SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Perhaps the most famous lakebed in the state of Utah, few may know the Great Salt Lake for its haunted history — particularly the ghost of a heinous grave robber who roams the area.
It all began in the 1860s with Jean Baptiste, the gravedigger of Salt Lake City Cemetery.
According to The Dead History, a man named Moroni Clawson was shot to death in a standoff by local law enforcement after being accused of beating the governor.
When no one initially came forward to pay for his burial, a police officer named Henry Heath volunteered his own personal funds to cover the costs. This included a well-crafted suit for Clawson to be buried in at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Just a week later, the family of Clawson emerged and requested that his body be exhumed for relocation to their family plot in Draper. To their surprise, upon opening his casket, they found their dead sibling’s body was buried face down and stripped completely naked.
When confronted by the family, Officer Heath sought answers for why Clawson’s body was buried so disrespectfully and missing the suit he himself bought.
His investigation brought him to the home of gravedigger John Baptiste.
Once inside the home, Heath’s attention alluded to several stacked boxes around the home, in which was horrified to discover the burial clothing of over 300 dead individuals, including children.
Heath and other officers then found Baptiste at Salt Lake City Cemetery, where he was digging another grave. When he was accused of the crimes, he reportedly dropped to his knees and begged for his life.
The community was understandably furious with what he’d done. It’s reported that a sermon by Brigham Young ultimately decided his fate, which thought death or life in prison to be too simple, but rather suggested Baptiste be exiled to a small island in the Great Salt Lake.
While originally exiled to Antelope Island, he was moved within days to Fremont Island. The island was in use by a local family to graze cattle, with a small shack nearby containing some provisions.
When the family returned to the island several weeks later to check on their herd, they found a heifer had been killed and the shack had been torn apart, perhaps to build a raft. Baptiste, however, was nowhere to be found and locals believed he drowned during an attempted escape.
Whether or not he departed the island, there have been various reports of people seeing his apparition slowly walking the southern shores of the Great Salt Lake at night, only to vanish into thin air.
Many believe the spirit of John Baptiste is tied to the island, still seeking absolution as he roams the shoreline.