100 N San Francisco Street
Standing tall in the heart of downtown, this historic hotel has long been a popular spot for visitors of Flagstaff, whether they are looking for luxury, nightlife, or a tangled past that takes more than a night’s stay to unravel.
Whatever your poison, the Hotel Monte Vista is here for you, and this glimpse into the Great American West comes filled with lore, antiquity, and a few enduring spirits that have been with the hotel so long that they have become part of its mystique.
From murdered sex workers and the ghosts of bellboys past, to bootleg tunnels and prohibition-era cocktail lounges, there is no shortage of mysteries to explore when it comes to one of the “City of Seven Wonders’” most notorious haunts.
It’s safe to say that when it comes to haunted history, Flagstaff has a corner on the market, but among the many stories that circulate in and around this charming mountain town, few can hold a candle to those that have come out of the famed Monte Vista Hotel.
Though only in operation for a century, this touchstone of the American West has racked up enough strange and unusual history to make a full investigation into its long list of paranormal activity a tremendous undertaking.
Now, the Monte Vista balances many reputations, maintaining its place as one of Flagstaff’s most popular hotels and most compelling attractions. But to locals it will always be known for one thing and one thing only—its resident ghosts.
Of the many rooms in this historic hotel where the spirits of the past like to make their presence known, few have had the lasting effect of Room 220, where an unusual one-time resident, known as the Meat Man, is still causing a stir to this day.
This long-term border, who spent his days at the Monte Vista back in the early 1980s, had a somewhat unusual habit: hanging raw meat from his chandelier. Why he did this, no one was really certain, but, needless to say, it earned him a reputation among his neighbors.
What really makes the Meat Man stand out in the Monte Vista’s history, though, is not what eccentricities he had in life, but the unusual activities he is still getting up to today, nearly 40 years after he was found dead in his room.
On one such occasion, not long after the Meat Man had met his fate, a maintenance worker for the hotel was up in Room 220 making a few repairs. When he left, he turned off the lights and locked the door, but when he returned shortly after, he found that chaos had erupted in his absence.
The television was not only on, but playing at full volume, and, even more distressing, the linens on the bed had been violently removed, ripped up and scattered across the room, as if in a fit of anger.
Needless to say, the maintenance worker steered clear of Room 220 from then on, but even today, guests in the room have reported the television acting on its own accord, though it has long been replaced, as well as the cold touch of a man’s hands—like raw meat.
Room 305 has also had its share of reported activity, some of it going back many decades. It has even been featured on shows that document the paranormal, and has become a popular room to book for lovers of the strange and unusual.
The most common report, which has been well documented, is of an elderly woman in the rocking chair by the window. Guests have long told the tale of the chair moving by itself, knocking against the closet, and some have even seen the old woman herself, gazing longingly out the window.
While the woman’s name is not known, old stories from the hotel tell of a long-term resident—an old woman—who would sit by the window day in and day out, looking out into the world, perhaps waiting patiently for someone to return.
It would seem that she still is.
In 1970, it is reported that three men robbed a bank in a nearby town, a daring heist that left one of the three shot and wounded after a bank guard surprised them from behind and started firing.
The three men managed to escape, returning to the Cocktail Lounge at the Monte Vista to celebrate their big score. Only the wounded man among them was more wounded then they had realized, and after a few drinks he soon bled to death at the bar.
Since that day, patrons and staff alike have noticed unusual activity in the hotel bar, including a disembodied voice saying “Good Morning!” upon their arrival, and reports of barstools and drinks that seem to move on their own.
While many of the deaths at the Monte Vista were of natural causes, this downtown hotel has also seen its share of nefarious crimes—even murders. In fact, many years ago in the early 20th century, Flagstaff’s notorious Red Light District could be found only a few blocks away.
It was there in the early 1940’s that two female sex workers were working their shift, only to be picked up by a man who was staying in Room 306 of the Monte Vista Hotel and looking for some company for the night.
The two women returned to his room, unexpecting of the horrors that awaited them, and at some point during their visit, were brutally murdered and dumped out of the third floor window to the street below.
What happened to these women was horrendous, and it seems they agree, their spirits still haunting the room in which their murders were committed, lashing out at anyone who dares stay there.
In the decades since, guests have reported the uneasy feeling of being watched, as well as difficulty sleeping. Men in particular tend to be affected, with some claiming that ghostly hands have been placed over their mouths or throats while they sleep.
A comprehensive list of the hauntings at the Monte Vista Hotel would be long indeed, but there are a few other notable spirits who have spent many years trying to gain the attention of those who frequent this historic establishment.
Among them is a man called the Phantom Bellboy, who is known to knock on doors in the late hours of the night announcing, in a muffle voice, “room service.” Some have seen the apparition standing outside of Room 210, and it is even claimed that the actor John Wayne had a close encounter with him during his stay.
In the basement, the sounds of an infant crying have often been heard. There is little explanation as to how this phantom child met their end, but any staff member unfortunate enough to hear the cries has been known to run the other way as quick as they can.
Lastly, there are the ghosts of the Dancing Couple, a pair of ghostly lovers who are seen in the early hours of the morning dancing away in the hotel’s Cocktail Lounge. They are dressed in their formal best and are always smiling and laughing.
Between them all, there is no shortage of ghostly encounters at the Monte Vista Hotel, making it by far one of the most haunted establishments still standing in the American Old West.
With tourism on the rise in the 1920’s, Flagstaff and its residents decided that a first-class hotel was the vital next step in aiding the city's growth as one of Northern Arizona’s premier destinations.
Fundraising began in early 1926, and by New Year’s Day 1927 the hotel was finally open, offering 73 guest rooms under the name Community Motel, which would later be changed to the Monte Vista, a name chosen by a 12-year-old contest winner.
In 1929, Mary Costigan, the second woman in the world to be granted a radio broadcasting license, moved her radio show on KFXY to the Monte Vista Hotel where she hosted an impressive 100-watt show for three hours a day.
Mary’s exploits continued into the 1930s, as did the Monte Vista’s reputation for having one of the few hidden speakeasies in Flagstaff during prohibition, a late night establishment fed by secret tunnels that were built by Chinese railroad workers and snake for miles below downtown.
Known simply as the Cocktail Lounge, it was run under the guise of a newspaper publishing house. That is, at least, until 1931, when local officers began to suspect that more was going on late at night at the Monte Vista than just journalism, and the bar was shut down.
The Monte Vista continued to be the longest publicly held commercial property in Arizona until it was sold to a private investor in the early 1960’s, who narrowed the building's focus to strictly hotel and rental services.
The hotel stands as one of the oldest in Flagstaff, and has been listed on the U.S. Registrar of Historic Places, making it one of the most important pieces of the American West history that you can still stay in to this day.
Now, the Monte Vista Hotel caters to all walks of life, from the mountain backpackers in town for an adventure, to the family of tourists on their way to the grand canyon, anyone and everyone can find something to enjoy at Flagstaff's premier historic hotel.
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that while this blend of modern amenities and deeply ingrained history can make for an amazing stay, there is always the possibility that the room comes with more than its guests have bargained for. A lot more.
Experience it for yourself at the corner of Aspen and San Francisco Street in beautiful downtown Flagstaff.