Rim Myths Are Just Right For A Fright

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Ghost hunters say electromagnetic fields cause the interaction between the spirits and the living at the Journigan House.

The Mogollon Rim has no shortage of hauntings and tales of old bones -- perhaps best told on a Halloween night under a waning hunter's moon.

In the 1970s, when Jan Stutzman was living at the lodge at Tonto National Bridge State Park, she heard and saw a lot of strange things.

The 10-bedroom lodge was built in 1925.

"Once when I was cleaning Room 5 and found dead flowers in the room, I threw them away," said Stutzman. "They were back the next day. I threw them out four or five straight days and each time they'd be back the next day."

She said staff always called the ghost "David" for Scottish adventurer David Gowan who discovered the bridge.

Just about a year ago, paranormal investigators claimed they contacted two spirits and detected more at the old Journigan House (now Mad Dawg's & Mel's Restaurant) on Main Street in Payson.

Restaurateurs Madeline Manchio and Melanie McCarthy were puzzled when hot chocolate kept showing up on customer checks during the first two weeks they opened.

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The notorious Rock Building bones were actually a hoax. Duane Kaufman found the bones in a backyard in 1963 and he and some friends put them in a crawlspace to scare girls and younger students.

Brian and Linda Lile said they contacted the spirit of a man who once lived upstairs. The man apparently likes throwing A-1 sauce off the kitchen shelf.

The Liles contacted the spirit of an 8-year-old girl who died of an illness in 1914. She likes juice, not hot chocolate, Brian said.

Gold Tooth Pranty was a prospector with mining claims around Payson and Gisela dating from 1892 into the 1920s. He left in May 1924 to prospect and never returned. About 10 years later, Dude Greer found part of a skeleton on the Rim with a miner's pick and a .38-caliber pistol. The remains were identified as Fred Pranty's and placed in a gunnysack on a shelf in the old sheriff's jail (off Main Street on McLane Road), where they gathered dust for years. Locals at the time speculated that Pranty may have had a stroke and shot himself. Pranty was finally laid to rest in a coal can in the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

Back to Main and traveling west is the 1933 rock building that was the original Payson School. Imagine being the plumber who spotted human bones in a crawlspace under the historic building on a July day in 2003.

Or waking in the middle of the night to strange noises coming from the living room of the neglected cabin you are considering buying, as Sarah Callahan did.

Rising from her bed, she lighted a candle and walked to the fireplace where it seemed the noise originated. She watched in wonder as the hands of the clock above the fireplace spun (counter-clockwise.

"If you are a ghost, I know you won't hurt me," Callahan said and returned to bed. In the morning, the clock was normal.

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A rendering of the Mogollon Monster.

Local lore says there was a murder at the Doll Baby Ranch, located west of Payson. The murder is undocumented, but the strange happenings are not.

A ranch hand awakened the ranch foreman one night because a tractor had started of its own accord. They let it run until all the fuel was consumed because they were so scared.

Campfire fables describe our own Mogollon Monster.

The Rim's version of Bigfoot has been reported by people of varying credibility over the years. The huge creature, with burnt orange hair falling below its waist, has been sighted most frequently at Crook Campground.

According to some, the big guy has apparently left 8-inch-by-22-inch footprints.

So, gentle readers, this All Hollow's Eve if a tall hairy orange guy asks for hot chocolate you'll know you've been spooked.

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