The oldest continually run hotel in the country has never shut her doors and turned 114 on President’s Day. That makes the Copper Queen a hub for ghost-seekers — it’s rumored that 16 ghosts have been seen in the hotel.
People come nationwide to visit the four-story brick building. Some come for its rich history. Others come to visit three Copper Queen “guests” who, according to legend, have never checked out: a prostitute, a boy and a tall man with a top hat and cape.
Pulling up to the Copper Queen, my friends Allyson Rimmer, Chelsea Pajak and I carefully examined the outside of the Victorian style, old western hotel in hopes of seeing a ghostly face through a window. Nothing.
After we checked in, we walked up the creaking stairs. Still not feeling anything paranormal, we decided to play the “Ghostbusters” movie theme song again while jumping on the bed.
“We can’t piss them off,” Rimmer said. “They will actually haunt us if we keep doing this.”
Pajak and I ignored Rimmer’s skepticism. Although we were very open to seeing something paranormal, we had our doubts.
It didn’t take too long before we ended up in the bar downstairs. We asked the bartender to tell us any stories of ghost encounters. He laughed and said he’s never seen any in all of his years of working at the Copper Queen, although the hotel has been featured on television’s “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.”
Disappointed, we decided to go on our own ghost hunt. The first on our agenda: Julia Lowell.
Lowell, a reported prostitute in the early 1900s, used rooms on the third floor of the Copper Queen for her clients. Lowell fell in love with one man in particular, but he did not reciprocate the feelings. As a result, Lowell hanged herself in Room 315.
Room 315 is now named the Julia Lowell room, and it is said her ghost has been seen in this room, but only by men. Some claim she whispered in their ear; others say they saw her dancing at the end of the bed.
Dan Finck, owner of the Copper Queen, hasn’t had an encounter with the ghost of Julia Lowell, but he said one female guest saw something strange in the bathroom.
“That bathroom will steam up because there is no exhaust fan in there,” Finck said. “When she got out of the shower, she looked in the mirror and written in the mirror said, ‘I see you.’ She took a picture of it and came running down.”
According to Finck, this was not the first time someone had seen “I see you” written in the mirror, but it was the first time someone brought proof.
We wanted to see Julia. We sat outside of Lowell’s room hoping to hear something. We didn’t. I took out my iPhone and played “Julia” by Conway Twitty. Still nothing. One ghost not found, two to go.
Next on our list was Billy, an 8- or 9-year-old boy who allegedly died in the San Pedro River in the early 1900s. One of Billy’s family members worked at the hotel, which led Billy’s ghost to find his way back to the fourth floor at the Copper Queen to use as his personal playground, so the legend goes.
Billy loves shiny things and it has been said by hotel guests that he will take or move coins around, change the TV channel, or hang out in the dining room. The ghost of the playful young boy isn’t so playful when guests take baths, as it is said that they can hear him crying when they run bath water.
Rimmer, Pajak and I went up to Room 412, named in Billy’s honor. Just like Lowell’s room, we sat outside in hopes to hear anything. We didn’t.
“Maybe if we all hold hands and put our energy together, something will happen,” Rimmer said.
The three of us sat in the hallway holding hands. After about 30 seconds, we gave up. Instead of using our energy, we tried a different approach: money.
We went back to our room and placed coins in various spots, hoping to wake up and see them gone or moved around.
I decided to take a bath. I ran the bath water listening for crying and I heard nothing. We went to bed.
At about 3 in the morning, Rimmer and I were both awake. This seemed like a better time for the ghosts to be out, so we left Pajak in the room by herself.
This time, we hoped to see the third ghostly guest of the Copper Queen — a man who loved the hotel when he was alive and decided to check back in after he died, according to the legend.
Guests have described him as a tall man with long hair and a beard, wearing a black suit with a cape and a top hat. He reportedly hangs around the lobby, the stairwell and the fourth floor. Many guests have claimed they saw him turning the corner as they approached him.
The aroma of a cigar usually accompanies his presence. The Copper Queen is a non-smoking hotel.
Sniffing for cigar smoke, Rimmer and I found nothing, but the man in the top hat is one ghost that Finck has seen.
“On the fourth floor, I’ll get off the elevator and I’ve seen the top-hat guy going around the corner,” he said. “My office is on the fourth floor, and I have been up there when nobody has been there and I smell cigar smoke.”
The next morning, all the coins were all accounted for in our room, but Billy was not.
Despite 100 years of history and the legend of three permanent guests, Rimmer, Pajak and I did not encounter anything paranormal.
“I always tell the people who stay here the same thing — if you don’t want a ghostly experience, you won’t have one,” Finck said. “If you want one, chances are you may, and for 25 bucks I’ll guarantee it.”
Natalie D’Anna is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org