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Meet the ghosts of Tucson with student-owned Specter Ghost Tours

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Nicholas Johnson and Nicholas Johnson | The Daily Wildcat Robert Owens directs his ghost tour on Saturday, April 16 in downtown Tucson.

The city of Tucson has officially been around since 1775, and in those nearly 241 years, quite a few people have died. Robert Owens said he thinks that most of them are still here — in some form or another — and he’d like to introduce you to them. 

Owens is the owner and operator of Specter Ghost Tours, a ghost tour company which takes tour-goers on a haunted trip through the downtown Tucson area. 

“I never thought I would be able to make a living doing this kind of thing, but it’s so cool that I can,” Owens said to one of his guests while leading a tour last Saturday night. 

As a political science senior with a history minor, his interest in history and the paranormal helped him find his way into a position leading ghost tours for former ghost tour company Spirit Expeditions, which at the time was the largest ghost tour company in the country. Unfortunately, Spirit Expeditions expanded too quickly and went out of business.

Taking the business knowledge he obtained from Spirit Expeditions, Owens started Specter Ghost Tours.

The tour has several interesting stops, each with a great deal of history. Stops on the tour include The Rialto Theater, the Fox Tucson Theater and Hotel Congress. Owens said his favorite stop on the tour is the Masonic Scottish Rite Cathedral. He has some personal interest in the Masonic temple, as he is a member himself. The tour also takes guests by the Pioneer Hotel, which is site of the deadliest fire in Arizona’s history. 

Owens is currently trying to expand his ghost tour business by opening up a second tour route. Tour-goers will be armed with paranormal hunting equipment similar to what you might see on TV, and the route will take them to Fort Lowell Park for a ghost hunt. Owens said he plans to have the new route open by early July. 

Owens is currently training two contractors to help him with the tours and is planning on hiring a third in July when he adds on the new route. He said he’s working hard and being careful to not expand too quickly in order to stay as successful as his competition. 

“I feel that I have been as successful as my competition, if not more so,” Owens said. “I think that judging the success in the first year of a business is hard. Entrepreneurs have the tendency to say things are going great even when they’re not. In my case, I feel that I am happy with where it is.”

Around the UA campus, Owens gets involved wherever he can while still keeping up with his business. He is currently the vice president and incoming president of Students for Affordable Tuition, vice president of logistics for the STRIVE club, was involved with Model United Nations and has worked with the UA Young Democrats in the past.

After he graduates, Owens said he would like to go to law school. He added that the fate of Specter Tours partially hangs in the balance of which school ends up accepting him—if he stays here in Arizona, he hopes to continue running Specter Tours, and if he goes out of state, he would like to keep the business, but hand over day-to-day operations to a manager while he goes to school.

Owens said he’s “caught the entrepreneurial bug,” saying that he is in the process of starting two new businesses currently, as well as writing two books. 

“I hope that they learn a bit about the history of the city,” Owens said. “As long as people leave my tour satisfied and entertained then I’ve done my job. … Tucson is not a place where people think there’s a lot of history, but it’s one of the oldest continually inhabited cites in the country. We’ve had people living here since before 1776, but people don’t think about that. When they think Tucson, they think of saguaro cacti and hot weather.”


Follow Nicholas Johnson on Twitter.



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