May 30, 2008
A miner arrived early to the Bogan Mine Boarding House on 221 Main Street. He entered and walked up the stairs to his bedroom. His wife, not expecting him back for hours, was entertaining another man.
"He killed both of them," quavered Clarence Wells as he held the straw of his water backpack between his fingers Wednesday.
It was a bright, clear day, but it may as well have been an eerie summer night around a campfire a hundred years ago, when the incident of local lore took place.
Wells was the picture of a tour guide: part tourist, part guide. He wore a 2002 Olympic baseball cap, a fleece, and dark lenses were clipped to the frames of his glasses.
Three women from the Park City Historical Society & Museum encircled him, laughing and listening.
Today, the Bogan Mine Boarding House is a bed and breakfast, the Imperial Hotel. Although the name has changed, some employees and guests say the place still has the same posthumous occupants.
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"I don’t believe in all that stuff," Sydney Reed said by way of introducing her ghost story.
Reed has been involved with the museum in 1987 and serves as the organization’s education coordinator. A former teacher, Reed occasionally takes school kids to the upper left bedroom where the shootings took place.
"The lights were on and when I came back the lights were off," she said.
"Faulty wiring," Elizabeth Besson, the museum intern, offered unconvincingly.
The consensus between the women was clear: The miner, wife and doomed interloper are still romping around the top floor, turning off the lights like a giddy threesome.
"Park City history is interesting, fun, bizarre," Reed said. "It repeats itself even today. Park City has a diverse crowd and kind of an entrepreneur group. People come to town with degrees and they start their own businesses and stay to try to create a life. [They become] enamored with the spirit of the place."
There’s Susanna Egera Bransford Emery Holmes Delitch Engalitcheff, Utah’s Silver Queen, who married and divorced several men and made her fortune from Park City’s mines.
There’s Mrs. Fields, Robert Redford and Mitt Romney.
And, of course, there’s Clarence Wells, the tour guide.
"Horses produced one ton of manure on Main Street daily," he said, pointing to a black and white photo inside the Imperial Hotel. The photo shows horses pulling buggies. "Hogs and pigs ran wild. People threw their garbage out into the streets."
Next to that picture is a photo of Welsch, Driscoll & Buck Groceries, Glassware and Crockery. "Park City’s first Walmart," Wells explained.
Bette Scarlet, another volunteer training to be a guide on the tour, didn’t chime in until the group had moved down the street from the Imperial and Wells had finished telling the group about Main Street’s 24 ethnic saloons.
"I don’t believe in teaching history so you don’t repeat it," Scarlet said. "You always repeat it."
Guided tours of Main Street run from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Guests meet at the temporary Museum Office in Main Street Mall, 333 Main Street, on the second floor. Tours cost $5 a person and large groups should call ahead for reservations.
Park City Museum curator Johanna Fassbender said about 350 people take the Main Street tour every season. "Mostly it’s tourists who take the guided tour," she said. "Some people go on Main Street for shopping and restaurants and don’t realize how old the buildings are. A lot of locals don’t take the tour until they have guests in town."
Guests take a trolley to the top of Main Street and walk down to Heber Avenue, pausing at Treasure Mountain Inn, The Egyptian Theater, Red Banjo Pizza Gold Rule Mercantile, Chimayo, the Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone & Telegraph Co.(known today as Purple Sage), The Hungry Moose, No Name Saloon, City Hall, the Kimball Art Center, and a number of other places.
The tour is a money-maker for the museum, which closed its location at 528 Main in November for renovation. When the museum reopens in the spring of 2009, it will have 12,000 square feet, twice as much as the old space.
"It’s nice to know there’s history here," Bette Scarlet said on Wednesday’s tour. "It’s one of the attractions to the town. You can’t ski all the time."
Main Street by the numbers:
1870 The year silver, lead, zinc and copper were found in Park City
24 saloons on Main Street near the turn of the century
1898 The year of the Park City fire that destroyed most of Main Street’s wooden structures
1884 Main Street incorporated as a city. It formed its own government, fire and police forces
1963 Treasure Mountain Ski Resort, now Park City Mountain Resort, opens. The resort featured a skier subway that towed guests underground and included a rudimentary elevator that took guests thousands of feet up to the surface of the mountain. Before skiing, gambling and brothels kept the city from becoming a ghost town.
-Source: Tour guide Clarence Wells