Blog Introduction

While we are not an investigation group, per se, the writers of HPAZ are clearly interested in investigating the paranormal in one form or another. I intend to use this blog to post about my actual experiences in reportedly haunted places, and other interesting tidbits about historic locations. Not everything in this blog will include any real paranormal activity, although if I experience any of that while I'm out and about (or even at home), I will certainly share it here for you to read. Whether it's dinner at a haunted restaurant, exploring some creepy abandoned places, or just some interesting facts I dug up that don't fit elsewhere on the website, I will be sharing those adventures and research here.

November 17, 2015

The Night We Said Goodbye to Monti's La Casa Vieja

One year ago today, a group of friends and I went out to dinner. It was no ordinary dinner outing, however. It was a very sad day: November 17, 2014 was the very last day in business for a popular and historic restaurant, Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe.

I should have written this blog post and the accompanying article a year ago, but I had to leave town the next day to begin training for a new job, and by the time I got back to Phoenix 3 weeks later, I had moved on to other projects. My friend Justin, a.k.a. Wandering Justin, was more on top of things. He posted a blog entry about it shortly after our visit, including some photographs he took. I have now written the HPAZ article about this location, which you can find over on the main site. It is my longest and most important article to date, as well as the one that took the most research, which is part of the reason it took me a year to get it online. That article will go over the building’s history, supposed activity, etc. In this blog, I will recount our final night there.

Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to leave my house that I forgot my digital camera, so the only photos I managed to get were taken with my cell phone camera, and most of the building was rather dark. I have chosen those of the highest quality to post here, and even those are not the greatest.

Those who know me are probably aware that I have a strange attachment to the city of Tempe and its history. It is my hometown, though I only lived there until I was two years old, when my family ended up moving to what I now refer to (not-so-lovingly) as “the middle of nowhere.” However, my family stayed in a motel in Tempe for a few days when I was about 14, and that was when I fell in love with the city, as well as cities in general. Though I grew up in a pretty remote area, I was meant to be a city girl. At the same, though, I am fascinated by what life was like so long ago, when our now-big cities were small communities that could also be described as "in the middle of nowhere."

Ever since I was 14, Tempe has had a special place in my heart. The Hayden family have always felt special to me in some way, as well; almost as if they were my family. To my knowledge, I am not even a distant relative to the Hayden family, but that’s how I’ve always thought of them, in some strange way. That being said, I had always wanted to eat at Monti’s because I knew a brief portion of its history; but having just moved back to Arizona two months prior, after 7 years away, the opportunity had not yet arisen. I was devastated to learn that it would be closing its doors that month, and quickly organized a dinner among a group of friends I knew were interested in history and hauntings. I made a reservation for their last night in business, not only for the significance of the date itself, but also in hopes that they would be more open to people wandering around, exploring and taking photographs on their final night.

Because we had a fairly large group, we were given a booth right next to the fountain in the supposedly haunted Fountain Room. This room is said to be the most haunted part of the building. We didn’t experience or hear anything, as the restaurant was packed full of visitors and it would have been hard to hear the sounds of children’s laughter that supposedly haunt this area of the building; however, the Fountain Room was a cool place to sit and eat, even if we didn’t experience any paranormal activity.

Up above and to the right are two photos of the fountain. The top one was taken from my seat during dinner. The bottom one including the actual bench we were seated at, after staff had cleared away all of our plates. Scroll back up to that top photo for a moment, and pay attention to that painting on the far wall; it is a depiction of Mill Ave and the Hayden Flour Mill as they would have looked, from the house we're sitting in, back when the Haydens lived there. That painting is literally the view the Hayden family would have had from their home. Mill Avenue is a dirt road, the silos haven't been built... but you can see the butte that is now "A" Mountain behind the mill. It looks quite different from the same angle today.

The most interesting part of the night, for me, was when I walked into a small room at the very front corner of the house. I had known that Carl Hayden was born in this house; however, I didn’t know which part of it exactly. In this area of the house, there was a large rectangular room (known as the Hayden Room) with a smaller square room attached to it on each side, north and south. There was a sign announcing the birthplace of Carl Hayden, but the sign made it sound as though the Hayden Room had been his birthplace, as it was posted outside of the door to this room. But I found myself very drawn to the much tinier and more dimly-lit room beyond it, the small square room that is the very northeast corner of the building. As soon as I walked through the door, the feeling hit me and I immediately thought -- even said it out loud to my friend Todd: “This room is weird.“ Todd asked me why and at first I said, “I don’t know. It just has a weird vibe to it.” But later on, I would add: “I think this is the room he was born in.”

I’m no psychic, but I’ve been known to have “feelings” or sense things from time to time, and I felt very strongly that this tiny room had once been Carl’s mother’s bedroom, and that she had given birth to him in this spot. It was almost as if the room housed all the residual energy of the many powerful emotions that come with childbirth. Especially a childbirth taking place in 1877, when medical care was sparse, pain meds were more or less nonexistent, and a woman could easily die bringing a child into the world. It was though I could feel, in some way, what Carl’s mother, Sallie Hayden, had felt and experienced when she gave birth to her first child in this room. It seemed to echo off of the walls. I wouldn’t say that I felt a ghost in this room, per se, but the residual energy of a mother in pain that almost made it seem as though she were still in the room.

My suspicions were confirmed when Todd and I returned to the rest of our group of friends. The owner of the restaurant was in the foyer regaling the crowd with tales of the building’s history (the restaurant had been closed for some time at this point, but the owners and staff were cool enough to hang around and talk to everyone about the place), and our other friends had been listening to him. One of the things he’d said during that time was that Carl had been born right where I’d felt he had, in that tiny corner room, despite the somewhat inaccurate sign outside of the Hayden Room that claimed it as his birthplace.

We wandered the building for quite a long time, making sure we got into almost every nook and cranny; and believe me, after all the years spent adding on to the original house, there were a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. So many that I couldn’t possibly write about them all.

All in all, it was a fun night of exploring a very interesting old building, but also very sad to know that we would never be able to do it again. As it was my first time there, I didn’t have the memories that some of my other friends had, but it definitely still affected me, especially due to my attachment to the Hayden family.

The saddest thing, for all of us, I think, was knowing that part of the building was supposed to be torn down to make way for a high-rise of some sort on the property. I took some comfort in knowing that the oldest part of the building was supposed to be left intact and somehow included in whatever new project was going up. I have nothing against progress and developments, and I actually like the look of most of the newer buildings in the area, but to entirely lose one with such history would have been devastating to me. As long as the house -- at least the oldest portion of it -- still stands, I’ll be okay.

Currently, though, no changes have been made the property or the house at all, except that some of the furnishings have of course been removed from inside. In fact, a lot of items from the interior were auctioned off that December after it closed. (Unfortunately, I was out of town training for that new job and completely forgot about the auction. Too bad because I would have really liked a piece of that building.) Todd, who was also there with me the night they closed, and I drove past it last week after doing some research on the Hayden family at Double Butte Cemetery. It’s really weird to think it has been closed an entire year, and yet nothing has been done to the building so far. It still sits vacant and no construction has been done. Makes you wonder why they were in such a hurry to close it...

October 28, 2015

Niels Petersen House Museum

One year ago, I briefly lived in a house that stands on a small piece of what used to be the Niels Petersen Ranch in Tempe. The ranch-house, built in 1892, still stands and has been beautifully renovated, as it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It might not be haunted (or it might - who knows) but the house clearly has a very interesting history. Additionally, the former owners are buried on-site, which adds a definitively macabre atmosphere. The house fascinated me so much a year ago that I wrote the longest status update I've ever posted on my personal Facebook, along with 6 photos I took with my cell phone while out for a walk. As historic buildings usually do, the sight of this old mansion put me into a very deep, reflective mood. Today, Facebook reminded me of this post in my "memories" and I thought I would share. Though I no longer live there, the house still interests me a great deal, especially as the man who built it helped to form the city of Tempe, which happens to be my favorite city when it comes to researching its history. In fact, even though I don't live near the house anymore, I am currently writing a paranormal novel that takes place on the former ranch. I have no evidence that the house or the surrounding properties are haunted in real life... but the history of the location itself is incredible to think about either way.

The following is the full length of my post one year ago:

This house has piqued my interest since I moved here. It's all just so fascinating to me. Life, death, and history. These people died almost a hundred years ago. The man who helped build the city of Tempe, and his second wife (I wonder where the first wife is buried). After all that time, their remains are still here -- in the middle of a park, which in itself is quite macabre. The house they built in 1892 still stands, but it's all that's left of their 320-acre ranch, which, in addition to this park, is now home to a freeway, medical centers, a multitude of restaurants, banks, and lots of houses including the one I live in. It's crazy to think that I live on their ranch! When I look at their house and graves, I can't help but try to picture their lives and what it was like for them back then. Life was so different in that time period, and yet people lived just like we do... they had families, circles of friends, jobs and homes and emotions. They laughed and cried and sang and cooked dinner and were just like us; but we never had a chance to know them. They died long before we were born. Things like this old ranch house and these gravestones are the only evidence that they ever existed, and a hundred years from now, those things will be the only proof of our existence as well. Future generations will look back in curiosity the same way I do, and wonder who we were and how we used to live. At least I hope they will! I have always enjoyed trying to picture the way people lived so long ago. But because this family was important to the history of Tempe, I've been able to learn a lot about them, which is unusual... Normally when looking at old buildings, I have no answers to the questions of who built them or who lived there, what they did for a living or how big their families were, or who they were at all, so this is a rare case of actually having some info. We all know cemeteries are undeniably awesome, but the fact that these people are buried in the backyard of the house where they used to live makes it all seem much more macabre to me... and a thousand times more interesting!!!