Everybody loves a good ghost story.
We don’t have to see a door slowly swing open in an empty hallway, or catch a misty shadow out of the corner of our eye. Chills run down our backs if we simply listen to such tales.
Inevitably, if the environment is right, the hair on the back of our necks will stand because we know something is right … behind … us.
In anticipation of that happy dread, here are 10 spots in Arizona with strange stories to tell:
Sunkist factory, Mesa
At first, the foreman ignored his workers’ reports of a shadowy figure lurking in the basement of the Sunkist factory, a long-abandoned citrus-packing plant.
Even more curious was a rhythmic echo, like that of a ball slapping against a hard surface. Workers later would later notice a small red ball rolling across the floor, disappearing into a dark corner.
The foreman took the reports more seriously when some employees threatened to stop renovation work until something was done.
That’s when Jay Yates, a noted paranormal investigator and Buckeye resident, said he got the call.
Since hearing the stories for the first time, Yates said he’s been to the Sunkist factory dozens of times over the past few years.
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He’s convinced the historic brick building is one of the most haunted spots in Arizona.
Despite thorough investigations conducted over more than 30 visits, Yates remains perplexed by the origins of the shadowy figure, whose presence had been seen or sensed by many working there.
Yates said it could be related to tales of a woman who laid her head down on the tracks just outside the factory, and also tales of a man allegedly buried alive in a citrus chute.
Then there was that ball. On one visit, Yates said, he brought it up with a manager, who told him it had never been found.
“Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye by the doors,” Yates said. “There it was. An old, beaten up rubber ball with some weird writing on it. I’m guessing it was probably from the 1930s or so.”
As far as seeing the ball just as he asked about it — “Just a coincidence.” He pauses. “But you never know.”
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Amid reports of ghostly inmates still serving their death sentences, females in red dresses play a spirited role.
The first is a woman who on moonlit nights has been seen walking along the nearby Colorado River, where she drowned more than 100 years ago trying to save her daughter; she searches still.
The other is a little girl in a red dress said to reach from the Dark Cell and pinch passers-by.
Music store, Chandler
Sometimes the strangest things happen in the most banal surroundings.
Yates related this story of owners of a Chandler instrument-repair shop who were perplexed by a series of strange occurrences.
Motion sensors frequently triggered after hours, yet the owners arrived to find the building empty with no signs of a break-in.
Every now and then they heard heavy footsteps right behind them, turning to find no one there. Then there were the voices coming from darkened corners, and knobs being removed from amps and dumped in corners.
One night an employee working in the warehouse behind the store swore he saw a man run out of the bathroom and toward the back door. The worker followed to find the man gone and the back door still locked.
He refused to work alone in the warehouse again.
Owners wondered if their store was haunted, which seemed unlikely. It shared one-third of a plain 1940s building with an insurance company and a music academy, hardly a place that would foster spirits.
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One day they arrived to find heavy and cumbersome parts strewn across the floor, their boxes ripped from pegboards. As usual, doors were locked and secure. It was impossible for someone to have broken in.
The only explanation was otherworldly.
Yates said he investigated and confirmed that paranormal activity played a part. He found a pattern of small holes in one wall that suggested a shotgun blast. A nearby business owner claimed a man had been gunned down inside the store during an attempted robbery years ago.
Surprised to find an unearthly presence in such plain surroundings, Yates said ghosts don’t confine themselves to eerie surroundings.
“You just never know,” Yates says. “It’s cool, though, what we may find in unsuspecting places.”
Phelps Dodge Hospital (closed), Ajo
As soon as Vincent Amico stepped inside the long-empty hospital, he felt he was being watched.
No, it was more than that. More intimate. As if someone stood right behind him.
And this was in broad daylight, the summer sun not due to set for another four hours.
“We all felt it,” Amico said, referring to the other members of the AZ Paranormal Investigation and Research Society. “We decided right then to stay in pairs.”
And so they did, even during bathroom and smoking breaks, Amico said of the 2013 visit.
In his roughly 15 years as an investigator of the inexplicable, he’d never felt such a strong presence upon walking in. Maybe it was the way the hospital seemed so ominous as they drove up, looming atop a small hill. Or the way the howling wind rushed through cracks and broken windows as if the hospital were breathing.
Amico tried to push the feeling away as he helped set up cameras, recorders and other paranormal-detecting equipment.
After a walkthrough led by the owner, Amico and his wife Pamela checked several rooms, their shoes crunching along paint chips that littered the floor.
Heading back down a hallway, the familiar crunch-crunch of footsteps came from an empty room they’d just left. Returning, Amico flung open the door to find the room was still empty.
A short time later they stood in front of a door at the top of a stairwell and heard the now-familiar crunch of footsteps coming up behind them. The door handle suddenly jiggled. Amico pushed down on the handle, expecting it to be locked. Instead the door swung open, again revealing an eerie emptiness.
Other instances still haunt him. He and his wife were the only ones in the dining room when Amico felt a strong poke to his backside. He saw a small, shadowy figure raced across the hall, its point of origin impossible to figure.
And in an empty pediatric room, a sensor-packed teddy bear placed by investigators suddenly switched on, its nose and paws lighting up as a soft melody chimed.
In the ensuing days, as investigators pored over the video, recordings and photos, they found no evidence of what they’d heard, seen or felt. Two subsequent trips to the hospital registered zero on the ghost meter.
“I can’t explain why that first trip was so different,” Amico said.
Then again, he said, paranormal findings always defy explanation. That’s what makes them paranormal.
The Carr House
The quaint stone house built in 1939 blends well into picturesque Carr Canyon, the cliffs of the Huachuca Mountains soaring behind it.
On weekends, Michael Foster welcomes those who have ventured down State Route 92 and along unpaved Carr Canyon Road for a quick getaway. As the official host of the historic home, Foster relates its history and is happy to lead a short tour.
But when visitors return to their cars and head back to the highway, creating dusty plumes in their wakes, a different Carr House presents itself.
Left only with his thoughts, Foster senses there’s something wrong in this idyllic place. When alone, he says, he gets a feeling that “the essence of something that has gone before seems to want to come out of the cracks.”
While in the kitchen one day, he heard sounds that convinced him someone was working in the next room. He called out but received no reply. When he investigated, he encountered only an empty room.
Foster says he’s also seen shadows coalesce, cross a room and disappear. On a few occasions he’s tried to stay the night, only to sleep in his truck to escape the restless feeling that emanated from the house.
A colleague has faced similar visions and apprehensions, and believes they may be linked to a young girl who died of natural causes inside the home many years ago, Foster says.
Foster has an unusual take on his unsettling sounds and encounters.
“The sounds and forms I have experienced are frightening” he said, “but it could be only that these forces are trying to come back because they didn’t get to fulfill their love for others when they were alive. I believe I am there to help them share the love they couldn’t in life.”
Brunckow Cabin, Tombstone
Only ruins remain of the modest adobe home 8 miles southwest of Tombstone that had more blood spilled around it than most movies with “Chainsaw” in the title. At least 20 people are said to have died here by violent means in the late 19th century.
Among the first was Frederick Brunckow, a German engineer who struck gold nearby and built the cabin in 1858. His employees, believing occult powers helped him locate precious ore, stabbed him in the stomach with a rock drill and threw him down his mine shaft.
That was just the first of many cabin residents to meet an untimely end. Given the homicidal history, it’s no surprise the property is said to be haunted.
Grand Canyon Caverns, Peach Springs
Workers have reported seeing a ghostly figure at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft, the only way in and out of the cave, which has a hotel room and restaurant within its depths. Some believe it to be that of Walter Peck, who turned the cave into a tourist destination.
Then again, it could also be one of the eight people who have died and/or buried near the caverns. A ghost tour is available for those with a need to know more.
The subterranean chamber also hosts mischievous wraiths, according to the paranormal investigators of TV’s “Ghost Adventures.” They reported strange voices, as well as being pelted with rocks, perhaps by judgmental spirits.
The town’s frontier roots are no more plain than at the Vulture Mine, home of the Hanging Tree where quick justice was meted out to those accused and hastily convicted of stealing gold.
No surprise, then, that ghosts are said to be still hanging around and very unhappy about circumstances.
But an ethereal being not too far away seems to be in better spirits. Elizabeth Smith, Wickenburg’s first African American innkeeper, may still be welcoming visitors to the Hassayampa Building, which once housed her hotel.
Julie Brooks, executive director of the town’s chamber of commerce, said she felt a presence as soon as she walked into the building this summer, one more comforting than frightening.
“I could sense a presence, we all could,” Brooks said. “It was very inviting. Whatever it was wanted us to be there.”
For six weeks over the summer, Brooks visited almost daily during a renovation. Each night, lights were flipped off and doors shut. Yet when crews returned the next day, a light or two was on, or doors were open.
The few people who had keys swore it wasn’t them, Brooks said.
“I came to think it was Elizabeth,” she said. “It was her telling us we were welcome, that she was happy to have us.”
London Bridge, Lake Havasu City
When this bridge was disassembled and shipped to Arizona in the 1960s, it appears there were some stowaway specters.
Couples in period English dress have been seen strolling across the bridge unmindful of how their ornate, layered clothing stands out. Before long they vanish, and witnesses question if they were ever there at all.
Orpheum Theater, Phoenix
The elegant and historic theater is home to what may be Arizona’s best supporting ghost. Mattie has been seen strolling the balcony, and any performance that can draw a spirit out of her eternal rest must be considered exceptional.
Other wraiths have allegedly appeared onstage and disturbed performers, though that is also a handy way to explain missed cues or forgotten lines.
Tubac Golf Resort
The club is home to the historic Otero Ranch House, where staff members have reported several visits from the bogey man.
Some taking a catnap swear an unseen force suddenly lifted the couch. A locked window was found open yet its crank was still coated in dust and cobwebs as if untouched for years.
Others have reported seeing a small boy who abruptly vanishes, par for a haunted house.
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