My interest in the Owls Club was both sinister and typical. A recently opened cocktail bar located a little south of downtown Tucson’s main hub, I was curious to see what the new hot spot was like. But there were darker motivations, too. The Owls Club is located in a renovated, former funeral home. On the day it opened, a friend told me that she had visited and joined a group on an informal tour, which included the former embalming room. Upon entry, she described feeling utterly creeped out—the temperature dropped and her chest felt heavy.
It was my mission to experience it for myself.
The Owls Club is like entering a vampire’s lair. Navy walls and dim lighting resulted in several patrons using their phone flashlights to read the menu (unfortunately, it also meant that my photos were horrendous).
Church pews serve as additional seating to the bar, while wooden beams make for an architecturally interesting ceiling and intricate lighting fixtures add elegant beauty. A separate room from the bar feels similar to a very stylish friend’s living room (a brick fireplace, wooden dining tables, plush patterned rugs), and is perfect for long, drawn-out conversations over some good red wine.
The specialty cocktail menu is very short, listing just six exclusive-to-the-Owls-Club beverages, but bartenders whip up other favorites off the menu (Manhattans, Gimlets, the like). Whiskey is the specialty here, with about 100 different brands listed.
I felt like a cat watching a bird feeder as the bartenders whipped up Old Fashioneds and Whiskey Sours, flirting and flicking and swirling and shaking behind the bar as my head bobbed from left to right to follow them.
Over a Tin Lizzy, a citrusy gin-based cocktail, I tried to play it cool with the bartenders, slyly expressing my interest in checking out the embalming room that my friend had seen. I was quickly rebuffed—“your friend shouldn’t have been in there,” one responded. Whoops!
No worries, though—there are other places I can go to for a ghostly encounter. The Owls Club building is just one of several in downtown Tucson that are rumored to be haunted: Club Congress, Reilly’s (another renovated funeral home that’s one of my top five favorite restaurants in Tucson), and, oddly enough, the building that I work in.
The MacArthur Building (which you probably have never noticed until it’s pointed out to you) houses the company that I’ve worked for for the past four years. In my time here, I’ve never come across any ghosts, but that’s no thanks to the company’s owner herself.
The building, which was constructed in 1907, was a hotel (first the Hotel Heidel; then, the MacArthur Hotel) that served passengers arriving via the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, which is across the street. Apparently, some guests never left.
When a construction worker was working on the building one night, all alone, a voice shouted from the top of the stairwell: “Get! Out!” I’ve also heard that when two coworkers were working late and discussing the building’s spiritual activity, two books flew off the shelf of the office they were chatting in.
The company’s owner reportedly came into the building and asked for peace Monday through Friday when employees were in the office. Sounds crazy, but I haven’t heard any stories since.
One thing about the Owls Club definitely haunted me: the variety of liquor types I consumed. Gin! Vodka! Wine! Yikes. Beware.
Check out the Owls Club at 236 S. Scott Ave. in downtown Tucson (just behind the Children’s Museum, north of the Temple of Music and Art). The nearest Streetcar stop to the Owls Club is Broadway Blvd. at Stone Ave. if you’re heading east (stop 8E), or Congress St. at Stone Ave. if you’re heading west (stop 8W). Hours are from 5pm to close, every day.
The Owls Club's Instagram account is another good source for updates.