Good haunts: Jerome and Bisbee compete for Halloween - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Good haunts: Jerome and Bisbee compete for Halloween

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Posted: Saturday, October 13, 2007 5:49 pm | Updated: 6:50 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

According to some, Arizona is infamously haunted: So many poor souls who came here seeking fortune lost their lives in gunfights, mining accidents and other unseemly tragedies. Jerome and Bisbee, old mining towns transformed into artists colonies, embrace Halloween. There are ghost walks, stories of hauntings in hotels and costumed spectacles for All Hallow’s Eve. But which town is truly the place to be on Halloween?

According to some, Arizona is infamously haunted: So many poor souls who came here seeking fortune lost their lives in gunfights, mining accidents and other unseemly tragedies. Jerome and Bisbee, old mining towns transformed into artists colonies, embrace Halloween. There are ghost walks, stories of hauntings in hotels and costumed spectacles for All Hallow’s Eve. But which town is truly the place to be on Halloween?

“Bisbee is a Halloween town. This town loves Halloween,” says Boyd Nicholl, owner of Lavender Jeep Tours in Bisbee.

“Lots of people think Jerome is haunted,” says Shirley Pogany of the Jerome Historical Society. “The town was abandoned, then rediscovered, so you never know.”

Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the stories and lore of these towns will get your imagination going.

HAUNTED CRED

Jerome: This former ghost town was abandoned, then rediscovered by hippies during the 1960s, and was once dubbed the “wickedest town in the West.”

Bisbee: The fact Bisbee was never a ghost town (retired miners stayed when the mine closed) casts a shadow of doubt on its ghostly past. “We never used to have ghosts until we became a tourist town,” Nicholl says.

GHOSTLY TOURS

Jerome: Residents don costumes and bring to life tragic stories in Jerome’s past: the suspicious deaths of three judges within two years; a man who murdered his ex-wife and her fiancé; a shoot-out in the park. The Ghost Walk is 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. today at Spook Hall. This one sells out quickly, so reservations are required. $12 adults, $5 children age 7-12. (928) 634-1066 or www.jeromehistoricalsociety.org.

Bisbee: Ghosts walk all year round in Bisbee. Renee Gardener’s lantern-led tour visits the town’s ghostly sites 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. $12 per person, $7 children age 12 and younger. (520) 432-3308 or www.oldbisbeeghosttour.com.

CREEPY PLACES

Jerome: The Jerome Grand Hotel has been an insane asylum, hospital and now hosts guests overnighting it. Doors open and shut, lights turn on and off. Some guests report seeing a woman in white, and the hotel’s elevator is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a man who fell down the shaft. 200 Hill St., Jerome. (928) 634-8200 or www.jeromegrandhotel.net.

Bisbee: Guests have filled three books with their ghostly encounters at the Copper Queen Hotel, 11 Howell Ave. The joke is if you want an experience, for $20 you can have it. “I can’t say I don’t believe in it, I just haven’t experienced it,” says hotel owner Connie Finck.

GETTING IN THE SPIRIT

Jerome: Lots of people wear costumes on Halloween, according to Pogany. But it’s not a town event.

Bisbee: Residents wear outrageous and elaborate costumes for the five days leading to Halloween. “Everybody is dressed up, even all the gals in the bank,” Nicholl says.

MOST INFAMOUS MURDER

Jerome: There are so many to choose from, but the murder of Juanita Marie “Sammie” Dean edges past them all for pure political intrigue. On July 7, 1931, the beautiful prostitute was found strangled in one of Jerome’s classier bordellos. Her clients (and the list of suspects) included the mayor and his son, the sheriff’s son and Dean’s best friend. No one was convicted.

Bisbee: An 1883 massacre at the Goldwater-Casteneda Mercantile left five people dead. It was a foiled robbery attempt and the criminals, angry at their failure, shot up the store.

THEY JUST WON’T LEAVE

Jerome: Former madam Jennie Banters was the richest woman in northern Arizona. Her brothel is now the Inn at Jerome, 309 Main St., and some guests report Banters and her cat never left.

Bisbee: Julia Lawell, another infamous lady of the evening, hung herself in the Copper Queen Hotel when her married lover rejected her.

DANGEROUS ACTIVITIES

Jerome: Finding parking .

Bisbee: Remembering where you parked.

Getting there

Jerome: Take Interstate 17 north to state Route 260. Turn left and follow the road to Jerome.

Bisbee: Take Interstate 10 east to Benson. Then take state Route 80 south to Bisbee.

Jerome and Bisbee aren’t the only towns with haunting events in October.

Nighttime tours of the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park. Arizona’s most infamous prison is pretty scary at night. Hear about inmates murdering each other, suicides and other sordid happenings. 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Oct. 27, Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, One Prison Hill Road, Yuma. $5. (928) 783-4771.

Prescott Ghost Walk. The Blue Rose Theatre hosts a guided lamp-lighter tour featuring the ghostly tales from Prescott’s past 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 27 at Sharlot Hall Museum, 415 W. Gurley St., Prescott. $6. (928) 445-3122 or www.sharlot.org.

Tour Riordan Mansion State Historic Park after dark. Listen to scary stories and tour the old mansion. $7 per person. Reservations required. (928) 779-4395.

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