Journey to Ted Bundy’s Cellar
· 11 min. read
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There are three things Salt Lake City is known for: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ted Bundy and skiing. Since we talked about the former already, and I'm no good at the latter, you can probably guess what this article is about.
From 1974 to 1978 Ted Bundy kidnapped, murdered and raped young women and girls across the United States. Between 1974 and 1975, he spent much of his time killing in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, with his base being in Salt Lake City.
Bundy moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah Law School, and left his girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer in Seattle, Washington. However, he was not faithful to Kloepfer (besides the raping part) and would date at least a dozen other women while in Salt Lake City.
In 1975 Bundy also joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was excommunicated in 1976 following his kidnapping conviction.
He would kill women who attended the university, the church or anywhere else in the city and surrounding area. The police were only notified of who he was after Kloepfer became suspicious and reported him. Bundy would be arrested in Salt Lake City, be put on trial, charged and placed in Utah State Prison, about 20 miles from the city. His sentence at the time was only for one to fifteen years.
He was sentenced in June 1976 and transferred to Glenwood Springs, Colorado in January 1977. In June he was taken to Aspen, Colorado for a preliminary hearing. During a court recess, he snuck out an office window, jumped two stories to the ground below and escaped into the nearby mountains. He would get disoriented in the mountains and go the wrong way, eventually wandering back into Aspen. When he was finally recaptured, he had been a fugitive for six days.
On December 30, 1977, he would escape again, this time from Glenwood Springs Prison, and this time he would steal a car. He would then drive across the country and disappear. He would be recaptured over a month later on February 15, 1978 in Florida. During his time on the run, he raped, murdered and assaulted dozens of women across the country.
Bundy was sentenced to death and, after several delays and attempts to change his sentence, was executed on January 24, 1989 ? fifteen years after his first murder. Although he would confess to killing 30 women, many believe he killed over 100.
Back in Utah, the location where Bundy lived and killed became famous, growing even more so as the years passed.
Today it is so easy to find where Ted Bundy lived in Salt Lake City that you can just Google it: it is 565 First Avenue, on the front, right side, second floor of the building. Today, much like back in the 1970s, the building is a rooming house. There are even people living in the same room that Ted Bundy lived in during his crime spree. The only difference is that they changed the room number from 2 to 5 so people would leave the residents alone.
I visited the house while in Salt Lake City, but I didn't try to get inside. The residents are very annoyed with tourists knocking on doors and peering through windows. I also noticed the building has no doorbells, which is probably because of the fame the recent Netflix documentary, "Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes", brought to the property.
After I was done gawking at the house, I visited the nearby Café on 1st and quizzed the barista about the building. She told me that her friends' friend used to live in the former Ted Bundy room and that his personality changed while living there. The barista said that shortly after moving in he was arrested for stealing and for buying illegal drugs. She told me that he had always been a little strange though, so the room may not have caused his personality change.
She also mentioned another place I didn't know about, and that I can find very little validating information about online. She told me that there is a place just outside Salt Lake City called "Emigration Canyon", which has the cellar where Ted Bundy dumped many of his victims.
Emigration Canyon is famous for a lot of things. It's the location where Brigham Young brought the Mormon pioneers in 1847, and where the Donner Party passed through a year earlier. For those unfamiliar, the Donner Party was a group of American pioneers looking to migrate from the Midwest to California. They were told to take Hastings Cutoff, a new route that was meant to shorten the distance, but instead, it would be their undoing. The terrain was steep, dense, impassible and difficult. When they weren't climbing mountains with oxen, they were going across deathly deserts. The Donner Party would resort to cannibalism and eat the bodies of their fallen travellers. Of the 87 people who entered the Wasatch Mountains via Hastings Cutoff, only 48 arrived in California.
The exit of Emigration Canyon, which connects to the University of Utah and flows into Salt Lake City, is named Donner Hill, in honour of the Donner Party.
Ted Bundy's cellar is only yards away from the cairn that marks this hill.
However, accessing the cellar means trespassing onto private property, something of which I do not recommend you do. Many people visit the cellar at night to avoid getting caught but as I only had three days in Utah, I did it during the day? during a blizzard.
I had a lot of trouble finding the cellar while on the property and ventured much further into the trees and knee-deep snow than I should have. I followed deer trails around for about twenty minutes, getting snowier and snowier as I went. I even stood in the snow and attempted to watch a YouTube video to find my way. But, because everybody visits it at night, I still couldn't figure it out.
I eventually gave up and started trudging my way back to the road when I stumbled upon it. It was visible from the roadway but was obscured by as snow-covered tree ? a tree that was growing out of the base of a house that once stood there.
The legend goes that that house was once a hunting lodge, and that Bundy spent time there ? not permanently, but regularity, as he often visited Emigration Canyon. As the U of U sits on the doorstep of the canyon, this would be the perfect place to hike, wander and murder.
Behind the former lodge is a stone cellar with a metal door. It has been spray-painted, spray-painted, and then spray-painted again. By the time I arrived at it on March 1, 2020, the door had been weld shut. Nobody could get in, even if they wanted to.
But people have been inside before, and there is a lot of photography of what is inside. Under the layers and layers of spray paint, it is said that Ted Bundy dragged his victims down the stairs and buried them in the cellar. I've read that three bodies were found there, but there is supposedly two more that have never been found.
People who have been in the cellar say it feels uncomfortable ? like you're walking into a trap, or that the walls are closing in. It's dark and wet, as a cellar typically is, and the concrete walls are lined with spray paint. Many also feel like they're being watched while inside the cellar.
I also had this experience when I was in the area, and once I even called out to whoever was watching me. It was before I had found the cellar and I was trudging along in the snow. I paused to catch my breath and get my bearings and I heard a cellphone ring in the nearby trees. I didn't see anybody, and nobody answered me when I called out. It was snowing very heavily so sound couldn't carry very far, so whoever it was probably knew I was there.
While the experience was spooky, it was the strangest thing I encountered while at Ted Bundy's cellar. At a time, the cellar would be worth the visit, but with the house gone, the cellar sealed up and the area now private property, it isn't worth making the journey.
Would you be interested in visiting any of these, or other famous Ted Bundy locations? Let me know in the comments below!
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Categories: Dark Tourism, Paranormal, USA, Utah