Oscar Eliason - The Original ‘Dante the Great’
Chapter 7 - Haunting - The Eliason Home In Salt Lake City
The following text comes from the Salt Lake Herald of March 9, 1908. It is a sensational story implying that there was a "jinx" on the Eliason family home.
APPALLING LIST OF FATALITIES ATTACHING TO MODEST HOUSE GIVES RISE TO WEIRD THEORIES
Many weird and fanciful theories have grown up out of the long list of fatalities and mishaps attached to one small adobe dwelling built in the early history of the city. Some ask if it is possible that spirits with evil intentions have sought out the dwellers within its walls to do them harm regardless of any wrongdoing on their part. In these days when the laws of psychic phenomena are being thoroughly studied by many great minds, when such scientists as Sir Oliver Lodge, Professor James Hyslop, Arthur Balfour, Camile Flammarion and others equally noteworthy are daily drawing a little nearer to what seems to be a logical solution of the unknown world of mystery surrounding life, the questions raised with reference to "the ill omened house" are of timely interest. In a recent number, the editor of Harper's Weekly says in editorial comment on a very daring article by Charles Johnston:
The rigid investigations made by prominent scientists in America and Europe have clearly proved the existence of a series of phenomena not to be explained under known laws of physics. The contest is now between the champions of the telepathic and spiritualistic theories. The latter theory has by no means yet been proved, although it seems to present the easier solution. It has recently obtained the support of Professor Ceasar Lombroso, for thirteen years an ardent opponent. The dismissal of the whole subject as 'humbug' is impossible to the unprejudiced mind."
New Death Recalls Record
Within the past week the question of the existence of something outside the ordinary laws in regard to a small home of the city has been brought up once more by the death of Mrs. William Carroll, the last of more than a dozen to meet death, if not within the walls, at least while in some way connected with the house either as owner or lessee. That all the misfortune attaching to the place is mere coincidence is hard to many to believe. That some spirit of evil, not "made perfect" as yet, seeks to do injury to innocent ones is equally difficult of credence. What, then, is the secret which makes a cruel fate select this little vine-embowered house for its most unkind shafts?
The little, modest-looking place with which so much of tragedy has been connected is a one-story house on the corner of Third Avenue and J Street, facing south with the east side exposed to J Street. It is surrounded with trees, and in little garden plots each summer the flowers bloom and the trees put forth their leaves and fruit. Outwardly it is as attractive as any of the little cottages built in the early [eighteen] sixties, which is the time of its construction. It sits low on the ground although the natural slope of the hillside in that place gives sufficient rise in front to admit of two or three steps to the little old-fashioned porch. Its doorway opening in the middle of the house divides it squarely in two in front, while at the back a lean-to adds depth to the appearance of the east side.
Succession of Mortgages
The property has passed through many hands in the past half century, and a succession of mortgages almost enough to paper its lowly walls have been held by various individuals. Serious financial difficulties have beset not alone its owners, but its inhabitants as well, and its record of deaths and disasters is an appalling one. Four cases of insanity - two of them followed by death, three deaths after acute serious illness, one death by consumption, one suicide, three violent deaths, one from burning, one in a railroad accident and one by shooting, besides numerous minor accidents and financial losses too numerous to record - these are a part of the tragedy of the place. These have been recorded and kept in mind by either neighbors or the afflicted ones. Of the many secret sorrows that have dwelt by the fireside there is no record.
Strange to say, there is no claim that ghosts stalk around the house where death and disaster rule. There are no tales of white-robed creatures or of blood-curdling moans. But the spirit of ruin and disaster which seems to make its dwelling place there is a very real one to those who know something of the story of the place.
"While it does not prowl by night around the walls of the little dwelling," says one observer, "its vigilance is relentless and its victims are claimed with a degree of certainty that leads the most skeptical to believe in its power."
For a season, perhaps a year or so, the place will remain unmolested, but never yet has fate once missed a visit in a family occupying the ill-omened house.
Place Is Not Shunned
The present owner, or at least the man who is today acquiring an ownership is R. C. Jones of Denver. Through M. S. Woolley he is purchasing the property, the rentals applying on the purchase price. So far as is known locally no serious mishaps have befallen him and he seems to be unafraid to venture his money on the place. Naturally the real estate men who have had the handling of the property are inclined to pooh-pooh the number of fatalities which have been directly connected with the house, and insist that it has had no more than its share of the unhappy endings of many lives. Neighbors who are not given over to superstitions, however, say that this does not account for the conditions known to surround the house. Strange to say, with all its fearful record, it has seldom been empty more than a day or so at a time. Whether the advertising it has had has done it harm or good would be a hard question to determine, for it has always had its share of occupants.
The land on which the house stands was purchased in the spring of 1864 from Brigham Young, who held the title to it, by O. L. Eliason. During the summer of that year Mr. Eliason employed a contractor named Anderson - long since passed to the beyond - to build that house. The land included the entire eastern half of the block now bounded on the east by J Street and on the West by I. That part of the city was then entirely unsettled, because although it was desirable land in one way, there was no water farther north than Second South Street.
Bones Of Indians
However, a promise was made to make an effort to get water along this very street, and on the strength of this promise the house was built. The clay from which the adobes were shaped was taken from a new clay bed about where the Rio Grande shops are now, and it was a matter of comment that more Indian bones were put into the walls of this one little house than had gone into the making of any number of aborigines, the site of the clay ed being known as an ancient battleground among the Indian tribes.
In the autumn of 1864, the Eliason family moved into the new home, and for eighteen years they nourished the hope that water would soon be brought to that section of the city, meanwhile carrying all the water for household uses from either as far west as the Eagle Gate or as farr south as Second South street. For thirty-one years the family lived in the house, and this time may be said to have been the best in its history. A family of children came and grew to manhood in those years, and it was not till the latter part of this period that the mother of the family was taken away. In the early nineties the house was sold after a long siege of mortgages and financial losses, to Mary Mickel.
There is a long series of disasters connected with the Mickel ownership, including the loss of mind on the part of Mrs. Mickel's husband, William Mickel, who, despite the fact that he had been of sound mind before, squandered all the family property while demented, and later was killed in a railroad accident. Only a short time later Mary Mickel was burned to death through an explosion of gas while still owning the house.
Woman Takes Poison
The next chapter relates to the ownership of one Snyder, who acquired the property at the time of the death of Mary Mickel. This man seems to have been one who washed his hands of the encumbrance very shortly after acquiring it, for it was sold to an out-of-town purchaser, John M. Stone, of Stout, who was mixed up in a scandal in this city later, having come here from West Virginia in company with a young woman whom he claimed as his wife. Salt Lakers remember the fearful fate which overtook the pair, and how when the unfortunate woman was dying from self administered poison, she confessed that she and Stone, or Stout, had together purchased the property and a quarrel over it had led to her act.
Later when the man returned to his former home he became an outcast and disappeared, leaving no trace, while the title of the property (over which some eastern relatives of the woman raised a lawsuit) being in dispute, reverted to the hands of the agent who made the sale. Through this agent the present purchaser acquired his interest so far as it goes.
Much of the story has to deal with the owners of the property, and the fate of the son of the first family will be recalled by all who knew the talented young man, Oscar Eliason, whose stage name was Dante. While in Australia he was shot by accident by one of his associates in some of his stage magic.
Dies Of Consumption
Needless to say, most of the occupants since 1894 have been renters, and they have been many. Of those, C. S. Williamson, for many years the foreman on The Herald, was one, and his death from consumption is of too recent date to need much effort to recall it. E. M. Onion was another renter, and in this house he lost his wife by a sudden acute illness.
The last fatality before the death of Mrs. Carroll was that of Fred A. Gattung, a tent maker who occupied the house in 1904, and who fell from a scaffolding, receiving injuries which caused the loss of his mental power. He was taken to the state mental hospital in Provo, where in a short time he died.
Immediately after the removal of the Gattung family an old lady named Anderson moved to town from Grantsville and rented the house. While living there she met with a painful and severe street car accident which rendered her a cripple. She moved away and the people who had known her during her short stay lost track of her.
Box Contains Quicklime
One of the mysteries about the place which has been unearthed but not explained, within the past year or so, is the finding of a peculiar box buried deep in the back yard. This box is a solidly built affair of inch planks and is four feet long by one and a half feet wide. When opened it was found to contain a few long wisps of human hair, some mining specimens and some quicklime. No papers of any kind were enclosed in it.