St. Anne's Retreat: Legend-tripping in Logan Canyon
Legend-tripping in Logan Canyon
Legend-tripping is a term that Linda Dégh, William Ellis, Kenneth Thigpen, and others use to describe the practice of visiting the sites of supernatural legends. Thigpen describes legend-tripping in three parts: 1) initiation to the story, 2) performing the acts that cause the fulfillment of the legend, and 3) retrospective discussion of what participants believed happened, which then feeds back into the core story into which newcomers were initiated. Legend-tripping is experiencing the legend by ostension, in other words, the narrative becomes action and the action becomes narrative. Legend-tripping entails visiting a site of the supernatural, a thrill seeking event, and illustrates the magnificent potential of a legend and the powerful role that it plays in local folklore. Legends persist through time, and in this case giving rise to otherwise dormant tensions. Cultural issues and concerns will continue to surface in oral tradition and reflected and dramatized in the stories they tell.
In 1997 St. Anne’s Retreat and the legends associated with it achieved national media attention when over 30 high school students seeking to experience the “trip” of this legendary place, were caught and fell into the hands of vigilante security guards. The students were captured by three men, who were armed with shotguns; they were then roped around the neck, handcuffed, and forced to kneel in an empty swimming pool. The legend-tripping youths embarked on a “trip” more exciting than they had anticipated as some were allegedly verbally threatened, physically abused, and sexually assaulted while awaiting the arrival of the local police. What followed this incident was a public uproar against the watchmen’s use of force against the trespassers.
The youths apprehended in Logan Canyon who expected fulfillment of the St. Anne legend, really did get a thrill—but not of the sort they expected. Instead of red-eyed Dobermans, the haunting sound of murdered babies crying out, Witch Hecate in the shape of a cloud moving down the mountain, the car not starting, boulders falling down the mountain upon curious visitors, blood in the swimming pool, (representing the death that the pool is so much associated with), these legend-trippers were ambushed in the night by armed men with shotguns and held hostage for two hours until police arrived.
Fundamentally it is an issue of property vs. civil rights, but in essence it becomes an issue of local concepts of justice vs. local folklore and tradition, which suggests a general consent to legend-tripping associated with the belief and its tradition that this ritual functions as a rite of passage for local individuals.