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Mormon Ghost Stories

The Purple Palace

Cover Image for The Purple Palace
Brother Didley
By: Brother Didley

“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand”

Daniel 5:5

Loosely based on a true story

*** 10 YEARS AGO ***

Howard always liked going with his older siblings and parents to pick grapes at the church welfare farm. It was their ward’s turn to help with the harvest and he especially liked picking season because the grapes would be ripe and there was no rule against eating as many as you wanted. He could taste the sweet grapes already.

As they turned the last corner and approached the white and purple building, Howard’s father called out excitedly, “Hey look! There’s the Purple Palace!”

And that’s what they called the old metal building that housed the tractor, trailer, plastic boxes, and other equipment and materials used to pick grapes. Howard’s dad pulled the family station wagon into the dusty parking lot and everyone jumped out as soon as he stopped in a stall next to the Purple Palace.

After a long morning of picking and hauling grapes, Howard was anxious for lunch. The ward Relief Society sisters always brought great food like fried chicken, potato salad and, Howard’s personal favorite, green fluff. But his favorite part of the day was getting to spend some time listening to old man Steinbergen, the caretaker of the vineyard, who would tell bizarre stories about the strange things that had happened over the years at the Purple Palace.

Today, Howard was in luck because, just as he was scraping his plate for the last bite of the marshmallow, cool whip, and green jello fluff (which some people consider a salad), he saw a crowd of Howard’s friends around old man Steinbergen looking somewhat nervously at what the old man was telling them about. Howard elbowed his way into the circle and saw that the old man had a small box in his hand, the kind a watch comes in.

“I chased away a trespasser last weekend and he lost this while climbing over the back fence.” whispered Mr. Steinbergen. With the flourish of a magician, he took the lid off the box and everyone gasped. Howard caught a glimpse of what looked like a severed human finger inside the box, resting on a bed of cotton balls. Howard’s stomach lurched at the sight, but he couldn’t help craning his neck to get a better look. Just then, Bishop Paulson came up from behind old man Steinbergen and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Aw, the old finger in the box trick! My dad used to scare us kids with the same thing when I was a boy. Ok, let’s help clear the tables and put things away so we can get back to work!” The kindly ward leader whispered something to old man Steinbergen and then pivoted to help clear plates and cups from the table behind him.


“We’re just about ready to head out, Howard!” called Howard’s older sister Bridgett as he finished brushing his teeth.

“Just like old times,” thought Howard.

He had just been home from his mission for 3 days and already his sister was back to helping Howard be on-time. This time, they were headed to a young single adult activity where the 18-30 year olds in Howard’s ward were gathering at the Purple Palace to put on a haunted house for the primary and young men and women.

There were several vehicles already in the dirt parking lot of the Purple Palace when they arrived.

“Still not paved? Some things never change!” mumbled Howard, mostly to himself.

Entering the metal building, the smell of spray paint and duct tape told Howard the finishing touches on the haunted house were in full swing. He worked alongside Bridgett on a bridge that would hide monsters who would reach out from underneath as the children crossed toward the table of mysteries where they would put their hands into bowls of spaghetti brains and boiled egg eyes and who knows what else.

As the blue sky faded to a soft purple-pink, the haunted house was ready for the first children to arrive. Howard and Bridgett got their tattered costumes on over their regular clothes and applied black face paint around their eyes to transform each other into appropriately scary zombie creatures. Brother Paulson, now a High Councillor who worked with Young Single Adults, came in and gave everyone a thumbs up to signal all was ready for the children and the room went dark with only black lights creating an eerie glow. Then, in walked an old man who looked strangely familiar.

“Old man Steinbergen? Could it really be him after all these years?” wondered Howard. He nudged Bridgett with his elbow and pointed to the old man, who was carrying a bowl of something and headed for the table of mysteries. He had on a black cloak and carried what looked like a scythe.

“Yeah - he’s got to be over a hundred by now!” she whispered back.

Just then, a small group of 12-year olds walked into the haunted house and Howard and Bridgett scrambled out of sight under the bridge. They had a great time scaring these kids and the several groups that followed them as they crossed over the bridge. The boys were their favorite victims as they tried to act macho but scared the easiest when Howard would grab their ankles and moan in true zombie-speak.

When a little group of primary-age kids came in, Brother Paulson suggested they turn on the lights so it wouldn’t be so scary. The kids were still plenty nervous as they went through the maze and then over the bridge. Howard and Bridgett tried to be less scary and just used their normal voices to cheer the children on. When they got to the table of mysteries, the kids were enjoying putting their hands in the various bowls of spaghetti and eggs until there was a gasp and screams at the end of the table. Howard and Bridgett’s friends were the ones freaking out the most.

“Take the children out!”, someone shouted.

“Who would do such a thing?” said another.

Howard and Bridgett got out from under their bridge and made it to the end of the table of mysteries at the same time as Brother Paulson.

“We’d better call the police,” said Brother Paulson as he stared at the bowl, which Howard and Bridgett could see was filled with severed human fingers. “These are real.”

Howard was sure he had seen old man Steinbergen bring the bowl into the Purple Palace earlier that evening, but the old man was nowhere in sight.

“Did anyone see who brought this bowl?” asked Brother Paulson.

“Yeah, it was old man Steinbergen dressed in a black cloak carrying a scythe,” answered Howard.

No one else had seen anyone bring that bowl in and everyone was talking at once when Brother Paulson broke into the chatter.

“That’s impossible. Freddy Steinbergen has been dead for 5 years.”

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