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.
Have you ever hunted ghosts at a haunted site? We had the chance to go on our own ghost tour at the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome, Arizona. This five-story concrete structure used to be a hospital for miners populating the area in the early 1920’s. Our ghost hunt ($20 per person) began in the boiler room of the hotel with an orientation talk. The original 1926 steam boiler still provides heat for the hotel. Our guide told us ghost tales and the hotel history (see post on Jerome coming next). Here’s the boiler room. Can you spot the orbs? You might have to enlarge the photos.
One ghost was a fellow who used to hang out at the bar and who disappeared for three days. He was found by the police chief hanging in his bathroom down a short corridor from the boiler room.
Another ghost was a man who was found with his head smashed under the elevator that had stopped working. The coroner said the back of his head should have been bashed in, but the front had contusions. Had he been hit with blunt force and his body laid out there so it would appear to be an accident?
Ghost number three was a 24-year-old female schizophrenia patient, who’d been drugged and restrained at night. On her last night there, she got loose and jump from the balcony to her death.
And finally, the fourth ghost could be the man who shot himself in his room.
Then we were given our instruments which included a Digital Camera, an IR Thermometer, and an EMF Meter that blinked red near electric sources.
The ground floor has the lobby and boiler room, plus a gift shop. The lobby used to be an emergency entrance for ambulance patients. The men’s wards were opposite the women’s and children’s wards on floors two and up. Room 26 (our room) used to be the x-ray department. This was spooky in itself, since my husband is a retired radiologist. Room 27 was the nurse’s station.
Floors one through four contain the hotel rooms and former patient wards, the former operating room, cafeteria, x-ray department, and solarium. The old-fashioned Otis elevator is enough to spark your imagination. You have to close a grate and then the outer door. A key is needed to reach the higher levels. Below is the incinerator where body parts were disposed along with other bio-hazardous materials after surgery.
The third floor was the psychiatric ward. The fourth floor had been an enclosed rooftop and was converted to rooms for wealthier private patients. (If I get any of this wrong, it’s due to my note taking and not to the lecture). The cafeteria was off one end of a floor. The operating room was at another end at a different level. There was also a solarium.
All are being converted into guest rooms. We walked through these sites on the ghost hunt tour, including the new areas under construction.
As we went around, we didn’t find any cold spots. I took a lot of my own pictures, hoping something would show up later when I put them online. We were promised a disk of everyone’s photos from the hotel cameras, but so far, this item has not arrived. However, a lot of orbs showed up on my photos as you’ll see. If you want more information on this phenomenon, check out these resources:
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.