||Richelle Hawks lives in Salt Lake City with her teenage son. Next year, she will be moving to a small town in upstate New York, where she has just purchased a house with her longtime partner, the paranormal writer Stephen Wagner. She has been practicing bodywork for nearly a decade, and maintains a large full time private practice. She also maintains an online bookstore, makes and sells art items, and homeschools her son. Richelle attended Washburn University, the University of Utah, and the Utah College of Massage Therapy. Her writings on the paranormal, UFOs, legends, the occult, and healing therapies can be found at . Her blog is found at www.beamshipsequallove.blogspot.com. She also contributes to the Women in Esoterica blog, www.womenesoterica.blogspot.com, and has a weekly column at Binnall of America.
Mystery Solved: Lilly E. Gray, Victim of the Beast 666
by Richelle Hawks
(Copyright © 2009 by Richelle Hawks. All rights reserved.)Posted: 16:00 May 24, 2009
A couple of years ago, after viewing a gravestone on a visit to the Salt Lake Cemetery, I was compelled to begin an investigation, in hopes of uncovering the ultimate meaning of a very ominous and enigmatic phrase, "Victim of the Beast 666."
The phrase is on the stone of a woman named Lilly E. Gray, born June 6, 1881, died November 14, 1958. Some cursory online research revealed only a few clues about Lilly; discrepancies regarding the spelling of her name, birth and death dates; that her obituary stated she died in a local hospital from natural causes, and that she was survived by her husband Elmer L. Gray.
Reading as many online sources and stories that I could, I began to notice a consistent and canned narrative and theme-which is a hallmark in urban legends and folklore. There was a sense of a moral somewhere within, too. Of course, the words "victim," "beast," and "666" are extremely loaded, and absolutely beg for a moral attachment.
I felt the story of Lilly Gray and the stone was a legend in progress. And, taking into consideration all of the online narratives and commentaries-personal web pages, Halloween local news stories, posts in genealogy forums by other curious people seeking further information-the legend in progress went something like this:
In the Salt Lake City Cemetery, there is a small gravestone for a woman named Lilly E. Gray with an inscription that reads, "VICTIM OF THE BEAST 666." Many people have attempted to research this stone and Lilly, but strangely always hit a brick wall, as there is no information aside from her obituary, which states only that she died of natural causes.1
The overall sense is one of feminine victimhood and obscurity, of "taking secrets to the grave;" the punch line of the developing legend is an idea that "nothing can or will ever be known" about her. There's a sense of anonymous martyrdom.
I also found it an interesting and unique legend, in that some of its features are reversed in comparison to other legends. In many or even most burial mysteries, the story of the buried is known, while the identity is not. There's the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the circus fire child, the supposed alien from the mystery airship. But in Lilly's case, we have a known person, whose story is unknown.
Also, cemetery legends abound-they are a pancultural phenomena. Even within this same Salt Lake Cemetery, there are other legends. They usually mirror colloquial societal fears and issues-Satanic worship or affiliation, murder, status quo threats, and general retribution for wrongdoing. A normal legend is usually based on benign or mundane marks-or nothing at all, and can again be seen to mirror societal concerns.
For example, in the same cemetery, there is a legend about "Emo's Grave." The legend goes that Emo was a serial killer, or child molester (it varies) and that if you walk three times around his plot, he will appear. It is also said that the urn that can be seen inside the tomb once contained his ashes, but had been vandalized and broken. Of course, not a word of it is true.
The plot belongs to Jacob Moritz, (whose name is plainly written on the stone) a Jewish brewer. The "urn" is actually nothing more than a vase for flowers. Could this man's religion and livelihood have something to do with the origins of the legend? In very Mormon Salt Lake City, it is hard to dismiss.
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