Ghosts of the Prairie
haunts of fort Huachuca
Fort Huachuca, Arizona was built around 1877 and played an important role during the Indian wars of the 1870’s and 1880’s. It served as the advance headquarters and the supply base in the campaign against Geronimo. Later the Tenth Cavalry was headquartered here during General John Pershing’s 1916 campaign into Mexico to find Pancho Villa. The fort was also home to four regiments of “Buffalo Soldiers”, the African-American army units of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1954, the fort became the site for advanced testing of electronics and communications equipment and today is the Army Intelligence Center and School and the army’s Information Systems Command. All C130 flight training for NATO takes place at the fort, as does some training for the Israeli air force and army.
But despite all of this advance technology and training, some elements of the fort’s past continue to linger on as hauntings!
Carleton House is the oldest building on the base. It was originally constructed as the post hospital back in 1880 and was named for Brig. General James H. Carleton, the famous leader of the “California Column” during the Civil War. It remained a hospital for a few years and then was turned into housing quarters for officers, an officer’s mess, post headquarters, a cafe, and then a schoolhouse. Between 1947 and 1951, when the fort was briefly given back to the state of Arizona, Carleton House was used as a vacation retreat by Governors Sidney P. Osborn and Dan E. Garvey. In more recent years, is has been the residence of the hospital commander or other officers assigned to the base.
Perhaps the most famous of those who have encountered the ghost of the Carleton House has been Colonel Roy Strom, who was the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center from 1980-1982. Even today, he refers to the house as being “haunted”. Prior to he and his family’s residency though, a number of families had reported odd happenings in the house. His wife, Joan Strom, would eventually attach a name to the ghost and call her “Charlotte”.
When the Strom’s first moved into the house, the reputation of the place was made quickly evident to them when one of the moving crew became jittery and refused to go into the place. His fellow workers were upset with what seem to be nothing but laziness. “I’m not going in there,” he told them. “That house is haunted.”
On that same day, the Strom’s piled boxes in what had been the hospital’s morgue. Later that night, they discovered the boxes had been pulled open and the contents strewn about. And this wasn’t the last of it! A few days later, the doorbell began to ring over and over again. Each time they would check to see who the visitor was, they would find no one there. Colonel Strom guessed it to be kids pulling a prank and so the next time it rang, he ran around the side of the house to catch the culprits. There was no one there! He eventually disconnected the wiring to the bell.
The family also experienced lights turning on an off, erratic electrical problems, wall hangings that moved and refused to stay straight and one particular place in the house that was very cold. In this one corner of the living room, the air was drastically colder than the rest of the house and the overhead light above it refused to work properly. Joan Strom dubbed this “Charlotte’s Corner”.
Joan believed that the ghost was that of a woman from the frontier period who had died in the fort’s hospital during the early 1880’s. While she lived in the house, she searched fort records and a cemetery trying to find evidence of her death, but without success. Her searching paid off in other ways though when she got a glimpse of what she believed was Charlotte’s ghost! One morning, Joan thought she saw her teen-aged daughter Amy walk down an adjacent hallway from the kitchen. Amy never stopped or returned the greeting that Joan called out to her. Thinking this was unusual, she went to Amy’s room to check on her. Here, she found Amy fast asleep and when she checked her other daughter’s rooms, she found that they too were asleep and had not been in the hallway.
But Joan’s sighting is an oddity in the haunted history of the house. Although the place has been reportedly haunted for years, sightings of the ghost are rare. One of the first sightings occurred to a neighbor who came to deliver a message to the Koenig’s, residents of the house before the Strom family. The boy didn’t know that the house’s front door was actually located on the side, so he went up the front steps and knocked. He later told his parents that Margaret Koenig walked right down the hall toward him but ignored his knocking. She had blond hair and wore a dressing gown. Bothered by this, the boy’s mother later telephoned Mrs. Koenig, who insisted that she and her family had just arrived home and that no one had been in the house at the time of the boy’s call!
Nancy Koenig, one of Margaret’s daughters, also claimed to see the ghost. She was returning late from a date one night and as promised, went to let her mother know that she had made it home all right. When she spotted her mother standing in the hallway, she called out to her and then went to bed. The following morning, Margaret scolded the girl for not letting her know that she was home but Nancy protested and described the woman that she had seen. Strangely though, Margaret was never in the hallway and had been asleep when Nancy had come in!
(C) Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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