Located along legendary Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona is the Hotel Monte Vista. A huge, old-fashioned neon sign towers over this historic hotel, hinting at what’s inside: feather lampshades, vintage furniture, bold colors and eclectic decor. Rooms are named for the movie stars who stayed here.
Opening on New Year’s Day, 1927, the hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places has been fully restored to its former glory and continues to serve the traveling public still today. Over the years it hosted numerous popular characters like John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Anthony Hopkins and Harry Truman, even though it also apparently is home to a number of supernatural figures.
This old hotel is one of the very few American hotels built entirely from public taxes, when, in 1924, a man by the name of V.M. Slipher spearheaded a local fundraising campaign to build it. In that year, tourism was a burgeoning business in Flagstaff, where lodging was too scarce to keep visitors in town to spend their hard earned dollars. Slipher’s efforts resulted in a city-voted ordinance which established a municipal bond to build the hotel.
After its opening, the hotel quickly became popular not only among the tourists but also the favorite of the locals who quickly coined the phrase, “Meet me at the Monte V.”
In its first year, the hotel hosted Mary Costigan’s daily three-hour radio show from room 105. She was the first American woman to be granted a radio broadcasting license.
Even if it was open during the prohibition era, this didn’t stop the Hotel Monte Vista Lounge from ignoring the law and running a profitable bootlegging operation out of Flagstaff’s most popular speakeasy. Eventually, in 1931, the place was raided by local officials and closed, only to resume business two years later when prohibition finally came to an end. For five years between 1935 and 1940, the hotel lounge and lobby also offered its many guests a wide range of slot machines, the only ones ever in Flagstaff.
In the 1940’s and 1950’s more than one hundred movies were filmed in nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, and during these filmings, the Hotel hosted such famous guests as Jane Russell, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne and Bing Crosby. In one of the rooms of the hotel a scene from Casablanca was filmed and in fact, it was John Wayne, who reported seeing one of the hotel’s first ghosts in the late 1950’s. Describing the spirit as friendly, this ghost made a brief appearance in the movie star’s room!
In the 1970’s three men robbed a Flagstaff bank near the hotel. During the robbery, a bank guard shot one of the men. Despite their injured comrade they decided to celebrate their successful robbery, so the trio stopped in at the Monte Vista Lounge for a drink. However, the wounded man’s gunshot injury was more serious than any of them anticipated because before he could even finish his first drink, he died right there in the lounge.
Today, both staff and guests feel as if this dead bandit is one of the many spirits that haunt the building. One manager reported that he would hear a creepy voice that said “Hello” or “Good Morning” when he opened the bar each day. Others have told stories of feeling a ghostly presence while enjoying a drink in the cocktail lounge and there have also been reports of barstools and drinks that seem to move on their own. Though this might be the ghost of the the gunman, the hotel has such a past of shootings, cowboys on horseback in the lobby, and drunken brawls that they aren’t really sure!
However, there are other strange phenomena are reported at the hotel, like ghosts who make noise, move furniture around, make sudden appearances, ring the lobby telephone, and knock things down. Both employees and guests have heard band music coming from the second-floor lobby, when there is no band playing.
In Room 210, called the Zane Grey room, many guests have been awakened in the night by a phantom bellboy, who knocks on the door with the statement that room service has arrived. However, when the guests open the door, they see nothing but an empty hallway, not even a shadow of someone escaping down the long corridor.
John Wayne experienced this ghost during a few of his stays. Mr. Wayne reported that the ghost seemed friendly and that he did not feel threatened by its presence. Hotel’s housekeepers frequently experience the antics of the Bellboy and one report states seeing a young male in an old fashioned red coat with brass buttons walking up and down the halls.
Second floor is evidently a hub of ghostly activity, as just down the hall in Room 220, several strange phenomena are reported. Evidently in the early 1980’s this room played host to an eccentric long-term boarder who was known by his strange habit of hanging raw meat from the chandelier. Sometime later he died in this room and his body was not discovered for several days. Today, guests often complain of hearing coughing and other noises from the otherwise empty room. It seems that one day, after a maintenance man had made several repairs to the room, he turned off the light and locked the door. Returning only a few minutes later, he found the television on at full volume and the linens on the bed had been ripped and scattered around the room! Today, it is common for the television to act on it’s own accord as well as reports of cold male hands touching guests in their sleep.
Years ago Flagstaff’s Red Light District could be found just south of the railroad tracks, just two blocks from the Monte Vista. In the early 1940’s two prostitutes were brought to room 306 (now Gary Cooper Room) and during their “visit” they were killed and thrown from their third floor window to the street below. Over the years, numerous guests have reported being awakened in the middle of the night and unable to return to sleep due to a feeling that they are being watched. The two women have also been reportedly sighted in the pool hall and the lounge.
In Room 305 (Bon Jovi’s Room), the ghost of a female apparition is often saw sitting in the rocking chair. History tells us that years ago an elderly woman who was a long-term renter would sit by the window for hours on end. No one knows what she was looking at or looking for. Maybe she is waiting for someone to return, even in death.
However, if the cleaning staff moves the chair, the next day it will always reappear next to the window….
The disturbing sounds of an infant crying in the basement have been heard again and again. Staff have found themselves running upstairs to escape the sound of the cries, even if there has been no information that has explained this phenomenon.
On several occasions lounge staff & patrons have witnessed a transparent couple dancing in the Cocktail Lounge. They are seen in formal dress laughing and smiling, eternally dancing.
In addition, many people, particularly housekeeping and front desk agents, have reported a polite attendant assisting their ride in the elevator despite it being self-service. He can been heard requesting, “which floor may I take you to” or even a phantom hand seen closing the elevator’s doors.
The Hotel Monte Vista is the longest publicly held commercial hotel in the history of America, and was sell to a private individual in the early 1960’s. With its stories of scandal and ghosts, it continues still today to entertain all its guests but not only!
Author’s note: the hotel is located at 100 N. San Francisco St.
Flagstaff, Arizona 86001 – Official WebSite
Images from web.