One of the haunted places in Ogden that I am asked the most about is the old Ogden Exchange Building. I think this is due largely in part to a notorious EVP that was supposedly captured here sometime in 2004-2005, and aired on Art Bell’s program on 4/02/2005. If you haven’t heard it yet, you can listen for yourself here. The Ogden Exchange Building also happens to be a really cool old building. It’s one of those locations that just looks creepy. Sitting alone, it’s surrounded by fields, near the old Swift meat processing building. (Which also is a lovely old building and unfortunately soon to be demolished). During the day the area isn’t particularly creepy, but at night the creep factor is upped quite a bit.
The Ogden Exchange Building is one of those places that as a researcher of haunted buildings has always bothered me. Why? Because this building has so much bogus history around it that gets spread as fact and people just assume that everything they read on the internet is true! This includes some paranormal teams who obviously didn’t bother to do much legitimate research. Okay, rant over.
But honestly, if you Google the Ogden Exchange Building in order to look for it’s haunted history, you’ll find more than one reference to all the tragedy this building has seen. This tragedy includes a triple homicide in 1941, as well as three suicides, and one natural death. So of course with all of that tragedy, it must be haunted, right?! Oh yes, and let’s not forget that it is also rumored to have been used as a sort of mental hospital and had it’s own morgue.
Over the years of investigating and researching haunted places, I’ve found that places that saw more tragedies or simply housed stronger emotions did tend to be more active, paranormally speaking. That’s why some of my favorite places to investigate are old hospitals, asylums, and prisons. However, that doesn’t mean that a place has to have major tragedy in its history to be haunted.
With all of that being said I’m going to give you the true history of the Ogden Exchange Building and explain why I believe its history has been so inflated and distorted over the years.
Opened in 1931
The picture above left shows what the Ogden Union Stockyards looked like in the early 1930’s. The Ogden Exchange Building is in the lower right corner of each picture. As you can see on the right, the area looks nothing like it did years ago. This area was where the Ogden Union Stockyards were from approximately 1917 until the late 1960’s.((Ogden Union Stockyards))
The stockyards played a major part of Ogden’s economy. Livestock sales would grow to surpass approximately $60 million per year. In addition to the revenue, the stockyards employed around 100 employees and the three local packing plants each employed around 150. Livestock was big business in Utah and Ogden in particular. The stockyards here were the largest in Utah. In fact, Ogden’s Union Stockyard’s was the largest livestock market west of Denver.
The original Exchange Building pictured below was built in 1922 and was a short distance to the northwest from the current building. With the explosion of stockyard business came an expansion of the stockyards and it was decided that a new, modern facility was needed. On September 30th, 1930 construction was begun on a new exchange building with an estimated cost of $100,000. (Equivalent to $1.5 Million today)((Historic American Landscapes Survey – Susan Crook))
The new building was designed by the Ogden architectural firm Hodgson and McClenahan. This firm also designed the Bigelow Hotel, Ogden High School, Peery’s Egyptian Theater, the Ogden Weber Municipal Building, and the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office Building. After just 9 months of construction, the new Exchange Building officially opened on Saturday, May 23rd, 1931.((The Ogden Standard-Examiner · Sat, May 23, 1931))
This new building held 50 offices, a lobby that extended through both floors, a fountain lunch counter, barber shop, and shower room. I can imagine the shower room was definitely a necessity given what the employees would be working in and around each day. The offices held not only stockyard employees but also commission firms and offices for railroad employees.
Local newspapers reported that the Ogden Exchange Building was prestigious and exemplified the success of the Ogden stockyards. The lobby included two mural paintings by a Utah artist named Paul Clowes, which I actually found a depiction of. I imagine the building would have looked amazing when it was brand new!
The End of An Era
By the mid-1950’s Ogden’s Union Stockyards began to decline. Railroads as a mean of transportation began to become less popular as trucking took over. With the continued steady decline, the Ogden Union Stockyard’s closed for business on January 29th, 1971.
Here is where the rumors of the old Exchange Building being a mental hospital began. For the first couple of years after the stockyard closed, the Exchange Building was used to house a trade school. In 1974, the trade school moved out and the building was used as a community mental health and drug treatment center through Weber Mental Health. During this time they offered classes, counseling, and the location was used as a methadone clinic. After hours of research, I could not find any mention of it ever being used for inpatient treatment or otherwise intensive treatment. Weber Mental Health occupied the building until it closed in 1987.
While the building was still occupied, most of the other stockyard buildings including the livestock pens and coliseum were still standing. After Weber Mental Health moved out the area became a target for vandals. In 1993 the coliseum and at least one other building burned to the ground. Arson was suspected and both buildings were demolished. Thankfully, the Ogden Exchange Building survived.
The Haunted House Years
From 2005 until 2014 give or take a year or two, the Exchange Building was used as a haunted house. A fairly detailed story was created for this attraction involving a mental hospital and deranged doctor. The name of this fake hospital was Bellshire. Surprisingly enough, many people believed the story created for this haunted house and it began to spread as truth. The building began to gain a reputation as being haunted.
Truth vs. Fiction
I can say with 100% certainty that there was never a triple homicide in or near the Exchange Building. There were at least two reported deaths in the building, both of natural causes, and just a couple of weeks apart from each other. On May 20th, 1951 Albert Dean, a chute clerk at the stockyards died suddenly while in the exchange building. It was later determined that Mr. Dean had a heart attack. Just two and a half weeks later on June 7th, 1951 another death occurred inside the building.
Henry Stanford was a 56-year-old truck driver who was chatting with friends inside the Exchange Building when he too dropped dead from a heart attack.
It should also be noted that in 1985 a local prostitute named Mamie Hoskins was reported missing. About a week later a pair of legs were found in the Weber River, a short distance from where the Exchange Building is located. Information about this murder was very limited and hard to find. However, police at the time were 99% sure the legs belonged to the missing woman. By 1989 the rest of her body had yet to be recovered, it’s unknown if it was ever found. Her murder was never solved.
The Ogden Exchange Building is a perfect example of why accurate research needs to be done before investigating a reported haunted location. Whether or not this building is actually haunted is not for me to say. If it is haunted it’s haunted by the people who worked here for many years when the stockyards were thriving. The Exchange Building is currently part of a revitalization taking place in the area. The land on which the old Ogden Union Stockyards once stood, is being turned into a business district. I am grateful that this old building is being saved and refurbished instead of being torn down and replaced by something new.