Tucson Mythbusters

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Tucson Mythbusters

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Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona and has been my home for many years. While living in Tucson, I've heard many urban legends. Some stories are merely for entertainment purposes and have no factual basis. Other stories make you wonder and are frequently the subject of debate among Tucson mythbusters. Let's take a look at some of the most common Tucson legends.


The Tales of La Llorona


The tale of La Llorona has deep roots that most likely stem from the story of La Malinche in Mexico. While the versions of this urban legend may change slightly, the story always revolves around a heartbroken woman who murders her children. Usually, the woman falls in love with a man who ends up forsaking her. The woman murders her children by throwing them off a bridge. When she realizes what she has done, she throws herself off the bridge as well. When the specter of La Llorona approaches, you can often hear her wailing for her children.

I remember hearing stories about La Llorona when I first moved to Arizona. I was living in Sierra Vista back then, and La Llorona was said to be a woman who appeared on the bridge between Bisbee and Sierra Vista. When I moved to Tucson, I began to hear more stories pertaining to the same woman on a different bridge. This story, one of the scariest urban legends in Tucson, was told to children as a precautionary tale not to go out after dark and to stay away from the washes, especially during monsoon season. Stories of La Llorona are almost always associated with water and bridges.


The University of Arizona


(The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, 520-621-5130)

When I was getting my bachelors degree at the University of Arizona in 1997, I began to hear stories about hauntings on campus. I was staying in the Coconino dorm, while a friend of mine was staying in the Maricopa dorm. Similar to other urban myths that circulate around college campuses across the country, one University of Arizona myth centers on a girl who kills herself in her dorm room and is doomed to haunt the residency forever. In Maricopa's version, the girl killed herself because her beloved was caught with another woman.

My friend never heard of any disturbances while staying in that dorm. While we both heard many rumors about the haunting, we never met anyone who had ever felt uncomfortable while living there. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that the residence hall isn't haunted. There have been reports made by others who swear there is a presence in the residence.

Another Tucson urban legend that swirled around the campus was the haunting of the Modern Language building. A woman was purportedly murdered at the spot where the building now stands. During construction of the building in 1967, the woman's bones were supposedly found, thus disturbing the woman's rest. No one knows what became of the bones. The urban myths on campus say that the woman's bones were stolen by a fraternity. Many members of the fraternity who allegedly participated in the stealing of the bones have died bizarre deaths.

While there have been rumors circulating about the woman haunting the building, I've never seen her, nor has anyone I know.


Old Town Artisan


Located in downtown Tucson, El Presidio Historic District is the oldest community in the area. The land where the Old Town Artisan community now stands used to be part of the Spanish fort known as El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, originally discovered in 1775. Many artisans that have shops in the area claim to have seen or felt strange occurrences. Tucson urban myths include reports of seeing cowboys walking through buildings, hearing voices, seeing a little girl and being tapped or pinched.

Based on a personal experience, I do believe there is something strange going on within the community. My friend Michael once had a business in the area. During the process of cleaning the building space, he said he was going out to the car to get some cleaning supplies. While I was inside sorting through some boxes, I heard footsteps directly behind me. Assuming that it was Michael, I began to talk to him. When I didn't hear a response, I glanced over my shoulder, and no one was there. I got spooked and high-tailed it out of the shop, requesting that my friend take me back to my dorm immediately.


Hotel Congress


(311 East Congress Street, Tucson, AZ 85701, 520-622-8848)

The Hotel Congress was built in 1919, and it has a rich history. In the 1930s, the hotel suffered a fire, which led to the capture of the famed bank robber John Dillinger, who was staying on the third floor at the time. Today the hotel is most notably known for its Club Congress nightclub and music venue, but many Tucsonans also know the hotel for its purported hauntings.

One Tucson urban legend claims that the hotel is haunted by a man who suffered a heart attack and died while staying in the hotel. Another urban myth revolves around a woman who was shot at the hotel. I contacted the hotel's Entertainment Director, David Slutes, to confirm the stories.

Mr. Slutes was not aware of any man who had died of a heart attack in the hotel. However, he did confirm that a woman shot herself in room 242 many years ago, which makes this urban myth one of the most factually based stories in Tuscon. Mythbusters have conducted paranormal investigations within the room and have seen and felt orbs, cold spots and mists around the area of the woman's suicide.

Other ghosts include longtime hotel guest Vince, a permanent resident of the hotel, who passed away in the hotel in 2001. Members of the hotel staff have reported finding butter knives, similar to the ones Vince was fond of, strewn about on the second floor. Another ghost commonly reported is a man named T.S., who supposedly died in a gunfight over a card game. Passersby can sometimes see him dressed in a gray suit, peering down from a second floor window of the hotel.


Mission San Xavier


(1950 West San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ 85746, 520-294-2624, open 7AM-5PM daily)

Mission San Xavier was built in 1783 and has since survived an earthquake and a lighting strike, as well as multiple restorations. One of the oldest urban legends that surrounds San Xavier has to do with the front facade. Legend has it that the facade depicts a snake and a mouse, and that if the snake ever reaches the mouse, the end of the world is at hand.

I've visited San Xavier a handful of times and have stared at the front facade during my visits. There is a cat on the curl of the right side, and a mouse on the left curl, but I have not been able to find the snake.

Another legend surrounding the mission is the specter of a nun and school children. Legend has it that there was once a school on the property near the church. A fire broke out in the school building, and the nun and school children were trapped inside. The school burned to the ground, and the nun and children were killed. Visitors have reported seeing the nun running with the children in tow. I have yet to catch a glimpse of her. Although the mission has been subjected to an earthquake, lightning strike and tornado damage, mythbusters in Tucson have not found any documented reports of a fire in the mission or the school, which still operates today.

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