In my recent post about the Hotel San Carlos, I briefly mention their most famous resident spirit, Leone Jensen. I wanted to do a Posthumous Profile on her because I feel like every mention of her is about the way she died, and nothing is really mentioned about who she was. I felt the need to present a full picture of Leone Jensen as best I could, and also correct a lot of misinformation that is floating around online.
If you Google Leone Jensen, or the Hotel San Carlos being haunted the story about her death is often the same. A young girl, despondent over lost love checks into the Hotel San Carlos and is given a room on the 7th floor. She came all of the way to Phoenix to meet up with her fiance only to find that he doesn’t love her anymore. He is said to be a bellhop at a nearby hotel. The same night that she checks into the hotel she leaps from the roof to her death on the sidewalk below. Some versions claim that her fiance pushed her from the roof, others say it was his new lover that did it.
So how much of this story is actually true? Because it’s been 89 years since her death it’s impossible to verify all of the information. But, with the historical records that are available, I’ve been able to piece together a much clearer picture of her life and also her untimely death.
In the early morning hours of Monday, May 7th, 1928 a merchant patrolman (kind of like a security guard) by the name of N.J. George was on bicycle patrol through the streets of downtown Phoenix. He was headed north on Central and had just reached Van Buren (one block north of the Hotel San Carlos) when he heard a “piercing scream” followed by a thud. He quickly turned his bike around and headed south towards the direction of the sound. As he got to the corner of Central and Monroe he saw the body of a woman lying on the sidewalk near the corner of the hotel on the Monroe street side.1)Arizona Republic – Tue, May 8, 1928 I should point out that today the hotel has a large awning that wraps around the front of the building, but back in 1928 that awning did not exist.
When police arrived on the scene they described it as “the body was fully dressed, even to a lightweight tan-colored summer coat and hat to match. Miss Jensen wore a thin, rose-colored dress of good material, light shoes, and stockings.” Clutched tightly in her hands were her purse and hat. Inside her purse two short suicide letters written on Hotel San Carlos stationary, and two almost illegible notes that were scribbled on the back of an envelope and a telegraph blank. The letters were dated May 7th, 1928, 1:15 am. Patrolman George found Leone Jensen’s body at 2:45 am.
Newspapers quickly picked up the story and by the next day, her suicide made the news in both Arizona and California. The papers described her as a “pretty 22-year-old of the extreme blonde type.” I found one article from The Petaluma Argus-Courier that claimed there were only two suicide letters, one of which blamed a local bellhop for the bruises found on her body. The article goes on to state that the bellhop was later questioned and released. No name or other information was given, and that is all that was ever mentioned in the papers about a possible bellhop connection.
The Suicide Letters
The three suicide letters were placed in two envelopes addressed to specific people. One was addressed to “Undertaker, Phoenix”. Included in the same envelope was a letter addressed to “Jack M. Edwards, Undertaker Los Angeles”, with instructions for the Phoenix undertaker to forward this letter to him. The final letter was described as a rambling, almost illegible affair, bidding goodbye to her friends. Some of the last words Leone Jensen ever wrote were “Darn this hotel pen.”
To the Phoenix undertaker, Leone wrote instructions for him to forward her other letter to the undertaker in L.A. She also gave an explanation for her decision to commit suicide. She stated “Nervous breakdown; here for lung trouble; too weak to walk; lost appetite; doctors make me sick, have had too many. Just another lonesome and ill stranger.”
The letter that was addressed to undertaker in L.A., Jack Edwards, is written in a way that makes me believe they knew each other. The letter was as follows:
My burden was more than I could carry, so am coming “back home” in the way I predicted, but not as a suicide. But this long living agony is too much for me and now having suffered a nervous breakdown, I could never go through with it. Am too weak to walk and all in all, I am through.
Here are a few of my last requests. Bury me in my tan dress and tan high-heeled slippers. Organ music above all things. And can you arrange for two girls to sing, as I have always loved harmony. ‘Nearer My God to Thee,’ if there is one, and some other one which I wish you to select. Need a marcel and my nails are terrible, but have been too sick to care for anything. Good bye and good luck. Think of me kindly.
Lastly, to the hotel manager, she left basic instructions about who will take care of her bill (the Phoenix undertaker), asking them to make sure all her belongings were packed up, and apologizing for only having five dollars. She states her income was to arrive on the 10th, but “it wasn’t to be.”
These letters don’t sound like someone who is heartbroken and has decided to end their life over it. It sounds like someone who has been sick for quite some time and just doesn’t want to deal with the struggle anymore. So who was Leone Jensen? Why had she come to Phoenix? How did she end up in the Hotel San Carlos? Where is she buried? These were just a few of the questions that I had running through my head after reading the newspaper articles about her death. And, I’m going to try my best to answer them.
Leone Jensen’s death certificate is very basic. Her name is listed as Leone I Jensen, a single, white, female. Her age is “about 25” and the cause of death is accidental, fell 7 stories. Almost everything else is simply marked “unknown”. However, there are a couple of clues that helped me piece together more about her.
A death certificate always lists whether the person was buried, cremated, or removed. If the certificate states removal it means that the body was moved from the original mortuary to somewhere else. It could mean it was moved to a different mortuary or moved to another state or country for burial. The death certificate will usually (almost always) say where the person was buried or removed to and the date. In Leone’s case, her body was removed to Los Angeles, California on May 8th, 1928.
There is only one Leone I. Jensen buried in California, and she’s buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her headstone is pretty plain, but as you can see below, it lists the years of her birth and death.
If you did some quick math you would realize that if this is the same Leone Jensen that died in Phoenix she died at the age of 32 and not 22 as the newspapers reported. However, if you look at the death certificate it simply states that her age is “about 25”. So they weren’t sure how old she was. In 1928, California didn’t have drivers licenses as we know them today. In fact, they didn’t require a driving test until 1927, so I’m sure that even if Leone had a drivers license, it probably had very minimal information on it.
On May 9th, 1928 I found a mention of Dorothy Leone Jensen in the L.A. Times deaths section. The name is off, so how do I know it’s her? After her name, it simply says “Remains at Edwards Brothers.” If you look at the date of removal on her death certificate, Leone was sent to Los Angeles on May 8th, 1928 to the Jack Edwards Mortuary. By the time they received her body, properly notified her relatives, and got the information to the newspaper it most likely would not have been printed until the 9th.
In the same section of the L.A. Times on May 10th, 1928 there is an obituary for Dorothy Leone Jensen. As you can see in the picture below, it lists her date of death as May 7th.
Arrival at the Hotel San Carlos
According to newspaper articles of the time, Leone had been in Phoenix for approximately two to three weeks prior to her death. She checked into the Hotel San Carlos on Saturday, May 5th, just two days before her death. While the legend states she was staying on the 7th floor, Leone actually had a room on the third floor and it did not face the street. I think this is important for a couple of reasons which I’ll get to shortly.
If you’ve read my post about the Hotel San Carlos, you might remember that the third floor has direct access to the rooftop pool. Although, in 1928 there was no pool there, simply a sun deck. The pool was added in 1955. Something I noticed while staying at the hotel was that the pool area had direct access to the roof via the fire escape.
On the very top of the hotel is the penthouse which the hotel owner lived in with his family. To get to the penthouse you have to climb stairs on the 7th floor. The legend states that Leone was able to sneak up into the penthouse and out onto the roof.
While not impossible, I think it seems somewhat improbable. She would have had to have somehow known that she could access the roof through the penthouse that the owner lived in. (I can’t imagine he simply left the doors unlocked) And then she would have had to manage to not be discovered while attempting to get out onto the roof.
Or she could have accessed the fire escape from the sun deck and climbed the ladders to the roof. While the ladder leading to the roof is not attached today, old pictures of the hotel from the 1930’s show it fully attached. Remember that her body was found on the Monroe side of the street. The fire escape is also closest to the Monroe side of the street. The penthouse faces Central Avenue.
In one of her suicide letters, she states that she was in Phoenix due to “lung trouble”. She said she was too weak to walk, too sick to eat, had too many doctors and was just done. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Phoenix was well known for its dry climate that was beneficial for those who were suffering from tuberculosis. As there was no cure for tuberculosis until 1949, many people were sent to health sanitariums in Arizona to try and help them regain their health. I have a feeling that this was the case for Leone.
Leone Ingeborg Jensen was born on April 14th, 1896 in Austin, Minnesota. Her parents were Danish and had just immigrated to the United States a couple of years before she was born. The 1910 Census lists an Inga Jensen living with her mother Catherine and siblings (who all match the names of the siblings in the obituary) in Pasadena, California. The 1920 Census lists her as Ingeborg, still living with her mother and some of her siblings. By this time she’s 24-years-old and her occupation is listed as a dancer in the theater.
At some point between 1920 and 1928 her health began to seriously decline. She probably tried every treatment she could find in California and eventually, someone suggested she go to Phoenix for the dry air. This is all a guess, but I have a feeling for the two to three weeks prior to checking into the Hotel San Carlos she was staying in one of the TB sanitariums nearby. She probably had enough of the treatments or realized they simply weren’t working and checked into the hotel before heading back to California.
From her own words it doesn’t appear that she ever intended to stay in Phoenix, in fact, she knew she would return home. I believe she knew she would return home in a coffin. I just don’t think she initially intended to commit suicide. What caused her nervous breakdown? I believe it was probably financial trouble more than any problems with a boyfriend or fiance. Everything in her suicide letters points to serious health problems and her being physically and emotionally worn out.
We will never know the exact problems she was facing, or what caused her to make the deicison that she did. I hope that by telling her full story, as much as possible, it helps people see her as a real person and not just a ghostly legend.
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|1.||↑||Arizona Republic – Tue, May 8, 1928|