Haunted Arizona: Buckhorn Baths

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

MESA, Ariz. -- The Buckhorn Baths, listed by a national historical society as one of the most endangered roadside inns in the country, has been closed for more than a decade. But don't tell the ghosts who call the historic motel home.

Stella Inger, with the help of Rob Koller of the Phoenix Arizona Paranormal Society (aka Arizona Ghost Hunters), takes us on a tour that's sure to give you goosebumps and perhaps have you looking over your shoulder.

"We were just blown away by all the activity," Koller said.

It started life as a service station on US Highway 60. During an expansion project, a mineral spring -- complete with healing water -- was discovered. The rest, as they say, is history.

Opened by Ted and Alice Sliger in 1939, the Buckhorn Baths Motel hosted baseball players, movie stars and perhaps even a man who would go on to become president. While his name isn't in any guest book, it's rumored that JFK stayed there as treatment for back issues stemming from the sinking of PT-109.

At one point, Buckhorn Baths featured the motel, the service station, a bus stop, a post office and a wildlife museum featuring some 450 animals. (Ted Sliger was a taxidermist and an avid sportsman.) That animal collection is still in place.

Owned and run by the Sligers until 1999 (Alice Sliger kept it going after her husband's death in 1984), there are five documented deaths at the hotel, including a masseuse. According to the stories, that masseuse had a heart attack and died -- while working.

Koller said his investigator contacted seven different spirits, all of them male.

He said that was somewhat surprising because it's been years since anybody actually stayed at the Buckhorn Baths.

"Our theory was basically, the spirits being here for so long, so dormant, they were probably happy to have us here," Koller said.

According to the Society for Commercial Archeology, the Buckhorn Baths was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The Arizona Preservation Foundation included it on its Arizona's Most Endangers Histories Places List.

Sliger died in November 2010 at age 103.

Although the property, which is located at Main Street and Recker Road, has been closed and for sale since 1999, many believe it should be preserved. That's one of the major reasons the Mesa Preservation Foundation was created.

"Our current focus is on preserving the historic Buckhorn Baths by doing all that is possible to see the property put to a use that will both provide enormous benefit to the community and preserve the rich historical contribution made to Arizona and The Valley of The Sun...," reads the organizations website.

The property, however, is in an area some say is prime for development.

The fate of the Buckhorn Baths could be decided by voters next week. The city of Mesa has a bond issue on the ballot that could save the landmark building by making it possible for Mesa to buy it and then possibly restore it.