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15. A Valley Metro ghost story
Episode 1520th October 2022 • Storylines • Valley Metro
00:00:00 00:26:20

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In this Halloween episode, Brittany and Maddie sit down with ghost tour guide Brandon to talk about some of the spooky places accessible by Valley Metro. Then our hosts are joined by Phil Bradstock from the City of Phoenix Film Office to talk about the horror film Psycho and other movies that were shot in the Valley.

Transcripts

Brittany:

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of your daily commute

Madeline:

Or how transportation impacts the community you call home?

Brittany:

Maybe you want to explore outside your community and don't know where to start.

Madeline:

Well, you're in luck because this is where you hop on.

Brittany:

I'm Brittany Hoffman...

Madeline:

And I'm Madeline Phipps.

Brittany:

We work in Communications for valley Metro, and together we'll discover all the ways that public transit enhances lives across the cities we serve.

Madeline:

And we might even make some new friends along the way.

Brittany:

Welcome to Storylines.

Madeline:

Hey, Brittany.

Brittany:

Mattie.

Madeline:

Have you ever seen a scary movie?

Brittany:

Actually, I saw the Omen on 6-6-6 and that stopped me from watching Scary Movies at night,

Madeline:

I have never seen a scary movie. The scariest I've ever seen is Hocus Pocus. Can't handle it. But recently I faced my fears alongside a bunch of my Valley Metro colleagues, and we went on a ghost tour of downtown Phoenix.

Brittany:

Maddie, did you have nightmares after our ghost tour?

Madeline:

Actually, no, because it was really interesting. I learned a lot of Phoenix history, especially as someone who grew up here, has lived here for a lot of years. I didn't know almost anything that I heard on this ghost tour.

Brittany:

Maddie, on our ghost tour, it's so cool because you can access all the points on the ghost tour by using light rail and public transit in downtown Phoenix so you can explore and go to all these spooky places too.

Madeline:

Yeah. In fact, we learned a little bit about a ghost that you might see while you're using our public transit system.

Brandon:

I've had many people actually, well, I've been doing these tours, me just standing here, whether it's here or across the street. I've had people, strangers who weren't, they weren't even guests on this tour come up to me, interrupt me in the middle of my little speech that I just gave you and tell me things like, "Are you talking about that ghost in the white coat? I've seen her! She was getting on the light rail!"

Madeline:

So the person you heard talking in that story was our amazing tour guide, Brandon. He took us to a bunch of Downtown Phoenix sites and is a bit of a history buff himself. So we had the chance to sit down with him and ask a few more questions about what it's like giving ghost tours in downtown Phoenix every night.

Brandon:

My name is Brandon and I am a ghost tour guide.

Madeline:

How long have you been a ghost tour guide?

Brandon:

I applied for the job over the holidays, last holiday season, and I had to go through a pretty lengthy interview process. And they gave me about a month to learn all of the stories that I tell on the tour.

And, I officially started around, uh, towards the end of February and I've been doing it ever since. So this is gonna be about my eighth month doing the tour.

Brittany:

Awesome. So how did you decide you wanted to do this job or the role of a ghost storyteller?

Brandon:

First of all, I could never have imagined that such a job even existed in the first place. I literally saw a job ad on Indeed.com. You know, living in this area, there's a lot of tour guide jobs. You're probably aware of that. And none of them have even remotely sounded as interesting as being a ghost tour guide. And just the concept of getting paid to walk around downtown Phoenix and tell ghost stories was just too good to pass up.

Brittany:

Now that you are a ghost storyteller, where does your love and fascination come from? And how do you learn about these stories?

Brandon:

I am fascinated with ghost stories. And it doesn't really, the location doesn't matter. Like it... I've studied ghost stories from all over the world, but the first time I was ever on a ghost tour, like, it's funny cuz I didn't know that ghost tours even existed until I was living in Canada, believe it or not.

I was doing one of those study abroad programs in university. And I was in another city I'd never been to before, which was Ottawa. And that is not a place that you would associate going on a ghost tour. And well, there I was, I was wandering around all by myself and I was like, "what is there to do around here?"

Cuz I, I knew nothing about this city. And I just happened to go to one of those tourism hubs, I guess. And they said, "oh yeah, we've got a ghost tour tonight." And I. What is a ghost tour? And I didn't even know that's such a thing existed. And I said, okay, well, I'm gonna go on it and see what it's like.

And I went on it and I... I won't get into all the details of what I learned on this tour, but let's just say I didn't sleep that night. And I definitely view Ottawa in a completely different. And just the idea of like, well, these ghost tours, like do they have them in the states or is this just like a Canadian thing?

And, I hadn't really heard about any ghost tours, even though they do exist, but at least in Arizona, they weren't really a thing for a long time. I think it's only become like the last couple of years that they've really started to become big and popular from what I understand. So the location doesn't really matter, but the job is what it is.

It's very local, and I am interested in... I'm more interested in the historical aspect when it comes to the ghost tours. Do I get the stories... Well, first of all, when I got hired for the job, part of it is when they decide to take you to the next level, they send you a script.

And I will tell you this script is like quite thick. And for me, I approached it like I was basically studying to be in a play. I think of it as a very theatrical thing. It, to me, it's a form of street theater. But, the stories do not come from me, many of them took place long before I was even born.

But the company did send us scripts, and I was only familiar with a couple of the locations previously. But there were things in the script that kind of shocked me actually cuz my knowledge of the history of Phoenix was actually quite limited. I have personally had never been on a Phoenix Ghost tour. As many people who go on the tour, I always tell, I'm telling everybody like, you know, we need more residents on this tour. And I've had many residents from Phoenix, like they've been living in Phoenix, their whole life and they've never heard of any of these stories before.

Like, I just, just last night I was doing a tour and there was a family and, they told me privately that they were, you know, very, very into the history of Phoenix. Like, they're natives, they've lived here their whole lives, and yet they were totally ignorant of literally every story that I told on the tour. So, and then that's where like, you know, we need tours like this. And I, I agree. So my approach is not just to, to deliver, you know, theatrical entertainment, which I am trying to do, I, I really am interested in sort of peeling back the layers.

Some of the stories really radiated with me and some of them did not. And some of them were very, very richly detailed and very heavily researched. And some of them were just more like, I guess, folklore or rumor to be frank. And so I have tried to do my own research because if I'm doing this, I'm trying to give it my all, matter what the story happens to be.

Madeline:

On our tour you mentioned someone spawning a ghost on the light rail. Could you tell us a little bit about how you came to learn that?

Brandon:

I was doing the story of Hotel San Carlos. And, for the listeners, I tell two stories of Hotel San Carlos. Hotel San Carlos actually has much more than two stories, but we only cover two of them on the tour, cuz again, the tour can only be so long.

I had someone come up to me. He... this person was not on the tour and initially I thought it was a guest who was like late for the tour and we were waiting for them. And this individual just interrupted me and I was trying to be polite and I didn't wanna like, ignore this person, even though they were kind of being rude to me.

I acknowledged them and they just said, "Are you talking about that ghost with the white coat? I have seen her!" And he just started, he started going on, I'm not kidding, he went on for like 10 minutes in front of the whole group and me and all the people dining at the hotel. And we were, we were right next to the restaurant, there is a restaurant that's attached to Hotel San Carlos, and there were people having their dinner.

This is before I just started to start, starting the tour across the street. So we... I didn't... I started realizing, you know, I probably shouldn't be talking about the stories of Hotel San Carlos when people are trying to enjoy their dinner. So if I see people having dinner in this restaurant, I'm like, okay, let's go across the street, and that's what happened with your group. I decided to start across the street, but this particular night we were right next to the restaurant and this, this individual just came up and just started like rambling about. "I have seen that ghost. I saw her get on the light rail. She was wearing her white coat!" And he just kept going on and on and on.

Then he just like, he got done with his story and then he just walked away and and I'm just kind, we're all just kind of standing there like, Oh, um, okay. Uh, thanks for sharing. So that moment really has stuck with me and I decided to incorporate that into, uh, and to the story cuz I'm like, yes, people do see this spirit.

Madeline:

Wow. Well, I guess we just had one final question. Do you have a favorite story to tell when you're giving the tour?

Brandon:

That's a tough one cuz there are many of the stories have really radiated with me and it, you know... The route has not changed since I started doing the tour. I don't know if it ever will, to be honest with you. It's pretty much set in stone. So there are stories that I, and I've told them almost a hundred times at this point.

So when you tell the same story like over and over and over again, you do start to see it in a different way after a while. And so there are stories that have really, really radiated with me. And then there are stories... it's kind of a chore to tell over and over and over again. I'm not gonna say which ones those are.

I will say that when it comes to the standard tour, I think my personal favorite is still, and, and I'm not, I'm not gonna, into the details of the story or anything, but I think my personal favorite is still gonna be the Adams Hotel. slash which is now on the site.

The site that the Adams Hotel or hotels were on is now the Renaissance Hotel. So it's really a story of like three different hotels. I, I think that's the one that has even from the get go. Like, I first read that story, when I was studying the scripts, when I was learning the tour. That one just really floored me on many different levels. And I had no indication that anything like that had happened at that location at any point in history.

Madeline:

I feel like you're so lucky that you found like your passion and that's your job. That's so cool.

Brandon:

Getting paid to tell ghost stories is a nightmare come true.

Brittany:

Maddie, what was your favorite, interesting fact you learned on the ghost store?

Madeline:

Honestly, all the stories were really great. I think probably delving in a little bit into the hotel that featured prominently in the opening scene of Psycho was really interesting. I mean, I think that legacy is a little scary in and of itself. But then hearing that there was an actual ghost story associated with that building regardless of its inclusion in the movie, that was really interesting.

Brittany:

After the break, we're talking to someone who knows all about filming in Phoenix and how these spooky, scary stories come to life, and when we can be seeing Phoenix on the big screen next.

Peter:

Wanna check out some of the hottest spots in Tempe? Use streetcar for quick and easy access to Mill Avenue, Gammage Auditorium, ASU and other destinations. Rides are free for the first year.

Alex:

Looking to plan a trip? Use the valley Metro app. It'll show you the best routes to get you where you want to go. And you can even track buses and light rail trains in real time. Search for the Valley Metro app on the Apple App or Google Play store.

Peter:

Suns fans, avoid the traffic and parking hassles and ride to home games in style. Your ticket to the game is your ticket for light rail to and from Footprint Center on game day. Get onboard and get excited!

Phil:

My name is Phil Bradstock. I'm the film commissioner for the City of Phoenix, and I work actually for the city of Phoenix, and the film office is housed under the umbrella of the Community and Economic Development Department.

Madeline:

So that's a very interesting job title. Will you just explain a little bit about what you do day to day?

Phil:

as actually been around since:

Generally speaking, I mean, we do a lot of weird things. Like we'll close down 1st Avenue, stack all the cars going the wrong direction. So we do a lot of logistics planning. So that's what I tell people, mostly what I do is logistics.

Brittany:

So you're obviously very familiar with many films and commercials and other filming projects. Can you name off some of the movies that have been filmed here in the Valley?

Phil:

ng question because back from:

centive sunset in December of:

And so when you need that wide shot or that car driving through the desert, they'll come out here to shoot that. But usually they're not here for more than just a few days, and then they go back to their soundstage, whether that's in Los Angeles or Vancouver or in Georgia somewhere. So we're pretty much just kind of in the background.

s that get, that are like the:

Madeline:

Well, so speaking of some of those exterior shots, our theme for this episode, we're looking into sort of the spooky history of Phoenix. And so film buffs out there will probably know one of the most famous movies maybe of all time, Psycho, opens with some exterior shots of Phoenix. Do you know which buildings are highlighted there and are any of them like still there today?

Phil:

ng just to look at Phoenix in:

And what I find interesting is even way in the background, you'll notice South Mountain and you can actually see the antennas, and there's only like a handful of them up there. Now it's, they're all over the place, but if you look really closely, it's just in the top right corner, you'll be able to see 'em.

Madeline:

Do you know if, did Alfred Hitchcock have any kind of connection to Phoenix or he just thought it would be an interesting place to set the movie?

Phil:

You know, I don't know about that, but I have heard that he was not the one who actually was out here shooting. Usually you'll have second units that go out, and you'll see that at the end of the movie, credit second unit directed by such and such a person. So that was probably the group that came out here.

So it's unlikely that Alfred Hitchcock himself was actually on set when they were filming that opening scene.

Madeline:

Do you ever say no to a shoot that wants to film something in Phoenix?

Phil:

Maybe 1% of the time, but it has to do with logistics. So if somebody wants to film something, well, let's say the Rock and Roll Marathon is going on, clearly that's just not gonna work with the parking and the route and everything. So really, um, we find alternatives for everything. So really we don't ever say no, we just have to kind of figure out a different thing.

Like a number of years ago, we had, for the last Super Bowl actually, Pepsi wanted to do this really big thing where they had lights that they wanted to broadcast on South Mountain with the Pepsi logo, but there's a city ordinance where you can't use the parks for advertising.

And so we said no to that. So then they brought out those huge searchlights, to look at the sky and to search around and to film that is part of like an opening for the show. So those are kind of things where we'll have to say no sometimes. We'll always find an alternative to come up with a compromise that'll still work for them.

Brittany:

What's your favorite film that you've gotten to take a part of or work logistics for that's come to the Valley.

Phil:

I think my personal one was the Will Ferrell movie. Everything Must Go, which was definitely a dark comedy. But what I found so funny was when I got the original script, it takes place in Dallas. It has to do with the Texas Rangers. And they were looking for a McMansion like you would find in Texas. But the reality is, is we don't have those kind of brick buildings that are out here cause we don't have tornadoes or that type of weather.

And so when I talked to them, I said, you're probably gonna have to rewrite this for the Diamondbacks or something else because they really don't have these type of homes that you're looking for out here. But they came out, I really pitched Arcadia as the location for filming, drove 'em around and they said, "nah, this isn't gonna work."

They flew back, and then returned again with a location manager. And they went out to somewhere and maybe it was Gilbert, and they found a home, a series of homes, and they really liked it. And they said, okay, this is where we're gonna film. But they had some time left to kill before they got on their airplane to go back to Los Angeles. And so on a whim, they just decided to drive through Arcadia again. And this time they had the director of photography with them. And he found this one road, which, which I had actually driven down with the other producers previously. And he said, "this is it. This is where we're gonna shoot the movie." And so that ended up being the location.

So it was one of those things where I kind of, I felt like I had a really good key, like really good insights to where it should go. But it just takes somebody that's also looking at the light and how it reflects off the buildings to also make a final decision.

Madeline:

It seems like when I'm watching national type of shows, whether it's sports where they're focusing on a team from Phoenix or some other like news coverage or whatever, where they're trying to lay the foundation for where, you know, kind of a scene setting shot, it often seems like the light rail is featured in those kind of shots. So do you know why that would be? Is there something about how transit plays to a national audience that makes it like helpful in setting a scene like that?

Phil:

Yeah, I think that a lot of the country maybe has a misperception about Phoenix and that we all ride horses sometimes, even though we have the internet and we can all look around. But I do really think that shows that we're a very forward city, and with the light rail adds an element that most people associate with large modern urban cities. And so that's why I think that's definitely something that you see a lot. But then you'll also see at the, in the same time, Papago Park and you'll maybe see a time lapse there, or they'll hike up to Dobbins Lookout at South Mountain and also show the desert with the city in the background.

But I really think the transit in the light rail kind of adds to that urban environment that really sells Phoenix.

Brittany:

Side note, Phil. I despise when they show the Grand Canyon on any like sports bumps or anything. I'm like, it's so far!

Madeline:

It's so far!

Brittany:

I'm like, people know it's here, but it's not around the corner, like makes me so mad. So I'm glad that you feel like that. It's a scene setting for urban areas. Yes.

Phil:

Yeah, we used to have a tagline back a while ago that said skyscrapers, transit, some other modern things and also cowboys and cactuses can be included or can be found. But you know, it's really cuz we, we don't wanna sell Phoenix from a film perspective as a western town, because we really don't have that here anymore, and it's much more of an urban environment.

So that's why a lot of the filming that we see downtown, they are looking for an urban environment. Like we did a commercial a couple of years ago that was for, it was, it was kind of interesting. It was for a vehicle car coming down with, I believe it was Nissan and it was for the European market, for France and England.

They hired a production company outta Montreal and they picked Phoenix because it looked like a European. And so with all the glass buildings and so this is where they shot.

Madeline:

So I know maybe you don't know this off the top of your head, but like maybe a ballpark figure. How many types of like filming shoots are you involved in? Maybe say in one year?

Phil:

So if they're within the defined boundaries of the city of Phoenix, which is my jurisdiction, we, I issue roughly about 120 to maybe 150 permits a year. It's a little hard to get an exact number, only because if you're a local company, you can use the same permit number multiple times throughout the year.

So I just like, as a local company that's on their sixth use of the same permit. So if I just go by permit numbers, it's not necessarily accurate. It's actually much more than that. But yeah, we see, you know, we definitely see around 120 to 150 individual projects coming through here.

Some of them though don't even require film permits. Like if they're downtown Phoenix, five or less people not obstructing a sidewalk, and they're just shooting the general B roll. We don't even issue permits for anything like that. But the types of projects we see there is a lot of commercials, a lot of still photography, like specifically catalog type shoots, bathing suits, patio furniture.

We do a lot of national commercials. Like there was one last year for the American Family Insurance with a baseball player from the Brewers that was on constantly. That shot out here, and off of 56th Street and Sweetwater, you see a lot of national spots for, uh, insurance companies. And especially when you get into the spring training times, you have a lot of the sporting apparel companies that come out here and shoot.

And you also just like say a lot of catalog shoots happen out here and those are a lot different than your family portraits. Family portraits is just a family with a photographer. When we're doing these shoots, it's like motor homes, it's big equipment, trucks. You're looking at 30 people out there just to snap one image.

Brittany:

I know that you said car companies are more prone to the downtown area and you've been to Arcadia. We've seen shots on different freeways. Is there a spot that is like the hot spot everybody wants to go, or is it really spread out throughout the valley? Cuz we do have a lot of different areas and looks all across Phoenix.

Phil:

There are, I would probably pin it to about four specific areas in Phoenix. One being South Mountain, specifically San Juan Road, which is about four and a half miles. It's a two-lane road. We nickname it the Road to Nowhere. The great thing about it is that it's closed to vehicles and so we can open it up and put cars out there for filming.

We have rangers and make sure everybody's safe cuz there are bicyclists and pedestrians that will be walking and biking out there. But South Mountain is definitely a hugely popular location. Downtown Phoenix, of course. Then I would say Papago Park is another one just because of the Red Rocks. The photographers really like the way the light comes off of there, especially cuz it faces to the south. You're shooting north so it's got nice light.

And then Arcadia is definitely the other major location. And really, Arcadia, it's more because it looks like "Anywhere USA." It doesn't have, usually people keep their grass year round. They don't have a lot of rock landscapes. The homes aren't brown kind of colored. When you get to the brown stuff and the cactus, that really is for a geographical area, very specific. And when you're doing a national spot, someone in Ohio needs to be able to relate to it. And so Arcadia turns out to be one of those locations.

nna launch until September of:

So we're really expecting. That to see soundstages built out here, the kind that are needed for major movies, as well as the major productions coming out here to the Valley. So we've been 10 years really without the major movies for extended periods of time out here filming. So this is really gonna be a huge game changer for this whole state of Arizona. And so all of us are getting geared up and ready for what's about to happen in a year.

Brittany:

Maddie, talking to Phil reminded me of when we got to do the film Noel here in Phoenix, and light rail is even featured.

Madeline:

That's right. It was featured and I cannot wait to see what other movies have glamour shots of our beautiful light rail, bus, street, car, circulators, you name it, taking people all across the valley.

Brittany:

Maddie, public transit is always a scene setter in movies, TV, so I'm very excited to show off our new purple trains!

Madeline:

Well, we learned a lot investigating all things from the paranormal to Phoenix's budding film scene. And if you have something you're curious about, send us an email to podcast@valleymetro.org and we'll get on the case.

Brittany:

Thanks for listening to this episode of Storylines and don't forget to get caught up on all episodes wherever you listen to podcasts. Leave us a review and rate us while you're there too. For Valley Metro, I'm Brittany.

Madeline:

And I'm Madeline.

Brittany:

Thank you for riding with us.

Madeline:

We'll meet you at the next stop.

Storylines is produced by Peter Corkery, Alex Tsotsos and Dane Ryals. Taylor Dunn is the executive producer. I'm Madeline Phipps with Brittany Hoffman. Thanks for listening.

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