The Nunnery: St. Anne's Retreat


Dublin Core


The Nunnery: St. Anne's Retreat


Collection of legends from undergraduate fieldwork featuring stories about St. Anne's Retreat.
The Nunnery:
St. Anne's Retreat
Anne Christensen
History 5700
Professor Gabbert
Utah State University
Spring 2010

The Nunnery
Anne Christensen
HIST 5700
Folk Narrative is so much a part of life that on an almost daily basis people retell stories,
of one shape or form, to each other. We tell stories to relay life's most difficult and most
wonderful of times. If we're late for work, the reason is often related as a story, retelling the
events as they unfolded to provide an adequate and vivid excuse for our tardiness. As Bruce
Jackson says in The Story is True, "We organize the events of our lives in the form of
narrative ... Every story we tell, specifically or by implication, includes a theory about what
happened and what matters" (Jackson, 8). Legends are a part of this wide storytelling tradition.
In Cache Valley, Utah the story of St. Anne's Retreat is one of the most commonly retold
• Legends. By examining the different "Rules of Legend," the content, style, structure, and
function of several versions of St. Anne's Retreat we can come to a greater understanding of
whey the legend's popularity continues.
The story of The Nunnery, or St. Anne's Retreat, as I heard it when I was in high school,
was that the Catholic Church owned a lodge in Logan Canyon and whenever a nun got pregnant
she was sent there to have an abortion. When the babies were born, they were all drowned in a
well that was located in the middle of the lodge area and if you go there today you'll hear the
sound of babies cries coming from the well. This is just one of the many versions of liThe
Nunnery," but it contains some of the elements that almost all of the collected versions
contain; the Nuns, the death of a baby, and the presence of some sort of spirit that remains • 1
• today. It is these three elements that seem to compose of the majority of the content for this
Legend, but each legend to varying degrees.
The localization of "The Nunnery" plays a huge part in its retelling of the suspicious
events and origins of its haunted nature. While trying to find people I could interview, most
people had at least heard of the Nunnery, but many didn't know the story behind it. When
asked ffDoes everyone you know, know the story? Do most people you know, know about it?
Benjy, a seventeen year old high school student from Bear River High School replied that, "Most
people that have gone up logan Canyon," know the story (Transcription 3). The location of the
story is of vital importance in its retelling, even in the minds of those who told the story. Style
also plays a role in who the story was first collected from.
Callista Christopher began her telling of the story by saying that, "So what I heard from
• my mom when I was little was that .... "(Transcription 6) She begins her story by using the "friend

of a friend," rhetorical device. Jan Harold Brunvand says, "In the world of modern urban
legends there is usually no geographical or generational gap between teller and event. The
story is true; it really occurred, and recently, and always to someone else who is quite close to
the narrator, or at least "a friend of a friend" (Brunvand, 4). Callista's use of reference, who she
heard the story from, helps lay claim to the reliability of the source, it being her mom, and thus
the believability of the story. While no one expressed implicit belief in the story of the nunnery,
everyone I interviewed expressed some amount of belief in the supernatural and spiritual
occurrences that made the nunnery a haunted place.
The structure of each story differs slightly as does the content of each story. Almost the
entire story encompasses a bizarre plot twist. Pregnant nuns, which are two things that are in
~----------------. - , - -_ ..
• direct opposition to each other, still function within the realm of believability, the true twist
comes at the point in which the nuns give birth and murder their children. Callista's story differs
slightly from the others because the nuns are portrayed in a positive light; rather it is only the
priest that is a wicked murderer. She says after the nun gives birth to the baby and hides it
away, lithe priest guy found out and he went, followed them up there, and he killed the baby in
the swimming pool," and then he kills the nun (Transcription 6). Though Callista's story is only
one instance, the fact that her mother was telling the story to a young girl, makes a gender
. differentiation visible. In this instance, the man, not the women are at fault. While sex is
something that anyone can be tempted by, and religiously speaking, it's forgivable, murder is
not. The murdering of children contradicts everything that a nun, or a priest, should represent.
As noted earlier, Brunvand says the story has often happened to someone who is quite close to
• the narrator. While no one character in the story is known by any of the tellers of the story, the

use of the Nunnery site in Logan Canyon as a place to go legend tripping helps lend the story
All throughout high school I remember hearing stories of other teenagers going to the
Nunnery in Logan Canyon and being scared out of their mind. As I searched for people to
interview, I couldn't find anyone who had actually been. I went to my brother, whom I had
heard the story from numerous times. He recalled that, iii have known people who have gone
there. And have said they heard things, not necessarily babies crying, but they said it's freaky.
One of the most freakiest places they have ever been" (Transcription 2). He told me to call one
of his friends that he thought had been there, but that was a dead end. He hadn't ever been
there and he couldn't think of a specific person who had either. Hoping that the story still
• resonated with teenagers today I went to my younger brother and after asking him if any of his
friends had gone up there, he said that one of them had but he didn't know what his friend had
said of the experience (Transcription 3). Ca"ista grew up in Logan and she didn't know anyone
that had actually been there. I called a few male friends from high school, thinking that if
anyone had been, they most certainly would have, and not a single person had actually been to
the Nunnery. They only knew vague stories of people they had heard about going up the
Canyon. Benjy, the only one still in high school, expressed an adamant desire to go up there and
had hoped when I first asked him about the story that I had the same thing in mind. Other than
the increased security measures taken to keep trespassers out of the grounds, I don't know why
so few people have actually been
While legend tripping may serve as one function of the story of the Nunnery, enforcing a
• belief or value is another function ofthe story. Both Kylie and Josh's recollection ofthe story

skirted over the sexual issue with veiled references, rather than outright statements. Kylie said,
somewhat comically, that the nunnery was, "actually an abortion clinic for nuns who weren't
really, um, standing by their vows of being a virgin" (Transcription 5). Josh said that, "Um,
apparently they were attractive nuns or locals frequented the area and the nuns got pregnant.
Because it's against their lifestyle to participate in those kind ofthings ... " (Transcription 2). Both
stories refer to the misconduct implicit in the sexual act of a nun. Even Emily's recollection of
the story, with her blunt appraisal of events shows some of the apprehension about sexual
issues. She says that, "there was a nunnery and a" the nuns got really horny, along with the
priests and the priests knocked up the nuns ... " (Transcription 1). She states the facts of the
story as she has heard them in a way that sexual issues can't be overlooked, but she does so
• while laughing throughout her recollection. Her laughter could be interpreted as discomfort in
talking about sexual issues, or that she thinks the legend itself is funny, either way the sexual
nature of the story isn't admired.
The overwhelming religious population of Cache Valley has historically lent itselfto
advocating extremely conservative views of sexual conduct. The story of the nunnery takes that
to the extreme with associating the Catholic religion, a minority religion in northern Utah, with
sexual misconduct. If the lodge itself had been an abandoned LDS retreat would such stories
have ever begun to be circulated about past inhabitants? This is a question that can never be
answered, but it seems important in understanding why the popularity of such a story exists.
The foreignness of the Catholic Religion to many in Cache Valley can't be overlooked.
The story of the Nunnery itself is creepy. It pushes the boundaries between truth and
• fiction and makes us question the believability of such a story, but its use in life and its

popularity make it an important part of, most especially, adolescence in Cache Valley. Both
Benjy and Kaitlyn knew little of the story about the nuns, and the murdering of children, but
they had both heard of the haunting nature of the Nunnery itself. Whether the belief that the
Nunnery is haunted or the story came first, it's apparent that it's a legend that will continue to
affect those all who have heard it and that they in turn will continue to tell it .

Emily Christensen
Emily: Go?
Anne: Yeah, just tell me the story.
Emily: Okay.
Anne: What you've heard
Emily: Once upon a time, [laughing] in a dark and dreary land [laughing].. Just kidding.
Anne: Okay, tell me for real. [laughing]
Emily: Well, there was a nunnery and all the nuns got really horny, along with the priests and the
priests knocked up all the nuns and then the nuns had babies and they suffocated them and just
threw them in like the little sewer tunnel things under the nunnery and now there's creepy nun
babies that scream and crap. And that's about it. [laughing] That's all I know.
Anne: Okay

Josh Christensen
Anne: Alright, just tell me the story, like you've heard it.
Josh: My understanding of the nunnery in Logan Canyon, but like, I've googled stuff so I know
other things too.
Anne: That's okay, just tell me the story you've heard first.
Josh: The story is that there's a nunnery up Logan canyon. Urn, apparently they were attractive
nuns or locals frequented the area and the nuns got pregnant. Because it's against their lifestyle
to participate in those kinds of things they would have their babies in secret then they would
drown their babies in the pool that was up there. The rumor is that you can go up there at night.
And, uh, you can go towards the middle of the nunnery, and I guess they filled in the pool or
something, but if you go and stand in the middle of the places you can hear babies crying.
Anne: Did you know anyone that went up there in high school?
Josh: I have known people who have gone there. And have said they have heard things, not
necessarily babies crying, but they said that it's freaky. One of the most freakiest places they
have ever been.
Anne: Alright, thanks.
• Benjy Christensen
Anne: Okay, I'm just asking you what have you heard? What's the story you've heard?
Benjy: Urn, Just that it's haunted.
Anne: That's all you've heard?
Benjy: Well I heard one story. A kid's dad went up there and urn he said there was like scratch
marks, and urn there was a fresh loaf of bread while they were up there.
Anne: Oh really? I've never heard that.
Anne: Do you know why it's called the nunnery?
Benjy: Cause of the nuns ... [laughing] that lived there.
Anne: That's all you know about it? Just that it's haunted?
Benjy: Yeah
Anne: Have any of your friends gone there?
• Benjy: Urn, One of them.

Anne: Just one of them? What did he say?
Benjy: I don't know [laughing]
Anne: Urn, Does everyone you know, know the story? Do most people you know, know about
Benjy: Most people that have gone up Logan Canyon I think ...
Anne: Know about it.
Benjy: Yeah, but.. .
Benjy: A lot of people are, uh, don't get out much [laughing]
. Anne: Do you believe that it's haunted?
Benjy: Yeah.
Benjy: That was intimidating .

Kaitlyn Faraone
Anne: Okay, what have you heard about the nunnery.
Kaitlyn: I've heard that the nunnery in Logan Canyon is haunted and if you go you can feel a
presence there. I've also heard it's especially bad at Halloween time, you have to be careful then.
Anne: See that was easy .

Kylie White
Anne: Okay, what have you heard?
Kylie: Well, what I've heard about the nunnery is that it's haunted because it used to be a hotel
getaway for Hollywood stars but then the Catholic Church bought it out and then it became the
nunnery where these priests and nuns would go and like escape for a little while. It was kind of
like a vacation for them. But then in reality it was just a cover-up because it was actually an
abortion clinic for nuns who weren't really, urn, standing by their vows of being a virgin. So,
instead of being condemned and having babies they would go there and have abortions. And so,
that's kinda what I heard about it. And then, somehow the children there, I don't really know if
like all the nuns had abortions so they wanted to stay there with their kids, or something, I don't
really know, it's like two different stories. The one with children there, one of the nuns went
crazy, or all of the nuns, I'm not real sure, but they killed all of these little children. Whenever
you go to the nunnery, you have to hop the fence and everything, and you can feel either the
babies that were aborted or the children that the nuns killed, you can feel like their presence and
see them playing and acting like they are real children there anyways and not being dead. It's

Callista Christopherson
Anne: Just tell me what you know.
Callista: Okay. So what I heard from my mom when I was little was that the nunnery was like a
normal nunnery and that the little priest man got one of the nuns pregnant. And she like kept the
baby full term and had the baby and blah blah and then she gave birth to the baby and hid it up in
the woods behind the nunnery and had all these nuns like go back and check on it every once in a
while and the priest guy found out and he went, followed them up there, and he killed the baby in
the swimming pool. And then he came back [laughing] and like killed the nun up in the woods.
And .. [laughing, He's all judging on us]. So you're supposed to be able to like feel the baby in the
swimming pool. There's supposed to be a cold spot where the baby was murdered And the nuns
like hunting, like hunting, what is that? haunting the place.
Anne: Thank you
Callista: You are so welcome.


Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, FOLK COLL 8


Reproduction for publication, exhibition, web display or commercial use is only permissible with the consent of the USU Libraries Special Collections and Archives, phone (435) 797-2663.


Utah State University undergraduate student fieldwork collection, 1979-2011 FOLK COLL 8 USU
St. Anne's Retreat





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