Mon, Jan. 20

The ghosts that roam Jerome

Jerome inherited its "ghost town" status almost 50 years ago, and the stories of ghosts have come with the old buildings that once served as bars, bordellos and boarding houses.

Joviality was to be expected. It was, after all, a celebration.

Just a week before when such voices filled the halls, it wasn’t joy that was experienced. Fear took center stage as not a soul was in the building except the TV satellite installer.

"We had a man installing our TV and satellite in the building who was from Phoenix," owner Anne Conlin said. "Because the worker was from Phoenix, I suggested that he stay the night and that we would give him the most beautiful room in the house, the one above the Spirit Room. The next morning, when I asked him how his night was, he was noncommittal. He said it was OK, but not much more.

"Later in the day he heard me joke about ghosts. He approached me and said he didn’t want to say anything, as he was too embarrassed and that he spent the night in his van because he was so frightened. He had been awake late and reading when he became aware of women’s voices whispering. He said he tried to tune it out and focus on the book but it was insistent and he became frightened. Then he felt a cold icy chill over his whole body. This is when he jumped up and ran out to sleep in his van."

Ghost stories are not uncommon in modern-day Jerome.

The town inherited its "ghost town" status almost 50 years ago due to the lack of people who inhabited this isolated and abandoned mining town.

But the stories of ghosts have come with the old buildings that once served as bars, bordellos and boarding houses now turned bed-and-breakfasts and hotels.

The Inn at Jerome once was an office building, hardware store and even a mortuary. The building is also nearly 100 years old.

"At the Inn, I had just given the furniture a treatment with lemon oil and was walking out of the room," said manager Juanita Schyler. "The vase, which sits on the lace runner on the dresser, flew through the air over my shoulder and crashed to the floor in the hallway before me.

"Before that, after moving a 'new' vase to an antique table in front of the large window facing the Valley, as the maid entered the Victorian Rose, the vase flew over the bed and landed on the floor in front of the dresser drawers. This time the vase did not break and now, once again, it sits on the dresser. These incidents occurred almost exactly one year apart."

Schyler adds that guests often complain about doors opening in the night after being bolted shut, strong smells of perfume, armoire doors flying open and doors slamming. And again, laughter and voices coming from empty rooms and deserted hallways.

Women ghosts are often more spoken of than male.

Why would the ghosts of a mostly male dominated mining camp be female? Was it due to the high female suicide rate or murders that occurred in the early 1900s?

Historical records show it was common in mining towns for women to feel unwanted and unappreciated. Unlike farming communities where a woman equally pitched in and owned half of the land, in mining towns women were considered bad luck to be near mines. The chores left to their custody mostly consisted of child rearing and laundry.

A few of the lucky ones had better paying jobs. Even they weren’t always well received.

That was the case with Edith Whitaker, a pioneer Jerome journalist. Jerome native Marylou Nunez recalls when she first saw her ghost crossing the road one evening.

"We would come visit my mother three nights a week," Nunez said. "We came from Clarkdale to see her. As we came around the curve in the Gulch, I saw a figure crossing in front of the car. I said to my husband, Baldo, who is that? He said, who? I said, that woman who just passed in front of the car so close to you and you didn’t see her.

"I watched her cross the road and go up the stone steps into the house. She had a big hat and cape on. At that time there were so many hippies in Jerome that dressed like that, I wasn’t sure what I saw. Then one day Nancy Smith, the archivist for the Jerome Historical Society, showed me a picture of the lady who used to live in my mother's house. She had a big hat, cape and boots on. It was the same lady.

"She was Edith Whitaker, a woman who had started writing for a newspaper in Jerome that was against the mining company. They ran her off and the company took over her house. We bought it from the company. She died in Oakland, Calif."

One of the more prominent haunted establishments in Jerome is the Jerome Grand Hotel. This large, daunting building that sits isolated at the top of town has the appearance of something right out of a horror movie. It once served as the town hospital until turned into a hotel.

Owner Larry Altherr was reluctant to share any of its ghost stories as he said they have created more of a nuisance than an aid. He said that people drive up to his hotel at all times of the night trying to see the ghosts without regard for the guests who are trying to sleep.

He did add that a psychic once told him that most of the ghosts in his establishment were old hospital workers, not patients.

Bobby Cottonwood, one-time manager of the restaurant within the hotel confirmed this. He said one Halloween there was a costume party in the hotel and everybody was dancing and having a good time. He was tending bar when he looked over at two men dressed as surgeons.

They had blood on their gowns and looked out of place. He told his friend to look at them. As they continued to stare they suddenly realized they could see through them. He said he came from behind the bar to approach them and lost them as he approached.

Are the ghosts real, or a figment of people’s fears? Are there some angry souls out there or just some with unfinished business?

I once took my parents to eat in the Grand Hotel. My mother reluctantly went into the bathroom by herself. She said that while she was in there, she thought she was alone but then heard a flushing sound in the stall next to her. She peeked under the wall and saw nobody.

When she came back to the table to tell of her event, I reassured her that the plumbing was probably just old and made sounds. No, she said, it was flushing.

Well, I added, maybe it was an old ghost trying to finish its business.

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