Head to the state's storied towns for autumn nights filled with eerie tales and ghostly apparitions. Plan your trip to the most haunted places here.
Wait...did you hear something? That creak? That rattle? That ghastly groan?!
In Arizona, you'll find plenty of creepy noises—not to mention hauntings and paranormal activities—guaranteed to give you goosebumps. Travel the state north to south to uncover everything from haunted hotels to ghost walks and ghost towns. Then see if you can still sleep with the lights off.
Haunted places in Northern Arizona
Settled sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, Flagstaff (about two hours north of Phoenix) was a land of lumberjacks, pioneers, railroad men, and yes, outlaws. Situated near Route 66, and near the Grand Canyon, this forest town saw its share of Wild West violence that continues to "haunt" residents today.
Take a spooky, self-guided haunted tour down alleys and past old buildings in historic downtown Flagstaff. You might catch a glimpse of the shadowy spirit said to haunt the balcony of the Orpheum Theater. Or spend the night at Hotel Monte Vista, which boasts a number of strange happenings courtesy of its resident ghosts. One such ghost likes to knock, announcing room service only to disappear when the guest opens the door. This particular prankster was first reported by none other than legendary Western actor John Wayne.
Monte Vista's cocktail lounge is a popular Halloween haunt with locals. Have a few cocktails and you, too, might see the vaporous couple who dance eternally in the lounge or the bank robber who tried to hide among the crowd in a botched getaway but never got away.
Be brave and try a special evening tour of the beautiful Riordan Mansion, a sprawling 1904 arts and crafts estate in Flagstaff that's now an Arizona State Park. The popular tours, held annually in late October, include ghost stories aplenty.
Daytime delight: For a break from the creepy and the crawly, head for the hills—Flagstaff is home to some of the state’s most stunning hikes, including a 1,000-year-old volcano.
Today, Jerome is known more for its liquid spirits, in particular, its award-winning wine; however, it remains one of Arizona's most famous ghost towns, and hauntings come with the territory. After all, it didn't earn its reputation as the "Wickedest Town in the West" without reason.
During the annual October Jerome Ghost Walk, for one weekend only, you can wander the narrow passageways and steep streets to find costumed performers reenacting the shootings, mysteries and love triangles that marked this former mining town.
Can't make it? Book a night at the Jerome Grand Hotel. Originally opened as the town's hospital in 1927, the 25-room hotel has had reports of strange occurrences and occasional sightings, including those of a bearded miner and a specter since dubbed "Claude" who met his demise in the elevator shaft.
Want dinner and drinks with more of the Jerome ghost town flavor? Enjoy a meal at the Haunted Hamburger, followed by a nightcap and live music at the Spirit Room, a favorite watering hole where all the spirits are friendly.
Daytime delight: Steel your nerves for a night in a haunted hotel with an afternoon wine tasting at Caduceus Cellars, where the pours all come from Arizona. Stop in earlier when the tasting room operates as a cafe for Italian espresso and lattes.
Ghosts talk as you walk in Prescott while you learn about this town's ghoulish past. Before Phoenix, Prescott reigned as the capital of Arizona (more specifically, the Territorial Capital), and it still retains much of its New World meets Old West charm as evident in its Victorian architecture and Whiskey Row saloons.
The Palace saloon—often said to be Arizona's oldest bar—is one such Whiskey Row establishment and Prescott's most haunted spot. Multiple ghosts have been spotted here, including one Frank Nevin who lost his business in a poker game and still haunts the bar, maybe hoping for a chance at a better hand. The Palace's basement briefly even served as a temporary jail, and those who have visited have reported feeling a "heavy presence" making it difficult to breathe.
During A Haunting Experience, a weekend walking tour of historic downtown Prescott, you're likely to visit The Palace while you explore the town's spiritual side. The Trost & Trost-designed Hassayampa Inn is another. Here, it's said a young bride—abandoned by her husband on their honeymoon in 1928—hanged herself from her balcony room. Perhaps she remains, waiting for his return.
Daytime delight: Just four miles from town, Watson Lake is a serene landscape that beckons hikers, kayakers and rock climbers. Or fill up on the town's history before hunting its ghostly residents at the Sharlot Hall Museum, housed in the former Governor's Mansion.
Haunted places in Southern Arizona
Halloween is one roving street party in eccentric, artsy Bisbee. Throw on a costume and you'll fit right into this southern Arizona town, once a copper mining center. (You'd probably be the other 364 days of the year, too, if we're being honest.)
Not sure where to start your ghostly hunt? Acquaint yourself with Bisbee's past as a mining boomtown with a stop at Queen Mine Tours. You'll head deep underground into the former Copper Queen Mine with former miners as they navigate the abandoned equipment and explain how turn-of-the-century mines operated. This is one tour best avoided by anyone with claustrophobia.
In the evening, join one of Old Bisbee Ghost Tour's numerous offerings, including a walking tour of haunted spots and a haunted pub crawl during which "spirits" are guaranteed. Along with your share of ghosts, you'll hear tales from Bisbee's wild history and learn why so many of its former residents still haunt this mountain town.
After all the walking, spend the night at a Bisbee haunted hotel, such as the landmark 1902 Copper Queen Hotel. Guests and ghost hunters often try to prowl the upper floors in search of the hotel's resident spirits—a tall caped gentleman, an ethereal dancing woman and a young giggling boy.
Daytime delight: Main Street in Old Bisbee is peppered with charming stores and boutiques, perfect for art collecting and thrift shopping.
Douglas and Tucson
Want more southern Arizona ghosts? Have a drink to calm your nerves at the tavern of The Gadsden Hotel in Douglas. The hotel, built 1907, features a magnificent lobby and Italian marble staircase, not to mention a few live-in ghosts, including the members of a love triangle.
In downtown Tucson, Hotel Congress, built 1919, is best known for the capture of the notorious Dillinger gang. Although the gangster John Dillinger isn't one of them, ghosts do seem to roam the hotel, including a woman who smells of roses and a gentleman who peers out the windows of the second floor.
Perhaps ghosts are to be expected here—the hotel offers plenty of reasons to linger, from live music at Club Congress to drinks in The Tap Room to a meal at Cup Café.
Daytime delight: A trip to southern Arizona isn’t complete without visiting Saguaro National Park, where vast forests of the region’s iconic cactus stretch as far as the eye can see.
One final note of caution before you head out in search of Arizona's ghosts: Many events and activities are not suitable for young children or have age restrictions. Others might have been canceled this year due to COVID-19. Be sure to call ahead for details.
These abandoned towns offer a glimpse into the state's rich history—and make for the perfect spooky season day trip.
About the Author
Nora Burba Trulsson
Nora Burba Trulsson is a long-time Arizona resident and a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, lifestyle, architecture and design topics. Her articles have appeared in Phoenix Home & Garden, Arizona Highways, Sunset, houzz.com, Valley Guide, Modern Luxury Scottsdale and other publications and websites.