The 13th Floor

From Wickest City in the West to Nightmarish Ghost Town: Jerome, Arizona

The town of Jerome, Arizona went from the absolute best to worst. It was considered a Boom Town where the plentiful copper created a one-billion-dollar industry. To keep the miners happy and in town, William Andrews Clark, the owner of Jerome and Arizona’s United Verde Copper Company, provided sufficient gambling, drinking, opium and female companionship to all of his workers. In 1903, the NEW YORK TIMES declared Jerome “The Wickedest City in the West.”

The town’s fall came shortly after. The copper mining industry abandoned the town of Jerome in 1952 , leaving it completely bankrupt. It became a ghost town inhabited by less than 200 people, most of them widows with children who could not afford to leave.

In 1953, speculation ran high that the entire town of Jerome would be razed. A former official of Phelps Dodge Corporation said, “Within a year—grass will grow on the main street of Jerome—Jerome is finished.” (Source – News Bulletin, Jerome Historical Society newsletter, 1955.)

So in response to help save their town and bring in tourism, a historical society member dreamed up a sign that cemented the words “Jerome” and “ghost city” together in visitors’ minds. The sign dramatized Jerome’s dwindling population in a sequence of descending numbers, each with a line crossed through it: 15,000; 10,000; 5,000; 1,000. At the end of the sequence were the words, “GHOST CITY.”

The signs were photographed and sent out with a press release that proclaimed Jerome, Arizona as “America’s First Ghost City.” Hundreds of newspapers and magazines picked up the story. Little did the historical society know, ghosts of Jerome’s past were starting to make themselves known and leaving their mark on the town.

Today, Jerome embraces their “spiritually occupied” town with nightly ghost tours, ghostly themed restaurants and tasting rooms and a fun, spooky vibe. Rumor has it you can even catch Ghost Pokémon with the Pokémon Go app at night in town. But it’s the history and ghostly characters that gives Jerome its charm.

Listed below is a glimpse of the ghosts that reside in Jerome, Ariz.

Jerome has 88 miles of mine tunnels underneath the town.

Of those 88 miles, 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” was decapitated in an underground accident and still lingers there.

The apparition of the miner has been seen for years. Not long after Charlie lost his head in the accident (and incidentally, his head was found, but his body was never discovered), workers in the mine started finding large footprints in the mine floor. Some believe that he still walks around in the dark confines of the mine shafts, probably searching for his head.

Located on the main street of Jerome is the Connor Hotel. Built in 1898 by David Connor, “Connor’s Corner” enjoyed a heyday of being one of the finest lodging establishments in the booming mining towns of the West.

Today, ghosts of its past still wander the hallways. The Lady in Red frequents the Spirit Room bar and Room 1.  It has been reported that one can hear whispering and scratching sounds in Room 1, and she has appeared to unsuspecting people who are alone in the bar. She reportedly just stands there, looking at them, and then slowly fades away.

Also a frequent guest of Room 1 is the hotel’s original owner Connor who has been reported moving aside the curtains to watch the town below.

Down road is an abandoned hospital that has gained a reputation for being haunted. It’s said that during nights of the full moon, ghosts of former patients can be seen in the windows of the abandoned building. Patients of this facility were largely miners who suffered terrible accidents while on the job. They were rushed to the hospital to be operated on, which mostly meant losing a limb. During the great Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, the hospital was so crowded that incinerators were constantly burning to dispose of the massive amount of bodies.  At one point, Jerome was so overrun with dead bodies from the influenza that William Andrews Clark ordered for the bodies to be burned in the mine’s smelters as well.

The Jerome Grand Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the state of Arizona, with a number of strange phenomena occurring over the decades. The hotel 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 local population dwindled, the hospital closed in 1950. From the beginning, the building has had a reputation for being haunted as sounds of coughing, moaning and labored breathing could be heard throughout the wards. Perhaps this was due to the many people who died there or the emotional trauma suffered by the many who were housed in its asylum.

One spirit that is has roamed the building for many years is that of an old, bearded miner. His appearance was first documented by a hospital patient who reported seeing the bearded man gliding down the hall, turning on all the lights on his way. A nurse during the building’s hospital reign also reported having seen a bearded man standing at the very end of a hallway. However, when she approached him, the man mysteriously vanished. Today, guests of the hotel continue to report seeing the bearded man especially on the second and third floors.

The hotel lobby is an active place for many of the spirits. The doors open and close by themselves; chairs are rearranged while desk clerks turn their backs; items fly off the shelves in the gift shop, as well as from the walls in the lobby. The lobby desk has also received a number of phone calls from empty rooms with no one on the other end.

The hotel also boasts a still operational 1926 elevator, home to perhaps the most famous ghost of the hotel, Claude Harvey. Harvey was a hospital maintenance man in 1935. When Harvey’s body was found pinned under the elevator in the basement, his death was ruled an accident. Strangely though, the inquest into his death determined that the elevator did not kill him. Some said he jumped to his death; but, the vast majority suspected that he was murdered, and his body dumped at the bottom of the elevator shaft. He was found beneath the elevator, with his neck broken and the only other mark on his body – a small scrape behind the ear. Further investigation found the elevator was in perfect working order.

Rumors swirled with theories and potential suspects, but the cause of death remained officially “an accident.” Almost immediately after his death, strange occurrences began in the building especially in and around the elevator. Lights in the shaft would come on when the building had no power. Many speculated that Harvey has unfinished business here on earth, not resting until his murderer has been implicated. Though his spirit is said to make those who he encounters uncomfortable, Harvey has never hurt anyone.

Other spirits said to roam throughout the hotel include a man in a wheelchair who fell from a balcony, a shooting victim, and a caretaker who committed suicide via hanging. A woman in white is seen roaming the hallways, and a small child has been seen running through the bar area.

The Jerome Grand Hotel was featured in a segment of the popular SIGHTINGS television series several years ago and has been investigated by a number of ghost hunter groups who have supposedly recorded paranormal activity on film. Guests that visit today can participate in a ghost hunting tours to the “off limit” areas of the hotel.

Though she does not have an official home, the town’s favorite ghost is a little girl who runs between the hospital and the surgeon’s house. An artist’s tribute can be found in an old servant’s passage way at the surgeon’s house.