The Ghosts of the University of Arizona

Posted by george in Phoenix Ghosts
The Ghosts of the University of Arizona - Photo

Go Wildcats! The University of Arizona is the oldest college in the state, existing before Arizona achieved statehood. The university is known for its wildly successful basketball and football teams, both of which rank pretty high in their respective divisions. U of AZ is also an accomplished research university, with a heavy focus on astronomy and physics. The college campus is also haunted, and several students have told tales of their terrifying experiences while attending school. Despite being an institution driven by science, even the most rational students at the UA can’t explain away the strange supernatural occurrences that plague the college. At least eight buildings and structures on campus are known to be haunted, each with its own unique set of ghosts and horror stories. Old Main is the oldest building on campus and has been haunted from the very beginning, when lead construction worker Carlos Maldenado was found dead with a knife in his throat. His shadowy spirit is often seen walking around Old Main at night. Centennial Hall, the university’s concert venue, may be the most haunted building on campus. The venue is haunted by two ghosts, a man and a woman, neither of which are very friendly to guests. They both try their hardest to give the theatre patrons a good scare. Maricopa Hall was the site of a brutal murder before the building was erected, and after the university became established, a woman committed suicide in the building when she found her man with another lover. Bear Down Gym was named after the last words of student-athlete John “Button” Salmon after being gravely injured in a car accident. A ghost wearing Salmon’s jersey has been spotted multiple times in and around the gym.

Old Main: University of Arizona’s Oldest Building

After being chartered in 1885, the school got to work on building up the campus. Old Main was completed in 1891 and has served as the face of UA ever since. During the construction of Old Main in the 1880s, the building was the site of a brutal murder that set the tone for the next century. Carlos Maldenado was the lead carpenter charged with supervising the construction of Old Main. The story goes that Tucson was either going to be the capital of the Arizona Territory, or be the site of the territory’s first university. The legislature granted the land to Tucson to begin building the school, while Phoenix was chosen as the capital. Quite a few locals were angry with the decision, so they targeted the construction workers of Old Main, specifically Carlos. Being the hard worker that he was, Carlos often slept at the construction site. One morning his workers came in to find him sitting in a chair with a knife sticking out of his neck.

The ghost of Carlos has been seen ever since, especially by the school’s maintenance workers. The running gag is that the strange creaks and groans in the structure happen when Carlos’ spirit is mad. Multiple workers claim to have seen Carlos in the attic of Old Main, where he appears as a hazy, shadowy figure. Some have attempted to catch a photo of Carlos, but he moves too quickly. One worker entered an upstairs hallway then took off running when all the faucets and water fountains turned on simultaneously.

Maricopa Hall

Maricopa Hall is the only all-female dorm at the University of Arizona. Before the university was even built, the land now occupied by Maricopa Hall was the site of a bloody duel between two dance hall entrepreneurs. Two Tooth Gertie and Diamond Lil had a bitter rivalry in the 1860s and decided to go out to the desert to settle their grievances once and for all. Two Tooth Gertie dealt the first blow by slicing open Diamond’s face, who responded by shooting Gertie between the eyes with her hidden Derringer pistol. Two Tooth Gertie cursed Diamond Lil with her last breath. Diamond later helped the townsfolk of Tucson raise money to buy the land to build the university.

50 years later, in 1919, a ball was taking place at the newly built Maricopa Hall. A UA student who was attending the ball was on the lookout for her fiance. After searching the building, she finally found him, in bed with another lover. Distraught by the discovery, the woman ran up to the second floor, which was still under construction, and hung herself from one of the gas pipes in the bathroom.

Students often hear women arguing and screaming in the middle of the night, along with the faint echoes of gunfire. These are said to be residual memories of the infamous duel. The apparition of the young woman who committed suicide has also been seen around the hall. She is said to be wearing an all-white dress, and students claim to hear her sobbing or crying in the halls in the dead of night.

Centennial Hall

Centennial Hall is the performing arts and concert venue at the U of AZ. In addition to being a beautiful theatre, it’s also home to two very malevolent ghosts. One is a young Spanish gentleman dressed in all black. He’s often seen cackling like a lunatic, scaring the guests and staff of Centennial Hall. He may also be the culprit behind the phantom piano that plays late at night. He tends to randomly move furniture around the building at night.

The ghost of a woman in a Victorian dress has also been seen around the theatre. Though she looks like a lovely young lady, she’s actually quite malicious. She is said to appear during performances of classical music, and has attempted to push guests down the stairs on multiple occasions.

The two are said to have died in a duel during the Spanish Colonial period. The story goes that two men were competing for the attention of a pretty young lady, and so they met up on horseback to settle the matter. The two men charged at each other, and the woman got in between the two in an attempt to stop them. She was trampled to death by the two horses. One of the men was then thrown from his horse, landing on his head and dying on impact. No one knows why they’re so mean. Perhaps the man was mad at his loss, and the woman angry at losing her life over something so stupid.

Bear Down Gym

John “Button” Salmon was an athlete and the student body president in the early days of UA. Well-liked by his peers, his life came to a tragic end when he was involved in a car accident that severed his spine. Anong his last words were, “…tell the team to bear down.” Students and faculty took his loss pretty hard, and named the newly built gym after Salmon, calling it the Bear Down Gym. At night, students and staff have reported seeing a young athletic man hanging inside the gym during the afterhours when it’s supposed to be locked. The man is said to be wearing John Salmon’s jersey.

In 1915, an actual wildcat was brought to the school to serve as the university’s mascot. They named him Rufus Arizona. Unfortunately, Rufus died a year later. Rufus was said to live in the Bear Down Gym, and late at night, some students and staff have seen a wildcat inside the gym, snarling before it disappears. Some even say the ghost of the wildcat roams around the campus at night.

Want to learn more about the haunted history of Arizona?

Though the days of gold mines, cowboys, and outlaws are long gone, the spirit of the Southwest is still alive and well! Arizona’s violent history has left behind tons of spooky ghost stories and haunted houses. The Vulture Gold Mine was once the most prosperous mine in the state, now it’s the most haunted. The Hanging Tree is where thieves were put to death, and if you walk by, their spirits might try to get you! Yuma Territorial Prison was an outlaw’s nightmare. If they misbehaved they might be chained up in the Dark Room for a few while days and left to sleep with snakes and scorpions. Visitors today can still hear the rattling metallic sounds of the chain gang marching through. Only a few miles north of Phoenix lies Pioneer Village, a replica of a typical town in the Old West. Many of the buildings are originals, and all of them are haunted. Each house in the village has its own history and creepy ghost stories. If you’re planning a trip to Arizona, make sure you read up on the top ten most haunted spots in Phoenix before coming down.