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The History of the Ghosts of Hotel Congress

Tucson Arizona History & Mysteries

1931 Hotel Congress Tucson Arizona

The Hotel Congress originally opened its doors to the public in 1919 and has seen more than its share of history. In its current form, the Hotel 'Club' Congress is now a very busy venue for alternative, trendy, and upscale styled nightlife in a fun section of downtown Tucson. It is a unique historical hotel, a little 1940's diner, part old fashioned tavern, and part jumping local night club. During the 1930's and 1940's its Tap Room Bar was at different times a secret safe haven for Gays and Bisexuals. In current times, the Hotel 'Club' Congress offers a very wide range of many live musical entertainment and other options for trendy locals, college students, curious tourists, and others.

Then there are the ghosts!

A good looking middle aged man in a 1930's old-fashioned gray suit with a long gold watch chain who was murdered during a April 1st 1931 poker game and hidden under the bed as the game continued on that floor has sometimes been seen peering out from the second story windows of unoccupied rooms on that floor looking to continue his life again. The hotels Room 242  was sometimes called the suicide room, after a young woman working as a bar maid in the 1940's took her life following her breakup with a married high ranking 1940's local official and a resulting midnight stand-off with authorities that ended in a hail of gunfire from which her death from 29 bullets was called a suicide. The bullet hole in the rooms closet still eerily gives one an unsettling connection to the events of that bloody night.

Guests have reported hearing strange noises and seeing the ghostly apparition of the woman walking up and down the hallway and the room's bathroom. Often the smell of roses can be found along the lobby's stairwell. Off and on for years, hotel staff members have been finding old fashioned flat butter knives scattered around on the second floor. Vince, a resident at the Congress Hotel for over 37 years, had been known for stealing the knives from the kitchen and around town during the 1960-70's, until his mysterious death in 2001 during a full moon when he was attacked by a desert bobcat in the alley.

The sidewalk outside which was built in the later 1800's before the Hotel Congress also reveals an untold mystery. In the outdoor café that fronts the Tap Room and Lobby Bars, you can still see parts of the pavement embedded with thick multi colored bubbles of old glass shards. The glass was put in there to allow light to filter down to a spooky series of  long closed off tunnels below the sidewalk that once ran around underneath the original downtown areas. The tunnels were originally used in the 1800's to get the mostly Chinese migrant workers to and from their job sites around town during a time in the U.S. when they were forbidden to walk the city's streets or mingle with "polite society." However, the other use of the tunnels after dark was much more sinister.

Saloon owners, gamblers, thieves, the 'Tucson Vigilante Committee' and nefarious others used the tunnels at will after dark. Those out at night sometimes 'disappeared' down into the underground tunnels and were never seen again. It's said that their restless spirits that were never able to fulfill their lives still prowl the downtown streets of Tucson late at night.

On January 22, 1934, a fire started in the basement of the Hotel Congress when an employee's cigarette ignited some table cloths. It quickly spread all the way up to and engulfed the third floor. Frightened hotel guests began running into the streets, many in their privates, while others began climbing out the windows of the hotel. Among the guests were two men standing outside in the street in their underwear who anxiously pleaded and bribed some of the firefighters to go up and retrieve their luggage. When the luggage was later recovered and one accidentally opened up, the bag and others were found to contain three Thompson .45 caliber sub-machine guns, two 30-30 Winchester rifles, five military bullet-proof vests, 4 hand grenades, 3 bottles of dark Cuban Rum, a glass eyeball, a skeletons hand, and $38,000 in cash along with $7,500 in gold coins from the United States Mint.

Before long Russell 'Killer' Clark, Charles 'The Knife' Makley, Harry 'Gunner' Pierpoint, and their ringleader, John 'Dapper' Dillinger, were all arrested in what was the short lived end of their freedom and soon to be repeated nation-wide manhunts for them. The men were all transferred to another state to stand trial for their many murders but escaped prison there and then went right back on the road to commit more crimes. The Tucson Police Department kept all of the items found in the luggage, however over time the only remaining items that can be accounted for are the machine guns which are on display at the Tucson Police Headquarters.

Over the years since the events surrounding the capture of the Dillinger Gang, some employee's of the Hotel 'Club' Congress have reported feeling a skeletons hand touch their shoulders or necks during their years while working at the Hotel. The glass eyeball is still said to be heard rolling across the floors of the kitchen and along the top of the bars very late at night long after closing time.

On November 1st 1997 an old grey haired man in a very tattered black suit appeared at the bar late one night near closing time with an old bottle of real Cubana Rum under his jacket. The bartender reminded him he could not bring his own bottle into the bar. The mysterious man then rented a room up on the 2nd floor paying the front desk clerk with some old U.S. currency, and invited the bartender along with a few other employee's up to have a drink in his room later. After drinking and talking for well over an hour with the employees as if he had once lived or stayed at the hotel a long time ago, the old man said he was going to take a shower and asked them all to come back in a half an hour.

Upon their return the room was empty with no signs that the man had ever been there. The glasses they had drank from were all mysteriously clean and unused, the trash can was empty. A quick check with the desk clerk downstairs revealed that no one had left the hotel to his knowledge. Quickly, the desk clerk became really curious about the old man, and checked the man's sign in card he had watched him fill out on the counter with the ink pen still stitting there on the desk counter. Unexplainably, the card was completely blank. The clerk then used his key and opened up the cash register but quickly found the old large sized U.S. currency was gone.