Hotel San Carlos cancels ghost tours, citing damaged business

The owner of the hotel made the decision to cancel the ghost tour this year in an effort to preserve the vintage elevators and to help business. (Madeline Pado/DD)

The downtown Phoenix ghost tour industry has gone through some drastic changes this fall, leading to the death of one company and the birth of another.

On Sept. 25, the Hotel San Carlos, located on Central Avenue and Monroe Street, cancelled its 2012 season of ghost tours, ending 10 years of partnership with Ghosts of Phoenix, LLC, the private company that provided the ghost tours inside the hotel.

According to the Ghosts of Phoenix website, its management got a call from Hotel San Carlos owner Gregory Melikian, who decided to cancel the 2012 ghost tour season due to what he saw was excess traffic for the hotel’s vintage elevators.

Robert Melikian, Gregory Melikian’s son and author of two books, “Vanishing Phoenix” and “Hotel San Carlos,” said that his father was worried that the hotel’s haunted reputation could hurt business. He said Gregory Melikian, while eating lunch at the hotel, saw three hotel guests who, after learning of the hotel’s ghostly tradition, believed it to be haunted and therefore checked out of the hotel.

“When (the three guests) were there, they found out that there were ghosts overnight,” Robert Melikian said. “They said, ‘We’re not staying here. It’s haunted.’ So (Gregory Melikian) said, ‘No more ghosts. They are damaging business.’”

Linda Lieberman, one of the managing members of Ghosts of Phoenix, expressed her discontent with the cancellations in an email interview, stressing that many people made the ghost tours a holiday tradition. She said that many of her customers were repeat guests.

Ghosts of Phoenix has yet to choose a plan for the future. For the rest of the 2012 season, Lieberman and Julia Fordtner, a former tour guide, will focus on their careers in real estate. The company would have had its first tour of the 2012 season on Oct. 5.

From the ashes of Ghosts of Phoenix, however, has risen a new business. After the cancellation, Ghosts of Phoenix announced that former tour guide Joe Atredies, in assistance with tour guide Laura Lovato Stenzel, would start his own ghost tour company, Phoenix Ghost Tours. This new walking tour, according to the Phoenix Ghost Tours website, will visit “up to 10 different buildings in the downtown area.”

Atredies, who worked for Ghosts of Phoenix for four years, said that the decision to branch out into his own company came long before the ghost tour cancellation at the Hotel San Carlos.

“They called themselves Ghosts of Phoenix, not Ghosts of San Carlos,” Atredies said. “Almost from the very beginning, I said that there were other interesting locations that held interesting stories.”

Phoenix Ghost Tours held its first tour of its fall season on Oct. 19. The company is booked for the month of October and is looking to add two tours the weekend before Halloween. While Phoenix Ghost Tours is not holding any Halloween tours, the Hotel San Carlos will provide their own tours on Oct. 26, 27 and 31, though the tours will not be conducted by Ghosts of Phoenix.

Though the company is still quite young, Atredies is hopeful for the expansion the future will bring.

“I can actually see three different tours that are very valid just in the downtown area,” he said. Along with additional plans for an open bus tour and an extension of the ghost tour season, Atredies hopes to provide “some ghost stories to hopefully spook people as well.”

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