Scary New Fire Station

Flagstaff, AZ – In northern Arizona, there are several old buildings believed by some to be haunted: the Jerome Grand Hotel, Prescott's Hassayampa Inn, the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff. Now, this Halloween, there's a story of a new building which many believe is haunted by a man who died more than a century ago. Arizona Public Radio's Theresa Bierer has the story.

Firefighter Mike Felts is giving me a tour of the new fire station on Highway 1-80 northwest of Flagstaff. He's pointing out places where paranormal activity is suspected.

In 1887 a man named Ben Bullwinkle died at the site of the city's newest fire station-- number 5. And here's the twist .is before he moved to Flagstaff he was known as Captain Bullwinkle a hero of the Chicago fire department. Since the station opened in July .mysterious things have happened.

"It's made a believer out of non believers."

Kathy Kentera is an engineer who's been on the department 16 years. She's had several ghostly experiences.

Kentera.)) It was later in the evening, we were watching TV and we have telephones throughout the stations that have pretty long cords on them. And for no reason whatsoever, the phone cord starting swinging back and forth. And no body was anywhere near there or had been near the phone cord and it was kind of a hair raiser because we had no idea how that happened."

TB) Each of the 3 shifts at the station has had Bullwinkle scares.' And they keep a running list of the encounters on a large white board. One of the most convincing, says Mike Felts, was when a sink strainer it's used to cover the drain and looks like an upside down top started spinning on a ledge apparently all by itself.

Mike Felts) "And we tried multiple ways to get the sink strainer to spin how it did, by shooting water next to it and trying to graze it with something and it was spinning so perfect and we could never re enact how it was actually spinning and I think it was really creative of Bullwinkle."

Joe Meehan is Curator of the Arizona Historical Society in Flagstaff. A former firefighter himself, he's researched the history of Ben Bullwinkle

"But I thought it was kind of appropriate that a fire station was built near where he had died and I think if he had anything to say about it I think he'd be quite pleased with the fact. "

Meehan says Ben Bullwinkle's started his career with the Chicago Fire department as a buggy driver .racing to the scene of a fire with the chief. He fought many fires and was considered a hero during the great Chicago fire of 1871. But Bullwinkle's love for speed proved fatal after he moved to Flagstaff. He was known for travelling from the train station downtown .to Fort Valley at the base of Snowbowl road in just 20 minutes. But one day, his horse stumbled and fell.

Meehan) "And he pitched forward and the saddle horn struck him in the stomach and I guess the technical term is he was eviscerated and he was impaled on the saddle horn and fell off."

Bullwinkle died shortly after the accident in a house right next to station 5. Now some people believe he's taken up residence in the new fire station. Captain Phil Sandbaaken calls the story of Bullwinkle fun. .

"We have our own benefactor here. We have a picture that we downloaded from the internet but we're looking for a very good picture and we'll mount it up here and the station will be dedicated to him."

TB in the station) Captain Bullwinkle .if you're with us please feel free to make an appearance as we're walking around the station here (laughter.)

But not everyone thinks it's fun. Mike Felts says one young fire fighter had a real scare after calling Bullwinkle out during the day .

Mike Felts) " He woke up in the middle of the night, and he said he felt like Bullwinkle was sitting in a chair next to him And he said he could hear Bullwinkle's fingers tapping on the desk. So, he actually didn't make it up throughout the night and pretty much stayed awake with the covers over his head for the whole night."

TB) Whatever is behind the unusual activity at station number five, the Flagstaff fire department has a lot of former skeptics who are now believers. Even those who are undecided like the idea that a famous former firefighter who liked to go fast .is still hanging around and waiting for the next call.

In Flagstaff for Arizona Public Radio, I'm Theresa Bierer.