Park City Mythbusters

Park City Mythbusters

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Park City, Utah is a short exhilarating ride up the wintry slopes of Highway 80, some thirty miles southeast of Salt Lake City. The old mining town is located 7,000 feet above sea level and glistens like an opal, set deep within the pine-covered Wasatch Mountains. The wilds of Utah, and this entire mountain range, are steeped in mystery and urban legend. So read on as we explore a few Park City mythbusters.

First, a bit of history. Accounts of Bigfoot sightings, lost gold mines, and evil spirits are well-known scary urban legends in Park City and have been recounted for as long as settlers have lived here. Park City still allegedly entertains the occasional apparition, and all its 1860s architecture resembles a stereoscopic plate of the Old West. Brick and wooden buildings line Main Street, adding a pictorial backdrop to the fascinating drama surrounding one of the richest areas of precious metals ever mined in the U.S. The mining industry declined in the area, however, and by the 1950s Park City was virtually a ghost town. Now, risen from the ashes, it's been revitalized by the thriving ski trade, which has made this unique hamlet a year-round destination for recreation. Once dubbed "Sin Town" due to the annual Sundance Film Festival and its celebrity appeal, Park City still harbors numerous myths, some more outrageous than others.

1. Park City Has a Haunted Jail.

This Park City urban myth is probably false. The jail in question is the 1886 Utah Territorial Jail, and it is now part of the Park City Historical Museum. Although now arrayed with dummies, at least 11 people died of alcohol poisoning while jailed here. Many visitors sense an external force imprisoning them, and others hear empty cell doors slamming. There's also a yearly dungeon party to celebrate this "prisoner death cell." Note: tourists adventurous or foolish enough to try on the leg irons find them very difficult to remove.

As well as the jail, you can view exhibitions on the city's mining past with antique memorabilia: an old stage coach, 19th century mining equipment, early ski gear, and a photographic depiction of the worst fire in Utah's history, which left Main Street in ruins.

Park City Historical Museum is located at 518 Main Street. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday 10AM-7PM and Sunday 12-6PM. Adult tickets are $10 and children 7-17 are $5. Call 435-649-7457 for more details.

2. The Wasatch Mountains are Haunted.

Park City mythbusters can't confirm this one either way. It's known that there are numerous abandoned silver mines in and around Park City. Many of these holes were excavated in the 1860s and have developed a history of murder and accidents over the years. In the 19th century, Brigham Young preached that these mountains were haunted and harbored evil spirits. Thieves would rob and murder townsfolk, then hide away in them. Although the mines are no longer in operation, caretakers still claim to see and hear ghost-like apparitions in the underground shafts.

3. The Snowed Inn Harbors a Ghost

This Park City urban myth is most likely false. The Snowed Inn was a Victorian mansion built to replicate the owner's grandmother's home. Some believe that her spirit still resides here - and favors the room designed after her own bedroom. Grandma's ghostly apparition is said to be seen hovering and traveling between the floors and has shown up in pictures taken by staff and visitors alike.

The Snowed Inn Sleigh Company now offer sleigh rides around Park City mountains and and cozy dinners.

4. Utah is a Dry State

Park City mythbusters can prove this one incorrect right away. Although you won't find Bacardi, Cabernet Sauvignon, or a six-pack of Budweiser on the shelves of most grocery stores, you may purchase alcohol at the Utah State Liquor Stores located in Park City. Restaurants are more accommodating. Ordering a "double" shot, however, is forbidden. If your penchant is for more serious drinking and dancing, you will be delighted to know that you no longer need to purchase a membership to imbibe with your friends in a bar or club. These quirky charges were dropped to encourage Utah tourism in July 2009.

5. Park City Rolls Up the Sidewalks at Sunset.

This Park City urban myth is false: the downtown strip is crawling with nightlife. One hot spot is the No Name Saloon at 447 Main Street, where the signage brags: "We've been helping people forget their name since 1903." This ambient watering hole is very popular with tourists and locals alike. Inside, you may find yourself drinking a 32 oz. beer in an odd museum of sorts. The main room displays an old Franklin stove, turn-of-the-century bicycles, antique chandeliers and flags, but the piece de resistance is a 1942 Harley Davidson hanging from the ceiling. This is the home of the buffalo burger and beer of every brand is sold here. Open daily from 10AM-1AM.

For those preferring a dance floor with a full bar and live music, Harry O's is just steps up Main Street at number 427 and is open Wednesday-Sunday 9PM-1:45AM. The Star Bar is also on the strip at number 268 Main Street and is billed as the hippest spot in Park City. It has a DJ and cheap drinks on Friday and Sunday nights. It's usually a lot of fun although packed with a younger crowd. Open daily from 7PM until 1AM.

6. You Can't Enjoy Movies in Park City Unless You Attend the Sundance Film Festival.

Park City mythbusters must tell you this urban myth is untrue. January's Sundance Film Festival is thrilling, but unless you can obtain a much-coveted Festival Pass allowing you to mingle with the Hollywood elite, you may end up feeling like an outsider.

There's a coinciding event here that bucks the celebrity stampede. It's called the Slamdance Film Festival and is a tour-de-force for edgy, independent filmmakers, low on budget but high on dreams. The production criteria are less stringent and the movies are geared off the charts.

Pam Tent, a memoirist and writer of American counterculture, is the author of Midnight at the Palace. Read her blog on Red Room.
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