A ghost, according to the dictionary, is a disembodied spirit; a shadow or semblance of a deceased person or animal; an apparition; a spectre or phantom; a spirit of any kind. A poltergeist is a "noisy" ghost. Ghosts may haunt particular locations, objects or people. There are many references to ghosts in ancient cultures and religions and belief in such manifestations is widespread even today. A Gallup poll in 2005 found that 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts. Ghosts have been associated with the celebration of Halloween since the mid-1500s and the holiday would not be complete without them!
Every once in a while, someone will strike up a conversation with me regarding Prescott's various reputed "haunted" sites. I enjoy the subject, but in reality, Prescott is probably one of the least haunted cities in America. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there are not that many purported hauntings in the Prescott area, so the same stories are told over and over again.
Perhaps the town's most famous ghost is "Abby," who reportedly haunts room 16 of the Hotel Vendome. While some workers do say that footsteps are heard in the room and the bell sometimes rings for service when the room is vacant, there still are many guests who sleep in the room every year without incident. If Abby really is there, she only appears sporadically. I used to know personally someone who worked there and, while he admitted to hearing sounds coming from the room that he couldn't explain, he still assured me he didn't believe in ghosts.
Out near Lynx Creek lies the lonely grave of a 2-year-old child, Angeline Hoagland. Over the years, many college students have camped out at the gravesite hoping to get a glimpse of her spirit that reputedly haunts the site. It is largely accepted today that the ghost stories probably originated because Angeline's tombstone is made from a luminous rock. Therefore, if your car headlights hit the rock, it glows brightly! Admittedly, I have also heard stories that certain people have actually seen Angeline's spirit in "little girl" form, but since they were second-hand tales, I don't put much stock in them.
The Prescott Center for the Arts (the new name for the Prescott Fine Arts Association/ PFAA) theater, formerly the old Sacred Heart Parish, is certainly a great place for a ghost and there reputedly is one. However, during my many years of involvement in Prescott theatre, I have witnessed the story of the ghost evolve as it went from storyteller to storyteller. When I first arrived at PFAA in 1987, the ghost was said to be female and the staff referred to her as "Sophie." Later on, as the story went along over the years, the ghost changed gender and became the specter of the priest who is, in actuality, buried under the spot where the altar used to be. Staff then started to call him "Father Michael" whenever they heard unexplained thumping sounds and the name has stuck, even though it was later discovered the interred priest's name was actually Father Edmond.
Perhaps my favorite Prescott ghost story is the least known. As I heard it second- or third-hand, I doubt its veracity, but it was still fun to hear.
Back in 1981, Claude Cline (then the owner of all of Prescott's movie theaters) sold all of his properties, including the Elks Theatre. The new owner of the Elks proceeded to do some interior remodeling, which included the installation of a huge ceiling chandelier. One evening, so the story goes, the workers were getting ready to leave the Elks when they heard a sound of glass tinkling. They looked up and saw the transparent form of a little girl swinging from the chandelier. Needless to say, they ran out of the building as fast as they could. A true story? I doubt it, but that's what makes ghost stories so appealing - not knowing if they are really true or false.
Prescott's colorful history is very conducive to ghost stories. That's why these tales are told and retold. Scores of people visit the Hotel Vendome and Angeline's grave hoping to see something strange. But, one has to wonder, what would they do if they really did see something supernatural?
This and other Days Past articles are available at sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Scott Anderson at Sharlot Hall Museum Archives at 445-3122 for information.