Spirits keep the living on their toes!
Tom and I walked into this vintage, two story, slightly spooky, spirit-supervised/haunted brick building. Its wonderful historic decor was a combination of Southwest Deco and a ’20s & ’30s fest! In the lounge area, a red-carpeted staircase leads up to the second floor. It is truly like stepping back in time.
The lounge, bar and patio area are gathering areas for all hotel guests. The roomy, colorful lounge offers a plasma TV, and a computer for its guests to use. Guests may participate in most of the entertainment this hotel has to offer its guests and people of the area.
The owners of this establishment embrace their history, location, and state all the pluses of spending the night in one of the forty, second floor rooms. “We strive to maintain the hotelÊ¼s original ambiance from the iron bed to the vintage radio, the rumble of the nearby train to the 1930s-style phone that connects to a real switchboard at the front desk. And, unlike most historic hotels, all rooms have private bathrooms and air-conditioning.”
These original forty, second floor guest rooms, haven’t been fancied up, yuppified or expanded, but are faithful to their historic decor and have a tranquil, relaxing aura, with no clocks or TVs. All the rooms do have wireless internet for those who need their computers on-line! While the decor is simple, it isn’t shabby and it meets the needs comfortably.
While maintaining an aura of the past, Hotel Congress has all its economic bases covered at the same time, offering areas and opportunities for entertainment, a reception hall, a bar and a restaurant. With only forty rooms to rent, they have developed a variety of ways to bring in the needed funds to fully put this property to work, in order to maintain the old structure and make a profit as well. Most of their income is generated by their bar, dance club, restaurant, events and live music. They spell this out quite clearly to potential guests of their hotel, because the structure isn’t sound-proof.
“We are an urban, historic, rock ‘n’ roll hotel. Your room may be affected by plaza, nightclub, or street noise. If you would like to stay in one of our quieter rooms, please make arrangements at the time of your reservation. We do not give discounts or refunds due to noise. Earplugs are available at the front desk. Or, better yet, just join in the fun!”
Club Congress, and the 1919 historic Tap Room Bar are located inside Hotel Congress. While the Tap Room has been a tradition since the hotel opened, Club Congress was built inside the Hotel Congress property in 1985, as a dance and music club. It is rated highly as a rock venue.
Their restaurant, Cup Cafe, has a very talented chef, and offers a variety of good food. It is open seven days a week, 365 days a year and has long been part of this hotel.
Copper Hall is the Hotel Congress’ event and reception center, described as having an “historic turn-of-the-century charm, tile floors, arched doorways, copper-leafed walls, velvet drapes and Southwest elegance.”
In 1919, Tucson had become a bustling center of commerce, due to the growing railroad and cattle industries.
The need for a nice, upscale hotel for train travelers and cattlemen became evident. The Hotel Congress was built, offering a lovely place to stay and rest/recover and enjoy some R and R! The upscale Hotel Congress was originally a three storied building, equipped with the niceties of life.
During the 1920s, new elements of the population started to stay at this hotel, besides train travelers and cattlemen.
Gamblers: Like many hotels of the time, poker and card games took place in the Hotel Congress. Not everyone was honest and sometimes paid the price when caught.
Gangsters: “on the lam from the law” It figures that the era gangsters needed some rest from their life of crime and would take a holiday in nice hotels ( Baker Hotel, Crazy Water Hotel, The Rex, The Saint James Hotel ), that sometimes had entertainment, to start enjoying their ill-gotten gains. Such was the case in the Hotel Congress.
On January 22, 1934, somehow a fire started in the basement of the hotel; (probably the boiler), and spread upwards through the elevator shaft, totally burning the third floor, that was never replaced. There was a quick evacuation via the hotel’s windows, with the help of Tucson’s finest; firemen with aerial ladders. A group of gangsters, who were laying low in the hotel, had offered a huge tip of twelve dollars for some firemen to retrieve their rather heavy baggage; proven later to be filled with guns and money, which peaked the interest of one of the firemen.
A firefighter, who didn’t miss much, and had an avid interest in crime, recognized the members of the John Dillinger Gang, who had also climbed through the window to safety. He told local police officials, and John Dillinger and his gang members were caught within a few hours, after a police stake-out at a different location; a house on 2nd Street, in Tucson.
Hotel Congress continued to serve its guests throughout the rest of the 20th Century, offering the 2nd floor rooms, but focusing on developing and providing entertainment on their property, ever since they lost the forty rooms on the third floor because of the fire. This brought in the needed funds to maintain the building and the rooms, as well as adding creature comforts like bathrooms, air conditioning, nice bedding and decor, and recently even wifi in the rooms along the way, though the size of the rooms remained the same. The owners of this building throughout the eras managed to avoid the run-down status of neglected properties, who ultimately suffer the fate of an encounter with a wrecking ball, unless saved by a preservation group, or good-hearted folks (Rex Restaurant).
This historical hotel is doing pretty good as of 2014, because its main source of income is its entertainment venues, restaurant, bar and other social opportunities that they offer. People may still be whining on Tripadvisor about the noise and the thin walls, but they know what they are getting before going there to stay in this authentic hotel. Rooms are comfortable, clean, small, nicely arranged, and have the same original thin walls, making this hotel not for people expecting the opposite, but for people who like authentic places, with atmosphere and character.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Entities of people who found a secure space in a place like a hotel or bar, during their lifetime, sometimes choose to spend their afterlife in this same oasis from the world.
A long-time resident male guest, Vince, who had lived at the hotel for thirty-six years, suffered a massive heart attack and died in the hotel. Apparently, he never checked out.
A long-time bar patron, who was a WWII veteran, loved to visit the bar every day. He would share his war stories with other customers, bartenders, etc, while enjoying a beer or two.
Many who kill themselves find no peace, and continue to hang around the area where they died.
An emotionally unbalanced woman shot herself in the bathroom after a high stress standoff with the police and a SWAT team, in Room 242. She at first had planned to go out of this world using the “Suicide by Cop” strategy. She decided to not involve another human being in her death, and did it herself with a gun shot to the head. The bullet passed through the bathroom wall, and wound up in the closet. The bullet hole is still there, marking the spot.
One source reported that an unhappy man killed himself in Room 214, by shooting himself in the mouth with a rigged-up shot gun.
Yellow fever and other diseases would sweep through town, taking lives of the weaker members of the population; the young and the old. Sometimes hotels or houses were used as hospitals. Accidents also killed the young and old as well. The Hotel Congress is near the railroad tracks. Perhaps some children were hit and killed.
This may explain the presence of the two entities of children that stay here.
Emotions often ran high during a card game among gamblers, across the eras of time, especially if hot-headed folks or gangsters with temper issues were involved. When suspected cheaters were caught, they were treated harshly and even executed. Others were killed by poor losers, when they hit the jack pot and won a lot of money.
Somewhere on the hotel’s first floor, a man was shot dead over a card game in the 1920s -’30s, when the cards were “misdealt”, perhaps in an effort to cheat, perhaps not. It could’ve been just an accident that cost him his life when others thought he was trying to cheat. Or, perhaps he thought he could get away with it.
Former owners/employees of a business or home sometimes don’t let the fact that they are dead stop them from continuing on with their duties and responsibilities.
The Hotel Congress seems to have two spirit employees / or one spirit employee and a former spirit owner to help them.
A friendly Male Entity thought to be Vince has subtly made his presence known.
While he doesn’t bother the living, his apparition is seen, looking out the windows of the upper floors, just enjoying the view.
Vince still likes to tinker around the hotel, “helping”. While alive, he used to borrow butter knives from the Cup Cafe, to use as screwdrivers, which staff now still find around the second floor rooms.
The Male Entity of a WWII Veteran
The first floor bar area.
His apparition can sometimes be seen out of the corner of the eye, sitting at the very end of the bar.
He loves the juke box. He turns up the volume of the songs that he likes and turns down the volume on the ones he doesn’t like. The staff leave money for him so he can play the juke box.
A Female Entity of a Mentally Ill Woman
A cold spot is felt right outside the door, and a dark shadow has been seen.
The apparition of the suicidal woman has been seen in the bathroom and in the hallway outside the room. She appears as a misty cloud or form.
She likes to whisper in the ears of staff, investigators and guests who stay here; perhaps sending some more sensitive guests quickly down the stairs to the main desk to check out!
Others have reported hearing strange noises and having bad dreams when staying in the room.
A Male Entity from the 1920s/’30s Era
Thought to be the gambler who was shot at the gaming table.
Dressed in a pin-striped gangster type suit, this presence has been seen mostly on the first floor, though he likes to enjoy the view of the city of Tucson from the second story windows.
He doesn’t seem to be angry over his murder. Perhaps he finds it a consolation to continue to enjoy his favorite hotel, The Hotel Congress. ( Kahler Grand Hotel * Wabasha Street Caves * The Biltmore Hotel ).
There is a lot of activity that is fun and entertaining, and maybe he entertains himself by watching the living have a good time.
An Unseen Presence in Room 214: Thought to be the man who killed himself.
He seems to still be agitated and restless.
A bloody hand print has been seen in room 214.
This entity doesn’t like the sound of the vacuum and has been known to pull out the plug.
When music from the 1920s is played in this room, the atmosphere of the room becomes calm and happier, soothing the mood of this entity, so that the vacuuming can be finished.
A female entity – Possibly a former owner or hotel manager.
This seen presence is of a happy, pleasant woman, dressed in early 20th century clothing, including “a dark, high button up collar and long wool skirt.”
She brings the scent of roses when she is present.
She loves the staircase, probably because she can see the first floor very well from there.
She likes to keep an eye on the front desk area, perhaps supervising the living on duty there.
Another Female Entity, a maid
She goes about her work, diligently carrying linen down the hallway entering and leaving each room without having to bother to open the door.
Guests sometimes find that their beds have been turned down by this entity. ( Menger Hotel * Stanley Hotel )
Two Child Entities – A little boy and little girl.
They are about seven or eight years old and have been seen playing in the halls of the second floor, when no live children were in the building.
Perhaps they are the children of the entity of the maid who still works on this floor.
Perhaps they were children of guests or from the town, or the children of owners.
Staff and guests alike have had personal experiences with these entities mentioned above for a very long time.
Some hard evidence was caught by Southwest Ghost Investigators. Southwest Ghost Investigators gathered some interesting evidence in room 242 in their 2009 investigation. On their website, they offer an animated gif (far left) showing the sequence of the photos taken at Room 242 while investigators are reading a D/C electromagnetic field of 38 HZ, 7.2 milligauss. A misty form moves from the hall into the room.
More recent investigations also have caught some hard evidence as well.
Tucson’s Finest Paranormal on Oct. 31st, 2012, did an investigation in the room 242, the suicide room, and caught some interesting evidence on their cameras, and had other personal experiences with their lights, etc.
Plus, the Tucson Fire Department inadvertently caught some evidence of spirits when they put cameras in each of the forty guest rooms as part of some sort of city program to help business owners.
Yes Indeed! The entity of the suicidal woman is definitely still there. Most of the hard evidence points to her existence. Many people have had personal experiences in her room, and many have been frightened by her antics, which must have given her some chuckles. Room 242 is always the last room rented, probably with a warning to potential guests who choose to stay there.
It is “Most Probably So” that the other spirits mentioned above are also staying or visiting this hotel. Many personal experiences with these entities have been reported over the years. Besides the many personal experiences of guests and staff, some hard evidence has been caught by paranormal investigators and the fire department, pointing to the possible existence of spirit people calling the Hotel Congress their after-life home or vacation spot where they like to visit.
It would be great to gather more hard evidence, though there are obstacles to doing so. It would be nice to have an investigation or two without all the loud noise interference that drifts up the stairs, through the hallways and through the walls. This makes it hard to capture any EVPs or other auditory evidence, which means that only the cameras, other equipment and personal experiences of the investigators can be useful gathering tools in the search for more hard evidence. Because of the noisy atmosphere, no names of the spirits have been made known through auditory evidence. Perhaps in the dead of winter, in the middle of the week, it may be quiet enough to do so.
311 East Congress Street
Tucson, Arizona 85701
520-622-8848 * 800-722-8848
Hotel Congress can be found near the corner of E. Congress Street and 5th Street, in historic downtown Tucson, Arizona. East Congress Street, a one-way street that runs WEST, is parallel to East Broadway Blvd, a one-way street going EAST.
5th Avenue connects these two streets. The Hotel Congress isn’t far from the railroad station. The Hotel Congress also has a great view of the city of Tucson, long enjoyed by its guests and staff, as well as by its spiritual residents and visitors.
- The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide
by Rich Newman
- Tucson’s Finest Paranormal Blog: “Hotel Congress Suicide Room Halloween Special” (October 31st, 2012)
- YouTube Video: “The Haunted Hotel Room at the Hotel Congress, Tucson Arizona” – Bucket List Bars
- YouTube Video: “Haunted Hotel Congress” – DarkHauntsVideos
- The Hotel Congress page on TalkParanormal.com
- The Hotel Congress web site
- “Sleeping with Ghosts in Arizona” on Legends of America.com
- “Ghost hunt of the Congress Hotel, Tucson, AZ” on Southwest Ghost Hunters Association.com
- Hotel Congress page on Haunted Accommodations.com
- “Haunted Hotel Congress” on Examiner.com
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr