers back east. At its peak, the mill could produce 5 tons of paper in 24 hours.
Success was short lived however when on April 1st, 1893 a fire broke out at the mill. People thought the alarms were an April Fool’s joke and failed to respond until the building was almost entirely destroyed. It was a total loss, and despite calls for it to be rebuilt, it sat abandoned for the next 34 years.
In 1927 the mill was in use once again, this time as the Old Mill Club. It was operated as an open air dance club through the 1940’s, and again in the 1970’s as a discotheque. It was also used as a haunted house around Halloween throughout the 1970’s and saw it’s last use in the early 1980’s when it a craft boutique. It has sat empty since the 1980’s and was finally condemned by the city in 2005.
Other than the original fire in 1893 that destroyed most of the building, I only found mention of one other fire at the Old Mill. It occurred in July 1935, and not much was said about it. There was no mention of any injuries or death. That’s not to say that additional fires didn’t occur, but I would think if there had been a fire that caused a fatality, it would’ve made the papers.
I did come across an interesting story of a shooting that took place at the Old Mill in 1933. On the morning of June 27th, the night watchman who lived at the Old Mill said he was woken by the sound of breaking glass. When the watchman went to investigate near the north side of the building, he found a young man peering into the broken window. He told police that confronted the 18-year-old boy and told him to stay put. The boy threw his hands in the air and then turned and started running. The watchman then shot the boy in the back. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. He soon recovered, and a few months later sued for almost $30,000 in damages.
From all accounts, it seems that most of the stories of paranormal activity began around the time that the Old Mill was being used as a haunted house. I’ve also seen a couple of reports that sometime in the 1970’s the nightwatchman committed suicide in front of his wife inside the Old Mill. ((http://ufofreeparanormal.com/stories/viewstory.php?sid=765))
Unfortunately, with the unsafe condition of the building, it doesn’t seem likely that groups or individuals will be allowed in anytime soon to investigate the possible paranormal activity here.