The Caroline Mitchell Sampler
This true ghost story has wonderful provenance and amazing twists.
Our story begins in Sussex, England, then to Liverpool, New Orleans, USA, and on to Utah, just south east of the Great Salt Lake and just a tiny bit west of the Wasatch Mountains is the Utah state capital, Salt Lake City.
The city is laid out on a very organized grid just the way Brigham Young wanted them to do it. Everything runs north and south, east and west, and the streets are on a grid both numbered and lettered in places and in other places named State Street, for example, runs the length of the city from north to south and up a steep hill on the north end to the Utah state capitol.
Right next to the Capitol is the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum, a beautiful building, two stories high with Doric columns in front, and ItrillionEALLY matches the architecture of most capitals, state or federal.
This beautiful building houses the memories of thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Anything and everything that someone once held dear can be found in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum. There are wedding dresses, baby carriages, an old fire truck. There are even scissors that some of the prominent members trimmed their beards with combs. Love letters. Important government correspondence.
There’s a room entirely devoted to dolls. And it’s in this room where we find Caroline Mitchell’s sampler.
The office of the Utah State Capitol Police has a wall filled with monitors as they switch through dozens of cameras aimed inside and outside the Utah state capitol.
On October 10th, 2007, an alarm sounded and the monitors instantly switched to the room where the movement was detected. The interesting part was the room on the monitor wasn’t in the Capitol. It was across the street at the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Memorial Museum.
With the alarm blaring, one of the officers grabbed his jacket and headed over on foot to clear the room and reset the alarm. Other police stayed in the Capitol, peering into the screens to see if anything would show up to explain the alarm. Suddenly, a face appeared. A young lady with long, wavy black hair at the same time the officer arrives at the museum, pausing at the front door to unlock it. He thinks he sees something inside with his left hand holding his flashlight. He unlatches the door, puts his right hand on his pistol, kicks the door open and steps inside.
Chapter three A Journey. Like most people traveling to the US in 1854. Caroline Mitchell is boarding a packet ship at the Liverpool docks.
She has traveled all day from Sussex aboard trains and carriages, and she stands in heavy November rain with her little family. Her husband James, and two daughters. She is 33 years old and a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. She’s going to Utah with her family.
They’re going to travel in steerage below decks with the mail, the food, cargo and the other 400 people who can’t afford a cabin on the main deck. Food will be provided, but Caroline will have to prepare it herself in the ship’s tiny kitchen. She has brought bedding for them, some clothes and precious little else. The conditions are sparse. There are no luxuries.
When the ship leaves the dock, it’s stormy. The steerage is smelly, dirty, and the rocking motion is sickening. Less than one day from shore, they turn back, overcome by the waves and wind.
When the ship finally breaks clear of the harbor eight days later, Caroline is already weak, terribly sick. She will be in the dark, filthy hold for six more weeks.
Over 400 passengers are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Almost the whole population of the ship. There will be eight marriages, one birth and 30 deaths at sea.
The little Family arrives in New Orleans and transfers to a Mississippi riverboat. They make it about 200 miles north before tragedy strikes. Caroline will live long enough to bury her two year old daughter, Julia. Then Caroline herself will perish the next day.
James and his 12 year old daughter Jane travel on by ship, wagon, train and even on foot, arriving in Salt Lake City, November 18th, almost a year to the day they left Liverpool. They have almost nothing to remember. The loved ones. They lost a lock of Julia’s hair and a sampler Caroline stitched when she was ten years old.
James will marry again and live out his life in Fillmore, Utah, dying in 1914 at the age of 97. He donates the Caroline Mitchell Sampler to the daughters of the Utah Pioneers for safekeeping just before he dies.
On July 24th, Utahns celebrate Pioneer Day. It was a tremendously memorable one. In 1950, when the Daughters of Utah pioneers gave a gleaming new museum to the state of Utah. Two stories tall and a third floor counting the basement.
The building is very impressive in stature and location. Mere feet from the state capitol and already filled upon opening with artifacts collected over many years from the donations of many faithful families. The brushes, razors and combs, tables, carriages, suits and even wedding dresses all have deep meaning for the people who gave them to the museum.
Both the living and the dead. For they remember the cost. They celebrate the courage and the sacrifice. They annually reenact the journey to Utah from the Midwest, and with no hesitation, they tell the sad stories like the Caroline Mitchell story..
A genuine sampler like the one Caroline made can sell for $300 to over $2,000. So you won’t be surprised to hear that three samplers were stolen in the 1980s. There were no ghosts, poltergeists, lights clicking on or off. In fact, nothing happened. The samplers disappeared. And that was that. Routine life went on at the museum for decades, and the samplers were considered lost forever until October 2007.
If you think about it, eBay was Caroline’s only chance to bring notice to Living Persons that her sampler still exists. As long as it was hidden in a drawer somewhere, she couldn’t communicate in a way any living person would understand. But when her sampler turned up for sale on eBay, the people at the museum noticed it, And so did Caroline. The appearance of both Caroline and her sampler were nearly simultaneous as the museum contacted the seller and arranged to reclaim their lost artifact.
Caroline did her part, appearing every night in the museum and on the Capitol Police security monitors.
The church members are passionate about their history and heritage, and the Pioneer Memorial Museum was built by the Daughters of Utah pioneers to ensure we always remember the immigrants who packed their families onto trains, boats, wagons and handcarts suffering hunger, illness, weather and injury to realize a dream most painfully.
Many pioneers were lost along the trail as families lost mothers, fathers and sisters and brothers. When Caroline Mitchell Sampler was stolen in the 1980s, there was no activity or immediate response. But once the sampler appeared on eBay in 2007, the ghost saw her chance and the haunting began.
In addition to security, the museum shares maintenance and housekeeping workers with the state capitol. Most custodial work is done in the dark hours between midnight and dawn. And so the only person to see the ghost other than the police was a janitor. And he saw her several times, including the grand finale. You will soon hear.
It was loud, mysterious and sudden. How? Night after night, for eight days, the alarms went off and the ghost appeared. It was unusual that you could plan on it. The ghost was active every night for eight nights. But just as suddenly it all ended. The haunting was over.
Chapter 4: The last night. On the eighth night of the Haunting Capital, Police practically had the museum visit on the nightly schedule. The alarms did go off. The officer cleared the building, but the janitor arrived shortly after him and turned the alarms off, sweeping and emptying trash and going room to room.
He worked his way from the back to the front, finally arriving at the entrance where a lovely young lady with long, wavy black hair sat on a bench. He explained the museum was closed and walked to the doors, opening one for her, and he smiled at her as she walked silently past him.
He watched as she walked onto the porch and out over the stone steps, but she did not descend. She floated out above them and away over the patio and lawns fading into the darkness and six feet above the ground, leaving the Pioneer Memorial Museum forever..
It’s been 16 years since the haunting of the daughters of the Utah Pioneers Memorial Museum, and it’s over. There hasn’t been any mysterious activity since that last night in 2007.
Hauntings happen most often where emotions run deep, as we’ve already seen, and the people of Utah hold their history and family as dear as anyone, perhaps more than most. And they work to preserve the rich memories from their past. The cumulative feelings of deep emotion for both the living and the dead find a fascinating crossroads in the historic sites of Utah.
You can feel the connection yourself if you’re patient and quiet and let the objects and history that catch your interest sit with you for a while. It could be a voice or a feeling or a vision, real or imagined. It’s the same thing. It’s you connecting with the lives of others. The magical part is that you’re still here. They are reaching out to you from another life.
The janitor who opened the doors for Caroline that night left the very same moment. And while he has kept his job by working at the Capitol, he never set foot in the museum again.
Original copyright. Scareo.com 2008.
hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast from Scareo.com. Some content used with permission.
Older condensed version:
One terrific organization devoted to preserving that heritage is the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Website for DUP.
Maureen Smith, the vice president of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers took a few minutes to talk with me about the recent ghost sightings at the museum.
On October 10, 2007 Utah Capitol State Police saw an image on the monitors which come from the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum.
One of the officers actually took a photo of the image in the monitor, and gave the photo to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum.
The monitors are in the Utah Capitol building, and the images come from the cameras in the Museum a few blocks away. State Police watch the monitors, and respond if there appears to be an intruder.
The image appeared four times over an 8 day period, and always appeared between about 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM. During these hours the Museum is closed and empty, no one is inside accept cleaning or maintenance.
During this 8 day period the motion detectors in the Museum were set off several times, and the image appeared 4 times. The ghostly image appeared without setting off motion detectors sometimes, other times motion detectors went off without showing the image.
Each time the image was seen it looked like the same person, and the image always persisted for several minutes.
Capitol State Police are the security for the Museum so they sent Officers to investigate and found the Museum secure each time they saw unusual images or motion detectors went off.
In an interesting side story, the Museum director speculates that she may know who it is in the image.
20 Years ago a “sampler” was stolen from the Museum. A “sampler” is an embroidered piece of cloth that students of embroidery used to prove that they knew their stitches.
A Museum staffer recognized the Sampler listed for sale on eBay, and that staffer contacted eBay, and sent documentation that the item was stolen, so eBay contacted seller. The eBay seller, who’s family had purchased the sampler in good faith years earlier, immediately returned the sampler to Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
During the interval of the images appearing to the State Police, and the return of the sampler, a Custodian reported that on one night he saw a young lady, dressed in black sitting on a bench in the museum foyer.
The custodian explained that the museum was closed and she must leave, he unlocked and opened the front door for her, she never spoke but arose and walked out the door, BUT NOT DOWN THE STEPS! The girl floated above the steps, and sidewalk, until she disappeared!
This story was brought to our attention by Carolyn Richardson, a Daughter of a Utah Pioneer. The story originally appeared in their newsletter.