Grafton is a ghost town in Utah.
That might bring to mind images of old west towns or tourist trap ghost towns, but Grafton is neither of those. Grafton is the real thing. Or at least it was.
We were there in 1994: also known as the in-between summer. It was the summer before we all left New York, and the summer after I’d experienced my first real US tour, a month long loop around the whole dang country. It was the summer I had no band, the summer where I felt most antsy and out of sorts, and also the summer in which I started to really understand that I could do anything and go anywhere that I wanted. Anywhere.
The original aim of the trip was to drive across the country to go snowboarding in the middle of the summer, but in the end we only rode one day, just enough to sunburn our eyeballs to a frightening degree. Summer sun on a glacier, what do a bunch of kids from upstate NY know about that?
We spent the rest of our two weeks driving around and doing whatever we wanted. We did cool stuff every single day, and we made up our route as we went along. Having the flexibility to impulsively stop at the carnival in Winnemucca to ride the flippy ferris wheel and play the nickel slots was quite a bit different than being on tour.
Towards the end of our trip we found ourselves staying in Zion National park with a friend of Brian’s who was working there for the summer. She asked if we wanted to go try to find this ghost town that was supposed to be close by. Did we? Hell yes, we did.
We had just eaten dinner, I was tired, and I had the lowest of low expectations.
Until we turned off the main road.
It was night time, so naturally it was dark. But then it got really dark. The five of us were all crammed in my little Civic, peering around at the darkness. At first it was just a normal country road. Then there was a teeny tiny little sign announcing that Grafton was off to the left 7 miles. Off to the left, 7 miles down a dirt road.
Did I mention it was dark? After we turned onto the dirt road, it got really really dark.
Seven miles actually takes a while when you’re driving slowly and carefully down a rutted dirt road. Plenty of time for the anticipation to build. Theories flew about what would happen if we met any of the locals, whose land we were probably unknowingly trespassing on. We went through a number of open cattle gates, but saw no houses.
Finally we saw something: a graveyard.
Nice. Welcome to Grafton, here’s where we bury our dead people.
Just past the graveyard, the road ended in an open area. No one had left the lights on in the abandoned buildings for us, so it was still pretty damn dark. We circled around the open area in the car so that we could get a good look with the headlights. Graveyard. Big dead tree. Creepy abandoned church/schoolhouse with the front door gaping open, taunting us. Dilapidated old house. That was it. (Uh, why do you need a church/school if your town only has one house?)
Apparently none of us had expected a real ghost town because no one had thought to bring a flashlight, so I faced the car towards the buildings with the headlights on and we all got out to look around. We left all the car doors open in case we needed to make a quick getaway.
No, I’m not joking. We really did consider that.
I’d like to say we went all the way in the church, but we didn’t. I'd like to say we had some supernatural experience, but we didn't. In reality, I took a few pictures, we read a few gravestones, and otherwise just reveled in being totally creeped out.
It probably doesn’t sound too exciting in the re-telling. Nothing extraterrestrial happened while we were there, no one chased us, we didn’t get arrested. It was just perfect, and that night has become one of my very favorite memories.
A couple of days later, we were flying through the boring middle states as fast as humanly possible, with all the new stuff and beautiful scenery behind us. I don’t know if it was from not wanting the trip to end, or from wanting to get out from under that in-between feeling that was dogging me, but I turned to my brother and said, I’m going to start a record label and name it after that ghost town.
He looked at me.
Grafton? he asked.
Yup, I said, Grafton. Grafton records.
And that was that.