Kay's Cross

Somewhere in North Kaysville

The explosion was loud. It echoed through Kaysville. Many residents heard the boom. It was 10 p.m. Tuesday, February 25, 1992. Some one had snuck down into Kay's Hollow and filled up one of Kaysville's oddest structures with explosives and set it off. Kay's Cross was no more. Sort of.

But before we get into the destruction of Kay's Cross, a little background might be necessary.

Weird and Wonderful
Utah
Home
Features
History
Rants
Calendar
Landmarks
Links
Blog

 

 

Unless you are from Kaysville (a suburb about 25 miles north of Salt Lake City), chances are you have never heard of it. The cross is Kaysville's strangest, and most embarrassing, landmark.

Kay's Cross during its glory days.

No one really knows who built it. The imposing stone and mortar structure loomed over a remote hollow, standing 20 feet high and about 13 feet wide. A large letter "K" adorned both sides. Kay's Cross was the stuff of legend in Davis County. Some one had plopped this unlikely monolith in the middle of nowhere. To get to it most folks had to first hike through the Kaysville Cemetery and then trudge over scrub-oak covered hills. There were alternate routes, but all involved hills and scrub oak.

A lot of Kaysville teenagers made the trip over the years. Kay's Cross was just too irresistible. Older residents didn't want to talk about it. There was something unseemly about the cross. I mean really. A huge stone cross in the middle of a hollow. It couldn't be anything good.

So legends began to spring up, mostly by word of mouth. Some of them were doozies.

The Spooky Stuff

The spook tales surrounding Kay's Cross are varied and many. During a full moon the cross gives off an eerie glow. Or a strange spectral woman haunts the cross, chasing away visitors. Or Satanists perform sacrifices at its base on Halloween night. Or the face of a murdered woman appears in the cross on the anniversary of her death. Or the cross will burn anyone that touches it during its glowing phase. Or mysterious dog men guard the cross. Pretty wild stuff. I get spooked just typing it.

The most popular myth is that the cross was built as a monument to the landowner's murdered wife or family. Most variations on this tale make the builder a polygamist. In one version it is he who murdered his wife, or seven wives, depending on the teller. In its most grizzly form, he also buries six of his wives around the cross and one standing upright in its base. Another legend is that he sealed only the heart of his wife in the cross. The center of the cross had been hollowed out over the years, evidence of curiosity seekers excavating for this gruesome trophy.

Ghosts have been said to haunt Kay's Cross. The shade of a murdered woman seems to be the most popular spook of legend.

It is the wife or wives that haunt the cross and menace visitors. The husband is also said to have hung himself near the cross in remorse for his dastardly deed in one variation. In another, the landowner isn't the malefactor at all, but a victim of marauders that fell upon his family and killed them all. The voracity of these stories, as dramatically satisfying as they are, seems pretty suspect. No news stories can be unearthed concerning such murders taking place in Kaysville, nor have any bodies ever turned up anywhere near the cross.

In a 1981 Lakeside Review story (one of the few written about Kay's Cross) reporter Maggie Holmes relates a legend in which a series of malevolent spirits guards the cross. In this spooky tale, anyone who wants to visit Kay's Cross must sneak past these specters residing in the Kaysville Cemetery, or the ghouls will make them pay. One gets the feeling that the teenage sources for this bizarre ritual were pulling Maggie's leg. For one thing, though the cemetery was one route to Kay's Cross, there were many other paths in which the graveyard could be avoided altogether.

Not So Spooky Stuff

A less ghost-oriented story surrounding the cross is that an irate farmer, probably the landowner, guarded it. He would chase away any visitors with a shotgun loaded with rock salt (or b.b. gun). Many first hand witnesses have verified this, so it has the ring of truth.

One thing is certain, although ghost and ghouls may not have been around; many teenagers haunted Kay's Cross. And though their rituals were not of a satanic bent, they did involve beer, pot smoking, and other activities of a more carnal nature. The owner could have been none to happy about this, considering the hollow was often littered with empty liquor bottles after the teens' forays. Another annoying activity for any landowner was an illegal dirt bike trail that circled the hills surrounding Kay's Hollow. With all that teen hanky panky and those noisy dirt bikes, the farmer must have been in a pretty bad mood most of the time and had little tolerance for sightseers.

The Kaysville Police Department described Kay's Cross as a "headache." They knew it was a magnet for misbehaving teenagers. Its remote location and difficult access made patrolling Kay's Hollow nigh onto impossible. It is not surprising that the cops and Kaysville's more respectable citizens looked at Kay's Cross as an embarrassment.

As a result very little accurate information on the cross and its history has been documented. You won't find Kay's Cross in any official town guide.

Who Really Built Kay's Cross?

Though no official history exists for the building of Kay's Cross, there are some theories. The least likely explanation is that it was constructed by Kaysville founding father Bishop William Kay. He acted as the presiding bishop for the Layton-Kaysville region in the 1850s. Appointed by Brigham Young himself to settle the area, most of Northern Davis County was known as Kay's Ward in his honor.

What does the "K" stand for? There are many theories.

Kay is said to have built the cross in the 1850s as a burial place for his wife. A less romantic variation has him erecting it is a boundary marker, though that seems unlikely considering it is smack in the middle of what was Kay's Ward. In fact the whole William Kay story is very improbable. One reason is that nowhere is there any mention of him building such a landmark. Another is that Kay's Cross seems to have been completely unknown to locals before the early 1950s. So scratch William Kay from any responsibility.

The more likely explanation, the one accepted by most long-time residents, is polygamists built the cross in the 1940s. This is supported by the fact that tales about the cross first surfaced in the early 1950s, so it was probably built sometime just prior to that time. The letter "K" that adorned the cross stood for the polygamist family's name. There is other evidence that supports this theory. The name of this polygamist family: Kingston. Yep, those Kingstons.

The Kingstons Dood It?

In 1992, a non-bylined story in The Ogden Standard-Examiner reported matter-of-factly that Kay's Hollow was owned in the 1940s by non other than Charles and Ethel Kingston, founder of the Kingston Clan and his wife of record.

Charles and Ethel Kingston

This was several years before the Kingstons and their practices were thrust into the public spotlight. This gives huge support to the theory that Kay's Cross was built by the clan. Also lending credence is that longtime residents, when they could be coaxed to admitting anything about the pesky landmark, would begrudgingly admit an obscure polygamist family called Kingston built the cross.

What is unknown is why anyone, let alone the Kingstons, erected Kay's Cross in the first place. The murdered wife theory has no legs. Many bad things could be laid at the feet of Charles Kingston, but not that he murdered his wives. So monument and burial site for slain family seems to be out.

There also appears to be no religious significance. The Kingstons sold the land sometime in the 1950s without a qualm about giving up the bizarre structure. In fact, over the years Kay's Cross fell into disrepair, covered by all sorts of graffiti. Obviously, no one was wasting any energy on its upkeep.

Some have suggested that Kingston's followers built it as a monument to their leader. Once again, Charles abandoned this testament to his greatness with remarkable ease. Others have postulated that Kay's Cross is nothing more than a property marker for Kingston land. However, it seems a pretty ostentatious boundary marker. You think they could have come up with something a little easier to construct.

 

Is this irrefutable proof that the Kingstons built Kay's Cross? Not by a long shot. Circumstantial evidence points to them as the most likely suspects. Why did they build it? If they did, they are not saying. The reasons, and the very existence, of Kay's Cross remain a mystery.

Meanwhile, Back in 1992

The explosion that took out Kay's Cross was pretty spectacular. It obliterated the base and hurled 10 lbs chunks of rock up to 80 feet. The hollow contained most of the debris, but an unlucky pheasant was killed, the only known casualty. The bird was roosting in a tree some forty feet away when it had an unfortunate encounter with a flying rock. No one has said whether its shade has been added to the ghosts haunting the cross.

The ruins of Kay's Cross

Residents near Mutton Hollow Road and in the King Clarion subdivision heard the blast. Davis County Sheriff's deputies arrived minutes later. The once majestic structure had toppled. An investigation failed to reveal what type of explosive was used. The sheriffs dutifully sent evidence to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. No one was ever arrested. The case remains open.

Police theorized that the same person or persons that had detonated a dumpster in Kaysville might have been responsible for blasting the cross. Another theory that went around was that a concerned citizen sick of the teen shenanigans in Kay's Hollow blew up the cross. If that is the case, the plan didn't succeed.

A subdivision now separates Kay's Cross from the cemetery. However, Kay's Hollow remains free of housing. Dirt Bike trails still criss-cross the hills surrounding it. Though toppled, the ruins of Kay's Cross still lay in the hollow. Development is making its way towards Kay's Hollow, but for now it is untouched by builders.

Though the base is missing, Kay's Cross remains identifiable. Shattered beer bottle around its ruins testify to the fact that it remains a teen hang out.

The Left Field, a web site dedicated to the paranormal, lists Kay's Cross as a part of haunted Utah. It describes the dog men it claims haunt the site. A blogger that visited the ruins one evening posted photos of the cross which emanated a strange glow. Kay's Cross has still got it spookwise.

The destruction of Kay's Cross remains as big a mystery as its construction. As long as this aura of the unknown hangs about the oddball landmark, folks will be drawn to it whether Kaysville residents like it or not.

 

TOPTOP