Annual UA 'Ghost Tour' to Hit All the Old Haunts, Some New Ones

The popular tradition will start at Old Main and end at Bear Down Gym, and here are some of its Halloween-ish highlights.
Oct. 30, 2017
Extra Info: 

RSVP for the free "Ghosts of the UA" tour at www.arizonaalumni.com/ghosttour

What: 
'Ghosts of the UA'
When: 
6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3
Where: 
Starts on east side of Old Main

Who strolls the halls of Old Main after hours? Did the first female professor at the University of Arizona murder her husband in a fit of jealousy? Could that be the sobbing of a long-ago jilted woman who lived in Maricopa Hall? Why does the Berger Fountain have 13 spouts? And what accounts for the misplaced furniture in Centennial Hall?

The free "Ghosts of the UA" tour, a tradition sponsored by the UA Alumni Association's Student Alumni Ambassadors, has all the answers — or at least some creative hypotheses. For anyone already familiar with the highlights of the UA's storied past, the behind-the-scenes convergence of history and mystery is eye-opening and entertaining.

Each walking tour begins, appropriately, where it all started — in front of Old Main — and then traverses campus with multiple stops, wrapping up at Bear Down Gym.

Tour chair Elysse Robles has updated this year's tour to account for some new surprises. Here are a few of the old favorites:

Old Main Fountain

The fountain on the west side of Old Main is named after Alexander Berger, an important Tucson benefactor from 1910 until his death in 1940.

Throughout the years, the fountain has had a number of mysterious problems. Maintenance crews have reported that it clogs, overflows and drains for no apparent reason. Spouts also sometimes spray haphazardly at night.

The fountain memorializes Berger's nephew, Alex, a UA student, and 12 other UA graduates who died while fighting in World War I. It has 13 spouts, one for each of the young men. On its completion, the fountain was dedicated by Gen. John J. Pershing. 

Bear Down Gym

The gym, built in 1926, is the original men's gymnasium at the UA. It was named after the last words uttered by then-student body president and student-athlete John "Button" Byrd Salmon, who had suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash. As he was dying, Salmon told then-football coach J.F. "Pop" McKale: "Tell them ... tell the team ... to bear down."

Later, McKale was working at his office in the gym and said he saw Salmon's ghost, wearing his football jersey. "Bear Down, Arizona" eventually would become the UA's fight song. 

During World War II, the gym was converted into barracks for students who were training for service. Many died in the war, and some believe their ghosts visit the gym.

The UA's original wildcat mascot arrived on campus in 1915 and officially was named Rufus Arizona, after former UA President Rufus B. von KleinSmid. On April 17, 1916, Rufus died, and some have reported seeing a live bobcat on campus at night.

Maricopa Hall

The tale around the hall is that it was built on the site of an especially violent fight that occurred in the 1860s. People have reported hearing women arguing and screaming on the ground floor at night.

The most famous Maricopa Hall ghost story is sourced by a story dating to 1919, when the hall was under construction. The daughter of a wealthy railroad baron was attending the UA and had just gotten engaged — only to discover that her future husband was cheating on her. She would later commit suicide, and some have reported seeing or hearing the sobbing and crying apparition of a young woman near the hall.

Centennial Hall

Centennial Hall, the concert hall built in 1936, is said to be home to several ghosts.

Some have reported hearing sounds from a piano late into the night, equipment being moved or misplaced, and muffled conversations throughout the building. Also, performers have reported hearing noises while onstage.

Among the more popular stories are one of a young Spanish man believed to have died in a duel during Tucson's colonial period and another of a female ghost at dressed in Victorian clothing. The young man is usually reported as being dressed entirely or mostly in black, and he is said to have died in a fight over a young woman. The woman in Victorian clothing is often reported as being seen during classical performances in the hall.

Old Main

Old Main, the UA's first building, is said to be located on the original site of an ancient village dating back more than 10,000 years.

Carlos Maldenado, one of the workmen who supervised the building's construction, is said to live on in the building. During Old Main's renovations, workers reported that faucets would suddenly turn on. They also said they saw unusual shadows and figures at times.