Excerpt from “Ghosts on the Range” by Debra Munn Part I

April 15, 2008 on 9:17 am | In Article | 2 Comments

Ghosts on the Range by Debra Munn                                                         

Part I

The Library Built over a Cemetery

If you think that ghosts inhabit only old, run-down buildings, think again. The Sweetwater County Library in Green River was opened as recently as 1980, yet it appears to be one of the most haunted spots in Wyoming. And no wonder, when you consider that it was constructed on top of the city’s oldest cemetery.

Many of Green River’s earliest citizens rested peacefully but anonymously in unmarked graves until 1926. When the grounds were needed for town expansion, however, the bodies were all supposed to be exhumed and moved up the hill to the current cemetery.

Marna Grubb, now the mayor/secretary of Green River, was one of the many curious children who came to watch the gruesome procedure. “Some of the kids on their way to school actually took rings and other thing right off the corpses!” she said and shuddered. “I saw only one of the bodies myself, but that was enough. He was just a skeleton, wearing an old western-style, fringed leather jacket. And what was strange was that he still had a red beard.”

When housing for veterans was constructed in the area during WWII, it soon became obvious that not all the bodies had been exhumed in 1926. As more remains were discovered, they, too, were re-interred in the new cemetery. After the veterans’ residences were no longer needed, the old cemetery grounds were left alone until 1978, when the library purchased them for the site of its new building. As soon as the groundbreaking began, however, workers made yet another grisly discovery: according to architect Neal Stowe of Salt Lake City, from eight to twelve more bodies were found in unmarked graves!

“A heavy caterpillar was going back and forth, loosening and moving the soil,” he explained. “I walked right through the middle of the site, where something that looked like a deteriorated coconut was sitting on top of some freshly churned dirt. I picked the thing up, turned it around, and recognized it as part of a skull. Little tufts of dark brown hair were still clinging to it.”

“I stopped the construction immediately and told the contractor that there might be other remains in the area, too. We met with various city representatives to try to determine the extent of the bodies still on the site. Any marking that may have been on the graves had long since been destroyed, and the records of the burials had apparently been misplaced, so it was next to impossible to determine what remains belonged to whom. We walked through the site and stated probing with hand shovels, uncovering bits and pieces of wood as well as a variety of decayed bones,” the architect said. “The remains were typically buried in old wooden caskets that had deteriorated because of soil conditions.”

When the new group of bodies was taken from the site and reburied in a common grave on top of the hill, old bits of hearsay resurfaced. Remembering the Oriental-looking scraps of cloth that had been found in one of the earlier excavations, some people theorized that the cemetery was in fact a Chinese graveyard, even though at least one of the corpses had red hair. Another revived rumor held that the bones were those of smallpox victims and that the town was again endangered by their exposed remains. This conjecture proved as groundless as the other, as a July 12, 1978 article in the Green River Star explained. For while Green River’s railroad workers had indeed experienced a smallpox epidemic between the 1860’s and the 1890’s, the victims had all been buried at the far end of the old cemetery and their graves had never been disturbed.

What was disturbed, however, was the new library built upon the twice-excavated grounds. Almost from the outset, those who worked there described it as a spooky place, and former maintenance man Ed Johnson confirms that there are still bodies underneath.

“In the spring of 1983, I helped with the landscaping,” he said. “One day the contractors working in front of the main doors dug up a bunch of wood. At first I thought it was old construction debris, but then I saw the bones!

“They called the corner and stated pulling the skeletons out,” he recalled. “But then they ran into a problem. Some of the bones were underneath the sidewalk and couldn’t be removed without tearing up the concrete. Since the landscapers didn’t want to do that, they dug up only parts of those bodies.

“As I remember, first they dug out three adults-actually I should say two and a half-because on one body they just pulled out the legs and pelvic girdle and left the rest. They also found one infant grave, and I believe they were able to take only the foot and shin bones from it.

“In 1985 and “86, more structural work was necessary, since the building had begun to sink,” Ed continued. “While the construction workers were drilling into the foundation, one said that they found a whole, small coffin with the body of another child inside. This corpse was almost perfectly preserved. The flesh was like gelatin, but otherwise, everything was intact.”

In spite of these newest ghastly finds under the building, the library employees never lost their sense of humor. “When the contraction workers drilled holes in the slab to inject some grout, the staff did one really goofy thing,” said library director Helen Higby. “They bought one of those paper skeletons and suspended it so that one arm was sticking out of a hole!”

But the employees were not so amused by the strange actions of the security system one evening in the late summer or early autumn of 1986.

(to be continued)


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  1. Doesn’t she have some other books too?

    Comment by Micah — May 21, 2008 #

  2. Yes she does. Debra Munn also has these titles available:
    Montana Ghost Stories
    Big Sky Ghosts
    Wyoming Ghost Stories

    Thank you for your question.

    Comment by mgilmore — May 23, 2008 #

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