Picture yourself at the Thomas Hardy Salon, sitting in the chair while a stylist is busy dying your hair. While absently gazing at the mirror in front of you, you catch a glimpse of a little girl peering around a column behind you. Not thinking much of it, you continue to engage in chit chat with the stylist. The little girl keeps catching your eye. Your stylist walks away to mix some dye. You look up again and see the little girl is intently staring at you in the mirror. Turning around to get a better look you find that she has vanished.
Looking around the salon there are only a couple of stylists and another customer getting her hair done a few chairs down. You don’t see a little girl anywhere. Then it hits you that you don’t remember ever hearing a child’s voice. As you try to make sense of what you’ve seen, you realize that the little girl you saw in the mirror seemed “off.” Her clothing seemed old fashioned, and her color seemed indescribably different.
This is just one of the many strange occurrences that the owners have observed in the 30+ years the salon has been open on 25th Street. Matt and I stopped by after the salon had closed for the night to talk to the Hardy family about the unusual things they have experienced there. Sitting on the second floor I couldn’t help but imagine how different the building would’ve been well over 100 years ago.
Belle London “Queen of the Underworld”
I was really excited to hear the stories of strange things that have happened here for a couple of reasons. I love hearing spooky stories, especially from locations that aren’t well known to be haunted. And, it gave me a great reason to research the history of the Thomas Hardy Salon. I was somewhat familiar with it already from researching Electric Alley, and the connection to one of Ogden’s most notorious women, Dora Belle Topham. Using the alias, Belle London, she was known as the “Queen of the Underworld.”
Belle was the madam of Ogden’s infamous red-light district, Electric Alley. She owned quite a bit of real estate on 25th Street including the building that now houses the Thomas Hardy Salon. Between this building and the one next to it is a three-foot wide corridor that led directly into the heart of the red-light district. The last of the Electric Alley cribs were demolished years ago. The area is now just a shortcut to a large parking lot behind all the shops and restaurants.
Over the last 116 years, this building has seen bar fights, deaths, prostitution, illegal gambling, an opium den, and at least one speakeasy. Because of its wild history, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that those that work here have experienced some strange activity over the years.
One of my favorite finds is the above newspaper clipping from August 1910. City officials at the time were under immense public pressure close Electric Alley. One evening in August, a group of men including a reporter, and a local minister set out to 25th Street. Their mission was to try and gain access to various brothels and gambling rooms in order to expose the “evils” of 25th Street. After seeing a man enter the Grill they tried to follow. When they got to the door and pushed, it refused to budge. They found it was an electric door operated by the bartender inside. Despite not getting in that night, it wasn’t long before Belle and the girls of Electric Alley were run out of town.
Debbie Hardy began by telling us about the time she was in the basement doing laundry. She heard what sounded like a large, heavy piece of glass breaking. Thinking one of the full-length mirrors upstairs had fallen off the wall and shattered she ran upstairs to see what happened. She was met at the top of the stairs by her son Parker who was on his way downstairs to see what all the commotion was. Each thought the noise they heard came from the other floor. They searched the inside of the building, as well as the outside to find the source of the noise but could find nothing broken or out of place.
When researching haunted places I love when I come across stories from the past that coincide with experiences people have had in the present. I found an article from November 1903 where a fight inside the saloon ended when one of the brawlers went crashing through the plate glass window at the front of the building. Could what Debbie and the others heard that day have been an echo from a past event?
The two-story brick building now housing the salon was built in 1901. It was owned by Belle London and leased by John E. Davenport. Davenport also happened to be the former Ogden City chief of police. I feel this is important because Belle London always made sure to take special care of the local police and city officials. They, in turn, were lenient in enforcing certain laws. Often, they turned a blind eye entirely. From 1901 until 1910 the building held Davenport’s Saloon which was later known as the Grill Saloon, or simply the Grill.
In the early 1900’s, Ogden was the stereotypical Wild West town, and 25th Street was the epicenter of activity. There were more saloons in this three block area than anywhere else from Ogden to Salt Lake City. It made for a very wild and crazy time. And it seems that the Thomas Hardy Salon building, in particular, was at the heart of most of it.
Roach Left A Family
The first death I could confirm here occurred on June 3rd, 1903. Two men, Patrick Roach and B. Hammon, who by all accounts were quite drunk, were preparing to leave the Grill Club House. Ironically, Mr. Roach was trying to help the other man get down the stairs safely. After taking a few steps he tripped and they both came tumbling down the stairs. By the time they got to the bottom, Roach was dead from a broken neck.
The stairs also seem to be the focus of frequent paranormal activity within the salon. On more than one occasion people in the salon have heard the sound of someone coming up the stairs. It usually happens after hours when the salon is quiet and mostly empty. The family said they’ll often stop what they’re doing to see who’s coming only to find that no one ever appears. Mason also reported hearing a conversation coming from the basement one morning. He thought someone was talking on the telephone, but couldn’t quite make out the voice. He walked to the top of the basement steps and listened trying to determine who was down there. As soon as he got to the basement stairs, the conversation abruptly ended.
Due to the stories of phantom footsteps, and ghostly conversations many of the employees of the Thomas Hardy Salon try to avoid the basement. The basement does have a feature common among the shops lining 25th Street: old closed up entranceways that keep the rumors of 25th Street tunnels alive!
Opium Dens & Shadow Figures
I found a newspaper article about stills that were kept in the basement in the 1920’s. Numerous raids were conducted during the 1920’s and the building was known to house a speakeasy. When police would enter looking for illegal liquor the bartender would drop the bottles through a hole in the floor. Alcohol wasn’t the only thing the police were looking for during that time. An interesting article from September 1924 detailed a raid on a suspected opium den located on the first floor. Ogden police entered the building by force and found a man named Wong Choy lying on his bed smoking opium. He tried to escape through a hole in the floor in but wasn’t fast enough.
The police later found a stash of narcotics hidden under the floor boards of the room. It makes me wonder where he would’ve gone if he had made it through that hole in the floor. Today there is no direct exit from the basement. Perhaps there used to be a tunnel or some other free passage behind the now cemented arch?
Shadow figures have also been seen in the salon. After locking up for the evening, Mason and a few others stood behind the salon talking. At night they leave a couple neon lights on in the building so that it’s not entirely dark. As they were chatting, they saw the shadow of a person walk across the upper floor. As it moved it passed in front of two windows and a door. He said that it blocked out the light as it passed by. Knowing they were the only people in the salon he said they figured it was just time to go and didn’t go back inside to see what if anything was there.
The paranormal activity inside the Thomas Hardy Salon isn’t confined to just audible and visual phenomena. One day Mason and Parker were sitting in the waiting area chatting with the receptionist until their clients arrived. As they chatted, two jars of product flew off Mason’s station a few feet away and landed across the room. I asked if they were spooked, and Mason said they were dumbfounded rather than scared. He went on to say they sat there trying to come up with an explanation for what they had witnessed. The following day, an object went flying off the reception desk and landed a few feet away.
Thomas Hardy and his family have never been scared by the activity experienced in the salon. In a way, they almost seem to embrace it. It’s just another layer of Ogden’s wild past that you can catch a glimpse of every now and then. Nowhere in the city is this more pronounced than on 25th Street.