323 West Aspen Avenue
The Milligan House, built in 1904, first served as a humble home for James Curtis Milligan and his family. Milligan, a local Justice of the Peace, was also the owner of a brickyard that supplied materials for many of the historic structures in Flagstaff.
Now the official Flagstaff Convention and Visitors’ Bureau (CVB), the Milligan House is one of this mountain town’s more famously haunted locations.
Mabel Millgan, born in 1873 to James and Flora Milligan, was one of three children including brothers Herbert and Lawrence. Not much is known about her early life, but at eighteen she graduated from the Las Vegas, New Mexico Seminary school with a degree in education.
After teaching in Albuquerque for several years, she traveled to Chicago, IL to further her studies, receiving her postgraduate degree from the State Teachers’ College of Greely, CO. She led more classes in Florence, Denver, and Trinidad before returning to Flagstaff in 1918 to care for her elderly parents.
While there, she joined the staff of the nearby Emerson Elementary School, where she continued to teach the first grade until 1923 when her health started to decline. After months of battling her illness, she succumbed to a diabetic coma in November of that year and died in the house's upstairs bedroom.
Today, her footsteps can still be heard moving up and down the staircase of the two-story Queen Anne-style brick house, as well as across the creaky wooden floors. Employees and visitors alike have also long reported freezing-cold chills and the feeling of being watched.
In the house’s kitchen, the CVB staff has gone through three different coffee makers, blaming Mabel and her fondness for sabotaging them. Water would often boil over, and coffee grounds would spill out haphazardly across the countertop.
The ghost of Mabel Milligan didn’t seem to be opposed to the coffee maker itself, only to where the kitchen staff had put it. Once it was moved to a different spot in the room, she seemed to leave it alone.
In addition, one employee tells the story of coming up to the CVB one night to make preparations for an event, and while doing some last-minute computer work in a back office, she sensed motion in the hallway and felt a cold, eerie presence.
After investigating the hallway and finding nothing, she returned to her desk, only to discover a picture of the visitors’ center lying across her keyboard. She reasoned it was Mabel’s attempt to remind her of the event and bring her back to the task at hand.
In February of 1907, James Milligan gave the house over to his wife. Their son Lawrence inherited it upon her death, and in January of 1931 sold it and a couple of other family lots to a woman named Eugenia Labille.
Labille then sold it to the secretary of the local carpenters union, C.P. Hanna, in October of 1940. During this time, the house had been split up into five separate apartments, and continued to operate as such.
C.P.’s wife Martha Hanna turned the property over to Lily Gee in November of 1968, who sold it to the City of Flagstaff in March of 1980. In May of that year, the City sold it to the Municipal Facilities Corporation, who owns it currently.
In 1983, the Milligan House Historic Trust Commission was formed in a bid to get the place on the National Register of Historic Places, succeeding the following year. It officially opened to the public as the Flagstaff Convention and Visitors’ Bureau in 1988.
In 2016, artists R.E. Wall and Margaret Dewar, who call themselves the Mural Mice, began work on an artistic restoration of the Victorian Era aesthetic of the Milligan House.
They recreated the old wallpaper—torn away by time and multiple remodels of the house—with paint, and added a portrait of Mabel herself ascending the stairs with a candelabra in hand and transparent curtains fluttering in the wind behind her.
Toward the top of the stairway, they painted red drapes with gold tassels, as well as a few ornately-framed portraits of a chickadee, a juniper tree, and Mabel’s sister-in-law.
The most ambitious touch is a ‘Window to 1915’ opposite the top of the narrow stairwell which features an open white window that reveals a snowy night scene. Amidst the view sits the Majestic Theater—which would become the Orpheum Theater, another famously haunted building in downtown Flagstaff.
Though the Milligan House is not currently not open to the public, you can still call or email to set up an office visit.
Otherwise, feel free to take a walk by the building during your visit to downtown Flagstaff. You never know, you may even see Mabel looking down from her old bedroom on the second story. It can be found at 323 West Aspen Avenue.