The Ghost of Old Main
Construction workers working to renovate Old Main have come to know the story of Carlos, the Old Main ghost.

By Alexis Blue, University Communications
Oct. 30, 2013


Photo by Jacob Chinn
Photo by Jacob Chinn

Every old building has a good ghost story to go with it, and the University of Arizona's historic Old Main is no exception.

The UA's first building, Old Main has since 1891 served as the "front porch" of the UA, and it holds special significance for generations of Wildcat alumni and campus community members. Earlier this month, the University announced a $13.5 million Save Old Main fundraising campaign to restore the beloved building to its original grandeur, launching the website and the Twitter hashtag #saveoldmain.

But as the iconic Old Main undergoes the most comprehensive renovation in its history, some construction crew members are reporting ghostly goings-on.

"I can't say I've seen anything, but I've heard some weird stuff as far as creaking and cracking," said Fred Briscoe, senior project manager with Sundt Construction. "We joke quite a bit that we're making Carlos mad."

The Carlos he's referring to is Carlos Maldenado, who is said to have been murdered while supervising the construction of Old Main in the 1800s.

The legend of Carlos is detailed online at, a website not affiliated with the University.

The story goes that Carlos often spent the night at Old Main while it was being built, chatting with members of local Indian tribes who stopped by to check out the project and keeping watch over the building, which some locals were not happy to see being constructed.

One morning, Carlos's construction crew members arrived to find their beloved boss sitting in a wooden chair with a large knife stuck in his throat. His murder was never solved, and it's said that his spirit still haunts the building, where a number of students, staff and faculty have reported seeing him over the years.

Word of Carlos traveled fast among workers who are currently renovating Old Main, a project scheduled for completion in the summer of 2014.

Sundt Construction foreman Tomás Avilez certainly believes the legend. In fact, he enthusiastically claims to have seen Carlos twice, in the form of a shadowy figure in the attic of Old Main.

"He doesn't stand still long enough to take a picture," Avilez said. "He kind of hides."

"I'm not afraid of him, because I'm not afraid of stuff like that, but if you sit in the attic long enough, he might appear," he said.

Carpenter Frank Contreras also has been spooked by the ghost story.

After hearing Avilez and other colleagues talking about Carlos, he went online to do some investigating of his own and found the tale.

Not long after, he arrived at Old Main early one morning, the first one on the site. When he entered an upstairs hallway, several faucets suddenly turned on at once, sending him in the opposite direction.

Contreras's strategy, should he ever come face to face with Carlos: "Start running!"

Senior project superintendent Dennis Manley has had some frayed nerves courtesy of Carlos, too.

"I was here a lot by myself the first couple of weeks, and I'm a scaredy cat. When I came into work in the morning it was dark and I got goose bumps," he said.

But Manley is no longer worried. "Now that he sees this place is getting a facelift, I think he's gone."

Old Main's haunted history has earned it a spot on the UA's new Ghosts of the UA tour, set to launch Nov. 8, during Homecoming weekend.

The hourlong walking tour, hosted by the Arizona Alumni Association's Student Alumni Ambassadors, also will also include ghostly tales about the UA's Maricopa Residence Hall, Centennial Hall and Bear Down Gym.

The free tour starts at 10 a.m. on the east side of Old Main and is open to the public. Those interested should RSVP at

In the meantime, renovations continue at Old Main through Halloween and beyond, with crewmembers hoping Carlos is a friendly ghost.

Extra info


Ghosts of the UA Tour


East side of Old Main on the UA campus


Friday, Nov. 8, 10-11 a.m.

The tour is free and open to the public. Those interested should RSVP at


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Alexis Blue