Ghosts of Tombstone

Like so many other places in the Old West with violent histories,Tombstone is said to be one of the most haunted in Arizona.

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Allen Street, Tombstone, Arizona, 1882

Allen Street, Tombstone, Arizona, 1882

Tombstone Streets

The streets of Tombstone themselves are said to be the pathways of many a lingering spirit, one of which is the long dead Marshal Fred White, who was accidentally shot by Cowboy faction leader, Curly Bill Brocius on October 28, 1880. White, the first marshal of Tombstone, had gained the respect of the Clanton Gang, and in fact, had arrested “Cowboy” members on a number of occasions, rarely having any problems when doing so. In the early morning of October 28th, Curly Bill and several of his cohorts were making sport by shooting up the town.

When White went to disarm the gunman, a shot was accidentally fired, hitting White in the groin. Though, it was thought that he would make a full recovery, two days later he died. Today, he is said to haunt the street in front of the shooting site, which was an empty lot where the Bird Cage Theatre was built a year later.

Tombstone, Arizona today

The Tombstone of today doesn’t look a whole lot different. Kathy Weiser-Alexander, 2007.

Another cowboy, that of a man moving along in a long black frock coat, has also been seen on a number of occasions. Crossing the road, the apparition is often seen near the site where Virgil Earp was ambushed and shot in the arm, crippling him for life. The spirit never makes it across the street, leading many to believe that this may the ghost of Virgil Earp, himself.

A woman in a long white dress has also been spied on Tombstone streets. One legend tells that she is a fretful mother whose child died from the yellow fever in the 1880’s, and devastated, she took her own life later. Another version of the tale claims that she was a brothel madam who was hanged and continues to stalk to streets in search of her executioners.

Lawlessness though was not the only cause of numerous deaths during Tombstone’s heydays. Twice it suffered terrible fires, the first in June, 1881 and a second in May, 1882. During these two infernos, which both wiped out significant areas of the business district, more than 40 men lost their lives in the crowded saloons and brothels that burned to the ground. These long-dead, suffering men are also said to make themselves known, appearing complete with drastic burns. Others have reported the smell of smoke and burning materials when there is no explainable reason.

O.K. Corral

O.K. Corral

The O.K.Corral, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, April, 2007.

Tombstone;s most famous place – the OK Corral, was the site of the best-known gunfight occurring in the Old West. Portrayed in dozens of western films and books, the gunfight made a legend of Wyatt Earp and brought Tombstone, Arizona fame.

After tensions had been building between the Earps and the Cowboy faction in Tombstone, for some time, Marshal Virgil Earp determined to disarm the men on October 26, 1881, resulting in the 30 second shoot out, which left Frank and Tom McLaury, as well as Billy Clanton dead. Also involved in the gunfight for the Cowboys were Ike ClantonBilly Claiborne and Wes Fuller. In the Earp party were brothers, VirgilWyatt, and Morgan, as well as Doc Holliday.

Today, the OK Corral is allegedly haunted by the ghosts of the Cowboys Over the years, a number of witnesses have reported seeing the fading apparitions of men dressed in cowboy attire, often appearing with guns drawn, perhaps locked into a perpetual battle with the Earps. Others have claimed to have felt numerous cold spots in various areas of the corral.

The OK Corral is at 308 E. Allen Street.

Boot Hill Graveyard

Boothill Graveyard, Tombstone, Arizona

The Boot Hill Graveyard is a tourist attraction today. However, it is a real cemetery and as such, there is no admission fee, and respect should be shown for the dead. Photo April, 2007

At the nearby Boot Hill Graveyard, called such because many of its occupants died with their boots on, more than 250 graves give partial stories of the Tombstone’s lawless past. Used primarily from 1878-1884, the graveyard was originally called the “Tombstone Cemetery.” Men such as those killed at the OK Corral Gunfight, Marshal Fred White killed by Curly Bill Brocius, an unfortunate soul by the name of George Johnson who was hanged by mistake, five men hanged for the vicious killings labeled the “Bisbee Massacre,” gunfighter, Charlie Storms who was killed by Luke Short, and dozens more, ranging from prospectors, to outlaws, lawmen, and prostitutes. Of some who were laid to rest here, their names were never known or were only known by a nickname.

Over the years, the old cemetery fell into disrepair, with numerous old wooden tombstones falling down or decomposing entirely, and others being stolen by souvenir hunters. It wasn’t until the town’s first Helldorado Days, around 1929, the old cemetery began to be referred to as the Boot Hill Graveyard. Still, it continued to sit neglected until the 1940’s when an effort began to restore the cemetery.

Today it is one of Tombstone’s most popular tourist attractions. Evidently, per a number of legends, it also remains popular with the many dead who lie there. Visitors often report seeing strange lights and hearing unidentifiable noises coming from the old graveyard. Spirits have been spied on numerous occasions, and even more frequently are said to appear in photographs. Billy Clanton, killed in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is said to rise from his grave before walking along the road back to Tombstone.

The Boot Hill Graveyard is just north of Tombstone on Highway 80.

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Though John Heath was lynched in Tombstone for masterminding the Bisbee Massacre, there is evidence to show that he was not actually buried at Boot Hill, as this marker indicates. Photo by Kathy Weiser.

Bisbee Massacre Grave

Bisbee Massacre Grave at Boot Hill in Tombstone

2 thoughts on “Ghosts of Tombstone”

  1. We visited The Bird Cage four or five times. On one occasion, I took a picture of my wife and sister standing in front of the stage. When I got home and loaded it on my computer, there was an orb floating over the stage. When I enlarged the orb, eyes, cheeks and lips could be seen very clear. It was later that I read of a stage hand being killed in an accident.

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