Ghosts of the Prairie
The city of Tucson is truly a part of old Arizona. In few other places in the state will you see the signs of influence by Spain and Old Mexico as you will see in this beautiful and stately city. Many of the hauntings here date back to this much earlier time.
The Velasco House, located on South Stone Avenue in Tusconís Old Pueblo, dates back to the 1850ís. The prominence of the house though is mostly connected to the former owner Carlos Ygnacio Velasco, who lived here from 1878 until his death in 1914. Although he is gone now, he is far from forgotten and many believe that his spirit lives on.
Velasco came to Tucson in 1860ís and was already famous as a Sonoran state senator and judge. For 13 years, until 1878, he operated a general store and operated a Spanish language newspaper, El Fronterizo. A room on the side of the Stone Avenue house accommodated the newspaper office and press. The paper was circulated throughout southern Arizona and northern Mexico and Velasco continued publishing it until his death.
After he died, the house on Stone Avenue was abandoned and later was turned into apartments. Years of neglect took their toll on the place and ion later years, termites nearly destroyed the wide wooden floors and the ancient timbers that crossed the ceilings. Eventually though, the house ended up in more capable hands some rather extensive remodeling was started by Charles Brown, Bill Dillon and William Cobb, the new owners.
Not long after the renovations were started, Brown reported that he saw the head and shoulders of a Mexican man floating in the air in the bedroom behind where the old newspaper office had once been located. Although the room was a dark, he got a good look at the phantom and later identified the ghost as Carlos Velasco from a photo of the man taken in 1883. After that, witnesses have reported this same apparition on three other occasions. At one time, Brown and a female companion spotted him lounging in a doorway. The man reportedly looked straight at them and vanished.
If this was the ghost of Carlos Velasco, it seems apparent that he was pleased with the work going on around him. His ghost had never put in an appearance after his death, until the renovations began. Perhaps he was merely trying to show his pleasure... still evident from the other side!
The ghost of a dark-haired young woman reportedly haunted the University of Arizonaís Modern Language Building. According to reports, she has been seen wearing a shawl and a long skirt from a by-gone age and is peering in through a small window of the Romance Languages lab. The students who notice her, and try to speak to her, say that when addressed, she turns and quickly runs away... only to vanish!
According to legend, the woman was the victim of a terrible murder in the early 1900ís and now has returned to collect her earthly remains. Supposedly, she was killed and her body was dumped into a well near what is now the womenís athletic field on campus. The Modern Language Building was constructed on the site in 1965. Workers were said to have found human remains here as they dug the foundation but didnít report them for fear that the investigation might delay the project. The ghost has been trying to recover her bones ever since.
Another spirit of a more recent time apparently haunts the Catalina High School. The ghost is that of a school custodian named Martin Valencia, who died in the 1970ís. He was a beloved member of the staff and the stories say that he was especially careful about fellow workers who attempted to pilfer food items from the kitchen or the home economics classrooms. He was so conscientious that the cooks would always leave out treats and snacks for him, which Martin then shared with his co-workers. One day, he suffered a heart attack and passed away while on the job. However, it is said that he has never left the school.
According to reports, his ghost still lingers behind and helps with the cleaning. In June 1980, a custodian swore that he saw someone cleaning the restrooms before graduation ceremonies took place. He was in the hallway, a few minutes past midnight, when he heard the metal casters of a garbage container rolling down the hall. He looked and in the dim light, could just make out the figure of a man moving the container along. He saw him turn into the restroom and he thought nothing of it. He assumed that it was one of the other custodians until about one minute later... when he found all of them in the gymnasium setting up chairs!
Is Martin Valenica still at his former school? If he is, then many have joked that he seems to have his own methods of cleaning... as trash containers and cleaning supplies often disappear and then turn up in other places, doors slam shut, lights turn off on startled employees and more. Many custodians feel they have been the victims of pranks until they realize that the only explanations for the strange events are ghostly ones.
Perhaps someone should check and see if these fellows have been raiding the cafeteria and have incurred Martinís good-natured wrath?
(C) Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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