At the intersection of Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street in downtown Flagstaff, Arizona sits a brick hotel with a haunted history that predates the Great Depression. Just to give you an idea of how active this place is, an experience here left John Wayne, America’s favorite gritty cinema cowboy spooked. Let us show you why this place is worth the detour on your next Two Lane adventure.
If phantoms, unexplained voices, and gruesome history get your blood pumping, then follow the bright buzzing neon Monte Vista Hotel sign atop building. The sign replaced a previous emergency light once used to relay danger, but today draws in those looking to navigate its haunted halls of the oldest operating hotel in the state. Let’s get you checked-in.
When the tourism boom struck Flagstaff during the Roaring Twenties, its residents began fundraising for a first-class hotel to host travelers. Thanks to the generous contributions of the community and novelist Zane Grey, $200,000 was raised in time to break ground in 1926.
The four-story, 73 room hotel was originally called the Community Hotel to honor the citizens of Flagstaff who made it happen. However, a contest to rename the hotel was chosen by a 12-year-old who declared it ‘Monte Vista’ meaning “mountain view” after the hotel’s views of the San Francisco Peaks. It officially opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1927.
During its prime, the Hotel Monte Vista was the premiere lodging choice for many Hollywood stars. This was because of its convenient proximity to Sedona and Oak Canyon where more than 100 movies had been filmed in the 40’s and 50’s. It was during that Golden Age of Hollywood when the hotel began hosting famous stars like Bing Crosby, Jane Russell, Clark Gable, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Hope and more. The story goes that even scenes from the cinema classic “Casablanca” were filmed here during Humphrey Bogart’s stay.
Rockstars like Bonjovi and Freddie Mercury have also been guests of the hotel! There have been so many famous guests over the years, that the hotel has named the rooms after the person who stayed there.
Today, the Hotel Monte Vista is recognized by the U.S. Registrar of Historic Places. People travel from all over to get a glimpse of it, but what they’re really wanting is a connection… with the other side.
Meet The Permanent Guests of Monte Vista
The stories and haunted happenings swirling around this hotel have been legendary for more than a century. In most cases, to have an extraordinary experience at a hotel you’d think to order room service or upgrade to a suite, but here at the Monte Vista, things are more out of the ordinary.
Countless accounts of paranormal activity have occurred inside the hotel walls including apparitions, physical touches, and intelligent responses. Hotel employees are happy to prep you before check-in on what’s normal and not normal activity for your room. (We recommended asking the housekeeping staff for the best stories from past shifts.) There are more than a dozen ghosts here, but the following accounts have caught our particular attention.
The Rocking Chair Inside Room 305
Walk through the door of room 305 and you’ve just entered one of the most active rooms in the hotel. This room once belonged to an elderly, long-term renter who was always seen rocking in her chair looking down into the street. While it’s unclear who she is looking for, everyone from guests to housekeepers have reported seeing the chair move on its own, even hearing knocking coming from inside the closet! We’d recommend either asking the spirit for permission to sit, or finding a different place to tie your shoes.
The Women of the Night
During the 1940’s, Flagstaff’s Red Light District existed two blocks from the steps of the hotel. The story goes two prostitutes were brought to room 306 and never left. They were said to have been killed and thrown from the third-floor window and into the street below. Guests have reported feeling restlessness in the night and unable to sleep because they feel like they’re being watched. Men are warned that the spirits in this room will not be particularly fond of them. Many men have said they’ve woken up unable to breathe feeling like hands were over their throats and mouths. Proceed with caution.
The Bank Robber
In 1970, three men robbed a bank near the hotel. During the event, a guard got a successful shot one of the accomplices. Despite being hurt, all three men dropped into the hotel cocktail lounge to celebrate with a drink. Unfortunately, for the wounded man, the party didn’t last long because he bled out at the bar. Since then, staff and patrons say they’ve heard a voice greet them “good morning” when there’s no one else around, barstools pushed out of place, and even glasses moving! In here, we’d say “cheers!” to another day above ground.
The Phantom Bellboy
This is the spirit John Wayne met during his stay in room 210. Those who have caught a glimpse of the bellboy describe him as a young male in a red coat with brass buttons. Guests report hearing a knock at the door followed by a muffled voice saying, “Room service!”, only to open the door to an empty hallway. If you see the bellboy you are not to feel threatened — he is just doing his job. An all-new meaning to the phrase “work until you die”.
The Elevator Attendant
Here’s an interesting fact about the Hotel Monte Vista. It was home to one of the first self-service Otis Elevators in the state of Arizona. Even though it has been modernized since then, it’s as if the attendant is still on their shift. Guests often hear a faint voice asking, “Which floor?” What’s even more chilling is the staff has witnessed a phantom hand closing the elevator’s gate — even a reflection in the mirror upon exiting of a man standing behind them inside the elevator. Eyes down. Walk forward.
The Meat Man of Room 220
The most frightening active room in our opinion is 220. Hotel history says that in the 1980s the long-term renter of this room had a bizarre reputation for hanging raw meat from his chandelier. After not hearing from the man for three days, he was discovered in his room dead. Needing to prepare the room for the next renter, a maintenance man was hired to work on some repairs. Needing to run to the store to grab some supplies, the worker shut off the lights, locked the door, and left. When he returned he opened the door to discover the tv on full blast and the once made bed scattered about the room. While we will never know what happened to the renter, he continues to make himself known to anyone staying in his room. Guests report the tv having a mind of its own and feeling the touch of cold hands on them as they try to sleep. Bring bacon as a peace offering perhaps? What could it hurt.
When dealing with haunted spaces and places, the most important thing to do is to be smart and safe. Do not antagonize spirit, or else you may find yourself becoming one. If it sounds like your kind of haunted holiday, book a room HERE.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the Hotel Monte Vista is a unique place to explore. Visit our recommendations of things to do in town and nearby on our Two Lanes blog below:
- Ride down Route 66 which cuts through town
- Experience Flagstaff’s Great Pinecone Drop downtown for New Year’s
- Visit Oatman, Arizona – Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon here in 1939