Ghosts of the Prairie
History & Hauntings of America



For some reason, the state of Arizona plays host to a large number of haunted hotels. I have never really discovered a reason for this, other than perhaps the lure of the west created a traveler who was more prone to violence in the early days. In those times, roving cowhands, gamblers, outlaws and lawmen often lived and died by the gun. Perhaps their spirits still linger behind in these days when the west is not as wild as it once was!

The Clawson House Inn in Bisbee is one of the many haunted spots. It is said that the spirits of three murdered miners haunt the small three-room inn. According to the story, their deaths came about in the 1890ís, when a labor dispute occurred at the Queen Mine southwest of town. Many of the striking miners were arrested by the authorities and were moved out of town. Replacement workers, looking for quick cash no matter what the work, quickly moved in to take over the vacant jobs. According to the accounts, three of these men were bunking at the Clawson House when they were killed by the strikers. The spirits remain here in the house today but they donít haunt the place alone... Another spirit is that of old Mrs. Clawson herself, a much kinder and more peaceful phantom.

The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff

Also in Bisbee is the Oliver House, a bed and breakfast that can boast five different ghosts. The house was built in 1909 by Edith Ann Oliver, the wife of a local mine official. It was used originally as mine offices and later became a boarding house before its present incarnation as an inn. According to those who have stayed here, footsteps can be heard roaming the hallways at night and the sound of water running in pipes that donít exist can often be heard. Most of the strange activity occurs around Room 13. In 1920, a man named Nat Anderson was shot and killed in the hallway outside of this room.

In Douglas, the Gadsen Hotel is home to a headless ghost who has been seen in the hallways and in the basement. The five-story hotel was built in 1907 and later burned, only to be rebuilt in 1929. In 1988, it was restored and it was at about this time that the ghost started showing up. Employees, staff members and guests alike have seen a rather startling apparition wearing old-fashioned, khaki army clothing and with a cloth cap perched on its headless shoulders. No one knows who this ghost might be but he certainly makes an impression when he is sighted!

The Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff hosts a number of otherworldly guests and staff members. The hotel opened on New Yearís Day of 1927 and during the 1940ís and 1950ís was a popular spot for Hollywood guests while more than 100 westerns were filmed nearby. Some of the guests of the hotel included Bing Crosby, Jane Russell, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and many others. One of the ghosts here is that of a phantom bellboy who knocks on doors and then vanishes. This annoying phantom has been experienced by dozens of guests over the years and he is joined by the ghost of a woman who has been seen outside of the Zane Grey suite and a man who endlessly paces in one of the rooms. He is often reported coughing and clearing his throat. Another ghost, that of a former bank robber, is said to haunt the saloon. Ellen Roberts, a desk clerk explains: ďIn 1970, three men robbed a nearby bank and to celebrate, they stopped in our lounge for a drink - even though one of the men had been shot during their escape. While having his drink, the wounded man died, and some feel he is the spirit thatís haunting this area of the building.Ē

The Oatman Hotel in the former mining town of Oatman is said to be haunted by several ghosts, not the least of which are two celebrities! The town of Oatman is located along old Route 66 and was started as a rough mining community back in 1906. The area produced over $40 million in gold during its heyday, but is largely a weathered little place today with a few gift shops and restaurants lining the streets. However, one of the main attractions is the Oatman Hotel and its mischievous ghosts. According to the stories, a number of documented reports have spoken of human outlines being left on beds, eerie voices and a room that is haunted by a miner who once lived here. The stories say this worker was an Irishman who would often get drunk at night because he missed his homeland. One night, he passed out in a trash pile behind the hotel and died. His body was found two days later and he was carelessly buried in a shallow grave. His ghost has been here ever since and opens the window in his former room and pulls the covers off the bed without warning. In July 1996, a guest who stayed in this room asked to be moved somewhere else. He complained that it was too cold... even though it was 105 degrees outside!

In addition to this old miner, the hotel is also said to be haunted by Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, who spent the first night of their honeymoon at this hotel. The sounds of whispers and laughter are all that remain of them today. According to the staff, a professional photographer recently took a photo of their empty room and when the film was developed, a ghostly man could be seen on the print!

The downstairs area also has its share of ghosts. The saloon is home to some playful spirits who have lifted money and drinking glasses into the air. Toilets are known to flush in empty bathrooms, lights turn on and off and footprints reportedly appear from nowhere on just cleaned floors!

In Phoenix, the San Carlos Hotel is reported to be an actively haunted place. The hotel was built in the 1920ís on the site of the first elementary school in Phoenix. Some believe the place is so haunted because of a well that was dug for the school in 1874. This well tapped into a spring that had been considered sacred by the Native Americans for centuries. The well still operates in the hotel basement today. Has this attracted the ghosts to the site? One resident spirit is that of Leone Jensen, who committed suicide here in 1928 by jumping off the roof of the seven-story building. She is encountered as a white, cloudy figure who is often accompanied by an eerie moaning noise. And she is not alone.... the noisy ghosts of three young boys have been reported running through the halls and the inexplicable sounds of children playing are sometimes heard coming from within empty rooms.

Room 16 at the Hotel Vendome in Prescott is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Abby Byr and her cat, Noble. Abby came to Arizona searching for dry desert relief from tuberculosis and soon married. She and her new husband bought the hotel but they eventually lost it because of some unpaid taxes. Regardless, the new owners allowed Abby and her husband to stay on in the hotel for no charge. She died in 1921 and her ghost, along with that of her cat, began to be seen after World War II. The stories say that Abby died of starvation, along with Noble, after her husband deserted her. She has been haunting the place ever since.

In Sonoita, the Lost Trail Hotel has become known as a haunted place, but only because of an isolated incident that took place in 1976. I would almost hesitate to include it here, but the odd story is worth mentioning. A couple on vacation were awakened one night by a woman crying and when they went into the hall, they encountered a frightening and bizarre sight. They spotted the severed head of a screaming floating in the corridor! She had long dark hair and her lips were coated with bright red lipstick. She continued to scream as she faded from view. Who she was and why this may have occurred have remained a mystery ever since!

(C) Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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