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All of what is 'Downtown Tucson Arizona' has been built over the top of the ancient Papago Indian Village-Cemetery's along with the functioning cemetery's that were used by the Spanish Army which took over the area in the 1700's. The Spanish Cemetery's, the later Mexican Cemetery's, the following U.S. Army Cemetery's, and the Confederate Army Cemetery's were scattered all over the what is today Tucson's downtown areas. Finally, in 1919 a serious attempt was made to move known downtown graves out of the city to resting places like the Evergreen Cemetery up to the north on Oracle Road. Despite those reloactions, the remains of many of Tucson's former residents are still being unearthed during construction projects right up to this day.
The History of the Old Presidio Horse Corral
In Tucson, the property that the Old Town Artisans sits on in downtown is a real part of the city's early history where some say spirits from the past are still often present.
The current location of the Old Town Artisans Complex at 201 N. Court Street was the site of New Spain's Tucson Presidio Fort's horse stables and corrals in 1775. Many of the badly injured Spanish soldiers who came in there after their ill fated patrols to track down the marauding bands of Apache Indians died right there in that corral.
Since that time, it has been a cemetery, grocery store, a home, and a distillery where in the 1800's Julius Goldbaum lived, worked, and mysteriously died. With such a long and colorful history, the people who worked there over the years, and those who work there today often say some very strange, mysterious, and unexplainable things have happened to them. One event was the cowboy who approached a restaurant owner there, Eddie Gallego who had been a merchant there since 1982. "He came down the steps with his boots hitting the old tiles towards Noel and Noel said can I help you? As he said that, the cowboy walked through him and the lights just started flashing," says Gallego.
Craig Chester who worked at the La Cocina Restaurant there realted that he had seen a ghost not once but twice. "I was kind of standing there and saw something out of the corner of my eye and I looked over there to this corner and there's a old man standing there. I've never seen a ghost before in my life. It was my first time. To see one twice kind of verifies that these ghosts do hang around," says Chester. Julius Goldbaum's 1800's home is now the Old Town Pot Shop. Customers say when they've walked in they could see a reflection of a old Spanish woman wearing a long shawl over her 1800's style dress in the mirror. But, when they turn around she's always gone. Gallego was working very late one night down in the basement. It was 3 a.m. and he knew no one was in the building, but he heard loud footsteps. "It happened right above this area. They were going around in a circle and it was cowboy boots because you can tell the difference between the sounds of boots and shoes. It had a very heavy heel and he kept walking and that's all he did was walk in circles and he did it the whole time I heard him," says Gallego. In all, Gallego says they have seen three cowboys, two 1700's women, as well as a little girl who plays in the court yard wearing 1700's period clothing.
"She's seen in the background just walking in her old dress. The customers will just be sitting there and all of a sudden they see her and then she'll be gone." Everyone who has ever seen or felt the presence of these spirits or ghosts say they appear to be friendly. "They feel very comfortable here. They do feel the spirits and they're all good spirits." And for some reasons these spirits feel at home and just don't feel any need to leave.
1942 Pioneer Hotel Tucson Arizona
The History of the Pioneer Hotel
During the later Prohibition Years of 1929-1930's a secret Speakeasy operated down in an underground section of the basement area that was a hot spot for Gays, Bi-Sexuals, Drag Queens-Female Impersonators, Transvestites, and Lesbians of the era. Well produced and performed entertaining stage shows put on by that underground culture were rumored to have at times continued well into the 1940's. Rumors persist that after one of the shows in 1946 a despondent Drag Queen took a handful of barbituates and walked down the hallway to a walk-in meat freezer. The freezer door itself was built in the 1910's had no locking mechanism on it's reverse side, and the performer was found by two of the hotels cooks the next day sitting frozen solid on a side of expensive beef with an unlit cigarette still in his hand.
Years later the Pioneer Hotel located at 100 N. Stone Avenue was the scene where 28 people died in a horrific and disastrous 1970 fire on the upper floors that was set by an arsonist who turned out to be a 16-year old boy with books of matches starting two fires that were far apart on an upper floor. Whatever the circumstances, he is still in prison, and serving 28 consecutive life sentences, one for each person who died in the fire. Although he has tried many times to kill himself in prison, all of his attempts have been thwarted by a mysterious old man who has always warned prison guards. Reports of strange noises and apparitions in the many rooms, large ballroom, hallways, basement, and other areas of the hotel persisted for many years. In 1977 the hotel's structure was completely remodeled into apartments and offices. Still, some report strange unexplained occurances on the property.
1934 Santa Rita Hotel Tucson Arizona
The History of the Santa Rita Hotel
Seven people have died in the Santa Rita Hotel over the years. The original hotel built in 1904 was demolished in 1972 by developers, but the addition built in 1917 remained in use as the hotel. The most tragic was in 1939 when a little boy was left alone by his parents as they went for drinks in the hotels bar and left the boy alone. The 9 year old boy was found dead on the bottom of the pool the next morning by the dismayed maintenance staff. His parents, still drunk, not even realizing he was not in the hotel room with them, were awaken the next morning with the tragic news. After talking with the police, both parents made their way up to the roof of the hotel and jumped to their deaths landing on the concrete around the pool their son had drowned in. Again, in 1945 a prominent Tucson businessman on his 13th wedding anniversary shot his wife on the 3rd floor after an argument over who would call room service to get another bucket of ice.
The husband then walked out of the room, down the hallway, pulled the elevator doors open, and hanged himself with his pants in the elevator shaft. During the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's the hotel and it's cafe-restuarant were the discrete haunts of the areas Gays and Lesbians who used special codes and frequented only certain areas of the structure. Although the hotel has been closed off for years the spirits are still active. In 1954, three men who were visiting Tucson to attend a University of Arizona seminar on ancient Tucson Native Indians were found the next morning dead in their rooms. The resulting autopsy's listed their causes of deaths as 'sudden heart attacks.' A local historical research project in 1924 had shown that the Santa Rita Hotel had been built on top of the ancient burial grounds of the Papago Indians. The hotel-property were sold and demolished in the late 2000's to make way for office building development.