Hotel Congress

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Spirits keep the living on their toes!

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“A LANDMARK HOTEL WITH URBAN CHARM” It is “the cultural landmark that anchors Downtown Tucson.” “Unique Southwestern charm, urban and vintage!”

In 2014, 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 20’s & 30’s 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.

In 2021, the Hotel Congress is still going strong, despite the challenges of the Covid plague.The owners of this establishment embrace their history, location, and state all the pluses of spending the night in one of the thirty-nine second floor rooms.

These original 39 second floor guest rooms, haven’t been fancied up, yuppified, or expanded, but are faithful to their historic decor that is simply and tastefully done with nice antiques. All the rooms have a tranquil, relaxing aura, with no clocks or TV’s. All the rooms do have and wireless internet for those who need their computers on-line! While the decor is vintage, it is pleasing to the eye and it meets the needs of guests comfortably.

“We strive to maintain the hotelʼs 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 39 rooms have private bathrooms and air-conditioning.”

Historically, 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 thirty-nine rooms for overnite guests, 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.

They address the biggest complaint of guests found on Trip Advisor, etc.; Noise! They are an urban, historic, musical entertainment hotel. “Your room may be affected by plaza, nightclub, or street noise.”

The website plainly states with a sense of humor which rooms are the nosiest, the quieter areas and the just plain noisy ones. They want guests to register for a quieter room at the time of their reservation. Future guests are warned that the management doesn’t give discounts or refunds due to noise. Ear plugs can be provided however.

“Or, better yet, just join in the fun!”

Club Rooms: “Rooms are directly on top of the night club and are the noisiest hotel rooms in all of Tucson. While the beds do not have coin operated vibrators anymore, these rooms shake and rattle to the bass and bustling street all night long.”

Cactus Garden Rooms: “Interior full bed rooms facing our Cactus Garden Patio. While no room in our hotel could be called quiet, these rooms are a little less noisy and most cozy.”

Exterior Rooms: “Rooms facing Congress St, 5th Ave, or our Plaza. Much louder than our Cactus Garden rooms, but less earthquake-like than our Club Rooms, Exterior Rooms can still be on the noisy side due to street or club noise depending on the day.”

2020 was a challenging time for Hotel Congress, but the owners are a tough lot and found ways to survive. the owners of Hotel Congress had to get creative. On their property, they held musical events outside.

When the restrictions of Covid threatened their ability to bring in funds, they stated on their website:

“Hotel Congress is about great experiences – it is fundamental to our role in the community. During this time we have had to re-calibrate how best to offer Tucson something to engage in, while doing so safely and responsibly. It’s been a formidable challenge, but we’re bringing you safe experiences with live music, great food, and refreshing drinks.”

Now that restrictions are being lifted, they are opening up their bed and butter entertainment venues, their bar and their restaurant.

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, as it 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 a “historic turn-of-the-century charm, tile floors, arched doorways, copper-leafed walls, velvet drapes and Southwest elegance.”

Tom and I plan to stay at Hotel Congress on our next road trip through Arizona. We love old historic hotels, even with noise and earthquakes!

 

HISTORY

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 1920’s, 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 gain. 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, 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 historic hotel with its opportunities to  bring in needed funs from their entertainment venues will continue to flourish in 2021 now that the restrictions are being lifted.  It’s 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.

The White Eagle Pub and Hotel, OR (Sam was the housekeeper who spent his entire life there).

Thayer’s Historic Bed and Breakfast, MN (Spirits of an old Sea Captain, a handyman and two former owners are among the spirits who called this place their favorite oasis are still here).

Biltmore Hotel, FL (The spirit of Thomas Fatty Welch still is happily at home here).

Hotel Congress, AZ (A long-time bar patron, who was a WW 2 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). (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).

Many who kill themselves find no peace, and continue to hang around the area where they died.

Hotel Bethlehem, PA ( Frank Smith was a businessman who shot himself after he suffered a major business failure).

1790 Hundred-90 Inn, GA (A young maid was seduced, became pregnant and was abandoned, so she killed herself).

Barnstable House. MA (Owner Edmund Howes, filled with despair and hopelessness after loosing all his money during The Revolutionary War, facing bankruptcy, ended his life by hanging himself from one of the trees on the property).

Hotel Congress, AZ ( In 1993, 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. Accidents also killed the young and old as well.

Ashley’s of Rockledge, FL (A child was run over by a car).

Collingwood Art Center (Three children died here of Cholera).

Historic Kewaunee Inn, WI (Young Billy Karston died of complications of Haemophilus influenzae Meningitis, at the age of 5).

Hotel Congress, AZ (Two children died from a disease or an accident).

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.

St.James Hotel, NM (A winner of a poker game was killed before he could leave with his winnings). 

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, TX (A winner of a lot of money was murdered when he was relaxing in the bathhouse that once occupied this structure).

Brumder Mansion, WI (An Italian gambler was caught cheating during a card game in the Speakeasy that existed in the basement during the 1920s’. He was executed by the Mob Enforcer; Joe).

Hotel Congress, AZ (Somewhere on the hotel’s first floor,  a man was shot dead over a card game in the 1920’s-’30’s, 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 Olde Pink House, GA (The spirit of James Habersham Jr. is keeping an eye on the living, making sure they are coming up to snuff in the hospitality department, as they are in his mansion).

Stanley Hotel, CO (Mr. Stanley keeps a close eye on the work ethics of staff).

Monteleone Hotel, New Orleans, LA ( A male entity who identifies himself as engineer Rhett still putters around, keeping an eye on things).

Hotel Congress, AZ (The Hotel Congress seems to have two spirit employees / or one spirit employee and a former spirit owner to help them).

 

MANIFESTATIONS

Spirit of Vince

A friendly male spirit who is 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 a screwdriver, which staff now still find around the second floor rooms.

Spirit of a Veteran

A male spirit of a WW 2 Veteran still  stays in his favorite watering hole; 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.

Death Wish

A mentally Ill female spirit  haunts area around and in Room 242.

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.

When guests are sleeping in the bed in Room 242, she likes to scream and appear at the foot of the bed for chuckles and attention, or sit on the bed in a long white dress.

Others have reported hearing strange noises and having bad dreams when staying in the room.

Spirit of a Gambler

A male spirit from the 1920’s / 30’s 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.

Room 214’s Spirit of Male

The unseen presence in Room 214 is thought to be the man who killed himself.

This spirit has been seen looking out of the window of 214, wearing seersucker suit.

He seems to still be agitated and restless.

A bloody hand print has been seen in Room 214.

This spirit doesn’t like the sound of the vacuum, and has been known to pull out the plug.

When music from the 1920’s is played in this room, the atmosphere of the room becomes calm and happier, soothing the mood of this spirit, so that the vacuuming can be finished.

A Female Spirit

She is 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.

Spirit of 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)

Child Spirits

Spirits of  A little boy and little girl who 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. (Stanley Hotel).

Perhaps they are the children of the spirit of the maid who still works on this floor. (Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee AZ)

Perhaps they were children of guests, or from the town, or the children of owners.

PARANORMAL FINDINGS

Staff and guests alike have had personal experiences with these spirits mentioned above for a very long time. Besides warning guests about the noise, the Hotel Congress also has a page that describes some of the activity reported in Rooms 242, 214, and 220.

Haunted Historian, Conner Gossler, reports in an article on kvoa channel 4 news on October 29th 2020;

“I personally spoke to one of the employees here saying that prior to two AM and after that that they have had guests that come down from their rooms claiming that people are standing over their bed, they’re feeling uneasy, someone is watching them, odd noises out in the hall”, Gossler said, “So much that in the middle of the night they end up running out and leaving Hotel Congress. And every staff member that currently works here has first hand knowledge of encountering.”

There has been a lot of hard evidence caught over the years. Here are just three of many successful paranormal investigations.

2020 – The most recent work that was shared on utube by paranormal investigators Jeff and Pam of Haunted Encounter Adventures shows what they caught on their SLS camera; two spirits in Room 242, one spirit on the staircase, and two spirits in the common room on the second floor. One of the spirits in the second floor common room calls herself Evalyn.

2012 – 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.

2009 – 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.

 

STILL HAUNTED?

“Yes Indeed.”

The spirit of the suicidal woman is definitely still there.  A lot of 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 of given her some chuckles. Room 242 is always the last room rented, probably with a warning to potential guests who choose to stay there.

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. 

 

LOCATION

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.

SOURCES INCLUDE

  • The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide
    by Rich Newman
    pg. 21
    Llewellyn Publications
    2011
  • 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
  • talkparanormal.com
  • tucsonsfinestparanormal.blogspot.com
  • The Ghost Hunter’s Field Guide, by Rich Newman

 
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Haunts in Tucson Haunts in Arizona