Ghosts of the Prairie
The historic artist’s community of Jerome, Arizona is located on a mountainside above the Verde Valley. During the town’s heyday in the 1920’s, the Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation turned the town into a “billion dollar copper camp” but once the deposits ran out in 1953, the mines were shut down and the population dwindled. Years before, it was called the “Wickedest City in the West” but today, a small group of year-round inhabitants support and artist’s colony, art galleries, antique shops, colorful restaurants and bars and a number of museums devoted to days gone by. Not surprisingly, the living inhabitants are not the only ones to linger in Jerome!
There are many ghosts in Jerome and some of them reside at the town’s Community Center. It is said that many of the local citizens called the place “Spook Hall” because of the odd happenings that take place here. In fact, locals have become so used to their resident phantoms that a newsletter called the “Jerome Ghost Post” was published for awhile! The ghost of the Community Hall is actually a young woman who has been seen at the front of the building, walking toward a hotel that used to be the site of prostitution “cribs”.
One of these “ladies of the evening” is also said to haunt the Inn at Jerome, located on Main Street. During the copper camp’s heyday, it was said that more than 120 prostitutes plied their trade in town. One of madams, Jennie Banters, was said to be the richest women in northern Arizona. The Inn at Jerome is Jennie’s former home and while it is no longer a brothel, Jennie has remained behind. In fact, one of the eight rooms here is called the “Spooks, Ghosts and Goblins” room. Jennie and her phantom cat have frequently been reported in the house. The cat often vanishes before guests can pick her up and loves to brush against people in the kitchen. Jennie often moves things about in the kitchen as well and keeps the maid busy by rearranging furniture, moving objects and rotating the ceiling fan.
The Jerome Grand Hotel was once the haunted United Verde Hospital
The Jerome Grand Hotel on Cleopatra Hill was originally opened as the United Verde Hospital in 1927. It was constructed by the United Verde Copper Company to treat injured and sick miners. As the copper deposits played out, the local population dwindled and the hospital was closed down in 1950.
The building had always had a reputation for being haunted as ghostly sounds of coughing, moaning and labored breathing could be heard throughout the wards. In addition, a man named Claude Harvey was killed when he was caught underneath the hospital elevator in 1935. Since that time, lights have been seen in the shaft and during a period when the building was vacant, the elevator could be heard slowly traveling up and down... even though it had been parked at the top of the shaft and no power was connected to it.
After the hospital closed down, the spooky old building remained vacant for 46 years, until it was re-opened in 1996 as the Jerome Grand Hotel. Accounts still say the place is haunted! In July 1997, a guest claimed that the bathroom door in his room opened by itself. He was so frightened that he remained in the lobby for the rest of the night! Other guests and staff members have reported doors that open and close, footsteps heard in empty halls, ghostly cries, lights that turn on and off, and of course, the groaning sound of an elevator that continues to operate on its own!
Down Cleopatra Hill from the old United Verde Hospital was another company clinic that gained a reputation for being haunted over the years. It was said that during nights of the full moon, the ghosts of former patients could be seen in the windows of the abandoned building. It was said that these ghosts haunted the place because they had died during the great Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918.
Even the abandoned shafts of the old Phelps Dodge Mine are rumored to be haunted. The stories say that the ghost of a miner, dubbed “Headless Charlie”, who was decapitated in an underground accident still lingers here. Unexplained footsteps and the apparition of the miner have been seen here over the years. Not longer after Charlie lost his head in the grisly accident (and incidentally, his head was found but his body was never discovered), workers in the mine started finding large footprints in the mine. Some believe that he still walks around in the dark confines of the mine shafts.
One long-time resident of Jerome admitted in an interview several years ago that she was a skeptic when she first heard the ghostly tales of the town. An encounter of her own soon convinced her otherwise though and “Now, I sleep with the night-light on!” she confessed.
(C) Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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