Fright On: Meet the Ghosts of the UA

University Relations - Communications and the Alumni Association
Oct. 29, 2014

For more than a century, people have been telling stories of ghosts across the University of Arizona campus.

Photo: Patrick McArdle/UANews

There's even a tour about UA ghost stories, detailing various legends at Bear Down Gym, Centennial Hall, Old Main and other campus sites.

The Homecoming Ghosts of the UA Tour will be held Nov. 7 at 10 a.m. The Oct. 30 event is sold out, but registration is available online for the Nov. 7 tour. The tour is sponsored by the UA Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Ambassadors and will be held during the UA's homecoming.

Here are some of the UA's ghost stories: 

The Alexander Berger Memorial Fountain

Photo: Norma Jean Gargasz/UANews

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 out haphazardly at night.

The fountain memorializes Berger's nephew, Alex, a UA student, and 12 other UA graduates who died while fighting during 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. The ceremonies were held on the steps and porch of Old Main, overlooking the fountain. 

Bear Down Gym

Photo: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews

Bear Down Gym, which was built in 1926, is the original men's gymnasium at the UA. The gym was named after the last words uttered by the then-student body president and student-athlete John "Button" Byrd Salmon, who had suffered a severed spinal cord injury in a car crash. As he was dying, Salmon told the 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. 

Other UA employees and students have reported similar encounters with a young man fitting Salmon's description.

And other ghosts have been reported in the building.

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 running around campus at night.

Maricopa Hall

Photo credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews

Maricopa Hall has more than one ghost story.

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

The most famous ghost story is sourced by a story dating back to 1919, when the hall was under construction. The daughter of a wealthy Eastern Railroad robber baron, who was attending the UA, had just gotten engaged, only to find that her future husband was cheating on her. She would later commit suicide, and some have reported seeing and or hearing the sobbing and crying ghostly apparition of a young girl at or near the residence hall.

Centennial Hall

Photo: Patrick McArdle/UANews

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.

Robert L. Nugent Building

The Nugent Building has several ghost stories. 

One UA alumna shared a story about working in the Office of Admissions when it was located in the Nugent building. 

She recalls moving to a new office in the basement of Nugent and came across a female entity. This ghost was known to cry in the hallways along the east side of the building on either the first or second floor.

While moving furniture, the worker had a feeling that someone or something was around the corner, although she did not see anyone there. Then she heard a sound like someone crying.

Old Main

Photo: Ken Sterns/UANews

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.


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