It is nearly impossible to drive very far across the desert without coming into contact with the remnants of a mining town that has long since seen its last boom, or even the lucky few that have come back from the brink of extinction.
As Arizona’s “Hip Historian,” Marshall Shore is frequently asked about the best ghost towns in Arizona by his tour groups. And as he’s standing in the heart of Phoenix, he likes to say, “You’re in one right now.” The same can be said for Bisbee, Jerome or Tombstone, which are all considered ghost towns as well.
All of these fully-functioning and inhabited locales have been close to disappearing at some point but pulled themselves up by their bootstraps from the brink of extinction and found new ways to prosper.
Of course, Arizona’s landscape is dotted with towns and mining camps that were unable to endure, and others have become places where ghostly sounds and sights are a regular occurrence.
Located in southwestern Santa Cruz County near the Mexico border, Ruby was once a thriving mining camp thanks to a rich vein of silver. It met a similar fate to many mining towns, however, when the silver strike ran dry in 1940.
Ruby’s post office was located inside the general store and was named after the owner, Julius Andrews’, wife. The school building and others that served this camp from 1877 to 1941 only offer a few remaining walls today.
Located downtown is one historic building with a story. Westward Ho opened in 1928, and the building operated as a hotel until 1980. Today it serves as public housing.
During one of the renovation projects, the once-grand dining hall was sectioned off so that more rooms could be added. Previously, the walls hosted post-WWII conventions.
Apparently, the ghostly figure of a lady can be seen making turns through solid walls, on what was once the dance floor, seemingly unaware of the new construction.
“Just think about it,” Shore said, “Hotels hold so much energy from all the people who pass through there. People are there to celebrate, have parties, it’s no wonder they leave something behind.”
Hotel San Carlos
One of Arizona’s best-known haunts is located right in the heart of downtown Phoenix.
Accounts of apparitions and sounds are well-known occurrences at the San Carlos Hotel.
The property has been in continuous operation since opening in 1928 and can even be spied for a brief moment in the opening scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film “Psycho.” Just imagine all the heads that have laid down to rest inside those rooms. Perhaps a few of them haven’t gotten any rest at all.
One story is told of a young lady named Leone Jensen, who was staying at the San Carlos and was heartbroken after learning that the man she loved had given his heart to someone else.
“Upon learning he loved another, Leone went back to her room, got gussied up in her best ivory dress and perfume, walked to the top floor and threw herself off. Some say they can smell her rose perfume on the third floor and have seen a figure in white going up the staircase,” said Shore.
On the corner of Central Ave. and Monroe St., where the San Carlos Hotel has stood for the past 91 years, was once the home of the first and second schools built in Phoenix. Shore reports this may account for hotel guests and staff hearing the joyful squeals of children playing.
Vulture City was once a bustling gold mining town just outside of Wickenburg. At its peak it was home to around 5,000 people. Although privately owned and closed to visitors, there are stories of as many as 18 men who were hanged there. The trapped souls can still reportedly be heard roaming through the remaining buildings and perhaps steering clear of the ironwood tree where they met their demise.
Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix, with its historic buildings and homes, is not short on stories of peculiar sounds and spectral sightings. Outside Rosson House on Monroe and Sixth Streets, it is said that a caretaker was shot. Passersby swear they have seen him still hanging around the grounds, probably ensuring they are being kept up to his standards.
Whether a ghost aficionado or mystery sleuth, there are plenty of places around the state to explore for a potential haunting this Halloween.