For decades a crudely constructed, roughly 6.1 m high by 4 m wide cement and stone cross stood in a hollow on the northern outskirts of Kaysville, Utah, on what has historically been farmland for going on a hundred years.
Marked with a large letter K in the center, it was known to locals as Kay’s Cross.
It couldn’t be seen from any road and was on private property, undeveloped except for a few footpaths that ran deep into the woods. To get to it most folks had to first hike through the Kaysville Cemetery and then trudge over scrub-oak covered hills.
Unless you are from Kaysville (a suburb about 25 miles north of Salt Lake City), chances are you have never heard of Kay’s Cross.
It was said it was built by a polygamist who murdered his seven wives and buried them around its base before hanging himself from a nearby tree as penance for his crimes.
In another version of the story, one of the wives’ hearts was entombed in the cross.
If some reported seeing the bones of small animals scattered at its base, there were also stories of ghosts, witches, werewolves, and ritual sacrifices, depending on who was telling the tale.
Or a strange spectral woman haunts the cross, chasing away visitors. Or the face of a murdered woman appears in the cross on the anniversary of her death. Or mysterious dog men guard the cross. Pretty macabre stuff.
Even those who not believed at ghost stories, agreed that if the property’s reclusive owners caught you trespassing, they’d blast you with a shotgun full of rock salt. Or something worse.
As a result, the thrill and risk of visiting Kay’s Cross at night (above all during a full moon, when it was said the cross glowed and would burn you if you touched it) had scores of parents warning their bored children to stay away from the site, and lured generations of teenagers on the site.
In fact, according of locals, Kay’s Cross was surrounded by an otherworldly evil—or at the very least it was a magnet for brave or rebel people.
Lot of teenagers bragged about hiking to the cross at night, the most prudent kept their distance, and the adventurous and reckless weren’t always reliable with their stories. And, either way, in the pre-internet age, no digital photographs of the cross could be snapped and posted, and no story could be wrote online, so legends of it easily grew more mysterious.
One documented fact that locals could agree on, however, was the cross’s widely reported destruction.
It was 10 p.m. Tuesday, February 25, 1992, when nearby residents reported hearing a loud boom.
Deputies of the Kaysville police department made their way into the hollow to find Kay’s Cross destroyed, apparently by a large amount of dynamite planted at its base.
No arrests were ever made, and locals even speculated the reclusive property owners destroyed it themselves because trespassers had become annoying.
After all, who else would have a motive to take 80 pounds of dynamite and blow up Kay’s Cross?
In any case, in the years that followed, the foot traffic into the hollow almost vanished, but not the urban legends.
But what about its history?
Actually the land Kay’s Cross stood on was (and apparently still is) owned by the Kingston clan, originally a group of Mormon fundamentalists who broke from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1920s.
The clan’s patriarch, a man named Charles Elden Kingston, founded what his followers called simply “the Order,” and sometimes “the Co-Op”, while in public records it is the Davis County Cooperative Society.
The Order practiced polygamy and lived under a “United Order,” a type of communism where goods and services would be shared.
The clan’s entrepreneurial self-reliance led them to acquire several farms, a cattle ranch, and even a coal mine.
Over the decades they became increasingly withdrawn from society, but their beliefs and practices have often pulled them out of obscurity, with even a recent lawsuit filed by former clan members against the Kingstons for sexual battery, child abuse, and sex trafficking minors born into the organization.
Ok, the origins of Kay’s Cross are far less sinister than murdered wives and ritual sacrifice, but its real story may be even more strange, involving the Kingston clan and a wandering religious zealot who claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ himself.
Krishna Venta, born Francis Pencovic, was a religious cult leader who gained popularity in the 40’s and 50’s and believed himself to be Jesus Christ.
He was your classic cult charlatan.
Born in San Francisco in 1911, by the time he was 30 he had a long record of arrests for petty crimes, including sending what was perceived as a threatening letter to the President of the United States. He had begun preaching his gospel while stationed in the Army at Salt Lake’s Fort Douglas in 1945.
He served in the Army with John Ortell Kingston and was invited to preach to the Kingstons by the clan’s patriarch. After a few meetings, the Kingstons confided to each other that they didn’t really believe the man was the son of God but, despite this skepticism, Venta persuaded members of the clan to build a stone cross on their property as a tribute to Jesus’s crucifixion.
Interestingly, the K on the cross stood not for Krishna, Kaysville or Kingston but for “kingdom”, a word that played a prominent role in Venta’s speeches. Unlike a standard crucifix, grooves were made in the arms to serve as shelves for tomes of scripture which would then be covered by stained glass doors.
However Venta moved on to California later that year while the cross was still under construction. In his absence the project was abandoned, although he apparently continued to use the stylized cross in the new organization he founded, WKFL—Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, and Love.
A decade after he left Kaysville, in 1958, he was murdered in a suicide bombing by two of his cult members, accusing him of mishandling cult funds and having an affair with their wives.
Nine others also died in the explosion, which may have been the genesis of the legend about the nine murdered wives buried at Kay’s Cross.
Today, the remains of the enormous cross are still visible.
Its base has become a pile of cement and rock that can be shrouded by vegetation in the summer, and its arms remain intact, with the large letter K in the center of the shattered cross that can still be seen.
But this is not the end of the story: about a decade after it was destroyed, members of the Kingston clan decided to open the land to the paying public for a haunted tour of the hollow.
A scale replica of the old cross was built closer to the main road, and paths into the hollow became a nice outdoor haunted walk.
Images from web – Google Research