You might think you know everything about Utah, but have you heard about these Utah mysteries? From grave robbers to disappearances to mysterious monoliths, Utah has its fair share of unexplained enigmas.
Let’s dive into five of Utah’s most compelling — and head-scratching — mysteries.
The legend of grave robber Jean Baptiste
Ready for a historical tale of dastardly crimes? Then you’ll love the story of Jean Baptiste.
According to Salt Lake Magazine, Jean Baptiste was an immigrant who came to Salt Lake City in the 1850s. Baptiste had a “penchant for grave robbery,” per the Deseret News, and quickly set about stealing clothes and jewelry from graves and did so for years.
According to the Deseret News, Baptiste was caught grave digging red-handed. Baptiste’s crimes were found to be so scandalous that even Brigham Young commented on the case, saying, “I am unable to think so low as to get at such a mean, contemptible, damnable trick.”
Instead of punishing the grave robber by execution, it was decided that he would be exiled. Baptiste was originally banished to Antelope Island, but was then transferred to Fremont Island.
Three weeks after Baptiste was marooned on Fremont Island, it was discovered to be abandoned. The cabin that Baptiste resided in had been torn up and a cow carcass was found. According to the Deseret News, “... the supposition was that Baptiste had made thongs of cowhide, used the cabin wood for a raft and escaped.”
Baptiste was never found. While a skeleton, shackled with a ball and chain, was discovered in the Jordan River years later, it was never confirmed as Baptiste. For all we know, Baptiste successfully escaped and continued his career of grave robbing elsewhere.
Butch Cassidy’s mysterious death
Who hasn’t heard of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? The subject of multiple movies, books and more, the notorious Cassidy is known for his career as an outlaw. But did you know about the outlaw’s ties to Utah — and his mysterious death?
Born as Robert LeRoy Parker in 1866 in Beaver, Utah, Cassidy was the eldest of 13 children in a Latter-Day Saint family, as the Deseret News reported. His family eventually moved to Circleville in 1879, according to Utah.com.
Cassidy robbed his first bank in Colorado in 1889. He spent some time in a Wyoming prison for possessing stolen horses, but after his release, Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang robbed banks and trains for the next 20 years.
According to History.com, Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were believed to be killed in 1908 in Bolivia. After a confrontation with the Bolivian authorities, the bodies of two men were found — one, believed to be the Sundance Kid, with a gunshot to the forehead and another, believed to be Cassidy, with a gunshot to the temple.
It looked like Cassidy killed the Sundance Kid, and then himself.
While the bodies of the two men bore resemblance to the legendary bandits, it was never confirmed to be them. Rumors swirled about Cassidy’s alleged survival and family members added fuel to the fire by claiming that Cassidy visited his family in Utah in 1925, per History.com.
Cassidy’s sister, Lula Parker Betenson, claimed that her brother lived the rest of his days in Washington until his death in 1937.
So did Butch Cassidy survive the Bolivia shootout and live the rest of his life in anonymity? While historians are divided, some believe he did. But no one knows for sure — and as of now, it looks like we’ll never know.
Perhaps one of Utah’s most well-known cases, the disappearance of Susan Powell has been the subject of much speculation. It was most recently examined in the hit podcast “Cold.”
According to “Cold,” Josh and Susan Powell were married in 2001. Together, they had two children: Charlie, age 7, and Braden, age 5.
The Powells’ marriage started to fall apart in 2008, per “Cold,” and Susan Powell began to consider divorce. She decided that if Josh Powell didn’t agree to attend marriage counseling by April 2010, she’d file for divorce.
Susan Powell disappeared in December 2009. On the night of her disappearance, Josh Powell took their two sons on a “unexpected winter camping trip” to the West Desert, according to “Cold.”
While the police searched for Susan Powell, suspicion fell on Josh Powell. Traces of blood were found in the family’s home, according to “Cold.” One of Susan Powell’s co-workers allegedly heard Josh Powell say that the best place to hide a body was in the West Desert before her disappearance.
The story of the Powell family took yet another tragic turn when Josh Powell killed his two sons, and himself, in February 2012, per “Cold.”
Susan Powell was never found. In December 2014, a judge declared her dead. It is widely believed that Josh Powell was responsible for her disappearance and likely death.
Despite this, Susan Powell’s parents still have hope. “I think at the right time she’ll be found,” Chuck Cox told the Deseret News in 2019.
The disappearance of Elizabeth Salgado
Elizabeth Salgado disappeared off the streets of Provo in 2015. While her remains were found in 2018, what exactly happened to Salgado remains a mystery. Her case has been featured in many true crime podcasts, including “Unsolved Mysteries.”
Elizabeth Salgado moved from Mexico to Provo in 2015, according to ABC4. She attended Nomen Global Language School to learn English.
Just three weeks after her move, Salgado disappeared from the school.
“It’s the worst thing that can happen to a family, not knowing where she’s at or what is happening to her,” Rosenberg Salgado, Salgado’s uncle, told ABC4 in 2017.
In 2018, the remains of Salgado were found in Hobble Creek Canyon, the Deseret News reported. The cause of death was not determined.
The Utah monolith
On Nov. 18, 2020, a metal object, between 10 to 12 feet tall, appeared in the Utah desert. But it disappeared just as quickly as it appeared — by Nov. 27, it was gone, according to Vox. So was it aliens? Abstract art? A sign from the future?
Dubbed “the Utah monolith”, this mysterious object was first spotted in the air by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter. “One of the biologists is the one who spotted it and we just happened to fly directly over the top of it,” pilot Bret Hutchings told KSL-TV.
Intrigue around the Utah monolith increased when it was reported that a similar object was found in Romania on November 27, the same day the Utah monolith disappeared. But it gets even weirder — a third monolith appeared in California on Dec. 2, the same day the Romania monolith disappeared, according to Vox.
The California monolith was taken down on Dec. 3, but reappeared the next day. A fourth and final monolith appeared in New Mexico on Dec. 7 and was taken down the same day.
Were all four monoliths connected? Was it an elaborate hoax? While no one really knows what the Utah monolith was, it most likely wasn’t from aliens or the future. But whether or not it was abstract art — well, we’ll let you decide.