Old West History

The Ghosts of Tombstone

If you’re planning to take a trip to Tombstone, AZ you should try to stay for a night. The experience of walking the empty streets late at night is not to be missed. Make sure to wear boots so that you can hear the thud of your heels on the boardwalk. Be sure to walk Allen Street, to pass the site of the gunfight on Fremont Street and to take a peek in the locked doors of the Birdcage Theatre. You may get more than you bargained for.

I’m not promising you that you’ll see a ghost and I’m not going to tell you that Tombstone is haunted. I’ll leave that to you to decide. I will tell you that many people have experienced things that they couldn’t explain. We’re not talking about specs of dust showing up as orbs in photographs here but ghosts that like to party long into the night. So enjoy your walk, stop, listen hard and take a good look in the shadows. You may just find there’s someone there looking back at you, in the town ‘too tough to die.’

Allen Street

Allen Street has plenty of ghost stories. Billy Claiborne aka Billy the Kid (not the famous one) was killed by ‘Buckskin’ Frank Leslie on November 14, 1882. You may catch a glimpse of Billy wandering Allen Street. What ever you do, don’t make fun of his nickname.

Further on down the street, Virgil Earp is said to still make his rounds. On December 28, 1881 Virgil was permanently crippled by a botched assassination attempt by the cowboys. On the anniversary of the shooting, some people claim to hear shots ring out in the street and have seen a shadowy apparition of the lawman crossing the street.

Another famous Tombstone ghost is a lady, who is seen crossing the street wearing just a white nightgown.

O.K. Corral

Cowboy ghosts have been seen wandering around the O.K. Corral. Could these be the ghosts of Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury?

Red Buffalo Trading

The ghost of Morgan Earp is said to haunt Red Buffalo Trading. The store is on the site of Campbell and Hatch Billiard Saloon where Morgan was killed while playing billiards. According to employees at the store, Morgan’s ghost is friendly and helpful. Late at night, he’s been known to help out with restocking shelves and tidying the store.

Big Nose Kate’s Saloon

There are numerous ghosts in Big Nose Kate’s, originally The Grand Hotel.  The most famous is The Swamper. He was a janitor in the hotel and lived down in the basement. Unknown to the hotel proprietors, he dug a private tunnel into one of the Tombstone mines and helped himself to some of the silver ore. Legend suggests that he still protects his hidden fortune. You can visit Swamper’s living quarters if you visit Big Nose Kate’s. Be warned though, he doesn’t like woman and he doesn’t like people visiting his tunnel.

The Birdcage Theater Museum

The Birdcage is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Tombstone. Late at night, the noise of clinking glasses and cards being shuffled can be heard. The chandeliers sway in the lobby. The smell of lavender perfume and cigar smoke can be smelt. Some people have even heard the faint sound of a lady singing and the noise of the music box playing by itself.

One of the most regularly spotted ghosts is a man wearing black striped pants and a visor who carries a clipboard and walks from one side of the stage to the other and then disappears through the wall.

Be sure to visit the Black Moriah hearse when you visit the Birdcage. It’s one of the original hearses in Tombstone and carried many a corpse to Boot Hill Cemetery. Some people claim to have looked through the windows and seen faces looking back.

Cafe Margarita

This restaurant was originally known as Nellie Cashman’s or The Russ House. Loud crashing noises are heard coming from the kitchen. There’s also a story of a customer who said she didn’t believe in ghosts and ended up getting sprayed with mustard. Whether or not that’s true I can’t say.

The Buford House

When you’re finished your walk, you may want to rest your feet. The Buford House may be just the place but as you settle down for the night, keep a look out for George, the B&B’s resident ghost. George likes to ring doorbells late at night, switch lights on and off and rap doors. If you’re female, you may even have the covers pulled off you or find your bottom gets squeezed by ghostly hands. It’s believed that the ghost is that of lovesick George Daves who died in 1888. He flew into a jealous rage and shot his lover Petra four times. Seeing her bleeding on the ground, he then turned his revolver around and shot himself in the head. He died but Petra recovered completely from her wounds.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little taste of Tombstone’s ‘night life.’ There are many more ghost stories to tell about Tombstone than I can really cover here. Keep in mind that not all the ghosts have names. You may see something strange out of the corner of your eye, blink and find that the thing you were looking at is gone. That’s normal for Tombstone. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, a walk in Tombstone late at night will be an experience you won’t forget.

By Elena Sandidge

Elena Sandidge is a Scottish novelist with a passion for the history of the Old West and the life of the legendary gunfighting dentist, Doc Holliday. "A Gentleman in Hell" chronicles the adventures of Doc Holliday as he travels from Dodge City, Kansas to Tombstone, Arizona and on to his final home in the mountains of Colorado