Is Rosson House Museum Haunted?

Rosson House Museum

The spirit of a murdered caretaker reportedly still watches over this historic Phoenix mansion

Paranormal Reports at
the Rosson House

  • The apparition of a former caretaker is often seen around the staircase
  • Phantom footsteps are often heard around the house
  • Doors reportedly lock on their own
  • Unlit fireplaces reportedly emanate large amounts of heat without known cause
  • Objects are known to move around the museum without explanation
  • Some visitors claim fireplaces in the house will spontaneously ignite

Rosson House’s
Victoria-era History

Phoenix, Arizona’s Heritage and Science Park is a densely packed collection of museums and educational centers. This eclectic assortment includes the Arizona Science Center, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Arizona State University Mercado, and perhaps most curiously, the Rosson House.

Flaunting a Victorian style juxtaposed around modern brutalist museums, the Rosson House has a sense of stubbornness about it. Perched on the last remaining residential block of the original town of Phoenix, the Rosson House is one of the last remnants of the city’s distant past.

Rosson House museum at night

The Rosson House today, from its golden topped tower down to the fired brick foundation, is a respected cornerstone of downtown Phoenix culture and education.

But experiences in the Rosson House can range from interesting to downright spooky, and what happens under its bright yellow roof doesn’t stay there, as numerous ghost stories and paranormal rumors have shown. But what is it that supposedly makes this old brick mansion so haunted?

Timeline of Rosson House Museum's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Rosson House Museum through the years

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Built in early 1895, the Rosson House was commissioned by local physician, and then mayor of Phoenix, Roland Rosson. Rosson made sure to include all the luxuries of the time, including electric lights, hot and cold plumbing, and a telephone. Despite sparing no expense on this opulent Victorian mansion, the Rosson family didn’t stay there long.

They quickly rented their home out to newspaperman and former Vice Presidential nominee Whitelaw Reid. By the summer of 1897, the Rosson family sold the mansion and moved away from Arizona.

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The home was sold to Aaron and Carrie Goldberg, owners of a successful clothing store. Aaron Goldberg was also a politician, having written the bill that permanently established Phoenix as Arizona’s state capital. The Goldbergs sold the mansion in 1904 to S.W. Higley.

Higley in turn sold it to the Gammel family in 1914, making the mansion home to four families in less than 20 years. The Gammels owned the house for longer than anyone and operated it as a boarding house. By 1948, the Gammels sold off the home to other interested landlords.

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Over the years that followed, the Rosson House descended from a run-of-the-mill boarding house to an unkempt flophouse. By the 60s, the home had become known for its poor reputation and worse condition.

It seemed quite possible that the historic mansion would see demolition. But, the mayor at the time, John Driggs, fought throughout the decade to save the home, successfully lobbying to get it added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

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Driggs bartered with President Nixon to get a $200,000 HUD grant to support Phoenix’s urban renewal in 1974, working with the city to rehabilitate the home starting in 1976. In 1980, the Historic Heritage Square area of Phoenix was fully revitalized and reopened, with the Rosson House at the center of it all. The home has served as a popular historical museum ever since.

But not long after opening as a museum, something happened that would, quite literally, haunt the building forever.

The Ghost of Murder at
the Rosson House?

Despite the Rosson House’s long and well-known history, the hauntings reported around the house stem from a much more recent event. In the early 1980s, a caretaker for the Rosson House was gunned down just outside the building, and the feelings and experiences around the museum have never been the same.

Most people who have strange encounters in the house today figure it is just the old caretaker still watching over the place and playing occasional pranks on the current caretakers.

Apparitions at the Rosson House

The old caretaker’s apparition has been spotted throughout the building, but most often around the home’s staircase. Tourists and museum guides report seeing his shadowy figure dart around out of the corner of their eyes, while others have gotten more detailed glimpses of him running up and down the stairs.

In other instances, people hear heavy footsteps around the staircase, though no figure would appear. These phantom footsteps have also been heard in other areas of the house.

Rosson House’s Phantom Prankster

Museum employees also say that the caretaker’s ghost will sometimes play pranks on them. One of the most common is that doors will reportedly lock from the inside without explanation, leaving workers to search around for old keys to unlock them.

At other times, workers report small objects and pieces of exhibits moving to different exhibits without reason or known cause. Most folks around the museum chalk this up to the spirit of the caretaker just killing time entertaining himself.

Heated Hauntings at
the Rosson House

Another unique report of paranormal activity around the Rosson House revolves around the home’s fireplaces, which are known to produce strange levels of heat.

The fireplaces in the museum are rarely lit, if ever, and yet many still report high levels of heat emanating out of them, as if a roaring fire is burning within them. Other times, people have reported that fires will spontaneously ignite in the fireplaces around the Rosson House.

Rosson House’s
Paranormal Popularity

The Rosson House is just one part of a bustling educational park in downtown Phoenix, and the museum staff often have their hands full juggling all the work needed to entertain and educate the tourists and locals who pass through each day. So, they don’t often have time to host paranormal events or investigations despite the house’s locally known ghost stories.

But, those interested in the potential paranormal activity around the Rosson House are able to book guided tours through the museum, and the whole Heritage Square and Science Park area offers venue rentals for events and special gatherings, from weddings to concerts and more. The Rosson House in particular is a popular rental option for photographers, spirit photographers included. So any paranormal enthusiast hoping to explore the Rosson House has a few options available to them. Just don’t go in hoping for spooky cold spots since some ghosts, especially at the Rosson House, like it hot.