Many have heard the tale of a Lilly Gray’s grave in the Salt Lake City Cemetery adorned with the sad epitaph “victim of the Beast 666.” Many have tried searching for the supposed tombstone in the far-stretching cemetery, only to pass through the Avenues disheartened and convinced the legend is made up of wild tales and photoshopped images posted online. Who would actually put something like that on a loved one’s grave marker, they reason.
As can be seen by the photo accompanying this story, Lilly Gray did exist and her tombstone does read “victim of the Beast 666.” The photo has not been altered in any way.
That being cleared up, there are some inaccuracies with the tombstone. Lilly’s birth date is off, according to Ancestry.com which lists her as having been born June 4, 1880 in Ontario, Canada. Mistakes on birth dates for tombstones were not uncommon for the time, usually a result of the surviving family members having to guess or rely on Uncle Vern’s failing memory for the date. Searches for more information on Lilly’s life reveals she is not listed in the Social Security Death Index (not uncommon for the time), there are no records of any children, and she married her husband not too long before she died of natural causes.
The mystery of Lilly Gray many claims of answers for why the cryptic inscription appears on her tombstone. Often these resolutions are given with little to no citations for the facts uncovered.
The mystery of Lilly Gray provides many obstacles to any investigation. The records on Lilly’s life are sparse. Lilly did not have a social security number – perhaps because she opted out of one or she never worked a formal job while living in the United States. Since Lilly did not live a life of notoriety there is little information on who she was and what in her life would have triggered someone to remember her with such a mysterious headstone.
Some have proposed that Lilly was a victim of a car wreck on Highway 666 (recently renamed) which stretched through part of Utah. The highway was famous not only for its name but also the high rate of fatal accidents that have occurred on its lonely stretches. During the period of time Lilly reportedly lived in Utah she could have traveled on the highway, so the theory cannot be completely dismissed at this time.
Another theory proposes Lilly had gotten involved in Aleister Crowley’s following in Salt Lake City. Crowley was a notorious occultist in the first part of the twentieth century. Many rumors about his life abound, including that he spent a significant period of time in Salt Lake City where he had some sort of following. It has been said Crowley referred to himself as “the Beast 666” regularly, giving the theory that Lilly had been victimized by him in her husband’s or other survivors’ eyes some weight. But there exists information that Lilly did not move to Salt Lake City until 1950. Crowley died in 1947, which would have made it impossible for Lilly to have known him while in Salt Lake City.
Perhaps the most intriguing and plausible theory yet involves her husband, Elmer, who may have had mental problems. There are records of an Elmer Gray who had been arrested in Ogden for stealing an umbrella, but searches of vital records has uncovered multiple Elmer Gray’s living in Utah at the time. An Elmer Gray’s application for criminal pardon in Utah hints at an anti-government belief system. Was it possible Elmer blamed the government for Lilly’s death, referring to it as the Beast 666?
Not enough information is readily available to come to a final conclusion on Lilly’s case. In 2003 the Deseret News interviewed a researcher at the Utah Historical Society, who explained they have not been able to figure out why the strange inscription is on Lilly’s gravestone. The investigation is not closed – in the future there will be an update as several potential leads are vetted in an effort to uncover just who Lilly was and who or what the Beast 666 was.
Check out Lilly’s grave yourself. You can grab a free map at the Salt Lake Cemetery’s office. The coordinates for the grave is X-1-169-4-E. For those not intimately familiar with the cemetery, that is in the most southeast section of the cemetery, directly across the small street dividing the city cemetery from Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery.