By Doug Parkin
Years ago when I was a boy scout, our favorite places to go camping were up in the Uintah Mountains. Camp Steiner and East Fork of the Bear were always my favorites. There was a tradition of sorts that whenever you camped there, you couldn’t go without sharing the story of Hyrum. No one for sure knew if this story was about a ghost or a crazed maniac, but regardless, it scared the crap out of us every time we heard it and I spent many a sleepless night listening to the sounds in the forest and wondering if Hyrum was going to visit our camp.
As it was told, many years ago in one of the adjacent mines that were prevalent in the area, a mining foreman was getting ready to use some explosives in a new section of the mine. The charges were all set and everyone was told to clear the mine to prepare for the blast. No one knew for sure what caused the accident, but it was well known that the foreman of the mine didn’t get along well with a certain miner by the name of Hyrum.
As the miners cleared the mine, the go ahead was given to blow the charge, suddenly it was realized that the word didn’t get out to a certain part of the mine where Hyrum was working and he was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly the charges went off as the miners were in shock as they realized that Hyrum was still in the mine. They knew he could not have survived the blast and everyone suddenly looked at the foreman with a great deal of suspicion.
Deep inside the mine Hyrum heard the blast, but everything happened too quickly for him to do anything about it. Hyrum luckily had been stationed right by a vertical air vent and as the blast hit him, it shot him more than half way up the air shaft. Knowing he was hurt badly and bleeding profusely, he struggled to climb the rest of the way out of the shaft until he finally reached the surface.
He laid there bleeding badly and not only was he half dead from bleeding, but he was half out of his mind in agonizing pain. He started checking himself out and realized that the side of his body that was hit by the blast was pretty much gone. His leg was in bad shape but he was able to get up as he struggled to get off the mountain. His one arm was useless as it was shredded and only held in place by what remained of his shirt. The pain in his head was unbearable and he could sense that most of his face was gone.
Down the mountain he could see the tents and trailers of the mining company and he worked his way in that direction. As he slowly made his way towards the camp, he realized that it was no accident that the foreman blew the charge before he got out. The foreman had just accused Hyrum of having an affair with his wife and the fight that resulted from the accusations were pretty bitter. Actually Hyrum had nothing but disdain for his boss or his wife, and blamed her just as much as he did the foreman.
He became so incensed about it all as he slowly made his way into the camp, that he made no effort to look for help but headed directly towards the foreman’s trailer.
Everyone at the mine site were busy trying to see if they could find Hyrum and were searching throughout the mine for any clues to his whereabouts. After several hours of exhaustive work the foreman headed towards his trailer to call it a night. as he approached his trailer door he noticed a trail of blood going directly up his steps with blood smeared all over the outside of his trailer door.
He quickly opened the door yelling for his wife, but there was no response. upon entering his trailer he noticed furniture turned upside down and pots and pans strewn all over the floor. The closer he made it towards his bedroom the bloodier the walls and floor became and as he entered, his worst nightmare became a reality, and laying on the bed was his wife, or at least parts of his wife, as she had been hacked into pieces leaving a horrendous site for her husband to find.
In shock he made his way towards the flow of blood leading out his back door. He noticed the knife holder from the kitchen laying on the metal step with several of the knives missing.
Several other miners had already arrived and they began following the trail of blood as it disappeared into the forest.
Hyrum was never found, but the police following the trail knew he was so badly hurt that there was really no chance that he could have survived.
At the time that I had arrived at my first Boy Scout camp at East Fork of the Bear, the story of Hyrum was everywhere. Everyone believed he was a crazed serial killer that preyed upon any unsuspecting hiker. Up at the camp posting sign there were warning posters not to venture out into the forest alone and especially without your Scoutmaster, and if you saw anything suspicious, return and report it, but do not attempt to investigate. Apparently just a few short years before, a couple of scouts had frantically made there way back to camp. Completely out of breath they reported being chased by what they described as a monster. As they ran, they came across an old cabin deep in the forest. They ran in looking for help, only to find two Boy Scouts hanging on the wall on meat hooks. They took off heading down the stream and finally making it back to camp.
The police and forest rangers were notified and a hunt was on. They found validity to the story because that year two scouts were reported as lost and never were found. To this day, their bodies have never been recovered.
The old cabin was found, but no sign of the scouts were found inside. After that there were several more accounts of people disappearing in the Uintah Mountains. Some hikers reported seeing what looked like a figure of a man carrying a body over his shoulder and then vanishing over one of the ridges. Everyone in the area knew the stories, but no one was ever quite sure if it was an elaborate ghost story or was something real lurking in the Uintah Mountains?
Most people who researched the story have come to believe that Hyrum is now a ghost as too many years have passed for the normal life span of a man, but the sightings and disappearances never stopped no matter how many years passed.
That night as we sat around the campfire, our Scoutmaster told us the story of Hyrum. It was my first account of hearing a campfire ghost story and I was scared spitless. After the story we all sang some songs and goofed around trying to start sticks on fire when the scoutmaster wasn’t looking.
All of a sudden we heard some rustling in the brush surrounding our camp and in walked a Forest Ranger. He spoke to our Scoutmaster for a second and then he came to our campfire. “I would like to talk to you for a moment about a possible problem in the area.” he exclaimed. “One of our Rangers was driving down the road a couple of miles from here and saw a stranger, hitchhiking. He pulled over and asked if he needed a ride. When the hitchhiker turned he noticed that he only had one arm and half of his face was gone. The hitchhiker then brandished a knife and the Ranger stomped on the gas to get away. He pulled over a short distance down the road giving him time to grab his gun, but the hitchhiker disappeared into the forest. We think it may have been Hyrum and we are asking that you all stay in camp tonight with no thoughts of going out pranking in the middle of the night. We have authorities throughout the camp ground and in the surrounding area looking for him and I guarantee that you will be safe as long as you stay right here in your camp. Thank you and goodnight!”
As the Ranger disappeared into the forest, we all looked at each other and nervously started to laugh. “Aagh, good one!” my buddy Martin Exclaimed. We all laughed and gave the Scoutmaster a bad time about how he couldn’t scare us. We also didn’t leave the campsite that night either.
I came up with a song that we sang from then on, every time we went to camp and shared the same story with the new scouts. I still remember it today these many years later. It is sung to the tune of the song “Windy” which was popular during that time. It goes like this…
Who’s creeping down the trails of the mountains
Killing everybody he sees
Who’s cutting off their heads as they go by
Everyone knows it’s Hyrum
And Hyrum has one red eye
And only a half a head
And he’s never satisfied
Until you’re dead
Until you’re dead!
I always felt this was a great story to tell around the campfire, and I laughed about how ridiculous it was to my friends. That is until the fire was put out and I climbed into my sleeping bag and listened to the creepy sounds emanating out of the dark forest.
The story I just told you is absolutely true. Not necessarily the part about Hyrum himself. You have to decide for yourself on that, but the account of what happened on that particular scout camp has remained as one of my fondest memories of camping with my buddies. Well, up until the next morning when the other scouts took a rope, tied the end of my sleeping bag shut, and hoisted me up into a tree. But that is entirely another story.
Post Note: Many have asked if I knew if any of the story of Hyrum is true. I don’t know. However, several years ago as a youth leader we had the boys in the back country up near East Fork of the Bear. We were scoping an area trying to set up a geo cache experience for them, when we came across an old cabin. It was pretty much stripped empty inside, but we did notice two meat hooks hanging on the wall.