The strange inscription on her tombstone reads “Lilly E. Gray, Victim of the Beast 666.”
But it’s unclear which is the beast, or the fact that no one seems to know what it means or why it was placed here.
It seems inherently mean-spririted, yet everything else about the grave marker seems lovingly planned and cared for. It has been more than half a century since Lilly died, and the mystery of the meaning behind the inscription endures still today.
But let’s start from the beginning.
The Salt Lake City Cemetery, located in downtown Salt Lake, Utah, is a 120-acre cemetery with over 9 1/2 miles of old, narrow roads.
It saw its first burial in September 1847, however it wasn’t until January of 1851 that an ordinance was passed incorporating Salt Lake City, that the cemetery was officially born.
Since that first burial, there have been around 124,000 souls buried here, and it is also home to a few unusual legends including our Lilly Gray. The draw to Lilly’s grave has nothing to do with who she was, and everything to do with the epitaph on her headstone.
Located on the far northeast edge of the cemetery, her red, flat granite headstone blends in with the surrounding headstones and is fairly regular, until you get close enough to read what it says:
Lilly E. Gray
June 6 1881 – Nov 14 1958
Victim of The Beast 666
Well, this is not your average epitaph, a regular heartwarming tribute to the deceased, but words that leave people scratching their heads about what happened to this lady who died in 1958.
Of course, in the years following her death, legends began to grow about her and her epitaph.
According to probably the most most popular one, she was must have been murdered in some horrific way, while others suggested she was a follower of “The Great Beast” himself, Aleister Crowley.
He was denounced by mainstream media at the time for being literally “the wickedest man in the world” as well as a Satanist. Other versions were that she was involved in Satan worship, or even murdered by Satanists during some ritual.
It sounds good but…who was this woman?
Actually, nothing macabre.
Lilly Edith Gray was born on June 4th, 1880 in Manvers, Ontario, Canada, to Wilmer and Francis Gray and she had a twin sister, Ethel Sarah Gray. The family immigrated to Benzie, Michigan in the same year, following their birth.
In July 1898 Ethel was admitted to the Traverse City State Hospital (an asylum rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Michigan), where she would stay until her death in 1917 at the age of 36. Lilly meanwhile was unmarried and still living at home.
Shortly after the death of her twin sister, Lilly would marry for the first time with a man named Richard C. Walsh in Chicago, Illinois on October 8, 1918.
At the time he was 67, and she was 38 but their marriage didn’t last very long, as Richard died a few years later in December 1925.
Her second marriage took place less than a year with such as Frank Zimmerman in November of 1926. They might have met through work, as they both worked at a post office in Chicago, and they were married for 17 years until his death in August 1943.
In 1950, for unknown reasons, Lilly Zimmerman packed up and headed for Salt Lake City, where she would meet her third husband, Elmer Louis Gray.
This character was from Butler, Missouri, and from a fairly young age, he got himself on the wrong side of the law, where he would stay for pretty much his entire life. In fact, it seems that at some point he was sent to the Nebraska State Industrial School, similar to juvenile detention today and then, on May 21, 1909, he was admitted to the Missouri State Penitentiary following a conviction for Grand Larceny.
Although he was sentenced for two years, he was released on November, 1910 and, from here, his adventures in crime start hitting the public record.
For a period of time between 1932 and 1934, he was serving time in the Colorado State Penitentiary for larceny. Again.
After an enigmatic life, using the alias of Woodrow Lamb, he committed burglary in several states, and his record lists charges from Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Utah. At the time of his incarceration in Utah, he believed he had been kidnapped by 5 Democrat officials, and he appealed to the board of pardons every year while serving his sentence, asking for “an end to this farce.”
In any case, after serving his last 10 years and 6 months in prison, he was released on July 11, 1948, and he was now 67 years old.
It was July 11, 1952, when Elmer Gray and Lillie E. Zimmerman were married at the courthouse in Elko, Nevada. At the time of their marriage, Elmer was 71, and Lilly was 72.
After their marriage, the couple rented a small house located at 1216 Pacific Avenue, torn down years ago (an apartment building now stands at that location).
The two seem to have lived a quiet life together, and it seems that Elmer had no more problems with the law.
They were married for six years until Lilly’s death on November 14, 1958, at the Salt Lake General Hospital. Despite all of the rumors, Lilly’s death was caused by nothing strange, pulmonary embolism and kidney failure.
She was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery on November 19th, 1958, and her obituary was short and to the point.
According to it, her only surviving family was Elmer and several nieces and nephews. A few of her siblings were still living at the time of her death, but it seems all remaining family lived in Michigan.
She never had children.
And Elmer, on October 31, 1964, was brought to St. Mark’s Hospital, dead on arrival due a stroke that is believed to have been caused by Parkinson’s disease.
He was 83 years old, and he was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery too on November 4, 1964, but far from Lilly’s grave. It seems thet her family kept her away from her husband in her dying days. In fact, although they laid to rest in the same cemetery, the two were buried as far from each other as possible.
But why did Elmer put “Victim of The Beast 666” on Lilly’s headstone?
I don’t know, really.
Elmer was considered by Lilly’s family to be quite a scoundrel, and he’s the one that ordered the gravestone.
Some symptoms of the conditions that took Lilly’s life are extreme swelling and seizures and, in Elmer’s delusional mind-set, he could have believed those symptoms to be the work of the devil.
In fact, he was also physically and neurologically suffering near the end of his life. Symptoms that may be experienced in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s include memory problems, behavioral changes, and trouble sleeping. If Elmer was experiencing memory problems and behavioral changes, it could have led him to believe that something nefarious killed his Lilly.
However, the most credited version is that Elmer Gray figured the government was the beast.
But really a curious way to express such dislike for the government, right?
We can draw our own conclusions, but this is one mystery that may never be solved….
Images from web – Google Research