A group of Payson High School haunted house actors experienced some real life paranormal activity in the Oxbow Saloon days before hundreds of Halloween goers attended their show.
In the week leading up to the haunted house performance at the historic inn and saloon, students said they experienced several unusual happenings.
Student Fallon Alexander explained she and several others had seen shadows throughout the saloon, heard footsteps in the overhead rooms where no one is allowed to enter and seen a chair move across the dance floor.
“We have seen some weird stuff,” she said.
According to a Web site for the Oxbow, the saloon is certified by a group of ghost hunters to have paranormal activity.
“An unsurprisingly number of paranormal activities occurs at the Oxbow Inn and Saloon; unsurprising because of the Oxbow’s Wild West days and the August Roundups.”
Before its closing last year, the Oxbow was the place in Payson for drinks and entertainment for some 75 years. The original August rodeo used to take place out front of the saloon on Main Street and in recent times, it was still the place for a beer and a steak.
In the late 1800s, the property used to house a brothel in an upstairs dance hall. Today, the room still has red velvet walls but the room is used for storage. This is the room Alexander said they heard footsteps.
Mary McMullen, with Payson Parks and Recreation, spent several days in the saloon helping students set up.
On Thursday, McMullen and several other people in the building reported hearing a woman moan two times from the upstairs room.
Throughout the property’s history, several people, including a prostitute, were reportedly killed out front of and inside the inn and saloon. These people are believed to still haunt the building.
While these stories might be enough to scare some people away, most of the student actors delighted in the spookiness of the saloon.
Alexander said the haunting could add to her part in the haunted house skit. Students divided the haunted house into skit areas using the saloons existing four rooms. In the first room, students designed a war and Egyptian skit area. In the second room, students set up a medical table and a coffin, in the third, a poisoning scene and in the fourth a Victorian séance.
For Alexander’s part in the haunted house, she summoned the dead in a séance. For added effect, the students rigged wire to various items in the room and could make them “float” on command during the séance.
Although this activity was staged, Alexander could not account for paranormal activity that occurred on the first day students arrived. Alexander said they were excited to explore the property so they walked around the building inspecting every nook and cranny. Upon first inspection, the nine hotel rooms in the back of the building looked unassuming. However, when the students returned, they noticed a key had been placed in each door. Did the students fail to notice the keys or did they appear?
Either way, McMullen said she was thoroughly spooked by the property.
When we visited the property with McMullen, we heard several sounds coming from empty rooms. When photographer Andy Towle went to investigate, there was no one anywhere near the rooms.
When McMullen was alone in the saloon locking up one night, she said she heard something fall. This prompted her to lock up quickly.
The Oxbow is not the only property on Main Street suspected to be haunted. In November 2004, the nonprofit group Arizona Paranormal Investigations examined the Main Street Grille building and said at least two ghosts haunt the space. Before the restaurant closed, workers reported seeing hot chocolate and cranberry juice charges showing up on sales tickets when they hadn’t been ordered; bottles of A.1. Steak Sauce flying off shelves; lights turning on in the middle of the night and a steel fire door creaking open and shutting itself.
Although the Main Street Grille is also haunted, this was the first year the drama department held their annual haunted house at the Oxbow.
“We thought the Oxbow would be great because it is kind of creepy,” McMullen said.
The event raised money for the drama department and collected donations for the food bank. Anyone who brought a can of food got a dollar off admission.