Haunted Hair Nights: A Bad Hair Day Cozy Mystery Novella is now available in ebook and print. This title originally appeared in Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime. My new standalone edition includes a bonus chapter from Facials Can Be Fatal (Bad Hair Day Mystery #13).
When history teacher Bill Ripari offers his property for a school haunted house project, hairstylist Marla Vail volunteers to put the scare factor into the props’ hair. She joins her stepdaughter along with other students, parents, and teachers to transform the wooded estate into a creepy attraction.
Marla is busy creating decorations when she spies a splash of red on the estate grounds. Curiosity compels her to go outside for a closer look, but the dark stain isn’t fake blood meant to be part of fright night. Instead, the trail leads straight to the history teacher’s dead body.
Worried about the kids, Marla puts on her sleuthing hat to investigate. She discovers every one of the volunteers present that night had a possible motive. Between slacker students, helicopter parents, unexpected heirs, and a stonewalling school administration, Marla has her hands full in solving the murder and keeping her stepdaughter safe.
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A visit to Tombstone, AZ isn’t complete without a stop at the Bird Cage Theater, which is supposed to be haunted. It’s fascinating to explore the varied sections of this old establishment and view the artifacts stored there.
Opened in 1881, this one-and-a-half story structure held a saloon, theater, and balcony seating. It closed due to diminishing business in 1889. Subsequent owners renovated and reopened the theater for various purposes. Ghost stories kept guests coming back.
One of the supposed ghostly residents was a jealous woman who lived next store and frequented the theater. She died by overdosing on rat poison. Another tale involved two ladies who liked the same man. One woman stabbed the other while the man watched from his poker game. Some guests have reported seeing a stage hand walking across the stage. Others report seeing a woman’s apparition on the catwalk, smells of perfume or cigars, objects moving on their own, and other phenomenon.
Since the fictional ghost town in Peril by Ponytail, my WIP, has an old theater like this, you can guess what I used as a model. Here’s brief excerpt where Dalton’s cousin is giving him and Marla a tour of his renovation project:
“The only thing we have to fear here is other people.” Dalton’s statement put them firmly back on the ground. “So you’re saying what the man saw on the hill might have been a real person, and he went to investigate, never to return?”
“That’s not what my workforce believes. They think he saw La Catrina summoning him to glory. I took a look around there myself and came up empty. These stories about spooks are hogwash, if you ask me.”
Marla wasn’t so sure. She glanced up as a shadow flickered in her peripheral vision. Was someone up there in the rafters?
A rattling noise sounded right before a chandelier came crashing down from above.
So what do you think? Did a ghost loosen that heavy chandelier or a human culprit?
We couldn’t resist touring the Epitaph Museum that housed the old printing press where they put out an early newspaper. How far we’ve come from this cavernous hall to the newsrooms of today.
Tombstone is a great place to visit. It’ll make you appreciate our country’s history, the early pioneering days, and how rough life must have been for the settlers. You can pay homage to them at Boothill Graveyard on your way out of town. Note the Jewish monument below.
If you’re a history buff or a fan of historical recreations, you’ll want to visit Tombstone, Arizona. This site of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been remade into a tourist town with quaint shops and restaurants, museums, and a reenactment of the gun battle that resonated throughout history.
We stayed at the Landmark Lookout Lodge, an easy ten minute drive from the heart of town. The oldest house dates back to 1879. The town started when a cavalry scout discovered silver. When he proposed exploring the hills, he was told, “The only thing you’ll find out there is your tombstone.” Hence the town name.
The Good Enough Mine is open today but we didn’t have time to go. This one has a vertical shaft and is located off Toughnut Street, so-called because if you could walk outside without being shot or stabbed, you were a tough nut. The mine went down 600 feet where it hit the aquifer, so water had to be pumped out. It closed operations when silver prices dropped.
Along this street worked the attorneys who served the courthouse, now a museum. There’s still a gallows in the backyard where seven men were hanged. The white fenced house a little further down used to be a pleasure palace, if you know what I mean.
We took a trolley tour, and our friendly guide wearing a brown cowboy hat explained the sights along the way. There was Doc Goodfellow’s house. He signed an outlaw’s death certificate and lived on Toughnut Street. The sheriff’s house was here, too. A couple of thousand Chinese used to live in Tombstone. They worked as merchants and miners. Their women ran prostitution and opium rings. The guide pointed out many of the historic buildings, telling stories that went along with them.
Back on the main street, we shopped in the interesting gift shops, ate in the saloons, attended a historical diorama in a little theater, and bought tickets for the infamous gunfight reinactment. If I got the info correct, 30 shots were fired that day and 3 men were killed. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are the featured heros. Here is my first attempt at a video.
How does this relate to the story I’m writing? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton visit a dude ranch run by his cousin, Wayne. Wayne’s father is renovating a nearby ghost town. Guess what I used as a model? My fictional town is loosely based on a combination of Tombstone and Jerome (Oct. 30 post).
Coming next: Tombstone, Part 2—The haunted Bird Cage Theater and Boothill Cemetery.
Formerly a mining camp, Jerome, Arizona once boasted 15,000 inhabitants and now has a population of around 480. A popular ghost town for visitors, it’s a fun place to visit. Founded in 1876, the town rests in a picturesque setting with buildings scattered across multiple levels on the mountainside. The mines used to produce three million pounds of copper per month. Eighty-eight miles of tunnels still exist beneath the town. The mines closed in 1953. Now considered a National Historic Landmark, Jerome’s historical buildings are converted into shops, art galleries, museums, and eateries. Put on your walking shoes if you plan a visit. The steps are steep between levels.
The five-story Spanish Mission-style Jerome Grand Hotel, formerly a hospital for the copper miners, was built in 1926 as the United Verde Hospital. Made of solid concrete to withstand underground blasting, this structure towers over the entire town at the top of Cleopatra Hill. You have to drive along a twisty incline to get there, and in one place, it fits only one car at a time. When mining diminished, the hospital closed in 1950. It reopened, newly refurbished as a hotel, in 1996.
The hotel was hot, despite it being October. Although there are radiators in each room, there is no central air-conditioning. Keep this in mind if you book a reservation. Our room, number 26, was one of the few that had a noisy wall A/C unit. The rooms are tastefully decorated with wood furnishings. There’s a tiny old-fashioned TV in the room and framed pictures of copper sculptures. Bathroom amenities are generous, and there’s a modern shower. Coffee and Danish are served mornings in the lobby beginning at 7 AM. The rooms don’t have any coffeemakers.
We took a mid-day break for lunch at the Asylum Restaurant, the hotel’s appropriately named café. The restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner until nine o’clock in the evening. We appreciated their Halloween decorations and the view as we sat on a covered outdoor patio.
Afterward, we explored the town and its interesting buildings like an old brothel, saloon, hotels, and theatre. Then we checked in for our Ghost Tour (see prior post) in the modern lobby below.
For dinner we ate again at the Asylum, glad to relax after roaming the hotel looking for ghosts with our EMF meters. The restaurant had red brocade clothes over tables covered with changeable white papers and a very pleasant ambience. We had shrimp on a skewer and the house salad. From here, we retired for the evening. Despite my ghost hunting enthusiasm, I sincerely hoped an apparition wouldn’t visit me in the night. Guest have written their paranormal experiences at the hotel into a journal in the lobby. You’ll get chills up your spine reading the entries. As for those orbs that appeared in my photos, decide for yourself if they have ghostly origins or not.
Looking for a spooky read this Halloween? Look no further than here:
Note that my own haunted hotel mystery, Dead Roots, is listed. Marla and Dalton spend Thanksgiving weekend at a haunted resort. Which is scarier– for Dalton to meet her relatives or for Marla to encounter a ghost?
“The setting, a Florida resort complete with ghosts, ruins and secret passages, makes a terrific site for a mystery. With Marla, Cohen has created a plucky heroine, and it’s great fun to watch her negotiate the investigation, her nosy relatives and her consuming attraction for her fiancé, Dalton.” RT BookReviews
“Ghost stories, nifty secret passages, tales of gemstones and family secrets enliven this tale.” Oline Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel
“If you like ghosts and ghoulies and things that go blink in the night, you’ll love this book.” Mysterious Women
“Condemned wings of the hotel, secret passages, and a gaggle of paranormal experts investigating the resident ghosts, all add up to a frenetic mixture of mirth and mayhem.” I Love A Mystery
COMING NEXT: My Ghost Hunt tour at a real haunted resort, the Grand Hotel in Jerome, AZ. See my photos with orbs and hear about our adventures in this former hospital for local copper miners.
Paranormal research isn’t an exact science, but investigators use certain tools to help determine if an anomaly is present. In my Bad Hair Day mystery, Dead Roots, hairstylist Marla Shore attends a family reunion at a haunted Florida resort. Along with her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, she unearths dead bodies along with fond memories in the midst of Thanksgiving dinner. Also present that weekend are a group of ghost hunters. As the lead researcher explains to Marla, spirits can be active at any time. More readings are taken at night because there are fewer distractions. It’s also better for video to have a dark background. Here are some of the instruments at hand:
Electronic Voice Phenomena Recorder
EVP recorders capture voices and sounds that are not heard by human ears at the time. Researchers will enter an empty room with a recorder on, invite anyone present to speak, and then maintain silence while the recorder is running. Later, voices may be evident on the recording. It is important to attempt duplication from other sounds in the vicinity in order to eliminate natural causes. Pipes and duct work, for example, may conduct sound.
Electromagnetic Field Meter
This device measures electromagnetic energy in the area. Spirits produce a disruption of energy, but so do many of our common household appliances. Therefore, it’s essential to get a reading during different times of the day to detect household electricity. This gives you a base reading on normal EMF fluctuations. As with the EVP recorders, you have to locate normal sources before you can detect unusual spikes.
There may be a colder reading when a spirit is present because it sucks up energy from things around it. Again, check for drafts or other common sources, and correlate the temperature change with EMF variations and video recordings.
Cameras and Camcorders
Supposedly, entities emit near infrared radiation, or NIR. The most common type of anomalies caught on film are orbs. You might also see vortices, energy rods, or other unusual sources of light. Rarely does one capture an apparition. What’s the difference between an orb, apparition, energy rod, and vortex? Not much; they’re just different forms of spiritual energy.
How do you know you’re photographing an orb rather than a speck of dust on the lens? Orbs have a spherical shape. Sometimes you’ll catch them where you have EMF fluctuations. Researchers have caught videos where anomalies have gone through walls, hit ceiling fans, veered around people. You need to see if the anomaly can be recreated from any known sources. Go through the process of elimination before you consider anything to be actual evidence.
If there’s a ghost, how can you tell who it is? Often by the history of a place. Residual hauntings, for example, are like recordings. They reflect events that occurred at a particular location. Think in terms of an energy residue that keeps repeating itself. Footsteps going up and down stairs, soldiers fighting on battlefields, people walking down hallways; these are experienced in the same place over time like the apparition in St. Augustine, FL who’s always seen doing her laundry. By repeating the same action, she’s left an impression on the place. It’s a replay of the scene, like a traumatic event that has stamped its imprint on the locale. This type of haunting is simply a recording of an event in time. Anniversary ghosts are similar. They only appear on the anniversary of a significant event, so their appearance is a type of residual haunting.
Then we have intelligent ghosts who will try to get your attention by rattling doorknobs, creating odors, moving furniture, making noises. They’re the ones who create mischief. Poltergeists, for example, don’t intend to hurt people, but their high energy level can make them dangerous. They want people to know they’re around.
Marla and her family are staying at Sugar Crest Plantation Resort in Dead Roots. Besides her late Grandfather Andrew whose ghost affectionately pinches her in the tower elevator, there is Alyssa, the love-struck daughter of the original plantation owner, who met her demise during a fire in the sugar mill where she waited for her lover. There’s the Union solder shot to death outside the old homestead, now converted into concierge suites. And finally, Marla puzzles over the two strangers wearing Cossack hats who confronted her grandfather before they mysteriously disappeared. It’s said their spirits haunt the condemned wing of the hotel. Which ones of these ghostly tales are real and which ones may be stories meant to frighten visitors away?
DEAD ROOTS A Bad Hair Day Mystery Nancy J. Cohen
Marla’s family reunion at a haunted Florida resort turns up dead bodies instead of fond memories. She and her fiancé, Detective Dalton Vail, launch another murder investigation in the midst of Thanksgiving dinner.