Skip to main content

The City Journals

Murray Mansion, a home to playful ghosts?

Oct 12, 2020 12:25PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Welcome foolish mortals to the Murray Mansion. While any Disney fan of the Haunted Mansion ride will recognize that opening line, Murray City has a mansion that also may be haunted. Past residents recall some benign spookiness that happened within the walls of the historic Cahoon mansion in downtown Murray.

Former resident and owner Susan Wright said, “There's some spooky things, but they're not scary, when I was there. Just things that happened that we couldn't say why.”

Built in 1900 by local brickmaking titan John P. Cahoon, the Victorian Eclectic-styled home (4872 S. Poplar St.) has six bedrooms, five bathrooms, four family rooms, four fireplaces, and two kitchens. Cahoon also built his mother a home across the street, which is now part of the Tea Rose Diner.

A handful of owners have since lived in the home, including James and Ellen Payne. Payne was pastor of the Murray Baptist Church (now called the Murray Chapel) across the street.

Wright, who had opened a store on 4800 South in 1970s, recalls driving by the historic old home with her husband Bill.

“He said, ‘I like that house.’ And, I said, ‘You’re kidding?’ It was just this old, rundown house with weeds all over, and it had gray brick,” Wright said. “I am not buying that house.”

After those famous last words, the Wrights purchased the house and started their odyssey of being major players in downtown Murray. But first, they paid a visit to Ellen Payne, and the Wright’s daughter even asked her if the place was haunted.

According to Wright, “She said that nothing bad ever happened in this house. Everything that happened in this house was wonderful.” The Paynes would rent rooms out to parishioners’ families or to families of soldiers stationed at Camp Kearns during World War II.

Something did surprise the Wrights when they bought the home, and that was discovering the brick was yellow, not gray. Years of soot from the nearby smelter coated the exterior walls a dull gray, which had to be sandblasted off. After renovating the home in the 1980s and restoring its Victorian elegance, the Wright’s moved upstairs while opening the rest of the house as a reception the center—the Murray Mansion. They renamed it because Cahoon Mansion kept being confused with McCune Mansion in Salt Lake City.

That’s when they first noticed the teasing of a mischievous ghost. “I think it was a child because she is fascinated with my keys. I put my keys somewhere and they’d be somewhere else,” Wright said. She recalls noticing her keys missing from a bowl she had always placed them in and hearing them being tossed across the room.

One late evening, Wright remembers being upstairs and thinking her husband had just returned from locking up the nearby Murray Arts Centre. After hearing a set of keys being hurled onto the staircase, she came down to see if her husband was alright. She discovered that she was still alone in the house and that the keys that had slammed into the steps were hers. The key-loving ghost would also set off the family’s car alarms, even though the cars were left alone outside.

From time to time, they would find chairs pulled out, different from where they last placed them.

A ghost with a more serious nature encountered the Wright’s grandson. During one stayover at grandmother’s house, Susan scolded her grandson for continually running down the stairs and jumping to the floor from midway down the staircase, rattling the house’s mirrors. One time, when grandma was outside, the youngster thought he was alone and could pull off one more stunt.

According to Wright, her grandson came out, panicked, saying, “‘There is a man in the kitchen who is mad at me.’ He said he saw an old guy with overalls come out of the kitchen, and he reprimanded him and stuck his finger at him.”

They went inside to look for the man but discovered no one, and all of the doors were locked.

There were scary moments at the mansion, however, just not of an ethereal sort. When the Wright’s bought the mansion in the early 1980s, there were several bars surrounding the house. After seeing fights break out at the cowboy bar across the street, they decided to start picking up properties and refurbishing them into the Ballet Centre and the Tea Rose Diner, thus starting the transformation of downtown Murray.

One last peculiar story Susan shares, was when she was tending her infant granddaughter. She could hear the girl in the crib upstairs pleasantly babbling, as if she was talking to someone. When Susan opened the door, her granddaughter addressed her as “Noni,” a nickname for grandma. When discussing the strange instance with neighbors, they were surprised to hear that, and mentioned Ellen Payne, who had since passed on, was called that when she lived at the mansion. From hence forward, Susan was called Noni by her grandchildren.

The Wright’s sold the mansion to Murray City, and the first floor will become home to the Murray Museum, as well as become a meeting place open to all Murray residents and ghosts.