Rising above the colorful tapestry of tightly clustered homes and businesses blanketing the Mule Mountains in southeastern Arizona, the Copper Queen Hotel stands as a gilded monument. For over 100 years, it has served as a social anchor for the former mining town of old Bisbee. I first stayed at the Copper Queen Hotel in 2009 while visiting friends from Phoenix. I had heard rumors that the hotel was haunted, but it wasn’t until I returned a few years later that I discover just how much. In the interim, the hotel had published its logbook of ghostly encounters from 2000 to 2008, and the book contains many interesting gems.
Phelps Dodge, owner of the Copper Queen Mining Company, built the grand hotel in a bid to lure investors to the area. It took four years to complete the hotel, and it opened on February 22, 1902. When the copper mines closed in 1975, Bisbee had to find a new focus. It became a cultural destination for artists and tourists. All the while, the copper queen hotel continued to provide a luxury accommodations. Sitting on the balcony, guests can still enjoy a sip of wine while looking out over the town of Old Bisbee nestled in the picturesque mountains. The chill on the back of your neck may be the mountain breeze, or it might be something else…
According to various eyewitness accounts, there are three ghosts stalking the halls. One, only known as “Billy,” is an adolescent boy who was said to have drowned in the San Pedro River. He is drawn to the hotel because his mother was a former employee. “Billy” has rarely been seen, but he is accused of stealing and moving guests’ personal items. Others have heard him laugh or cry.
On April 11, 2000, a hostess named Carey claimed to have gotten a glimpse of this young specter. “while doing my job as a hostess and standing out front of the restaurant looking towards the staircase, I saw a little boy climb up and over the railing above and fall onto the stairs below,” she wrote. “He was wearing a white T-shirt and blue shorts. He had dark hair and light skin. He looked to be about four years old. I ran over to check on him, but nothing was there.”
A less frequently encountered spirit is named “Howard.” He is an older gentleman sometimes seen on the fourth floor and is blamed for the strong scent of cigars. On August 1, 2008, a guest named Paul wrote, “I looked up at the third floor next to the balcony. I saw a tall man in a long, black coat look out the window and then lean back in. Then he was gone.”
The most famous ghost whisking her way through the halls of the Copper Queen is named Julia Lowell. She is said to be the ghost of a prostitute who fell in love with one of her clients and ended her life when he did not return the feeling. The smell of perfume and a soft voice at night are often attributed to her. Others have felt her laying on their bed and tugging on their covers.
One creepy encounter with Julia was recorded February 2, 2000 by a guest named Bob. “I woke up at 4 AM and saw Julia sitting on top of the enclosed TV cabinet, legs crossed, with her black dress line beside her,” he wrote. “she took a few sips from her bottle, smiled and laughed. She was breathing heavily and said, ‘You missed my dance.’” On April 8, 2007, Jo Ann and Phil were awoken by a strange sound. “Room 319. About 10:30 PM we heard a woman shrieking. it was an unnatural scream/screech sound, not human sounding. This was followed by running footsteps down the hallway. When we checked, no one was there.” There are many others who describe smelling her perfume in room 315.
As these and hundreds of other guests of the Copper Queen Hotel attest, something strange definitely lurks in those halls. These encounters, rather than frightening, only add to the mystique of the century old hotel, leading to appearances on the 3rd season of Ghost Hunters and season 6 of Ghost Adventures. While I did not have any experiences there, it is hard to discount the hundreds of strange encounters experienced by guests of all ages and backgrounds. It is one of many reasons to visit the historic and artful town of Bisbee.