Step Back in Time to the Haunted Wild West Town of Jerome, Arizona
Overlooking the valleys between Prescott and Flagstaff stands the historic mining town of Jerome, Arizona, also known as Copper Queen on the Hill. It used to hold the reputation as the wickedest town in the West, but Jerome was born from a copper mining camp. Though it started as a group of tents, Jerome soon grew into a mining community worth more than a billion dollars. During the peak of the mining operations, Jerome’s copper deposits were among the richest in the world.
Jerome’s population grew alongside its riches to nearly 15,000 on its early hilltop haven, making it the fourth-largest city in the area at that time. Today’s population is much lower, around 450, but in this fizzling desert town, you can find creatives of all kinds, sommeliers, bikers, innkeepers, museum curators, and plenty of hermits who have run to the desert hills to escape city life.
At its peak, men and women from all over the world made their way to Arizona to find work and maybe a new way of life. Much like the gold rush in California, optimistic entrepreneurs looked west for new opportunities and fortunes.
Who Haunts Jerome, Arizona?
After Jerome’s initial peak of popularity and growth, the optimists who came seeking riches quickly turned to desperation and greed. This transition into greed and crime not only led to the “Wickedest Town in the West” nickname but also created the ghosts that haunt the grounds today.
One of the most haunted buildings in Jerome is the Jerome Grand Hotel. Formerly the hospital of the old mining town, it's rumored that around 9,000 people died in the building during its time as United Verde Hospital. Strange figures, sounds, and unexplained orbs of light ooze from the halls of this ghostly gathering spot high above the rest of the town.
General Manager Chris Altherr didn’t believe in the stories at first when he bought the building in 1994. “We only had six rooms open at first and immediately began receiving reports from guests hearing voices and a (hospital gurney) in the hallways, but no one was there,” said Altherr in an interview with AZCentral.com. Over the years, many visitors have signed guest books in the lobby to share their experiences.
“We fill a 300-page journal each year,” Altherr says. “We have four or five of them right now.”
The second most haunted place in Jerome is called Cribs District, or Husband’s Alley (cough, cough), known at the time for housing sex workers. Brothels used to be located right next to the saloons and other Main Street businesses, but as Jerome grew, these brothels were all moved to buildings directly behind those on Main Street.
There are a handful of stories about the terrible conditions sex workers endured in Jerome, and it’s sad to say that history will never remember everyone who died there. However, the ghost of a woman named Sammie Dean refuses to be forgotten. Beautiful and popular among powerful figures in town, she died after being strangled in 1931, but visitors say she still occupies the building in which she used to live. Given the injustices and cruelty faced by sex workers in this rowdy town, it’s widely believed that Cribs District is populated by the ghosts of the women who fell there.
Visit Jerome, Arizona Today
When you visit Jerome and its historic buildings today, you are given an opportunity to step back in time and experience life as it might have been for miners back in those rough and rugged days. Jerome has a number of museums, gift shops, galleries, fine food, and award-winning wine for you and your clients to enjoy.
The town offers fun, experiential events for visitors looking to get the real Wild West experience. Not afraid to admit its haunted past, the Jerome Historical Society puts on the annual October Jerome Ghost Walk. For one weekend in October, visitors can wander the alleys and streets to find volunteer performers reenacting the shootings, mysteries, and quarrels that marked this former mining town.
If you’re a lover of history or hauntings, you can live near the action in historic Jerome. The median home value is $266,002 according to Zillow. Outside of the paranormal activity that brings most to the area, Jerome’s geography and current culture is both rich and inviting.
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