Tour Review - Grimm Ghost Tours in SLC
Fear and learning in the greater Salt Lake City area.
Let me get this out of the way right up front. Living in Utah is generally a bizarre experience for those who are not followers of the dominant religion. So much of the state’s identity and social mores come from the LDS church, with the presence of the religion keenly felt in nearly every aspect of Utah life. Nighttime activities end earlier, liquor laws are steep and occasionally draconic (or so out of touch with reality to be nearly comical), and when you aren’t “in”, there is a subtle (but undeniable) social shunning. The separation of church and state is openly talked about as if it’s a real thing, but you only have to look around to see that Utah politics are heavily influenced by church beliefs and doctrine. But even in the midst of all this religiosity, the underground scene is alive and well in Utah, especially in Salt Lake City and Ogden. Are there major drawbacks to living here? Definitely. But there is also rich history to be found, a history of struggles and persecution, a history of suppressed urges and desires, a history of light and shadow. And because of all that mixed history, Utah is certainly NOT lacking in ghost stories and haunted locations.
Arguably Utah’s preeminent ghost tour company, Grimm Ghost Tours operates out of Salt Lake City, the capitol city which is located in the northern part of the state. Generally meeting on the south side of the SLC Mormon temple (I love the idea of ghost & ghoul lovers congregating right outside the beating heart of the LDS religion, barely held in check by the rather tall temple walls), Grimm Ghost Tours specializes in both ghostly excursions and paranormal investigations. Operating year round, with certain seasonal tours only offered outside of the snowy winter season, Grimm Ghost Tours does a great job of bringing the shadier and spookier history of the Salt Lake area to life. Don’t let the somewhat archaic website fool you; these guys take their jobs seriously, and are committed to ensuring their customers are satisfied.
Though there are several tours available, some that visit various haunted locations in and around the city, others that focus more on the several large cemeteries in downtown SLC, this review will focus on the Outer Reaches tour, which generally eschews the more well-known downtown SLC haunted locations and opting instead to visit more of the outskirts locations. Grimm Ghost Tours offer both early evening and night tours, though of course I recommend the night tours, as doing ghost tours while the sun is up seems contrary to the whole idea of ghosting.
Like any tour, participants who go in looking for enjoyment will find it. Like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Obviously, skeptics and disbelievers aren’t likely to find tours like these particularly engaging, unless they are interested in the historical anecdotes. Believers, on the other hand, will absolutely find something to enjoy with the Grimm gang. But, it does need to be said that the actual bus driven tours (though you’re not in the bus the whole time) are more focused on the history of the locations and the nature of the hauntings, not in actually exploring the hauntings themselves. So be aware that the scare factor is rather low.
Our tour took place in August of 2018, on Friday the 17th, at 9:00 PM. After hurriedly imbibing several whiskey-based drinks at a local bar, coconut lemongrass sake at a below street-level sushi joint, and specialized martinis at the fabulous and criminally undervisited The Red Door martini bar (try the butterscotch one with the crumbled Butterfinger bar in it!), we immediately got off on the right foot with our tour guide, Preacher of Truth, by jaywalking across South Temple to get to the tour bus. As this is definitely one of the busier streets of the area, he was certain that we were hellbent on becoming the latest ghosts to add to their tour. We were also tipsy, so we were more than ready to be entertained. And maybe more than a little lucky, come to think of it, that we didn’t get hit by a minivan (or Mormon Assault Vehicle, as we heathens like to call them!). Since we absolutely love the supernatural and the scary, we were the first on the bus, finding the best seats near the front, close to the door and within perfect hearing range of Preacher. The tour bus itself was decent sized, comfy, and clean. It also had a few little spooky touches to help set the “haunted” mood. The bus fit roughly 20 people, with no vacant seats since our tour, like the 7 PM one before it, was sold out.
The tour started right on time, with Preacher of Truth giving us the company mandated spiel and general tour rules. Once that was done, he handed out several portable EMF (electro-magnetic field) detectors, and of course we got one. From there, we got into the tour proper. Now, because of the general tipsiness, I can’t recall ALL of the locations we visited. And of course, this is a night tour, so most of the visited locations were not actually open to go inside. But some of the highlights of the evening were the SLC Masonic Temple, old Fort Douglas Cemetery, the former site of the Kissing Tree, and of course American Fork canyon entrance, very near to where Ted Bundy performed several of his kills. The bus stops at each location, allowing everyone to disembark to wander and take photos, while the guide gives backstory and information on the various hauntings that have taken place. Of all the varied locations, by far the best were the Kissing Tree, Fort Douglas Cemetery, and the American Fork location. I mean, cemeteries in nighttime are always cool, and there was an undeniable creep factor to being within walking distance of the cave where Ted Bundy performed his Utah kills (and where one girl, Rhonda Stapley, actually escaped). And the accompanying story with the Kissing Tree site was just cool and eerily romantic. We were also fortunate that we had extra ambiance for our particular tour, as there was lightning and thunder for the first few locations, which added that extra “spook” factor. There was also a light rain, which helped take some of the heat off of the August summer night.
One of the coolest parts of the evening was when we discovered a random gravestone in the Fort Douglas Cemetery that had the name Grimm on it. It’s a gravestone that the Preacher hadn’t seen before, though he visits that cemetery many times a week. So, we’ll chalk that find up to the spirits leading us to THAT particular gravestone. Thanks guys!
Of course, a tour generally can’t get by on cool locations alone. Thankfully, Preacher of Truth proved to be both an engaging and amusing guide, and since we had already gotten off to a great start with our jaywalking stunt, we generally had more interaction with him than the other tourists. His Louisiana drawl and jovial demeanor were a good counterpoint to the spooky material of tour. He was also more than willing to put up with the two of us, and since we were madly determined to maximize our enjoyment, we were likely THOSE people who were a little TOO into the whole experience. But Preacher took it in stride, generally involving us in his discussions and anecdotes, and requesting the occasional “Fuck Yeah!” from Lexy. Though we attempted to have him come get a drink with us after the tour was over, he was still on the clock and had post-tour obligations, so he had to graciously decline. Fortunately, The Red Door was still not terribly slammed after the tour was over, and we closed out our evening in fine fluidic form.
Ultimately, it’s not the scariest thing to do in Salt Lake (the Fear Factory is a good start for fear junkies), but the Outer Reaches tour was an hour-and-a-half of well spent time, with an informative guide and some genuinely cool sights.
So, whether you live in the SLC area or are just coming for a visit, do yourself a favor and take a night tour or investigation with Grimm Ghost Tours. We are definitely going to go on one of their overnight investigations, hopefully in the near future, and I will be sure to review that experience for sure. Until next time, stay spooky my friends!
4 out of 5 eerie & educational stars!