Fort Huachuca, located in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a mere fifteen miles from the Mexican border, was originally established as a government stronghold against the Native Americans in the war for the west. It was center of operations for the campaign against Geronimo and his warriors and later against Pancho Villa. The 10th Calvary “Buffalo Soldiers” called Fort Huachuca home for two decades, lending even more historical significance to an already illustrious past. Not only was February 14, 2012 the 100th anniversary of Arizona’s statehood, but February is African American History Month, so there are two reasons to honor the Fort this month!
Carleton House was built in 1880 to serve as the Fort’s hospital. The Fort soon outgrew the six-bed facility, so a larger building was built and Carleton House went on to serve a variety of purposes, finally settling in as housing for high ranking officers and their families. These days the Fort serves as as U.S. Army’s Information Systems Command and the Army Intelligence Center and School. Carleton House is still used as officer’s housing.
Army life being what it is, there is a lot of moving around, so a number of families have moved in and out of Carleton House over the years. Even though many of the families stayed for short periods, the house soon gained a reputation. The most voluble witness to date for this haunting is Brigadier General Roy Strom, who served as deputy commandant of the Army Intelligence Center and School during the 1980’s.
From day one the Stroms received clues that the house had a peculiar story. One of the local men that the moving company hired refused to enter the home when he found out in which house he was supposed to be working. Linens and blankets neatly stored in what was once the morgue of the old hospital were found strewn about the room.
The General and his family were convinced that they were the focus of pranks by the neighborhood children because the doorbell would ring continuously throughout the day, but no one was ever at the door. The General even lay in wait for the mysterious bell ringer and ran around the corner of the house to the front when he heard the doorbell, but no one was visible. Finally, the family disconnected all the doorbells.
The neighbors told the family of an incident that had happened to the prior residents of the house. The neighbor had sent her son over the the Carleton House with a plate of cookies for the resident family. The boy could see the lady of the house through the glass in the front door, walking away as he rang the doorbell, seemingly ignoring him. He went home with the cookies and told his mother what had happened. Concerned, she phoned next door and the lady of the house said that they had just that moment walked in the front door, as the phone was ringing. No one had been home when the boy saw the figure through the glass.
Mrs. Strom once saw what she now believes to be the ghost one morning when she was in the kitchen. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a female figure walk past the doorway. She called out, believing it to be her teenage daughter. When she didn’t receive a response, she investigated and found her daughter still asleep. No one else was in the house at the time.
The family also had some of the standard ghost activities: pictures falling off walls in the middle of the night for no reason, a swirling mist seen in the bathroom, voices being heard from empty rooms, things being moved.
The next residents of the home, Colonel Robert Bishop and his family, had their own experiences. The colonel heard a young boy calling for “Daddy” in the wee hours of the morning. He checked on his own son, but found him sleeping peacefully. The lights in the house would switch on and off of their own volition. The base’s electrician checked the wiring, but could find nothing faulty. The colonel’s wife would hear footsteps when she was alone in the home.
The spookiest encounter Colonel Bishop had was when he opened the door to one of the closets in the house and found himself face to face with a tall, blonde, female apparition. Nonplussed, the army man closed the door and walked away swiftly.
The Bishops warned the next family slated to move into the Carleton House of the crazy happenings. Colonel Warren Todd and his family said they lived in anticipation of finding the closet ghost, but never ran across her that way. One of the Todd sons did see the blonde ghost in the living room one morning around three, and the youngest son, though remaining mute on the subject of the ghost, refused to sleep in his own room for the three years that they lived there.
As with the previous families, the Todds experienced the lights going on and off and when they reported it to the base electrician, he just shook his head and told them the issue with the wiring was psychical, not physical. They also heard a boy’s voice calling for “Father” and a female voice in the living room that said, “I’m tired. I’m sleepy.”
No one knows who the blonde ghost is, though at some time she was dubbed “Charlotte” and the name has stuck. Since there were not many women on army bases out west back in the 1800’s, a popular theory was that she was the wife of an officer, or a local woman who died at the hospital while giving birth. That would explain why she is staying around the Carleton House, to search for her baby.
The most interesting aspect of the haunting, in my opinion, is that it takes place at a military base that is the center of cutting edge informational technology. In spite of the occupants being seasoned army personnel and logic-minded professionals, they still have to admit that there is more to their world than meets the eye!
I would like to thank the late Arthur Myers for his informative story on Fort Huachuca’s Carleton House in his book The Ghostly Gazetteer, which is one of my favorite ghost story books. Thanks, Mr. Myers!