Thursday, April 29, 2010

Historic Sahuaro Ranch Park

In the historic area of Glendale lies a gem hidden away amongst the tall trees surrounding it. Just north of Glendale Community College on 17 acres is one of the city’s oldest and greatest exceptional ranches known as Sahuaro Ranch Park. The 1885 homestead consists of 13 original buildings, a beautiful rose garden, and barnyard and historic orchards sitting on this well-preserved land is the mists of Glendale. This place is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and referred to as the “Showplace of the Valley”.

The history of Sahuaro Ranch begins in the year 1885 when the Arizona Canal was finished and opened up 44 miles of canals, and about 100,000 acres of desert land for farming and homesteading. In 1886, 36 year old William Henry Bartlett and his brother Samuel became interested in investing in a fruit ranch. They saw the huge market for ranching and started their homestead just north of where Glendale would eventually exist. By 1918, Bartlett had the most prevalent ranches in the area which consisted of over 2,000 acres near Glendale.

Bartlett had several structures built on the land such as homes for the ranch hands, friends and other family members. The Adobe House was the first to be constructed and was the home of Stephen H. Campbell, who served as the ranch’s first superintendent. The horse barn and blacksmith shop were built next. The ranch had a large array of animals such as horses, mules, cows, bulls and hogs. He added hundreds of varies colors of rose bushes, trees, various types of plants, a large pond with a bridge which takes you to the gazebo on the island.

Bartlett was a regular visitor to the ranch but never made it his permanent residence. He did have totally control in every facet of construction or day to day operations of the ranch and its beautiful grounds. By 1890, Harry W. Adams took over as the superintendent and continued to plant fruit orchards and grain crops, under the watchful eye of Bartlett.

On November 8, 1898, Bartlett moved to his family to the ranch after his youngest son, Willie, was stricken with tuberculosis. His doctor told him that moving him to a warm dryer climate would be better for his health. As time went on, electricity was added to the ranch along with an electrical generator to pump water from a well. Automobiles were added in 1905 and used to aid in the work done on the ranch. Bartlett lived on the ranch until his death in 1918.

Sahuaro Ranch Park has seen several owners after Bartlett. P.E. Bradshaw owned the ranch from 1913 to 1927, and then Richard W. Smith bought it in 1927. After Richard’s death in 1944, his son Richard Jr. acquired the exquisite ranch and grounds. By 1966, the mayor of Glendale, Max Klass, partitioned for a federal grant to have the ranch purchased by the City of Glendale. It wasn’t until 1977 when the city finally acquired the ranch making it an historical area.

Along with the many chickens and roosters that roam freely around the park, there are stories that some ghosts are wandering around as well. Some have seen the presence of a male ghost hanging around the buildings and grounds of the ranch. Perhaps it is the spirit of Bartlett still keeping a watchful eye on the place. A woman is also known to be haunting the Ranch House and has been seen by some. The story is told that she may have a connection to the Smith family. You do get a sense of the grand history of the ranch and the spirits that seem to be living there as you walk around the grounds.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Haunted Strip Mall

This unassuming strip mall, on 19th Avenue & Northern in Phoenix, has an Albertsons, Starbucks, Einstein’s Bagels and other shops or offices, and would never thought to be haunted, but it is. Many years before the strip mall existed on this site, there used to be several eroded buildings standing there. These structures were murky and eerie and abandoned for many years. There was much speculation that the buildings were haunted and ghosts have been reported wandering around the grounds. Between the deteriorating walls of these dark dwellings, apparitions and other strange occurrences had been seen and heard by eyewitnesses. Young kids and teens would dare each other to investigate the buildings at night using only a flashlight for protection. They would find an open hole in the fence to gain access and slowly, as a group, would enter a building. They never lasted the night claiming to hear crying, and whimpering sounds coming from the long dark passage. Only a few brave souls would check out the basements where there were rumors of torture and murder that occurred in there. Others would report seeing three headstones, one large in the middle and two smaller ones on each side. The strange thing was, they were never seen in the light of day.

Today there sits a strip mall where some employees reported hearing crying and seeing what they could only describe as a ghost in various areas of the stores they were working at. Others have claims of seeing a ghostly looking homeless man in the area behind the store where a body of one was found several years ago. The reports were that he was murdered in his sleep. He seems to be still hanging around behind the strip mall, making an appearance from time to time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adamsville: Wiped Out by a Flood

Arizona is known for its vast deserts, mountains, great sunsets, snakes and hot climate just to name a few. Arizona is also known for the many ghost towns scattered around the state. One such town is Adamsville, which is about 2 miles from Florence.

Adamsville was founded by Charles Adams in the 1870’s. He removed the shrubbery so he could plant grain and make this a flourishing farming town. He dug ditches to irrigate the land and soon saw his crops prosper. Soon after, the first store was erected followed by the post office with William Dumont appointed as the first post master. By 1871 the overland mail stage stopped in Adamsville where by this time stores, homes, a post office, a flour mill and water tanks, now existed. In 1872, at the town’s climax was at 400 residences calling the place home.

This once thriving town sat on the flood plains of Arizona. In 1900, the horror of its location was sadly revealed when the nearby Gila River rose over its banks and completely rubbed out the entire town from extinction. All the buildings and vegetation were completely destroyed leaving many of the residences to flee to the nearby town of Florence.

Today, the only things that remains of Adamsville are the cemetery, old flour mill, some ruins, water tanks, and a sign that carries the town's name.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mohave County Downwinders

I saw this on the news last night.  The Downwinders are people living in or near Kingman, AZ, and were there at the time when nuclear testing was done in the Nevada desert.  Their homes are downwind from all the radiation that scattered and blew their way.  Since then many have suffered from horrible diseases and cancer.  This story was reported by 3TV's awarding winning investigative reporter, Mike Watkiss.  He definately knows how to get to the heart of the story. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Legend City

Being a Zonie, an Arizonan born and raised, I have seen many changes around the city, and many other localities around the state. I have witnessed many old places being torn down and replaced by newer and sometimes better places. One such place that holds a big part in my memories is Legend City. This place was billed as an Old West theme park, inspired by the layout of Disneyland. It was located on the border of Phoenix and Tempe and lasted only 20 years.

On June 29, 1963, Legend City opened to much excitement by the local residences. They had high hopes of this being our version of Disneyland with a western feel to it. It featured several different attractions that were popular and always stick in the memories of those of us habitual visitors to the park. There was the Lost Dutchman Mine ride, Cochise’s Stronghold river ride, Sky Ride, a Penny Arcade, Gay 90’s Miniature Golf, Log Jammer, Iron Horse train ride, and many more fun and fast rides. A local kid’s TV show, “Wallace and Ladmo” appeared there almost every weekend the park was opened. Even an ex-Miss America 1965, Vonda Kay Van Dyke, presented a well-liked ventriloquist act at the park’s Golden Palace Saloon.

I have many memories of visiting Legend City, first with my parents and then with my friends. There were many times that we had nothing to do on weekends and lucky for us, Legend City was there as a place we could go to have fun. The prices were affordable and allowed us to experience all the attractions of the entire park. We got to know some of the employees, which usually gained us free access to some of the rides. It was definitely a fun place for us teenies to hang out in.

Legend City wasn’t without its problems. Through its 20 years of existence, it fell into hardship with a series of closings, bankruptcies, and ownership changes. After many years of difficulties and falling into financial disarray, it was finally sold to Salt River Project, a local electric company, in 1982. The doors were permanently closed after the 1983 season was over, then dismantled and bulldozed to make way for the new corporate offices for the electric company.

Even though Legend City is truly now considered a legend, it has fond memories for all of us that often visited the park when it was at its most successful era. Perhaps it is our very hot summers or the failing state budget is why this fifth largest city in the United States is lacking a major amusement park.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UFO Sightings at Estrella Mountains

Arizona may have Bigfoot’s prints imbedded in the soil around the state, but UFO sightings have been just as prevalent. I have blogged about the Phoenix Lights and the abduction of Travis Walton in the White Mountains. Another place that seems to get its fair share of sightings is over the Estrella Mountains. These sightings are not as famous as the Phoenix Lights, but have been seen by many over a course of several years.

During one sighting, the lights were reported as three distinctive twinkling lights and appeared to be hovering over the Estrella Mountains. They were amber in color and very bright. They seemed to be too enormous to be an airplane and did not seem likely to be balloons, which are frequently spotted in the skies of Arizona. The lights also looked to be close to each other, but not touching. Some witnesses said that the lights were moving back and forth simultaneously.

Other witnesses have their stories of what they saw when the mysterious lights appeared in the sky. The strange object was triangular in shape with three white strobe lights forming the shape. It was estimated that the craft was probably the size of a football field. The three lights appeared to pulsing in sync with each other. They noticed that there was no sound coming from the strange object. The sky was clear, the stars were bright, but you couldn’t see the stars between the lights. This gave the appearance that it was one large solid triangular object in the sky.

On other occasions, both fighter jets and the mysterious lights were seen in the sky on the same nights. When the jets got closer to the lights, they would immediately shut off. There was no explanation for this action or if the jets were responsible for the removal of the illumination from the lights in the sky.

There were some speculations that these lights were just flares being dropped by the nearby Air Force base or helium balloons with flares attached. The base would typically drop flares about every night but the Estrella lights didn’t appear to have started off from the base.

Like the Phoenix Lights, there are just no conclusive explanations for why many people have reported seeing unknown lights over the Estrella Mountains. I did see some videos of these lights, but they were too grainy to tell whether they were real or not.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cowboy Mummy Found in Desert

There are many strange stories in the Arizona files. One that is told is about the mummy found in the desert near Gila Bend nicknamed “Sylvester”. Many believe that he once was a 19th century cowboy, a con that loved to play cards. Stories are told that he finally got caught cheating and was shot in the stomach. He made a hasty exit while bleeding profusely from his wound. He got as far as Arizona’s Gila Bend desert when he fell off his horse and died face down in the sweltering heat. Shortly afterwards, he was covered by the blowing sands, which appeared to have dried his body overnight. This apparently preserved his body resulting in the mummified form he was found in.

The more believable story was that he was found shortly after death and preserved in a high level of arsenic. Arsenic was used to stop the physical occurrences of a corpse rotting by killing bacteria and insects that invaded it. This custom of using arsenic was found to be poisonous by the 1900’s and never used again. No one really knows who put his body in arsenic. Perhaps it was one who profits on this type of behavior. His mummified body was displayed in a sideshow for all to gawk at. People wanted to see the Wild West outlaw mummy that was found in the desert. In 1955, the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, Washington acquired Sylvester and put him in a glass case for display. This is where Sylvester has been ever since.

There were many that wanted to know if Sylvester’s story was true, or just an urban legend. Experts were sent to examine the body to see if it was a real person or a very clever wood carving made to look like a mummy. They would have to head up to Seattle, Washington, to get their answers.

Upon first inspection they noticed that Sylvester was highly polished and weighed about 100 pounds. The desert sands would have soaked out the liquid of his body, leaving the mummy to weigh about 20 percent less of his living weight. The mummy's weight meant that Sylvester was a very heavy man, around 500 pounds. Also, if he was mummified by the desert sands, his skin should have been dry, not smooth and shiny. They expected to find a varnish on the surface to explain the glossy phenomena, but found none. They did find a great quantity of arsenic in the analyses of the hair and skin.

The next thing they tried was to use an X-ray machine to see what the image will reveal. They were surprised to find internal organs and human bones. This means that he was once was a real live human and was mummified in death. They examined him more to see what the cause of death would have been and found a bullet in his abdomen and another in his collarbone. They still didn’t get an answer why his was so heavy, so the used a 3-D imager to get a distinct view.

After all the scans and X-rays, they found all his organs complete, with buckshot fragments lodged in several areas of his body and even one in his right cheek. The massive buckshot could explain the weight. The examination of his teeth revealed that he was probably between 35 and 40 years of age when he died.

The question still remains, was he really mummified in the desert while on the run, bleeding from his wounds? Or, did someone find him right after he died, preserved him in arsenic and used his mummified body as a sideshow freak display? I just may have to take a trip to Gila Bend to find the truth, if it is out there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mr. Lucky's

Phoenix has always been a fairly easy place to get around. The streets are mapped out running north and south, east and west. There is one street that runs at an angle, Grand Avenue, which follows the railroad for several miles. While driving along this stretch of road, you will drive by a very unusual sign with a jester on top, and with the name “Mr. Lucky’s” just below it. This sign sits near Grand Avenue in a large asphalt parking lot. The building sitting on the lot has very plain wood walls, no windows, and white barn doors marking the entrance. This once booming nightclub now sits abandoned, with a security fence around it and a couple of snarling dogs inside. Mr. Lucky’s holds many memories for me and many others, so to see it as a shell of what was, is very heartbreaking.

On October 3, 1966, Mr. Lucky’s opened its doors and provided a combination of rock’n roll and country music. There were many famous singers such as Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Clark, just to name a few, that rock the place with their unique brand of music. To see the place from the outside, you would never know that it was two stories inside. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, when I frequent there, the place was bustling. What were popular during this era were the urban cowboys, disco, and the ever popular rock n’ roll. When you enter through the front doors, you continue to go straight and walk into the country and western section of the nightclub. This area was a generous size and adorned with western decorations on the walls, two bars, a large stage, and many places to sit and enjoy a drink. In front of the stage was a favorable size dance floor where many kicked up their heels doing the two-step and electric slide. In one corner was the infamous electric bull where many cowboys and cowgirls were bucked off, bruising their egos. There were countless live bands that went through the doors, performing on the stage, along with its owners J. David Sloan and his band the Rouge.

Although the upstairs was a fun place, my friends and I enjoyed the lower section much more. As you walk through the barn door entrance, you take a right which takes you down a dark mirrored ramp to the rock n’ roll part of the nightclub. Halfway down, the ramp hits a landing and turn about 180 degrees and heads down more. As you enter the lower level, the first thing you see is one of the two bars down there. When you finally get to the bottom and make a right, you enter the very dark bar. The stage and dance floor are much smaller and there is less places to sit. The air had a murky look to it because people were allowed to smoke in nightclubs, which sucked for us nonsmokers. Many of the live bands that played down there kicked ass and rocked the joint. When there wasn’t a live band for the night, the D.J.’s always played the biggest hits of the times. When my friends and I decided to go to Mr. Lucky’s, we would get there early to get our favorite table. This table was big enough to hold four to six people, and was the first one upon entering the bar. It was a primo spot and always got us attention, especially the picture hanging on the wall above the table. The picture was of a blonde woman, sitting on a chair with her legs crossed. An elbow was leaning on the upper leg with a finger touching her lip. The thing that got everyone’s attention was the fact that she was wearing a low-cut top and her breasts were so large that they were literally sitting on her lap. Many nights, someone would stumble by and stare at the picture asking if they were real. I would say, NO!

I have many good memories at Mr. Lucky’s and only a few bad. We did some crazy stuff such as partying with the bands all night and going home in the morning. I can recall one time I got too drunk and had to be taken home by my friends. Never go tubing all day, baking in the hot sun for four hours, drink tall seven and sevens and not eat anything for dinner. I’m just saying, it could get you so drunk that you drop your sister’s birthday cake, and throw up on your bed after getting home, and then pass out. Bless my parent’s hearts, they cleaned up the mess and put me to bed. By the way, I will have a future post about tubing.

On August of 2004, J. David Sloan closed Mr. Lucky’s doors due to financial worries and declining crowds. Even the popularity of the Latino format in the lower level couldn’t bring in enough money to keep up with the bills. Today the disintegrating walls still stand on the lot along with its very unique, rusting “Mr. Lucky’s” sign. Inside the dark walls are the spirits of those happier and successful times still playing the music, engaging in dances, and having a cold one with friends.

Here’s to you Mr. Lucky’s and all the great times I had at your place!