Home Urban Legends Kay’s Cross – Polygamists, Cult Leaders & Satanic Panic

Kay’s Cross – Polygamists, Cult Leaders & Satanic Panic

by Jennifer Jones

Kay’s Cross, (or what remains of it), is located in Kaysville, Utah, on what has historically been farmland for going on a hundred years. A large stone cross that stood here for many years was reduced to rubble in February of 1992. Even with the cross being mostly destroyed, the legends of its haunted nature still run rampant.

You might have seen it recently on an episode of Ghost Adventures where they immediately find a connection between the cross and some dark, satanic force. Of course they did. Kids, don’t believe everything you see on TV, k?

Since at least the late 1970’s, early 80’s people, (usually teenagers), have been sneaking onto the property to see the cross for themselves. Surrounded by trees, and back then probably considered to be out in the middle of nowhere, this would have been a creepy trek no doubt. The creep factor would have escalated even more if they cut through the Kaysville Cemetery to get to Kay’s Cross. Kay’s Cross was a beacon for bored kids who were drawn by various legends that seemed to grow and morph throughout the years.

The Legends…

If you want to read about the many versions of the legends of Kay’s Cross, just do a quick Google search. I’ll share the most well known story: A polygamist who owned the land the cross is on killed seven of his wives and buried six of them around the cross. One he buried standing upright in the base of the cross, and he encased her heart in the center of the cross. He then hung himself from the cross, as penance for his crimes.

And then, most likely due to the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, there are the rumors that Satanists used the cross as an altar for their satanic rituals including sacrifices. It’s funny how these dang Satanists just keep popping up at all of the haunted locations in Utah. I didn’t realize they had so much free time on their hands!

Let’s be real for a moment though. Would a group of Satanists go to the trouble of trekking to Kay’s Cross, lugging whatever gear they need to perform their rituals and risk getting caught? Or, is it more likely that the kids sneaking out there in the middle of the night wanted to be edgy and tag up the area with satanic symbols? 

K For Kingdom?

Like with other legends, the truth is often stranger than fiction. The real history of Kay’s Cross involves polygamists and a religious cult with a random connection to Charles Manson.

Anyone who has done basic research on Kay’s Cross knows that the mystery of who built the cross hasn’t been that much of a mystery since 1992; shortly after the cross was blown to smithereens.

On April 5, 1992, the Deseret News reported on an interview conducted by a local historical society with a man who claimed he helped build the cross in the summer of 1946. The man’s name was Merlin Kingston.

The parcel of land that the cross is on has been owned by the Kingston Family since at least the early 1900’s. For those of you outside of Utah, the Kingston Clan is a well known polygamist family in Utah. So, K for Kingston, mystery solved, right? Well, not really.

According to Merlin Kingston, the cross was built in honor of Krishna Venta according to plans Venta himself had drawn. The large K at the top of the cross stood for Kingdom, a word that played a prominent role in Venta’s speeches. The arms of the cross were to be covered in glass and hold scriptures.

Krishna Venta and his second wife

However, Venta left the area before the cross was completed. So who was Krishna Venta, why was he honored with a stone cross, and how did he and Merlin Kingston meet in the first place?

Francis Pencovic aka Krishna Venta

Krishna Venta, born Francis Pencovic, was a religious cult leader who gained popularity in the 40’s and 50’s. He also just so happened to have lived in Utah for a few years. And he became acquainted with Merlin Kingston’s brother while serving in the Army. 

Venta was your classic cult charlatan. He was born in San Francisco in 1911. By the time he was 30 he had a long record of arrests for petty crimes, including sending what was perceived as a threatening letter to the President of the United States.

By 1941 it seems as if he was well on his way to being a cult leader. He, his first wife, their two children, and his secretary took a trip to Alaska. On the passenger manifest his occupation was listed as “MD.” Another record lists his occupation as “writer”. I couldn’t find if Venta graduated high school, or if he attended college, but he definitely was no doctor. By 1944 he was divorced from his first wife, most likely because he had been caught having an affair with his secretary who he married almost immediately after his divorce was finalized. 

He was living in Salt Lake City following his second marriage and enlisted in the Army at Fort Douglas as a conscientious objector in 1945. He was assigned to the Army Medical Corps. However, that didn’t last long as he was back in Salt Lake City by 1946. By now he was using the name Krishna Venta and was making money as a traveling lecture hall minister. Following his “lectures” which were free, he would offer “private classes” for $50 per person. 

The Kingston’s and Venta had a lot in common, they were both about money, sex, and, to a lesser degree in Venta’s case, power.

Krishna with short hair, probably due to having been discharged from the army recently.

According to Merlin Kingston’s 1992 interview, he and his brother invited Venta to hold outdoor lectures on their property in Kay’s Hollow in the Spring and Summer of 1946. It was during this time that Kay’s Cross was erected by Venta and the Kingston’s. Their association also appears to have been further cemented by Krishna Venta’s mention of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods in signage and materials. The Kingston’s, practicing sectarian Mormons, most likely had some part to play in this by  “laying of hands” to imbue Venta with this designation and affiliation between their respective cult belief systems.

But How Does Charles Manson Play Into This?

Turns out 1946 was a pivotal year for Venta. He became fascinated with Mormonism (especially the Melchizedek priesthood), and by 1947 had legally changed his name to Krishna Venta and left Utah.

Upon leaving Utah, Venta gained notoriety and followers (eventually around 100 give or take) and started the Wisdom Knowledge Faith Love (WKFL) Fountain of The World cult. They lived on 25 acres in Box Canyon in California where they built a monestary in 1948.

The Fountain members were known to mostly keep to themselves, always walked around barefoot, and wore long, flowing robes. Not only were they non-violent, but they would help people in the nearby community, including saving victims from a plane crash in the hills near their compound. The Fountain was open to visitors and they would perform plays in which the local community was invited.

All was not perfect at The Fountain, however. Venta was jailed for 10 days for refusing to comply with court ordered child support. His defense of non-payment was that The Fountain members shared all of their assets so none of the money was just his. He also had a penchant for gambling, and was known to make frequent trips to Reno and Vegas. There was also the world travel such as the time he went to London and Rome to try for an audience with the Pope. For a man with no money of his own, he sure seemed to live quite well!

Venta’s grand cult plans came to a shocking end in December, 1958. On the evening of December 10th, two ex Fountain members who had become tired of Venta’s hypocrisy regarding money, (and the fact that he was sleeping with their wives), confronted him in order to try to get him to confess to crimes while one of them taped the conversation with a hidden tape recorder. Plan A didn’t work, as they figured it wouldn’t, so they decided to go with Plan B and blow themselves and anyone else close enough to bits by detonating a bag full of dynamite.

Krishna Venta was killed, along with 7 other cult members, including women and children.

Despite Venta’s death, the Fountain of The World survived and by 1968 Charles Manson, along with a few of his followers would stay at the monestary off and on for a few months. After he began scaring the Fountain of The World members they were finally forced to leave. Even though Venta died a decade before Manson ever made it to the Fountain of The World, he seems to have had an impact on Manson. Manson adopted many of Venta’s prophesies and twisted them into his own, much more violent, Helter-Skelter.

If you want to read more about Krishna Venta and Fountain of The World, Shawn Sutherland’s blog does a great job of covering it.

Krishna’s wife and kids eventually left California for Alaska taking a few of the cult members with them. Some of the others decided to join The People’s Temple led by Jim Jones, and we all know how that ended.

What Happened To The Cross?

In the years following Venta’s lectures in Kay’s Hollow, the large stone cross became a challenge for the local teens. It grew into an urban legend with a haunted past.

It’s hard to say if the thrill of visiting Kay’s Cross came from the rumors of spirits and the ghouls that guarded it at night, or the risk of being caught and/or shot at by the property owners.

On the evening of February 15, 1992, the cross was blown up. To this day the destruction of Kay’s Cross has never been solved. I personally believe it was destroyed by the Kingston’s who were tired of dealing with trespassers on their property. Who else would have a motive to take 80 pounds of dynamite and blow up Kay’s Cross?

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Michelle August 30, 2018 - 9:51 pm

The true story is more interesting than the legends I’ve heard! Crazy how all that is tied together. I’ve actually investigated the area (with permission on public investigations of course) a few times and haven’t run across anything dark or evil myself, but I know the people that were on the Ghost Adventures show, and they’ve had some interesting things happen to them, by which I’m not sure if it was something evil already there or that which they brought in themselves or by opening a so called “portal”.

Sam brown September 1, 2018 - 6:56 pm

I think it probably was the Kingston’s who blew it up, they had easy access to explosives at their coal mine (I helped use some at their farm in Idaho as a teenager to blow up a rock for an irrigation pipeline) and they were always trying to cover up any “questionable” decisions their leaders may have made. I grew up in the cult and they taught and believed and still do that their leaders are basically unable to make mistakes. We were in no way allowed to second guess or even lightly critique them. So anytime there was a story that might shed a bit of bad light on their leaders they condemned anyone who dared share the story or in many cases even speak of it. Blowing up the cross would discourage anyone from asking questions, on a side note my uncle (still currently a member) believed that the kaysville place (they call everything ____place when referring to properties they own) was the one place that they would be safe when the world was supposed to end in 2000 and again in 2008, 2011 etc etc, so he has on a few occasions convinced a few of the members to gather there and fast and pray during those specific times.

Beverly Hansen November 25, 2018 - 6:01 pm

I also grew up in the cult; my father told me he helped build the cross, but that the “K” was meant to stand for “knowledge”. Wouldn’t surprise me much if the Kingston family destroyed it, though, for the reasons Sam mentioned. But the rumors of dark happenings always attract the curious, and it wouldn’t be a surprise that cultists of various kinds would be attracted to the place. People love being creeped out!

Volton Melchizedek December 11, 2018 - 4:04 pm

Hi. I’m wondering if anyone remembers a cult member named K.C. Hoyne. I have traveled with him and he’s told me many stories about Krishna and the WKFL Fountain of the World.


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