Pierre Deck had some frights as a child in Mobile. Photo by Michelle Chance

By Michelle Chance

Have you experienced paranormal activity in Maricopa? Tell us about it at Facebook.com/InMaricopa.

Maricopa’s history is chronicled well into the mid-19th century, when much of the American Southwest was still frontier land.

Most structures and relics from that period have been lost – whether from disaster, vandalism or purposeful destruction in the name of progress with new construction. The romanticized wild west, and the ghost stories that accompany it, however, live on.

Woman in white mourns in the wash

A summer storm lingered above Maricopa as a group of teenagers returned from church camp one evening in 1974.

Brent Murphree, who would later grow up to become vice mayor, was 14 at the time when his mother stopped at Headquarters Café to drop off campers. Inside, Murphree reunited with two friends from school. He waved his mother on for a chance to hang out with buddies.

After dinner, a slow drizzle met the teenagers outside; low-hanging clouds kept the air damp and the August evening cool.

“It’s a perfect setup for a scary story,” Murphree recalled. “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The friends piled in a vehicle and headed east on Honeycutt Road. The unpaved path, illuminated only by headlight beams, was crowded with outstretched branches belonging to pecan groves lining each side.

There was no bridge back then preventing Santa Rosa Wash from carving into the rural road. To continue to the other side, the geography forced motorists down a narrow, steep dip through the wash.

This monsoon, different from the usual, quick-moving, violent storms of its kind, produced a steady stream of runoff water that night.

“The wash was running so we took it really slow and as we got closer to the top, there was a lady standing there and she was all in white,” Murphree said.

An unfamiliar face tends to stick out in rural towns. This fair-haired stranger shook the psyches of the passengers who discovered her standing near the bank, drenched in water from her feet to her thighs.

Murphree thought she must be stranded, lost or even hurt. His attempt to open the door to assist her was met with immediate resistance from the driver, his friend, whose instinct was to place foot to accelerator at the ghostly sight.

“Her face was blank. She didn’t wave. There was no reaction whatsoever,” Murphree said.

The teens had heard the legend of La Llorona before, a woman in white who haunts the river where she killed her children and then herself. But the Mexican folktale and others like it never phased a skeptic like Murphree – until that night.

“That’s how I got really interested in the legend and doing a little bit of research on La Llorona and the white lady,” Murphree said.

The mystery of the woman in white hasn’t been solved, but Murphree said classmates claimed witness to other sightings of La Llorona in other areas where washes run.

 

Mobile’s ‘Ghost House’ spooks neighbors

Spirits reportedly haunt many parts of the Maricopa area beyond the banks of its running waters.

Longtime Maricopa resident Pierre Deck spent most of his childhood living in Mobile, a neighboring community 14 miles west of Maricopa. In the early 1960s, he and his brother entertained themselves by hunting rabbits and exploring the desert.

One day, the teenaged siblings took on a new expedition, one that took them into the bowels of a grand, abandoned house made of wood in their neighborhood. Inside, a grand staircase arched upward to a second story, the ceiling polished with a dusty but still-glistening chandelier.

“We went upstairs and all of a sudden that door shut, and the chandelier started going around,” Deck said.

The boys quickly left the home on their bicycles and later told the experience to a friend down the street. Come sundown, it was time for the Deck brothers to return home.

“We started riding, and all of a sudden the lights come on in the house,” Deck said, adding there was no electric service running to the estate. “Boy, you should have seen us tear them bikes up; we burned rubber.”

The ‘ghost house,’ as residents called it, was later demolished.

The late Suzie Smith at her home, which was south of the railroad tracks. (Maricopa Historical Society)

Haunted homestead south of the tracks

The 1950s in Maricopa were a simpler time, according to Maricopa historian Patricia Brock in her book “Reflections of a Desert Town.” However, it wasn’t without some aspect of paranormal terror.

Many of Brock’s notes are archived by the Maricopa Historical Society. One describes an old adobe home that provided a thrill for many school children.

The “Old Perry Williams and Dallas Smith House,” built in 1884, was a large, 10-room home that once stood south of where the business barn is today. Cactuses, shrubs and trees protected otherwise unobstructed views of the homestead. However, curious kids did get a glimpse from time to time.

“As we approached the house, we would gradually ease out toward the road so we did not disturb anyone or anything that might be beyond the sentinels. We knew it would be death before dawn if we did. One dare devil could not leave well enough alone and just had to push the button. He took a quick peek through the bushes, jumped back and screamed all the way to school. We never did find out what he saw,” Brock’s note alleged.

The home was occupied by Maricopa pioneer Susie Smith until the mid-1950s.

Brock’s book said Maricopa lost its ‘haunted house’ in 1960 when two boys playing with matches near the property accidentally set a blaze that brought the home down.


This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

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