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SANTAQUIN — Nothing is quite like an old grill.
Years of sizzle are soaked up in every bite.
Leslie’s Family Tree in Santaquin has been serving time-honored family recipes, including hand-breaded country fried steaks, savory burgers and massive scones, to its diners for over three decades.
And just like the food, the walls of the restaurant have absorbed the flavor of long days past, adorned with faded pictures dating back as many as eight generations.
Owner Leslie Broadhead believes those generations still may linger there today — as ghosts.
“You hear them talking plain all the time – just as plain as day,” she said.
Disembodied chatter, children’s laughter, objects moving on their own and even apparitions that appear and disappear, Broadhead said they’ve all become part of the standard fare at the restaurant, and she’s not the only one who has become an unsuspecting witness to them.
“She scowls and she growls, but I’ve never heard a word come out of her,” sister Cindy Smith said of one recurring spirit known by workers as the “Lady in Red.”
Broadhead’s daughter, Cory, said she once witnessed a table move on its own during a past ghost hunt.
“Just ‘boom’ – the whole thing shook,” she recalled.
Why the building is home to so much apparently unexplained activity is a complicated story.
Broadhead said parts of the restaurant are well over a century old with a basement that once played host to gambling and legal boxing matches. Among the businesses that have been housed there over long-ago decades include a mechanic shop, a floral shop, a Greyhound bus stop and a post office.
However, the owner, in a written history circulated to diners, also notes that a husband, wife and child all met premature ends there in the early 1900s.
The man, the document states, “mysteriously left and never returned.” The boy then “drowned in a ditch near the house.” The wife, the story reads, subsequently took her own life. Workers believe the woman and her son still haunt the building, and the woman has been labeled as the “Lady in Blue.”
Still, that single story doesn’t seem to explain the variety of spirits workers, and even customers, have observed over the years.
Broadhead and her family said they have also witnessed apparitions of men and children.
A section of the building may sit atop a Native American burial ground, Broadhead noted.
Over the past five years, Broadhead said “hundreds” of mediums have passed through and have offered their readings of the activity in the restaurant.
“All the mediums that have come in here have told us that we have several portals,” Broadhead said.
Most of those portals apparently converge in the cobwebbed basement, which also features a doorway and a staircase that leads to nowhere.
“Every one of (the mediums) I’ve talked to has all said at any given time, we have had at least over 100 spirits here,” Broadhead said.
On the night of Oct. 27, a KSL crew – with Broadhead’s blessing – invited in members of the “Ghost Hopping” team to conduct a paranormal investigation in the restaurant.
The group had previously traveled cross-country to investigate notorious haunts and had also contributed to past investigations that were part of KSL stories, including at downtown piano bar “Keys on Main” and the Salt Lake City and County Building.
The first hour-and-a-half of the investigation at Leslie’s Family Tree yielded few results, but then the tables started to turn.
The group’s Ovilus III device, which has a built-in vocabulary of over 2,000 words and in theory can allow entities or energies to manipulate it to speak, started spitting out names.
First, it was “Carol.”
The investigators noted a picture on the wall also bore the name Carol.
Then the names “Nick,” “Jim” and “Veronica” appeared, followed eventually by “Paul” and “Patrick” downstairs — interesting, given the mediums’ opinion that the building contained “over 100 spirits” at any one time.
The most significant activity was observed in the basement.
The investigators and news crew heard footsteps that sounded like they were approaching the stairs, but when they checked to see who was on the main floor nobody was close to where the footsteps originated. The investigators’ attempt to replicate the sound eliminated the possibility that the footsteps could have come from the kitchen, where two workers were putting away pots and pans.
On a second attempt to uncover evidence in the basement, multiple unexplained events took place in a roughly 25-minute period.
Electronic devices started to go haywire, despite being fully charged and fully functioning at the beginning of the investigation.
A white noise generator and supposed other worldly communication tool known as the “Spirit Box” started to malfunction and give off an atypical sound even when not cycling through radio frequencies as it normally does.
A heat-mapping FLIR camera shut itself down close to a dozen times when the reporter who was holding it pointed it in a particular direction where two of the investigators were sitting. The device then lost power completely.
During that same time, the Ovilus started reading out some disconcerting words, including “cleansing” and “demon.”
Multiple investigators at the time described what they felt to be a “shift” in the room’s energy, and two of the investigators became agitated.
“Ghost Hopping” host “Marcus,” eventually had to step away, saying whatever was in the basement was playing with his emotions and making him anxious and even angry.
Good, watchful spirits
Whether the ghosts within the building are bad, good or are simply a nonspiritual remnant of what was ultimately depends on the perception of the skeptic or believer.
Broadhead said a fire once started overnight near the front of the restaurant but failed to burn it down despite its wood frame.
She attributes that outcome to the spirits intervening for the good of the business.
“I think a lot of the spirits here are protecting the place; watching over the place,” she said.
Broadhead, perhaps reluctantly, has accepted ghosts inside Leslie’s Family Tree as part of the family.
“Like my dad used to tell me, you make your own heaven on earth or your own hell on earth,” Broadhead said, chuckling. “So, maybe they’re in heaven and it’s just here. I don’t know.”