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Mysterious America

“Diamond Lil” and other Ghosts of the University of Arizona

Does the ghost of a murdered construction foreman linger on the campus of Arizona’s oldest university?

  • The University of Arizona was founded in 1885 and built on land reportedly cursed by a saloon girl named “Two Tooth Gertie.”
  • Carlos Maldenado supervised the school’s construction until his murder in 1888.
  • The ghost of a woman wearing dark colored Victorian garb is said to haunt Centennial Hall.

Founded in 1885, the University of Arizona is the oldest university in Arizona, predating the state itself by 27 years. It is a large school with a total enrollment of around 40,000 students and is known for its research in astronomy. The aesthetically appealing campus occupies 380 acres in the heart of Tucson, Arizona.

While attending class and strolling its park-like paths and sidewalks, students have occasionally reported startling encounters with the unknown. Although scientific pursuits have led many to dismiss these sightings, rumors of ghosts in several campus buildings persist. Old Main, Maricopa Hall, and Centennial Hall are just the most prominent places believed to be haunted.

Built in the late-1880s when the University of Arizona was known as Territorial University of Arizona College of Mines, Old Main is the oldest building on campus. It is rumored to be haunted by Carlos Maldenado, who supervised its construction and lived in Tucson from 1841 until his murder in 1888.

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Mysterious America

Haunted Tombstone, Arizona

This legendary Wild West town offers a glimpse of the past—sometimes unintentionally!

  • Tombstone was founded in 1879 in southern Arizona by prospector Ed Schieffelin.
  • It was the scene of the famous “Shootout at the OK Corral”, which became the subject of popular movies and literature.
  • Big Nose Kate’s, the O.K. Corral, and Crystal Palace Saloon are all believed to be home to restless spirits.

I first visited Tombstone in 2009, which was a dream come true for this fan of old Westerns. Even though I was born in 1981, I was raised on TV shows like Rawhide and Bonanza. I never had the opportunity to travel out west until after graduate school. When I did, some friends from Phoenix and I made sure to explore everything the town had to offer. One of the most famous buildings in Tombstone is the Bird Cage Theatre.

I never thought I would return, but I recently found myself back in that oddly-named showcase of the Wild West. As I sat down for dinner at Big Nose Kate’s, two cowboys sat at the table next to mine playing cards. Yeah, that felt right. I could feel the living, breathing history there. As it turns out, many of Tombstone’s buildings are said to be haunted, not just the Birdcage. Big Nose Kate’s Saloon is one of these.

Big Nose Kate’s, located at 417 East Allen Street (you can’t miss it), was named after John Henry “Doc” Holliday’s companion, “Big Nose” Kate (Mary Katharine Horony). The saloon sits on the site of the former Grand Hotel, which burned in a fire in the spring of 1881. Sylvester Comstock, owner of the hotel, erected a more modest building in its place.

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Mysterious America

Tombstone’s Bird Cage Theater

This old theater is one of the last surviving buildings from Tombstone, Arizona’s Wild West days. Do some of its infamous patrons still remain?

  • The Bird Cage Theater opened in 1881 and closed in 1889.
  • The theater operates as a museum, with hundreds of artifacts from Tombstone’s past.
  • At night, the sounds of laughter, yelling and music have been heard, as though the parties of the Old West were still raging.

The Bird Cage Theater at 535 E. Allen Street in Tombstone, Arizona, is one of the only surviving buildings from Tombstone’s Wild West days, the rest having been destroyed by two fires that swept through the town in 1881 and 1882. The Bird Cage Theater opened in 1881 and closed in 1889. In those short years, it gained a notorious reputation as a house of gambling, entertainment, and prostitution. As many as 26 people were allegedly murdered there, and there are over 120 bullet holes throughout the interior.

In 1882 the New York Times called it “the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.” Legendary figures like Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Diamond Jim Brady, George Randolph Hurst, Johnny Ringo, and Wyatt Earp played poker and drank the night away there.

The Bird Cage Theater is also rumored to be haunted with the ghosts of Tombstone’s tumultuous past. TV shows like Ghost Hunters (2006), Ghost Adventures, Ghost Lab (2009), and Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (2011) have all aired episodes about the theater. I’ve had a longtime interest in the Old West, so when I visited a friend in Arizona in 2009, we had to take a trip out to Tombstone. The Birdcage Theater was one of the places we visited. It is packed full of memorabilia and artifacts from the past.

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Historic America

San Pedro Ghost Towns

The San Pedro River flows north from the Mexican border near Sierra Vista, Arizona, to the Gila River north of Tucson. As a source of water, it was invaluable to both native peoples and white settlers alike. Many settlements sprang up in the San Pedro Valley, especially after silver was discovered in the nearby foothills. Prospectors flocked to the area. Today, much of the area is protected in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, and ruins of once-prosperous settlements can be found in the surrounding desert.

In 1858-59, T.F. White and Fredrick Brunckow sought their fortunes in the hills near the San Pedro River. They struck a claim roughly eight miles southwest of Tombstone. Brunckow brought several men with him, including John Moss (Morse), David Brontrager, and James and William Williams. He built a small adobe cabin and supply shelter and hired Mexican laborers to dig the mine.

In July 1860, William Williams went to Fort Buchanan to purchase supplies. When he returned, he discovered most of his companions, including Brunckow, were brutally murdered. The Mexican laborers fled with whatever supplies and equipment they could get their hands on. According to Joshua Hawley, author of Tombstone’s Most Haunted, as many as 22 deaths have been reported in or near the cabin.

Located off State Route 82 along the San Pedro River in Cochise County, Arizona, Fairbank grew up around the nearest rail stop to Tombstone and was first settled in 1881. It was originally known as Junction City and then Kendall, before residents finally decided on Fairbank in 1883.

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Mysterious America

Deadwood’s Bullock Hotel

The ghost of famed Western lawman Seth Bullock is believed to wander the halls of this historic hotel.

  • The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896.
  • A mysterious “tall man” matching Bullock’s description has been seen strolling down the hall on several occasions.
  • Seth’s Cellar Restaurant, located in the basement of the Bullock Hotel, is supposed to be one of the most haunted areas of the hotel.

The historic Bullock Hotel, located at 633 Main Street in Deadwood, South Dakota, is one of the most famous haunted hotels in the United States. In 1992, it was featured on the TV program Unsolved Mysteries. It is reportedly haunted by none other than the ghost of its namesake, Seth Bullock, the first sheriff of Deadwood, as well as a host of other spirits.

A friend and I recently stayed at the Bullock Hotel on a trip through South Dakota, and although we didn’t experience anything unusual, we did learn a lot about this historic place.

When you enter Deadwood at night, down the brick street lined with softly glowing lamps, it is easy to feel transported back in time. The Bullock Hotel was originally built by Seth Bullock between 1894 and 1896 and contained 60 luxury rooms. In 1976, the Aryes family purchased the hotel and turned it into a hardware store.

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Mysterious America

Bloody Brunckow Cabin

A weathered ruin is all that remains of Arizona’s bloodiest location.

  • This adobe structure dates back to 1858.
  • As many as 22 deaths have been reported in or near the cabin.
  • Reports of “unquiet spirits” were reported as early as 1881.

Crumbling adobe walls sit on a hill overlooking the dry, meandering bed of a San Pedro River tributary. Ants and snakes burrow into the rocky soil, past the bleached bones of unfortunate prospectors and outlaws resting in shallow graves. At night, a cold chill descends on the desert floor of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Those who dare approach these ruins after sundown often report unsettling encounters with the unseen.

Located south of Charleston Road between Tombstone and Sierra Vista, Arizona, the remnant of this small adobe cabin is known as Brunckow Cabin and has been described as “the bloodiest cabin in Arizona history.” After reading the tragic history of the cabin (and the tortured souls rumored to haunt it), I had to see it for myself. Over the years erosion, vandalism, and neglect have taken their toll, and the historic site may not remain for much longer.

The cabin’s very beginning was bathed in blood and tragedy. In 1858-59, T.F. White and Fredrick Brunckow sought their fortunes in the hills near the San Pedro River. They struck a claim roughly eight miles southwest of Tombstone. Brunckow brought several men with him, including John Moss (Morse), David Brontrager, and James and William Williams. He built a small adobe cabin and supply shelter and hired Mexican laborers to dig the mine.

Finding it is not easy, and visitors are wise to use Google Earth and GPS coordinates (N31 38.31 W110 09.45 to be exact). What I found was a few decaying walls, but the remoteness of the place was not lost on me. It was easy to feel a chill up my spine as I went over in my mind the events alleged to have taken place there.

Categories
Historic America

The Ruins of Millville and Charleston, Arizona

Crumbling stone walls are all that remain of these twin boom towns on the San Pedro River.

  • Millville and Charleston were home to some of the Wild West’s most notorious figures.
  • From 1881 to 1882, mines near these towns processed almost $1.4 million in silver.
  • During WW2, the U.S. Army used the ruins of Charleston to train combat troops.

In their heyday, the dual towns of Millville and Charleston in southeastern Arizona had a lawless reputation. Located on opposite sides of the San Pedro River, about nine miles southwest of Tombstone, Millville and Charleston were home to some of the Wild West’s most notorious figures. Outlaw Frank Stilwell, for example, once owned a saloon in Charleston.

Stilwell was a deputy sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona for Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan and was suspected of killing Morgan Earp on March 18, 1882. Two days later, Wyatt Earp gunned down Stilwell in a Tucson train yard. The Clanton Gang, infamous for their participation in the gunfight at the OK Corral, lived on a ranch five miles south of Charleston.

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