By Jill “MamaBug” Frier
As the temperatures begin to drop in Arizona, the thrills and chills of Halloween spookiness begin to creep in. One of the most fascinating, and entertaining, aspects of Arizona is the legendary prevalence of its ghost stories. As the heart of the Wild West, Arizona has had a history of violence, tragedy and mayhem from its earliest days on record. The result was hundreds of ghostly stories that surround certain, creepy spots throughout our state. Some of the ghostly spots are difficult to find and can be hard to reach, but here are a few of the reportedly haunted places around Arizona you can easily visit and take a ghost tour this Halloween season.
535 East Allen Street
Tombstone, located in the southern part of Arizona, is one of the most famous and celebrated towns of the historic Old West. Labeled “the town too tough to die,” Tombstone has seen its share of violence and death. The place with the worst reputation in Tombstone, widely believed to be the wildest and meanest place in town, is the Birdcage Theater. At least 16 deadly gunfights took place in the former saloon, brothel and gambling hall, and legend has it that at least 26 people died there between 1881 and 1889. Arguably one of the most haunted places in the state, the current owners of the Birdcage Theater describe it this way: “Over one hundred and forty bullet holes remain in the building. Visitors and employees of the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona, have reported seeing the spirits of former prostitutes and men in cowboy hats. Some claim to be touched and pushed by unseen forces. At night, the sounds of laughter, yelling and music have been heard, as though the parties of the old west were still raging.”
If you’re looking for one of the most infamous haunted hot spots in Arizona, take a day or weekend trip south to Tombstone and stop in at the Bird Cage Theater.
Jerome Grand Hotel
200 Hill Street
A bit north of Phoenix, nestled in the mountains near Cottonwood and Sedona, is the historic town of Jerome. Once a billion dollar copper mining town, Jerome was also once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West.” The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and many of the original structures built in its heyday are still precariously hanging from the side of the mountain, looming over the Verde Valley of North-Central Arizona. The Grand Hotel is reportedly one of the most haunted establishments in Jerome, a town full of great ghost stories. A former hospital, it is said to have about eight different ghosts haunting the building, ranging from patients to staff who died in a variety of frightening ways. Although the current owner is not really into hauntings or ghost stories, he does say:
“If there are spirits, they must be a lot happier occupying a hotel instead of a hospital. They are dealing with a clientele that are here by choice and not necessity.”
Jerome is well known for its hauntings, and haunted tours of the town are available for visitors who want to see more of the spooky sights and rumored haunts of the spirits in Jerome and the surrounding area.
Vulture Gold Mine
36610 North 355th Avenue
A little northwest of Phoenix is Wickenburg and the former site of Vulture City, another once-booming mining town with a brief and tempestuous history. In 1863, Henry Wickenburg discovered gold and silver and established the Vulture Mine. A small mining town cropped up to support the mine and the usual antics of the Wild West ensued. Once home to a population of several thousand people, Vulture City provides people with a glimpse of the mining culture and lifestyle in the Old West, and visitors can explore several of the buildings to see a piece of Arizona history. Visitors can also see the infamous, and very creepy, “Hanging Tree,” where legend has it that 18 miners were executed for stealing gold in the late 1800s.
Visitors report hearing voices, seeing “spirit orbs” and feeling cold spots around the former mining town, reportedly another Arizona hot spot for ghostly activity.
The town of Wickenburg hosts its own Legends and Ghosts Tours, so if you are seeking a spooky trip to an old mining town, take a quick journey down the road to Wickenburg for a tour of the Vulture Mine and find out about the other haunted spots in the area.
122 E Gurley St.
The one time capitol of Arizona, Prescott is home to many stories of ghosts and Wild West antics. One of the most famous, however, is the supposed haunting of the somewhat more modern Hassayampa Inn in on Gurley Street. The hotel was constructed in the 1920s and quickly became the site of one of Prescott’s most notorious hauntings. The hotel describes its most famous ghost story this way: “The year it opened, 1927, a very young bride checked into a balcony suite with her much older husband. According to the story, her husband went out to buy cigarettes and never returned. She waited for three days and then took her life in despair. Since then, countless hotel guests and employees have reported encounters with a young woman throughout the hotel crying at the end of a bed, dressed in a pink gown in the hallway, appearing and disappearing from rooms. Others have reported strange cold spots in her honeymoon suite. Frequently the smell of flowers emanates from the empty room.”
The Hassayampa Inn is a beautiful, historic hotel in downtown Prescott, but it’s also the location of quite a few different reported ghost sightings. If you are in the mood for a good ghost story and some famous hauntings this Halloween season, the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott is worth a weekend visit.
These are just a few of the many spots in Arizona rumored to be home to ghosts of our Wild West past. So if you are looking for the thrills and chills of a good ghost story this Halloween season and want a place that is easy to visit, take a day or weekend trip to one of these famously haunted spots. And be sure to check Ladybug’s Blog for a more ideas for great places to get your kids out of the house to enjoy historic and fun adventures throughout the state of Arizona.