Utah September 26, 2016
The Ghost Of A Grave Robber Roams The Shores Of The Great Salt Lake
It was hard enough to be a pioneer settler in the Salt Lake Valley in the late 1800s…imagine burying a family member, only to find that a grave robber had dug him up and stolen his clothing! The grave robber who was convicted of this crime was sentenced to live on an island in the Great Salt Lake. What happened next is a mystery.
Early Mormon settlers in the Salt Lake Valley had a rough existence. They suffered the deaths of many family members from illness, accidents and childbirth.
The Salt Lake City Cemetery's gravedigger, Jean Baptiste dug many graves and witnessed many funerals in the late 1800s.
On January 17, 1862, a young man named Moroni Clawson was killed in a standoff with law enforcement. None of his family or friends stepped forward to claim the body.
Henry Heath, a Salt Lake City police officer (pictured below), paid for Mr. Clawson's burial with his own money.
A week later, family stepped forward to claim the body and it was exhumed to be moved to the family's cemetery. They were shocked to find that the body was naked - the burial clothing had been stolen.
Officer Heath investigated the grave robbery, starting with Jean Baptiste's home. There, he found the burial clothing of more than 300 people (including children).
Jean Baptiste was arrested and word quickly got out of his crimes. The family members of the deceased were understandably furious. Grave robbing was not a capital offense, though lynch mobs threatened the jail in which he was held.
Inside the jail, the inmates were also horrified and angry. It was quickly evident that the prisoner would not be safe inside the jail.
It was decided that Jean Baptiste must carry out the rest of his life as an exile on Antelope Island, and he was moved under cover of darkness.
He was moved to Fremont Island a few days later, because it was determined that Baptiste could potentially wade to shore, due to the low levels of the Great Salt Lake.
Two weeks after he was exiled on Fremont Island, cattle ranchers arrived at the island to check on their herd. They found that a heifer had been killed and that a small wooden house on the island had been torn apart, possibly to build a raft. Jean Baptiste was nowhere to be found.
Soon, people began reporting sightings of a man wandering the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake. Many believe that Baptiste drowned during his escape attempt.
Some still believe that the ghost of grave robber John Baptiste haunts the shoreline, and have claimed to see him on nights when the moon is full, wandering around as if looking for redemption.
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