American Folklore

American Folklore: Arizona

American Folklore: Arizona

Located deep in the American southwest, Arizona was the last continental state to be admitted to the union, in 1912. Only Alaska and Hawaii were admitted after it. Despite not being given statehood until the 20th century, Arizona has been part of the territory of the United States for a long time, and has a long history of European exploration and colonization, going all the way back to the 1500’s. It was also an important part of the American “Old West” in the 1800’s. Before that, it was inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. Naturally, it has had quite a lot of time of human habitation to acquire some interesting folklore. Here are some of the more intriguing stories from the folklore of Arizona.

The UFO Lights of Phoenix

This is a relatively recent entry into the folklore of Arizona, happening in 1997. What makes this UFO sighting special is that, unlike most sightings of UFOs, this one was witnessed and reported by thousands of people, including the governor of Arizona. The reports all also came in around the same time. There were two sets of mysterious lights in a triangle formation that moved across the sky. The Air Force later said one set of lights were flares from a military exercise, but never explained the first set. The governor at the time described the appearance of the lights as “otherworldly.”

The Mogollon Monster

The Mogollon monster is named after one of the Native American tribes that inhabited the area before European colonization, and it is considered the “Bigfoot” of Arizona. Reported sightings of it go back more than a century. The monster is supposed to be more than seven feet tall, with a smell that is worse than anything a normal person could imagine. It is known for being violent, with a particular fondness for snapping the heads off of deer.

Various reports over the years have described the Mogollon monster as having long white hair and thick, two-inch-long claws, with deep-set and expressionless eyes. The most recent reported sighting, in 2006, came from a member of the White Mountain Apache Nation who supposedly saw the monster several times. This person described the monster as being all black, and it did not act violently during any of the sightings.

El Chupacabra

Most people by now have probably heard of the Chupacabra, as it has been featured on many reality “monster” shows and on scripted fantasy and supernatural genre TV shows. It has been seen in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and most of the American southwest, including Arizona. The first sightings were reported in 1995.

The name Chupacabra translates to “goat sucker,” because of the creature’s penchant for eating livestock. It is reported to be a reptile-like creature, with leathery skin and spines going down its back.

The Ghost of the Administration Building

In Flagstaff, Arizona, the Northern Arizona Council of Governments Head Start Administration Building is supposedly haunted. It has the standard features of haunting, such as people in the building hearing voices and noticing objects have been moved of seemingly their own volition. However, some creepier things have happened there, too. Doors locking on their own and the keys no longer fitting is a disturbing happening at the building. Water faucets turn themselves on and off. And, perhaps most creepily, landline phones ring when they are unplugged, and no one is on the other line when they are answered.

An apparition of a woman has been seen roaming the halls of the building, but no one knows who she is or what era she is from. It would seem she is responsible for the hauntings, but no one knows if other, unseen ghosts are also in the building.

Haunting at the Hotel Vendome

The ghost of Abby Byr and her cat are said to haunt this hotel in Prescott, Arizona. Abby came to Prescott as a young woman in the early 1900’s to recover from consumption and brought her cat. She met and married a Mr. Byr, and they bought the hotel, but later lost it to unpaid taxes. The new owners allowed them to stay on in Room 16 and manage the place.

Mr. Byr went out one day to get Abby some medicine and never returned. It is not known if something foul befell him or if he deserted her. Abby was heartbroken and refused to eat, eventually dying of starvation along with her cat, who she had locked in a closet. Sightings of the ghosts of Abby and her cat, Noble, began around WWII, and have continued to the present. They mostly haunt Room 16 but have been known to venture out to other parts of the building from time to time. The current owners keep a binder of all the sightings reported by employees and guests. Fortunately, all sightings of and encounters with Abby and Noble have been friendly ones. They have always been nice ghosts.

The Ghost of Northern Arizona University

In the 1950’s, a girl named Kathy was a student at this school, which was at the time called Arizona State College. Kathy was from out of state and lived in the dorms, and one Christmas holiday, her family told her they had declared bankruptcy and couldn’t afford to fly her home for the holidays. At the same time, her boyfriend, to whom she expected to become engaged, broke up with her for another girl. Unhappy and alone for the holidays in gloomy, freezing, snowy weather, she killed herself by hanging using a bedsheet. The cleaning woman who found her worked at the school for another three decades and was able to verify the story.

Kathy does not seem to have moved on from her former dorm. Water and lights turn on and off on their own. Music from the 1950’s plays when no music player is on. Women who live in the dorm have reported being locked in the bathroom, even though there is no lock on the door. If the girls ask Kathy, using her name, to let them out, the door opens. The hauntings are apparently done by Kathy, as she has been seen gliding down the hallways at the dorm, and through doors.


Will Moneymaker founded Ancestral Findings back in 1995. He has been involved in genealogy research for over 20 years. The thrill of the hunt, the adventure, and the excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Why I Love Genealogy (And You Should, Too!)