What’s so great about Tucson?
How about 350 days of sunshine in cloudless blue skies, awesome hiking trails, velvety black night skies with millions of visible stars, a mañaña attitude and a community motivated to be creative about almost anything.
What’s not so great about Tucson?
The taxes, traffic, low wages, high car insurance premiums, sizzling hot summers, crime and politics. But the casual lifestyles, colorful culture, exhilarating monsoon season and progressive thinking go a long way toward offsetting the negatives and motivating the creative spirit. That’s probably why most of our members live in Tucson and write their novels here.
Here are some interesting facts about our city:
- Tucson gets 350 days of sunshine annually – more than any other U.S. city.
- Tucson is surrounded by the world’s largest concentration of Saguaro cactus.
- The Wall Street Journal once dubbed Tucson “a mini mecca for the arts.”
- The Arizona-Sonora Museum was rated one of America’s top zoos in the country by Parade Magazine.
- Pima Air & Space Museum is the largest privately funded air museum in the world.
- Original Ansel Adams prints hang in the museum he founded, the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography.
- Quarter horse racing began at Tucson’s historic Rillito Downs.
- Tucson is consistently rated one of the best golfing destinations in the West.
- Colossal Cave is one of the largest dry caverns in the world; explorers have yet to find its end.
- Tucson is home to the international Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows, the largest exhibit of its kind in the world.
- Saguaro National Park is one of the Unites States’ newest national parks; it is second only to the Grand Canyon in the number of visitors it receives annually. Saguaro cacti can live to be about 200 years old and during the rainy season can bloat up to 4800 pounds. A 10-year-old saguaro can be less than two inches tall.
- Wildlife is abundant in Tucson, and it’s not uncommon to frequently find furry, feathered and scaly visitors in your yard – like the Desert Tortoise, Harris Hawks, Gila Monsters, Roadrunners, Cactus Wrens, Jackrabbits, Prairie Dogs, Bobcats, Coyotes and Javelina, not to mention scorpions and rattlesnakes.
- The Tucson Festival of Books, launched in 2009, is now the fourth largest festival of it’s kind in the country with more than 100,000 book lovers attending in March 2013.
Tucson’s Famous Criminals
William Whitney Brazelton – From 1877 to 1878, the Tucson area suffered from a rash of stagecoach robberies. Most notably, however, were the two robberies committed by masked road agent William Whitney Brazelton. He held up two stages in the summer of 1878 near Point of Mountain Station approximately 17 miles northwest of Tucson. John Clum, of Tombstone, Arizona, fame was one of the passengers and Brazelton would eventually be tracked down and killed (on Monday August 19, 1878,) in a mesquite bosque along the Santa Cruz River three miles south of Tucson by Pima County Sheriff Charles A. Shibell and his citizen’s posse.
Wyatt Earp – Fort Lowell, then east of Tucson, was established to help protect settlers from Apache attacks. In 1882, Frank Stilwell was implicated in the murder of Morgan Earp by Cowboy Pete Spence’s wife, Marietta, at the coroner’s inquest on Morgan Earp’s shooting. The coroner’s jury concluded that Spence, Stilwell, Frederick Bode, and Florentino “Indian Charlie” Cruz were the prime suspects in the assassination of Morgan Earp. Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp gathered a few friends he could trust and accompanied Virgil Earp and his family as they traveled to Benson for a train ride to California. They found Stilwell lying in wait for Virgil in the Tucson train station and killed him on the train tracks. After killing Stilwell, Wyatt deputized others and rode on a vendetta, killing three more Cowboys over the next few days before leaving the state.
John Dillinger – The Hotel Congress is known for being the site of the capture of bank robber John Dillinger in 1934. After a series of bank robberies, the Dillinger Gang arrived in Tucson to hide out. On January 22, 1934, a fire started in the hotel basement and spread up to the third floor, where the gang resided under aliases. After the desk clerk contacted them through the switchboard, the gang escaped by aerial ladders. On the request of the gang, two firemen retrieved their luggage, identifying who they were. After being transferred to a jail in Crown Point, Indiana, Dillinger escaped again and was eventually shot down in Chicago, Illinois.
Beltway Snipers – The Beltway sniper attacks took place during three weeks in October 2002 in the Mid-Atlantic United States. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured by these spree killers. The two men responsible for the attacks were Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. A similar shooting occurred on March 19, 2000, while these two were staying in Tucson. Jerry Taylor was killed by a sniper as he practiced at the Fred Enke Golf Course. In October 2006, Lee Boyd Malvo confessed to shooting Jerry Taylor.
Ricky Rodriquez – Angela M. Smith, was killed on January 8, 2005 by a man she helped raise in Family International, also known as the Family and The Children of God. The man, Ricky Rodriguez, drove to Blythe, California and shot himself to death. Don Lattin worte a book about this crime in 2007: “Jesus freaks: a true story of murder and madness on the evangelical edge.” “Lives lost: A look at the victims.”
Jared Lee Loughner – On January 8, 2011, U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was among 18 people shot at a Safeway supermarket at Oracle and Ina Roads in Tucson. The shooter was 22-year old Tucson resident Jared Loughner. Giffords was holding a community event entitled “Congress at Your Corner” at the time of the shooting, and victims included the Congresswoman, members of her staff, and members of the public. Congresswoman Giffords and others were severely wounded, and six people were killed.
John Patrick Eastlack – Eighty-five year old Leicester and Kay Sherrill, 82, were murdered in their home on Sept. 1, 1989. Their bodies were found on September 3, 1989. It was quickly determined that prison escapee John Patrick Eastlack, 22, was responsible for the elderly couple’s deaths. On Sept. 10, 1989, he was profiled on the television show America’s Most Wanted. He was arrested two days later in El Paso, Texas. Eastlack’s adopted mother, Katherine Norgard wrote a book in 2006 about her son and his crime titled: “Hard to Place: A Crime of Alcohol.”
Bradley A. Schwartz – Dr. Stidham, 37, a pediatric ophthalmologist, was found stabbed to death in his office parking lot at 4727 North First Ave. on October 5, 2004. Dr. Bradley A. Schwartz, 39, and Ronald Bruce Bigger, 38, were convicted of murder for this crime. Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Stidham had been partners. When Schwartz’s license was suspended for drug abuse, Stidham started his own practice, and some of Schwartz’s staff and patients followed Stidham. Dr. Schwarz was jealous of Dr. Stidham so he hired Ronald Bruce Bigger to murder Dr. Stidham.
Nursing College Murders at the UA – On October 28, 2002 a student at the University of Arizona Nursing College shot and killed three professors: Cheryl M. McGaffic, Barbara S. Monroe and Robin E. Rogers. The shooter, Robert S. Flores Jr., killed himself after he shot the professors.
Patrick Henry – In 1979, Patrick Gerald Henry was sentenced to 6 -1/2 years in prison for the attempted murder of his wife, Christina. Patrick and Christina were married in Tucson. They eventually moved away. After the couple divorced, Christina moved back to Tucson. Patrick was apprehended while he was flying to Tucson to murder his wife. A book, “Deadly Intentions,” was written about this later was made into a television movie.
Charles Schmid – Serial Murderer convicted of murdering three Tucson girls. Arrested November 11, 1965. The case went to trial and Charles Schmid was convicted in March 1966. Time, Life, and Newsweek articles appeared in March 1966. There is a book written about this crime titled “Pied Piper of Tucson.”Glen Francis – On January 31, 1990, 54-year old imam Rashad Khalifa was found stabbed and beaten to death at an East Sixth Street mosque. In 2012, a Pima County jury found 52-year old Glen Francis guilty of premeditated, first-degree murder in the case. Khalifa was survived by a son, Sam Khalifa, former shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Mia Henderson – On September 5, 2007 Mia Henderson was murdered by her roommate, Galareka Harrison. in the Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall at the University of Arizona.
Robert John Bardo – On July 18, 1989, Robert John Bardo (from Tucson) murdered Rebecca Schaeffer. Rebecca Schaeffer was the star of the television series, “My Sister Sam.” Robert John Bardo had become obsessed with Schaeffer. He had a private detective locate her address in Hollywood then he left Tucson and murdered her.
Tucson is one of the most haunted towns in Arizona! Here are the places known for ghostly sightings:
Bloom Elementary School – Ever since the principle passed away in the school students, teachers and visitors there have had many weird experiences. Bricks falling out of a wall in the bathroom, doors unlocking by themselves, and some people have even seen the deceased principle in the halls.
Centennial Hall – Two spirits are known to haunt this theater at the University of Arizona. One is a woman wearing a long white dress from an earlier time and the other is a man thought to have been a patron of the theater who died of a heart attack. The woman has been seen frequently in the Green Room and in an upper balcony area that is now sealed off. She is very protective of her space and has been known to push employees down the hallways and stairs. The man is a more recent specter who seems to be a counter balance and helps anyone who has been injured by the woman.
Colossal Cave – There have been reports here of people feeling a hot breath on their neck, of batteries getting drained, the figure of a man who charges at people with a pick ax, and singing and moaning near the miner’s shaft.
Davis Bilingual School – A female figure has appeared repeatedly in one classroom. She has appeared only at dawn and various adults have reported feeling someone touching them on the shoulder. Doors that were checked to make sure they were locked have opened and closed on their own. Students have reported hearing weird and eerie music in the school and cannot locate the source. In a recent encounter, students saw a water faucet turn on slowly then full blast, then they saw the actual water faucet handle turn itself off.
Desert View High School – A young boy was killed by an unknown cause at the school and has been sighted now haunting all over the school.
Desert Views Ranch – A young girl dressed in prairie clothes and wearing a white apron has been seen wandering in the area of the old chicken coop and horse corral. She is said to have died from a fever. She sometimes can be seen standing by an old tree, laughing. Younger children have said her name is Lillian.
Evergreen Cemetery – Voices of young children have been heard when no children are around. Negative presences have also been sighted at certain times.
Fox Theater – A strange man dressed in vintage 1920s clothing has been seen around this theater. He asks for money to feed his family and tells people they are suffering from The Great Depression.
Fred G. Acosta Job Corps Center – Students report having seen a girl playing with a ball on the female side of the second floor dormitory. Toilets sometime flush themselves around five a.m. She has also been sighted in a second floor bathroom and around midnight showers turn on and off by themselves. A strange light sometimes appears in Room 509 all of a sudden, then disappears.Some say a girl who used to attend school here slit her wrists and drowned herself in the second floor bathtub. Some people have dreams about this particular girl.
Holloway Elementary School – Sightings have been reported by the janitor of the deceased Mr. Holloway checking the school rooms around 11 or 12 at night, and the figure of a man trying to unlock a door. The janitor called out to him but there was no answer, so he walked toward the man and as he reached the door the man disappeared.
Hooters Restaurant, Gotham and The New West nightclub – Strange presences and energies have been felt. (Gotham and the New West are both closed down now due to a gang-related shooting last summer that led to someone’s death.) There have been reports of cold chills and the strong presence of a spirit who follows people throughout the back part of the club. A former worker at the club reported he was working the closing shift when he and a few other employees were finishing up for the night around three or four in the morning. He had his back to the front door when all of a sudden he felt the sensation of a human being coming right toward him. He turned around and instinctively swung out his fist but he said nobody was there and “something” went right through him.
Hotel Congress – One of the rooms in the hotel is haunted by a man who had a heart attack and died. He has been seen looking out of the window.
Pioneer Hotel – Rebuilt after a fire killed trapped occupants on the top floor, it is said this hotel is haunted by the spirits of those who died in the fire.
Radisson Hotel – Believed to be haunted by a woman who was murdered by her boyfriend when he found out she was seeing another man in the hotel. Witnesses report seeing and hearing the ghost of a girl in the kitchen and around the ballroom area. She seems to be crying or moaning for help.
Sabino Canyon – Reports of the ghost of an angry mountain lion or ‘”wildcat” who follows hikers on the trails until they reach the main paved road. The animal has a very heavy, negative presence, often angry.
Sam Levitz Furniture Store on 36th St. – A long time ago a man was up on one of the racks and tragically fell many feet and did not survive. Witnesses have seen the man. He wears a black shirt and a black hat and still thinks he is working there. A psychic come into the building and tried to make him go away but the man will not leave. His appearance usually happens between four and five a.m.
San Manuel Magma Copper Mine – Several mine workers have reported seeing lights and workers not having been assigned to their level. One worker reported having another mine worker come into his line and help him work for over 30 minutes, only to find out later that there wasn’t another worker on that level all day. A mine worker died during a cave in when this mine was first being built and it is said the body could not be recovered due to the size of the cave in.
San Xavier Mission – It is said that on the outside of the mission in the artwork on either side of the main doors there is a snake and on the other side a mouse. If the snake catches the mouse the end of time is near. Several people in the area have heard whispers of this story come from a shadowy figure of a man outside the church. He has been seen pointing to each sector as the story is told. Also there have been sightings of an old Padre wondering throughout the church, usually at dusk or dawn, the time when candles need to be lit or extinguished. Also, a specter of a nun has been seen leading five children to the chapel from an out building that was once used as a schoolhouse. The schoolhouse burnt to the ground, killing all inside. It is believed the nun was trying to get the children to safety.
Tucson High Magnet School – One of the many classrooms in the vocational building has been condemned because of rumors of a student killing himself there. The student now haunts the room. Students and teachers have reported feeling cold spots hearing loud taps on the door and eerie footsteps when no one is around.
Tucson Medical Center – A former worker at Tucson Medical Center has experienced strange and unsettling occurrences. This hospital dates back to the 1940’s and holds many secrets. People have seen an apparition of an older woman dressed all in black roaming the hall near unit 450. She walks through the walls and doors of that hall. Also in the same hallway, a child runs through the doors and walls. A black cat has been seen running through the wall of a department during various work shifts. There also are many cold spots in various locations of the hospital. The female co-workers experienced strange sounds being whispered in their ears and an office chair with wheels rolling by itself.
University of Arizona English Building – Where the building stands now used to be a running track years ago. The body of a woman who had been raped and murdered was found in a well at the edge of the track. The apparition of a woman is often seen through the windows of the locked building late at night, running and panicked, perhaps still trying to escape her attacker.
Vail High School – There have been rumors of sightings in the male restrooms of Vail High School. Sinks turn off and on while toilets tend to flush constantly when no one else is in the room. Teachers have reported an adult male in the restroom who instantly disappears without a word.
History of Tucson
Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, with more than 541,811 residents. If you don’t know how to spell Tucson, you’re not alone. The city ranks #2 on a list of the Top 10 Most Misspelled City Names. If you don’t know how to pronounce Tucson, you’re not alone either. Just say it this way: too-SAWN or TOO-sawn. The word Tucson means “black base” in Spanish and refers to the volcanic mountains on the west side of the city. Tucson has a prominent Hispanic and Native American culture, with traditional ties to Mexico. Tucson’s nickname is The Old Pueblo.
Incorporated in 1877, Tucson is Arizona’s oldest city. Tucson and 19 other Arizona cities were incorporated long before Arizona officially became a state in 1912. The city’s history began 4,000 years earlier, when Native Americans began farming in the area at the base of Sentinel Peak. At a height of 2,897 feet, the Peak provided the Spanish with a lookout point over the entire city when it was part of New Spain. Today, the Peak is known as “A” mountain for the A that was whitewashed onto the top by the 1915 University of Arizona football team.
By 1900, 7,531 people lived in the city. At about this time, the US Veterans Administration had begun construction on the present Veterans Hospital. Many veterans were gassed during World War I and needed respiratory therapy. They began coming to Tucson after the war, due to the clean, dry air.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s Tucson was a Western town, tied to its heritage through the rodeo and more than 24 dude ranches around town. After the war it became a college town. Then in the 1960s, 70s and 80s it shifted into a golfing retirement town. But a huge growth explosion in the late 90s changed all that. Tucson struggled to become a metropolitan area with neighborhoods developing their own distinct identities, cultures and politics. But during the 2000s, the Great Recession killed the sprawling growth and today Tucson feels like a medium sized city without an overcrowded freeway. But the future looks bright. It’s predicted that in about 10 years Tucson will merge with Phoenix (100 miles to the north) as a “Megapolitan.”
Until that becomes a reality, there is a strong growing interest in sustainable attitudes — like recycling, water harvesting and solar panels on roofs. The arts are also thriving.
Tucson has an elevation of 2,389 feet and is surrounded by no fewer than four mountain ranges, including: the Santa Catalina, Santa Rita, Tucson and Rincon Mountains. Mount Lemmon is the highest peak of the Santa Catalina Mountains. At an elevation of 9,157 feet, it stands 6,000 feet above Tucson. A winding road, one of only 100 in the nation to be officially named as a National Scenic Byway, leads to the top. It passes through several different climate zones, beginning in the Sonoran Desert and ending in cool pine forests. Temperatures at the top are as much as 30 degrees cooler than in the city of Tucson. The summit is home to the southernmost ski resort in the United States.Tucson averages 350 days of sunshine per year, with an average year round temperature of 83 degrees. Between the months of May and September, the temperature heats up to between 90 and over 100 degrees. While the average low temperature dips to about 55, December’s low temperatures often hover at 40 degrees. Unlike many areas of the country, Tucson has four seasons, the fifth is monsoon season each year from June 15th to September 30th each year. During this time, Tucson experiences extreme weather such as wind and dust storms, flash floods and lightning storms. The city often receives close to half of its annual rainfall total during monsoon season.
Tucson’s climate continues to make the city a popular retirement community. According to AARP, the city ranks second in the nation for the number of senior residents over the age of 75 and number of suburban, senior residents age 55 to 64. Even more people flock to the area for vacations and extended stays during the cold winter months in North America.
Noted Writers and Creative People who have lived in or were born in Tucson
Edward Abbey – author
Michael Blake – author
Charles Bowden – author
Ray Bradbury – author
Erskine Caldwell – playwright
Max Cannon – Author and creator of the comic strip Red Meat (comic)
Neko Case – musician
Peter I. Chang – artist, filmmaker
John Convertino – musician
Joan Ganz Cooney – Creator of Sesame Street
Mitch Cullin – author
Kaylee DeFer – actress
Ted DeGrazia – painter
John Denver – musician
Daniel Martin Diaz – artist and musician
Bob Dole– politician
Barbara Eden – actress
Farrah Fawcett – artist and actress
John Fina – professional football player
Jennie Finch – professional softball player
Charles G. Finney – author
Pablo Francisco – stand-up comedian
Howe Gelb – musician
Gabrielle Giffords – politician
Barry Goldwater – politician
Jane Goodall – chimpanzee researcher
Jim Grabb – former professional tennis player
Andrew Greeley – author, scholar and Roman Catholic priest
Lalo Guerrero – father of Chicano music
Emil Haury – archaeologist
Rob Hyland – actor
Ben Patrick Johnson – journalist, model, voice over
Ulysses Kay – composer
Daniel Kennedy – actor
Barbara Kingsolver – novelist
Greg Kinnear – actor
Don Knotts – actor
Joseph Wood Krutch – author
Caitlin Leverenz – Olympic Swimmer
Bob Log III – musician
Taryn Manning – actress
Lee Marvin – actor
Pete McCaffrey – basketball player
Roger McCluskey – National Sprint Car Hall of Fame racer
Kevin McKenzie – theologian
Tom Miller – travel writer
Craig T. Nelson – actor
Rainer Ptacek – composer, musician
William Rathje – archaeologist, Garbage Project director
Geraldo Rivera – journalist, TV personality
Linda Ronstadt – musician
Robert Royal – painter
Barry Sadler – singer, songwriter
Zachariah Selwyn – “actor, musician and television personality”
Garry Shandling – comedian and actor
Anthony Shumaker – major league baseball player
Leslie Marmon Silko – author
W. Eugene Smith – photographer
Peter Smith – scientist; principal investigator Phoenix Project
Martin Spanjers – actor
Van Cliburn – pianist
David Foster Wallace – author
Kate Walsh – actress
Andrew Weil – physician
Michael L. White – actor, writer, producer
Peter Wild – poet, author
Link Wray – musician
Steven O’Brien – a founding member of the Ray Charles Experience