Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / DeGrazia After Dark

They're still there, under wraps in greenHAUS Boutique and Gallery, the former home of the infamous 307 drag bar, and the onetime re-election campaign headquarters of former Mayor Phil Gordon: a pair of murals by the late Ted DeGrazia, one of Arizona's highest-profile exports to the world at large.

Best known for the paintings of big-eyed, primitive Native American tykes popularized in the '60s in a greeting card line launched by UNICEF, DeGrazia reportedly painted the long-covered-up, giant murals in the 1950s to pay off his drinks tabs when this building housed a series of fly-by-night cocktail lounges.

Both of the untitled murals, which are painted on plywood across the full length of 40-foot walls in browns and yellows on a field of deep khaki, depict the history of grain alcohol production, beginning with cavemen fermenting roots and ending with farmers bootlegging the stuff while prairie-skirted angels fly from the sun, clutching martini glasses and a pair of showgirls do high kicks of vodka-inspired joy.

So, why haven't the murals been rescued, restored, and moved to Tucson's DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun? Some say it's because the murals are painted directly on the space's interior walls, and removing them would destroy the ancient building. Others say it's because decades of cigarette smoke and cheesy repairs to the murals' peeling paint have rendered them valueless.

Our favorite story is this one: The murals are haunted by the ghost of DeGrazia himself, and every time someone begins poking around his old wall paintings, his ghost turns up and starts wagging his finger at anyone with big ideas of moving them.

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / The Ghosts of Casey Moore's

Casey Moore's Oyster House
Tom Carlson

Locals who like to chase their margarita with a little dead guy spend time at Casey Moore's, because this popular Tempe neighborhood bar at Ninth and Ash is reportedly chockablock with ghosts. Built in 1910 by William Moeur, a leader in Tempe's early education system. Moeur and his wife, Mary, lived in the house, and both died there, too — William in 1929; Mary in 1943. But they haven't, according to local legend, ever actually left the premises.

Both of the dearly departed Moeurs have been seen dancing together in the window of an upstairs bedroom, and neighbors routinely report seeing a faint glow from another upstairs bedroom window. The couple also are apparently downstairs pranksters, too: Customers have reported flatware flying from tables and have seen chandeliers spookily swinging and paintings crashing to the ground. Casey Moore's staff also claims that furniture and place settings often are rearranged overnight, while the restaurant is empty.

Creepier still are reports that a pretty young girl with light eyes and dark black hair who was murdered in the house sometime after the Moeurs died there. Some versions of the house's history claim that the residence became a whorehouse in the 1950s, and that the dark-haired girl is a former hooker whose john smothered her with a pillow rather than pay. Boo!

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / The Legend of Scott Coles

Make a bathroom friend in a bar on Mill one Saturday night in Tempe and you might hear the urban legend about the developer who threw himself off the West Sixth building before it was finished. Versions of the rumor generally include mention of the Great Recession, the dire state of the finances of the project, and a gruesome gesture toward the top of the now-fully operational high rise. It's a long way down to the roundabout driveway resembling a bull's eye.

The story might give you chills on your way to Rúla Búla for Pub Trivia, but is it true? Not exactly, although there was, in fact, a suicide related to the development. The true story behind this tale is gnarlier than the version that lingers over downtown Tempe.

In 2008, deep in the throes of the Great Recession, Mortgages Ltd. CEO Scott Coles had collected nearly $1 billion from investors in the Phoenix area for large-scale development projects, including what was then called Centerpoint Condominiums on Sixth Street. Coles once had instilled confidence in his investors, but the returns on their money weren't coming through, and the project fell into deep debt. Rumors began swirling among investors that Mortgages Ltd. was broke and that the FBI may be involved.

Was he a classic Ponzi scam artist? Coles, who once paid $375,000 to have lunch with Donald Trump, was known as much for his opulent lifestyle as he was for his risky ventures. Before the tension among those awaiting repayment boiled over and the investigations could follow the money trail (back to Coles' multiple mansions, his cars, his lavish parties with attendees like Ludacris and Jenny McCarthy), Coles donned a tuxedo, took a cocktail of pills, and got into bed with a cardboard cutout of his wife. His kids found him dead in his bedroom surrounded by a makeshift shrine to her, including photos and fresh-cut red roses.

So where did the first version come from? The rumor about the jump may be a conflation of another infamous suicide story in the neighborhood: that of renown Cuban artist Pedro Álvarez, who leaped from the fifth-floor window of his hotel room at the Twin Palms Hotel on Apache Boulevard just five days after the opening of his show "Landscape in the Fireplace: Paintings by Pedro Álvarez" at the Arizona State University Art Museum in April of 2004.

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