Ghosts, spooks and specters haunt my thoughts at this time of year: is it magic or a trick — or are they real, like stories with concrete evidence not fully materializing.
As a first-grader, I went to a Halloween party put on by the mother of a friend from school. Their name was Ashcraft, and his mom claimed to be a witch. Seriously.
Theirs was a house in downtown Denver that looked like a haunted house — with parapets and high rooftops. It had a round, red room upstairs, and stairways that went nowhere. We took a tour and Mrs. Ashcraft would be in the next room before we would get to it; I figure they had secret passages.
It was a spooky evening, with the highlight being “Uncle Nod,” as I recall. He had died in his easy chair decades before, a spot where he spent most of his time smoking cigars.
On this night we saw his chair’s seat look like someone was sitting in it — having an indentation and feeling warm to the touch — and cigar smoke inexplicably filled the room. I suppose being grade-schoolers we were easier to fool; yet, it goes on the list of unexplainable situations in my life.
Believing in ghosts was never the problem; discerning between the tricks and the real is a little bit more difficult.
Over the years, The Daily Courier has told you many stories of lost souls and shadows in the night. Following are some of my favorites (visit this column for links to the original stories):
• Barry Goldwater was said to have haunted, err … visited the Smoki Museum in January 2013. Framed photographs he took were tossed to the ground before the exhibit opened, breaking the glass, museum director Cindy Gresser related. Museum officials re-hung the photos without the glass. “We are convinced Mr. Goldwater decided to pitch them on the floor,” Gresser said. “He would have thought that was really funny.”
• Parker Anderson wrote in a 2012 Days Past article about several local ghosts, including Prescott’s most famous ghost, “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 appears only sporadically. Also was mention of the lonely grave of a 2-year-old child, Angeline Hoagland, near Lynx Creek, where people reportedly have seen her spirit in “little girl” form; and the Prescott Center for the Arts theater, formerly the old Sacred Heart Parish at Willis and Marina streets, where a ghost lives (may have been buried where the altar used to be).
• Finally is a story we reported on in 2005, concerning what or who haunts what was the Head Hotel, that was renamed the historic Downtown Prescott Inn, on Cortez Street. Aside from its stamped tin ceiling having several gunshot holes and a creaky elevator, there were the reports of people seeing a woman in white and a cowboy with Old West attire. Then there’s the tale of Mabel Elizabeth Swanson Johnson (1897-1985), depicted in a painting that hung there. She was reportedly Virgil Earp’s mistress, and seems to fit the description of the female ghost some said they saw there.
A few others of note have included stories about a ghost haunting the Twin Lakes Market; strange things happening at the three-story Knights of Pythias building, which is the only remaining structure on Prescott’s courthouse plaza that survived the great fire of 1900; and the walls rattling at Annie’s Attic, which was above Coyote Joe’s on Montezuma (now Far From Folsom).
Whatever you believe, I suppose, depends on your experiences and “evidence.” I say it depends on your faith too.
Ghosts are disembodied spirits, some harmless — some evil. They may haunt particular locations, objects … or even people. According to an old Gallup poll, 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts.
I say fool me once, but rarely a second time. Happy Halloween, and remember those who have gone before us during the Day of the Dead.