On a recent trip back to my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona I decided to bring Matt to one of Arizona’s most talked about haunted locations: The Hotel San Carlos.
Located on the southwest corner of Central and Monroe, the Hotel San Carlos has been a fixture of downtown Phoenix since 1928. It can also be seen, very briefly, in the center of the opening scene of one of the best thriller movies ever made, Psycho. By the time Psycho was filmed, the Hotel San Carlos had been in operation for 32 years and had gained the reputation as one of the nicest hotels in Phoenix. It was so nice that it hosted many celebrities of the era such as Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, and Clark Gable. Not only was it one of the places to stay, it was one of the places to be seen.
But we didn’t come just for the history. It turns out the Hotel San Carlos is also known to host a fair share of spirits. Over the years staff and visitors alike have reported seeing a woman wandering the hallways who promptly disappears, the sounds of children laughing and crying, and disembodied footsteps. A few guests have even said they were woken in the middle of the night by a knock at their door only to find there is no one there.
The Hotel San Carlos sits on the site of Phoenix’s first school. Originally built in 1874, the small adobe building served the children of Phoenix until 1879 when it was replaced by a larger brick structure. Known as the Central School, this building remained in use until it was condemned in 1916. By 1920 it was finally demolished with plans to build a million dollar hotel on the site.
The fact that two different school buildings were on this site from 1874 until 1916 is often listed as being the cause for the disembodied sounds of children that are sometimes heard. While the buildings themselves are long gone, one piece of that history remains, and it’s located in the basement of the hotel.
While it doesn’t look spooky, this is the oldest part of the building, the original well. Well, the original well is located underneath the modern electric pump pictured above. If you took that pump off, inside would be the brick lined well that was dug for the first school in 1874.
I have seen stories[mfn]https://www.rooseveltneighborhood.org/2015/10/23/ghosts-in-downtown-phoenix/[/mfn] that children fell into the well and drowned and that is the cause of some of the hauntings at the Hotel San Carlos, however, I could find no record of this ever occurring. This well provided drinking water for the hotel until sometime in the 1970’s when it was switched over to use for the air conditioning system.
The original chilled water spigots can still be found in most of the hotel rooms today.
We met with one of the hotel staff and were given a tour through the building. While in the lobby she told us of a recent event that took place while she was sitting at the front desk. She said the lobby was empty and she heard a loud banging noise coming from around the corner. The only thing around the corner was a short hallway leading to the stairwell.
As she got up to check it out she heard a loud crash and the sound of shattering glass. As she turned the corner she saw broken glass on the floor beneath a framed picture. The picture, however, was still hanging on the wall, with half of the glass missing. She couldn’t explain how it happened as no one else was in the lobby. She said they even went back to check security footage to see if someone had come from the stairwell and no one had been in that area for hours prior to the noise.
As we explored the different floors of the hotel I kept thinking about the Hotel San Carlos’ most famous specter with the saddest story; the ghost of Leone Jensen.
Being from Phoenix, I had heard the story of Leone Jensen before. The most common story is that Leone Jensen was a 22-year-old woman who was staying on the 7th floor of the hotel. She had just traveled from across the country to meet with her fiance in Phoenix. Once she arrived, she found that he no longer loved her. Heartbroken and alone she made her way up the stairs on the 7th floor to the penthouse above and jumped off the roof.
In the years since her suicide on May 7th, 1928 people have reported seeing a woman in a long dress on the roof of the hotel. When they try to get a better look at her, they find that she’s disappeared. A wispy figure of a woman has also been seen wandering the hallways of the hotel.
After we were done with the guided tour, we explored the rest of the hotel and went out to check the rooftop pool. It is said that this was Marilyn Monroe’s favorite hotel to stay at while she was in Phoenix. She would request a room on the third floor so that she could easily access the pool. She would sunbathe here for hours.
Things That Go Bump In the Night
Finally, we decided it was time to call it a day and went back to our room. We were both so exhausted it didn’t take long to fall asleep. I woke up around midnight and got up to use the bathroom. While I was standing in front of the sink washing my hands I heard a strange sound coming from the room above ours.
I stood there for a good thirty seconds or so just listening to it. The only way I can describe it is it sounded like someone was dragging a piece of heavy furniture across a wood floor. That’s not something you would expect to hear in a hotel at 12:30 am! I can’t say I’ve ever heard anything like it while staying in a hotel. As I was listening to this sound I was trying to come up with an explanation for it.
The problem was, there are no wood floors in the hotel. The rooms and hallways are carpeted, and the bathrooms have tile floors. They’re also way too small for anything to be dragged across the floor. On top of that, we hadn’t heard any sounds other than when we were in the lobby. Just as I went to go wake Matt up the sound stopped.
Other than that incident our short stay was uneventful. This hotel has so much history that it’s not hard for me to see why it has the reputation of being haunted. The spirits that apparently decided to never check out of the Hotel San Carlos don’t seem to be malevolent. Like with other haunted locations it seems they just want people to know that they’re still around. If you’re ever in Phoenix, stop by and check it out for yourself.