Deseret News

3 local urban legends may offer grain of truth

By Natalie Crofts | Posted - Oct 31st, 2013 @ 9:37am

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SALT LAKE CITY — Urban legends can range from the ridiculous to the unbelievable, but sometimes there is a grain of truth hidden inside even the tallest tale.

Fiction often grows from fact, so taking a closer look at the history surrounding some of Utah's legends can often give a glimpse into their validity. We've traced a few of the stories you may have heard around town.

Highway 666

The number 666 has long been considered dangerous by many because of its connection to "the beast" in Revelation, so it isn't surprising Route 666, which runs from New Mexico to Monticello, was nicknamed "Devil's Highway." Drivers and locals have reported seeing flaming semi-trucks and evil spirits who will climb into your car to steal your soul. Naturally, they claim, these freaky occurrences have led to a higher rate of fatal car accidents than other roads named with safer numbers.

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Is there any truth to the story?

The highway was renamed Route 491 in 2003, but has still been one of the deadliest roads in the country, according to NPR. It's most likely that the high traffic and winding, rural conditions of the road are the driving factors behind an unusually large number of accidents, but we'll leave the final verdict of whether or not supernatural forces are involved up to you.

Gravity Hill

Tradition says if you put your car in neutral when you hit a sweet spot coming down Bonneville Blvd. near the State Capitol, instead of rolling down like the laws of physics demand, you'll find yourself rolling back up. One of the many explanations given for the strange phenomenon is that a group of students tragically killed in a bus accident who had recently visited the capitol, is busy protecting people from rolling off of the cliff. Some have even reported seeing handprints on their bumper after experiencing an uphill ride.

Is there any truth to the story?

As you may have suspected, the truth behind this urban legend is that the appearance of rolling uphill is actually an optical illusion created by the landscape. The tragic story behind the accident, however, is true. In 1938, 22 students bound for Jordan High School and their bus driver were killed when they were blindsided by a train on a foggy day. It was reported to be one of the worst school bus accidents in American history.

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Brigham Young's Hearse

Visitors to Disneyland may have noticed a white, horse-drawn hearse at the entrance of the Haunted Mansion that some have touted as having carried President Brigham Young of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to his funeral. The hearse appeared in the park after a refurbishment in 1995, and after some said they were told of the hearse's origins by Disneyland guides. The story soon spread.

Is there any truth to the story?

Unfortunately, as cool as it could be for members to have a piece of LDS Church history in the Happiest Place on Earth, this one appears to be pure fiction. Church historians have said conclusive evidence proves Young never rode in a hearse; his will even explicitly called for his body to be carried on a platform held by men. However, historians didn't rule out a possibility that the hearse may have once found work in Utah, albeit carrying somebody else.


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Natalie Crofts

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