Family talks about their haunted Ogden home

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:31 PM

Becky Wright, Standard-Examiner

Strange things sometimes happen in the Ogden home of PJ and Lydia Gravis.

A few months ago, in the middle of the night, a door slammed shut for no apparent reason. Another time, a lamp fell over and broke — again for no apparent reason. And while the couple was working on the house one day, the vacuum turned on by itself.

Then, there was the motion-sensor incident.

The couple installed a motion sensor in their bedroom closet, intended to trigger the light when someone enters the closet. They found it takes quite a bit of movement to make it work.

“One night we’d just gone to bed and I look and see, under the closet door, the light goes on. Then it goes off, then a few minutes later it comes on,” Lydia said.

It did it for about three hours, at random intervals.

About a year ago, Lydia’s parents spent the night.

“The next morning, my dad said, ‘Lyd, were you doing dishes at 2 in the morning? Were you walking up and down the stairs?’ ” Lydia Gravis said.

You guessed it — she wasn’t.

Shortly after that, PJ had a ghostly encounter while sleeping in bed.

“I felt somebody, like, grab my foot one night,” said PJ.

When such ghostly things happen, they blame Edmund T. Hulaniski, the first owner of the home — which is on this year’s Weber County Heritage Foundation Historic House Tour.

“Because we had a couple of things happen when we were working on it, we’d go to Edmund Hulaniski’s grave in the Ogden cemetery to try to make peace with the guy, and tell him we’ll take good care of the place,” Lydia said. “He died in the house in 1928.”

A Civil War vet

The peace talks didn’t help, so either the ghost isn’t Hulaniski, or he just doesn’t want to leave his home.

Hulaniski was born in Michigan in 1848. He said he was descended from a Polish king, and that his father was a count driven from Poland by war, according to newspaper articles announcing his death in 1928.

In 1862, when he was 14, Hulaniski enlisted in the Union Army. His Civil War service began with the First New York Marine Artillery. That group was mustered out after heavy losses, and he joined the 2nd Regiment of the Illinois Light Artillery. After a disability discharge, according to the article, he “organized and financed the Three Hundred Twelfth U.S. negro artillery.”

Friends called him “Captain,” because ofhis military service. He claimed to have been the youngest commissioned officer in the Union army, at age 16.

Voice from the past

In an interview with the Standard-Examiner less than a year before his death, Hulaniski talked about his Civil War experience.

“I was a very young fellow to be warring,” he’s quoted as saying, “but the sound of cannon becomes common-place when you eat and sleep in the midst of it.”

Of his experience with African-American troops he said, “There was a lot of prejudice against the colored soldiers, but in my opinion the blacker the man the better the fighter.”

After the war, Hulaniski studied law and was admitted to the bar at age 21. He moved West as a railroad employee, eventually settling in Ogden, where he served as city, county and district attorney.

The Standard-Examiner reporter, in 1927, asked for Hulaniski’s opinion on several hot topics of the time.

About women bobbing their hair, he said, “I have a hard time telling a girl of 16 from a women of 60 sometimes.”

Women taking up smoking didn’t bother him.

“I saw so many women with corncob pipes in the Kentucky mountains,” he said. “Women have made my front room a rendezvous for smoking, but I told them they’s have to bring their own cigarets.”

Prohibition did bother him, and he wasn’t happy with the Supreme Court’s ruling that the 18th amendment was legal.

“I always liked a good glass of sherry wine during the morning, but it can’t be had any more. And I am afraid of drinking moonshine,” he said.

Hulaniski passed away at the age of 80, after a seven-week illness. A death certificate found by Lydia Gravis lists pulmonary embolism, the blockage of an artery in the lung, as the cause of death.

The viewing was held in his home — the one now owned by PJ and Lydia Gravis.

Contact reporter Becky Wright at 801-625-4274 or Follow her on Twitter at@ReporterBWright.

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