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.

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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.

brunckow02

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.

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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.

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Beauvoir: The Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library

As I was driving with my dad from Columbia, South Carolina to Pensacola, Florida in the summer of 2014, we decided to stop at some historic sites along the way. Both being Civil War buffs, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi seemed like a good choice. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederacy during the Civil War. After touring the mansion and nearby cemetery, we checked out the newly completed Presidential Library. There, sitting on the desk, was something that caught my interest.

A building with a history like Beauvoir (as the Davis home is called) usually has a few ghost stories, so I wasn’t surprised to see an article called “What’s that in the window at Beauvoir?” sitting on the main desk in the research library. Written by Charles L. Sullivan in 2004, it told the story of a photograph taken by Charlie Brock, a Confederate re-enactor, in 1984. The photograph was of his wife and two of her friends, dressed in period clothing, on the east side of Beauvoir. When the photo was developed, two figures mysteriously appeared in one of the windows.

At the time the picture was taken, the house was closed to visitors, locked, and the security motion detectors were in place. Never-the-less, two humanoid forms stand in the window. One is noticeably taller than the other. The shorter of the two figures is also the easiest to see. “She” appears to be wearing a white dress. Two of the three women walking on the lawn were wearing blue dresses, and one was wearing a dark red dress. The window was also at porch level, above the heads of the three women, making it unlikely (unless the window was angled downward) that this was a reflection.

According to Bud Steed, in his book Haunted Mississippi Gulf Coast (2012), the ghost of Jefferson Davis himself also haunts the 162 year old home. Several visitors have reported encountering someone who they assume is an actor playing Jefferson Davis in the gardens. Later, when they compliment the staff on how realistic his portrayal was, the staff deny having a Jefferson Davis re-enactor on site. One flustered woman even complained that this gentleman appeared out of nowhere and chastised her for stepping in the flower beds!

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The Southwestern Ghost Town of Fairbank

A collection of sun-bleached houses, and a desecrated hilltop cemetery, are all that remains of this once prosperous silver town.

  • Fairbank was the last stop on the railroad before Tombstone.
  • It was once the scene of a train robbery.
  • Some visitors report seeing strange lights in the graveyard at night.

A forgotten cemetery on a sun-baked hill in the desert, rattlesnakes coiled on an old wooden porch, and tumbleweed drifting through dusty, abandoned streets all bring to mind the quintessential southwestern ghost town. Located off State Route 82 along the San Pedro River in Cochise County, Arizona, Fairbank is just such a ghost town.

An American Indian village known as Santa Cruz once occupied the site, but white settlers soon arrived to displace them. 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. It was named after Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, founder of the Grand Central Mining Company.

On February 15, 1900, the Burt Alvord gang attempted to rob the express car on the Benson-Nogales train as it was stopped in Fairbank. Express Agent and former lawman Jeff Milton, who was the son of the Confederate Governor of Florida, John Milton, foiled the robbery when he threw the keys to the safe in a pile of packages.

During the shootout, he mortally wounded “Three Fingered Jack” Dunlop and wounded Bravo Juan Yoas. Milton himself was seriously wounded in the arm, but pretended to be dead when the outlaws finally boarded the train. The outlaws were unable to open the safe and fled with only a few dollars. “Three Fingered Jack” died in Tombstone.

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My Favorite Haunted Places Along the Gulf Coast

As many of my friends and readers know, I spent the summer and fall of 2014 along the Gulf Coast. Not only did I find the weather beautiful, but I also found rich history and folklore. During that time, I was able to visit some pretty interesting places in cities like Naples, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Biloxi, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana. Here are some of my favorites.

Pensacola Lighthouse in Pensacola, Florida. Photo by Michael Kleen

Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum

2081 Radford Blvd. Pensacola, FL 32508
www.pensacolalighthouse.org (850) 393-1561

Pensacola Bay has long been a strategic harbor, and even today, it is used for military purposes. The Pensacola Lighthouse sits on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, home of the Blue Angels. The current lighthouse, located at the north side of the bay, was built in 1858 and lit in 1859. It is made of brick and stands 150-feet tall. In 1861, an artillery duel between Union and Confederate forces lightly damaged the tower. Today, some visitors claim to hear footsteps, heavy breathing, and their name being whispered. Others have had objects “thrown” at them in the keeper’s quarters. [Read More…]

Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo by Michael Kleen

Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library

2244 Beach Blvd. Biloxi, MS 39531
www.beauvoir.org (228) 388-4400

Otherwise known as Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home has an interesting history. It was built in 1852 by a wealthy plantation owner named James Brown. Jefferson Davis did not reside in the house until 1877, twelve years before he died. His daughter Winnie continued to live there until her death in 1898. The Jefferson Davis Soldiers Home opened on the grounds in 1903 and operated until the 1950s. It was home to around 1,800 Civil War veterans and widows of Confederate soldiers. Roughly 780 of them are buried in the cemetery located on the property. Several visitors have reported encountering someone who they assume is an actor playing Jefferson Davis in the gardens. [Read More…]

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My Favorite Haunted Places in Arizona

In early 2015, I spent several months at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona. While there, I visited several very interesting places, including the town of Tombstone. I love Tombstone for its history and authentic feel of being in the “Wild West.” Of course, such a storied history comes with its share of legends and lore. Ghost stories abound. Here are some of my other favorite haunted places in the Copper State.

Copper Queen Hotel

11 Howell Ave. Bisbee, Arizona 85603
www.copperqueen.com (520) 432-2216

Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Photo by Michael Kleen

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. [Read More…]

Brunckow Cabin

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
4070 South Avenida Saracino
Hereford, AZ 85615
(520) 439-6400

Brunckow Cabin in Arizona. Photo by Michael Kleen

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. [Read More…]

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Register Star Runs Series on Local Haunts

Earlier this month, I was asked to lend my expertise to a series of articles on legends in the Rockford, Illinois area for the Register Star, and the results were exciting, to say the least. The Register Star has not shied away from publishing articles about local legends and ghost stories in the past, but this is their first full, multi-article spread on the subject, and I’m pleased to have been a part of it! Here are some excerpts, with links back to the original articles:

Local lore surrounds Bloods Point Road

You can’t discount the hundreds of strange encounters reported along Bloods Point Road, said Michael Kleen, a local folk historian. The road is one of Boone County’s most notorious midnight drives.

“Maybe there is something to the stories after all. … That’s what makes it exciting.”

With multiple books on local legends — including the ghostly go-to book “Haunting Illinois: A Tourist’s Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of the Prairie State,” Kleen is well-acquainted with the lore surrounding the 5-mile country thoroughfare, from phantom police cars and supernatural dogs to mystery lights and vanishing barns.

He feels the road’s sinister monicker, taken from the Blood family who settled there in the mid-1800s, has helped keep the lore alive for more than a century. Believe them or not, these spooky tales have become an integral part of the community’s social and historical fabric. Even traffic signs dare not use the road’s full name, opting instead for the abbreviated “Bl. Point Rd.” [More…]

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Myths persist about Freeport home’s ties to assassinate Charles Guiteau

What is known about the home is this: It was the home of Charles Guiteau’s uncle and aunt, A.B. and Emily Rehfield Guiteau. Charles was the son of Luther W. Guiteau, who served as a cashier at Second National Bank, was a merchant at the time, and served Stephenson County as recorder and clerk of the circuit court. Charles shot President Garfield in a railroad depot in July 1881. It would be weeks before Garfield would die. Charles never lived in the home of his uncle and aunt. He actually grew up in a house on Broadway Street in Freeport.

Michael Kleen, folk historian and author of several books, including “Haunting Illinois: A Tourists Guide to the Weird & Wild Places of the Prairie State,” has often passed the home while visiting family in Freeport. The home fascinated him, so he began his own research.

After Charles Guiteau was hanged for killing Garfield, rumors began swirling that his bones were buried in the home.

“This rumor about Guiteau’s bones is not true,” said Kleen. “According to widespread belief, after his execution, his body was boiled and his skeleton was bleached and put on display around the country. Other reports said his head had been preserved in a jar and kept by a physician in New York. Similar rumors were repeated for nearly a century, creating a lot of confusion. Guiteau’s bones are actually kept at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland.”

Kleen said Guiteau was a tragic figure and a political gadfly. For a short time, he joined a utopian religious sect known as the Oneida Community in New York, but its founder thought him to be insane and threw him out. He constantly sought appointments to political offices and felt slighted by President Garfield when he refused to appoint him as ambassador to France. He even failed at the assassination of Garfield, said Kleen. It was really Garfield’s doctors, who infected the bullet wound during sloppy surgery, who are ultimately blamed for killing the president. But, at Guiteau’s trial, Dr. Edward Spitzka called him a moral monstrosity. [More…]

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