Despite all the funky new hangouts, art galleries and bistros, it seems downtown Phoenix is still -- quite literally -- a ghost town after dark. According to some, you can thank the venerable San Carlos Hotel, at 202 North Central, for being the apparent source of this spirit quandary. After years of trying to keep its paranormal activity under wraps, the San Carlos has recently embraced its status as one of the most haunted hotels in America. To celebrate its unregistered guests, the hotel is allowing a "Ghosts of Phoenix" walking tour through favorite spirit haunts, which are normally closed to the public, at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 22. As tour leader Rachel Miller explains, "The hotel's strange occurrences are caused by its location over a vortex portal for spirits. This phenomenon is created by a basement well that taps a spring that Native Americans considered waters of wisdom." Frequently encountered ghosts include heartbroken actress Leone Jensen, who flung herself off the hotel's roof in 1928, and three schoolboys who play in the hallways. With these mischievous spirits pulling all sorts of unexpected pranks, it's no wonder so many proprietors of the hotel's restaurant have closed up shop without warning. Tickets are $10, $5 for kids under 12. Reservations are recommended. If you can't summon up your courage in time for this week's excursion, the "Ghosts of Phoenix" tours will continue each Saturday night through May. See www.ghostsofphoenix.com or call 602-574-9304. -- Douglas Towne
Monthly songwriters' event blows the covers off
Women with acoustic guitars often fall prey to a prepackaged misconception of froofy folk music and lesbianism (thanks to Lilith Fair). But Carey Slade and Mary Lemanski, hosts of the "Songsalive! and Just Plain Folks Songwriters Showcase" on Wednesday, January 26, can't be pigeonholed. Both musicians have played festivals all over the Valley, released their own CDs, and graced many an open-mike stage. Fitting, then, that they host a monthly open-mike event at the Paper Heart, 750 Grand Avenue, which showcases original songs by both local and touring songwriters. Musicians are encouraged to arrive early and network. Strumming starts at 8 p.m. The cost is $3. Call 602-262-2020. -- Niki D'Andrea
Poetry and music join forces at ASU West
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"Spoken word" may bring to mind angst-ridden teenagers ranting about how much life sucks, but throw those connotations out the window for the third annual West Side Poetry Jam at ASU West, 4701 West Thunderbird, on Saturday, January 22. Hosted by local poet Divine, the jam combines urban commentary and culture with music by DJ Mike, and Soul Ghetto. This year's featured guest is Chicago poet HB, whose intricate rhymes and sexually charged performances almost stole the stage at the 2003 jam. Kafia Winston, Issim Dark, Davaun Sanders, Iris Huey, King Savior, and Jazzy also perform. The jam starts at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 to $10. Call 602-543-2787. -- Niki D'Andrea
Military Vehicle Show rolls along
Your neighbor's Hummer might be nice, but it's got nothin' on the huge hunks of metal on display at the 14th annual Papago Military Vehicle Show, taking place on Saturday, January 22, and Sunday, January 23, at the Arizona National Guard, 2025 North 52nd Street. Dozens of fully restored military vehicles, retired from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, compete for six awards in two categories. Attractions include 155-mm howitzers, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Paladin Tank. There will be a swap meet both days, where attendees can buy military vehicles, parts and uniforms, plus an auction on Saturday. Admission is free. Call 480-497-9722. -- Niki D'Andrea