One book leads to another...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Anguished Souls of the Santa Rita

Early morning sun blazed a piercing spotlight through the expansive glass entrance as I my head snapped painfully up from my deadened arms. My bleary eyes slammed shut again and my arms; alive with the maddening tingles of receding numbness, were momentarily unwilling to so much as wiggle until the tiny travel alarm I kept beside the switchboard started buzzing. Great, it was time to make the morning wake-up calls and I really didn’t feel like doing so myself.

I hustled into the tiny kitchen behind the lobby desk to turn on a pot of coffee and discovered that Lydia must have already done so, for a freshly brewed pot awaited my most grateful indulgence. As I sat back at my desk, a steaming cup of caffeine in hand, the swish of the lobby door let in the refreshing scent of morning and I looked up to greet whomever had entered. But no one had.

These things happened at the Santa Rita. 

When I took the job as overnight concierge they hadn’t said it would be easy. They said it would be interesting. And that it was. I think it’s what kept me spending every Friday and Saturday night there for my last five months of high school.

I’d made two successful wake-up calls (by that I mean the guests hadn’t spewed obscenities at me for granting their request to be awakened, or angrily hung up) when the tantalizing aroma of molasses drifted past.  “Mornin’, Jonesy!” I called to the night janitor/watchman.

“Mornin’, Ma’am,” he answered around an ever-present pipe, as he pushed an enormous dust mop across the gleaming lobby floor and I giggled. It tickled me that he called me that.

Elderly and quite sprite, Jonesy had worked at the Santa Rita more than thirty years and had told me all about the signs, as he called them. Though Lydia always scurried from the room, I hung around and listened, spellbound, when he’d speak in a voice as smooth and rich as the smell of his tobacco.

“Lydia’s got coffee on already,” I told him and he stopped in his tracks and cocked his head.

He stepped up to the counter and winked a sea-green eye “Ah, I expect she’s running late today, Ma’am.  I ain’t seen her.” He tipped his grey fedora and resumed his dust-mopping.

“You’re kidding, right?”

He came around the counter and picked up my empty cup “No, Ma’am.” He said before shuffling into the kitchen. I stared at the silent switchboard as he got himself a cup of coffee and refilled mine. He knew just how I liked it.

“Maybe I sleep-walked and turned it on myself” I mused. I’d set it up for the morning when I’d started my shift the night before, so that had to be what happened.

Jonesy leaned against the wall, looking much like Morgan Freeman did in the The Bucket List and took a sip, “Maybe.” He shrugged

These things happened at the Santa Rita.

Over time, Jonesy told me about the signs, eight in all, that were what he considered proof that the building was inhabited by disquieted spirits (are they ever not disquieted?). I thought he had a real convincing list of reasons.

After a nine year old had been seen swimming in the pool all day, he was found inexplicably drowned at the bottom, early the next morning. His parents; awakened from a long night of drinking, had not been aware of his whereabouts and promptly went to the roof together and jumped, landing just feet from where their son was pulled from the pool.

Several years later a prominent businessman celebrating his thirteenth wedding anniversary shot his wife to death after an argument and called room service for another bucket of ice before hanging himself in the elevator shaft.

It was a few years after that when three young men, in town for (this one still gives me chills) a U of A seminar on Native Americans, were all found dead in their rooms from “apparent sudden heart attacks”.

Not long after I worked there the building was razed and word got out that the Santa Rita Hotel had been built over an ancient Indian burial ground. I don’t know if Jonesy ever knew how right he probably was. I hope so.

Have you ever or would you ever work at a haunted place?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Highland Gateway

Far from city sights and sounds, primarily clement seasons facilitate our tranquil turquoise skies as vibrant greens on gentle mounds roll right on up to many a summit base; beckoning ascent.
For some, the temptation is irresistible.  For most, the whispering legends go unheard, hindered by the certainty of an arduous journey.

But those who have climbed will assure you I am not talking about places you hear of every day.  Though Southern Arizona has its share of renowned majestic peaks, there are clusters where the sun-wearied voices of pinnacle visitors are hushed in the wind-whipped dust.  These are the places you don’t hear of every day.

And just getting to some of these places can turn a person’s hair white, if not from the glaring sun, then say… you have an aversion to the sound of a hundred invisible horses stampeding toward you—only to abruptly stop in the distance.  Or if you’d be disquieted by the sudden appearance of an old Spanish Padre; his shadow long on the desert floor, who proceeds to become translucent before vanishing completely—before  your very eyes.

Sure, you could be having a heat stroke or seeing a mirage…or you could be witnessing pieces of a mystery that has baffled folks since at least the 1950’s, though it evidently began long before that.

Initially, most are treasure hunters. Lord knows Arizona has more than its share of abandoned mines and buried riches. However, those who have run across the “doorway to the gods” tend to flat forget what they ever went up there for in the first place! 

At first the seven foot archway made of stone was merely a curiosity. But once adventurers compared notes among themselves and the area locals, it became quite another…thing. 

It seems that all encounters occur at or very near the archway. Remember the stampeding horses, stopping abruptly?  The old Spanish padre?  It gets even better. Apparently, going through the arch is ill-advised because you just might not come out the other side. In the same place, that is.  

As in the group of four who returned to town as a babbling group of three with wild eyes. And the story of the rabbit (poor little trick) tossed by a woman to prove her point, that never landed in the waiting arms of a man on the other side of the arch. (Does this explain the horses?) One account which convinced the witness to never return again—though many do, depicts an impending storm; darkened skies, while the view through the arch was of skies of cloudless blue. 

Accounts of those who returned are as remarkable as any in that they were able to produce proof (at least to them) in the form of enormous geode deposits which appeared around the site over the years as if from cosmic rain or stone storms.

But as time went, on the archway, whether from vandalism or something else, began to deteriorate and by the time the arch had all but disappeared, so had many of the returning visitors.  (I don’t believe I would attempt this in my upper-eighties, either – ha!)  In the words of one of the last in a group of adventurers:

“The strange experience I had occurred on Oct. 14, 1973. During one of our two-week adventures, I found myself near the canyon that leads towards that oddball site. Not having been there in almost four years, I decided to pay it a visit. The canyon was just as rugged as ever. After climbing and slipping among the boulders, I finally arrived at the steep hill leading to the site above.
It's a long, weary climb, so I paused for a breather half way up. I sat on the slope facing north. To my left (west), the steep hill followed the canyon perhaps a mile, but something was definitely wrong. Below to my left was a canyon--where none had existed. Curious, I made my way down, entering it from the eastside, so I thought.
I soon discovered I was in the same canyon that led toward the hill I had just scaled. I was more than 250 yards back down the canyon on a different slope and now I was facing south--I had mysteriously been transported to the new location. Thinking I was looking west, I was really looking east seeing the canyon I had just hiked.
There was no way on earth I could have reached this other slope while climbing the original hill. Knowing where I was, suddenly I knew why this had happened. Any skepticism I had about this crazy site vanished.”

Personally, I’m dismayed that the archway is gone. But I believe the portal still remains and it’s on my bucket list! How about you?  Can you imagine a transporting portal? Where would you hope to go?