Ghost tours at the Hotel San Carlos in Downtown Phoenix

[Source: Jennifer McClellan, The Arizona Republic]


Cathy Bruegger/Special for


Guests on the weekly ghost tours of the Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix get a good dose of the spooks, even if phantoms that allegedly haunt the hotel actually don’t materialize.

On Friday and Saturday nights through December, the tours take camera-carrying guests to rumored paranormal hotspots in the historic hotel and its pool. Guides from Ghosts of Phoenix, which runs the tours in partnership with the hotel, tell the real-life stories behind each haunt while peppering in tidbits about the hotel.

The guides aren’t paranormal investigators and they don’t promise guests that they’ll see spirits wandering the hallways. During check-in, the lead guide says that if guests think they experience something paranormal, like smelling the strawberry perfume of the woman who is said to haunt the seventh floor or being touched by one of the children who haunt the dreary basement, they should “look for the scientific explanations first.”

“Catching paranormal activity is like finding a needle in a haystack,” tour manager Linda Lieberman said. “TV shows make it seem like if you’re there for an hour, you’ll see three ghosts, but that’s not how it is. Our tour is a nice walk through a beautiful historical hotel, and every once in a while ghosts feel like messing with us.”

The Hotel San Carlos opened in 1928, and was the first high-rise hotel in the city with both elevators and air-conditioning. The then-posh hotel was a favorite playground for visiting movie stars and the vacationing well-to-do.

Stars such as Mae West, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel. These days, though, the hotel’s reputed ghosts keep it famous. Along with being featured on Travel Channel‘s “Weird Travels: Haunted Hotels” and’s “Top 10 Haunted Hotels,” hordes of paranormal investigators, psychics and mediums scour the hotel’s creaky stairwells, narrow hallways and musty basement in search of apparitions.

Alleged haunts include the ghost of Leone Jensen, who, wearing an evening gown, stepped off the roof to her death. The story is that the 22-year-old was heartbroken at the lost love of a bellboy at a nearby hotel. She’s said to target dark-haired men, whom she reportedly watches in their sleep and follows along the hallways.

In the basement, a large low-ceilinged area and one of two areas on the tour that are usually off-limits to the public, the ghosts of three schoolboys and their dog are said to play. Inside the second-floor manager’s apartment, spirits supposedly like to drain energy out of cameras and phones to “mess with people,” Lieberman said.

On a recent tour, guest Diego Vera’s camera battery went from fully charged to completely dead while he walked from the barren living room to one of the bedrooms inside the apartment.

“I took my camera off the charger right before we came here,” said the 25-year-old Phoenix resident. “I was really surprised. I didn’t know what to think.”

Vera and his girlfriend, Saray Gordillo, 21, of Chandler, don’t believe in ghosts. They took the tour because they were curious.

“Even though I’m a big scaredy cat, I like to be scared,” Gordillo said. “We were a little scared, but I liked this tour for all the history and stories.”


What: Ghosts of Phoenix tour guides take groups through the historic Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix. Bring a camera.

When: 7 and 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 11.

Where: Hotel San Carlos, 202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Admission: $13, $7 for ages 8-12.

Contact: 602-414-0004,

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