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Haunted: Ghost stories abound in iconic Flagstaff buildings

Haunted: Ghost stories abound in iconic Flagstaff buildings


Ghostly figures roaming in the darkness, laughter echoing down empty halls and sudden rainstorms...indoors. Searching for signs of the paranormal this Halloween? Look no further than some of Flagstaff’s most iconic sites. With histories that encompass 100 years or more, many downtown buildings have become haunted with spirits from the past.

Johnny Anaya has spent seven years leading tours of some of Flagstaff’s most haunted places during the days leading up to Halloween. Anaya treasures the decades of stories that these buildings hold, even if they are somewhat spooky. He’s also careful to point out that the ghost tales he tells are rooted in documented happenings in the city’s history.

Which is perhaps what makes them even scarier.

“By the end of the tour at the Monte Vista, (people’s) eyes are bulging out of their heads,” Anaya said.

Hotel Monte Vista

100 N. San Francisco St.

It appears that some of the former guests at one of Flagstaff’s most haunted hotels are still roaming the building.

In room 305, guests have reported seeing a rocking chair rock by itself and hearing knocking coming from the closet. Legend has it that an elderly woman once lived in the room and would sit by the window for hours on end. People walking by the room’s window report seeing a woman rocking in the chair and housekeepers report finding the chair moved to a place different from where they left it.

Two prostitutes are said to haunt room 306 next door. The women were supposedly killed there in the early 1940s, their bodies thrown from the third floor window. Male guests have reported the feeling of cold hands over their mouths or throats and awakening unable to breathe.

Another long-term renter who used to live in room 220 may still be there. He died in his room and wasn’t found until three days later. A maintenance man reported finding the TV turned on at full volume and the bed sheets ripped to shreds. Guests still report the TV turning on by itself and the touch of cold hands in the middle of the night.

A little boy is said to eternally wander the halls of the hotel looking as if he is speaking with his mother. Modern day guests and staff have also seen a couple in formal dress laughing and dancing in the Cocktail Lounge, perhaps reliving a happier moment in their lives.

The actor John Wayne, who frequently stayed in room 210, reported hearing a knock at the door and the call “room service” several times. Other guests have reported the same experience and staff have seen a young man in a red coat with brass buttons in the hall outside of room 210.

Milligan House

323 W. Aspen Ave.

This quaint brick house, now the offices of the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors Bureau, was once the home of J.C. Milligan, a former Flagstaff Justice of the Peace. A paranormal presence occupies one of the top offices, rumored to have been the bedroom of J.C.’s daughter, Mabel Milligan.

Mabel was in her mid-20s and living with her parents when she died unexpectedly in 1923. After Mabel passed away in the house, her parents moved away from Flagstaff and the building became apartments.

The ghost shows her presence in many ways. Footsteps are heard at night, radios go on and off by themselves, and coffee makers inexplicably boil over and spill coffee grounds everywhere.

Even though the ghost is believed to be benign, “we tend not to stay alone in the office after dark,” said Heather Ainardi, marketing manager for the CVB, whose office is the one said to be haunted.

Morton Hall

224 W. McMullen Circle

“Kathy the Ghost” is said to haunt this 100-year old dorm on Northern Arizona University’s north campus.

A popular story goes that 19-year-old Kathy, who lived in room 200A, was dating a man who was deployed to World War II. While spending winter break in the dorm because she couldn’t afford to go home for the holidays, Kathy received news that her boyfriend died in battle. The combination of his death and being stuck in the dorm drove Kathy into a deep depression and, finally, to suicide.

Some students say she hung herself in a janitor’s closet or at the top of a staircase. Others were told that she threw herself off the balcony. According to a Lumberjack article from 1992, two custodians “found Kathy hung from a bar in her closet.”

Previous residents have sworn to hearing doors open and close on their own and laughter in the empty halls and would sometimes catch a glimpse of Kathy in a blue nightgown.

“One time, I was sitting in a chair with my feet propped up on another chair across from me…and my slipper lifted off my foot and flew a few feet away from me” said Sarah Meeks, who lived in room 200A during the 2013-2014 academic year. “I left my room and slept over at a friend’s that night. I was crying and was so freaked out.”

1926 Railroad Station

1 E. Route 66

Railroad tracks and stations are often sites of tragic accidents, so it’s not so unusual that Flagstaff’s 1926 Railroad Station visitors center might be haunted.

Staff have reported the sensation of being watched as they climb the unusually cold and clammy stairs to the station’s second floor. Voices have been heard in the station and locked doors are found mysteriously unlocked.

It is believed that before the station was built, a brakeman was killed on the tracks, crushed between two train cars. The foundation of the station is supposedly located on top of where these tracks used to run.

Flagstaff Public Library

300 W. Aspen Ave.

The public library sits on the site of the old Emerson School, a stone building with a deep cellar that stood from 1896 to 1980.

The story passed along from employee to employee at the library is that a custodian at the school killed his family, then went to the library and committed suicide there.

One story goes that he came back to the building and killed himself in the basement: the other says that he hung himself on a tree outside, said Molly Sadler, youth services supervisor at the library.

Several staffers have reported seeing a ghost-like figure dressed completely in blue in the library’s basement and others have claimed to see a shadowy figure climbing a stairway that no longer exists.

Hotel Weatherford

23 N. Leroux St.

A Flagstaff icon since it opened in 1900, the Hotel Weatherford was bound to generate a few ghost stories.

The best-known specters have come to be known as “the newlyweds.” According to urban legend, a couple was murdered in the hotel while on their honeymoon in the 1930s. Now the two have taken up permanent residence in Room 54, the place where they were last alive together.

Owner Sam Green said she first heard about the couple from a former employee who stayed at the Weatherford one night in the late 1980s while she was passing through town.

“She said, ‘I was sleeping and all of a sudden, I felt like there was pressure on the bed. I woke up and there was a couple sitting on my bed. When I woke up, they got up and just walked through the door,’” Green recalled her former employee saying.

Rumors about the ghostly couple’s origins have been embellished over the years, Green said, but no one really knows who they were.

Guests have reported other ghost sightings upstairs in the Zane Grey Ballroom and some have taken photos inside the hotel that appear to contain ghostly orbs.

Doris Harper-White Playhouse

11 W. Cherry Ave.

There is no doubt the weather in Flagstaff can be temperamental, but have you ever been caught in a rainstorm indoors? You might if you spent enough time at the spooky Doris Harper-White Playhouse.

“Two volunteers were down in a narrow hallway in the basement about 10 years ago and it inexplicably began to ‘rain’ inside with no apparent cause,” said Drew Purcell, the executive director of Theatrikos Theatre Company.

That was just one of the many strange happenings reported at the Doris Harper-White Playhouse.

Built in 1923, the playhouse has collected plenty of ghosts along the way. The scariest was an angry young man believed to be the soul of a worker who supposedly hung himself on a loading dock when the building was the Flagstaff Public Library.

There was also an elderly woman in a white dress seen materializing in the lobby. Actors frequently reported seeing an elderly woman – possibly the same one – sitting in the audience when no one else was around.

“Several years ago, someone instructed her to ‘go to the light’ and she was never seen again,” Purcell said.

Riordan Mansion

409 W. Riordan Road

Contrary to popular legends, employees at Riordan Mansion State Park insist the house is not actually haunted, but do not deny some strange happenings in the past.

Amelia Swann, who gives Halloween tours of the mansion, said the Riordan family would tell stories of a mysterious ghost who would show up to play pool when no one was home.

Swann said the family also told a story about the light that was always kept on in the home’s chapel. She said housekeepers would continually change the bulb to make sure the light never went out.

However, when the family was on a vacation in California, a housekeeper noticed the light was out, even though she had just changed it. According to the story, Swann said, Timothy Riordan called the house soon after to notify staff that his wife, Caroline, had died at the exact time the light had gone out.



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Environment, Health and Science Reporter

Emery Cowan writes about science, health and the environment for the Arizona Daily Sun, covering everything from forest restoration to endangered species recovery efforts.

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