Here from the lonely outpost of Phoenix an adventure began. It all started when a traveler from a distant land made his
way out west to seek an encounter with an apparition of the dead. Gary "Red" Rush was his name and he was the sort of
individual who likened himself to an investigator of the weird. In days gone by he had searched for extraterrestrial
connections in the deserts of the southwest and women of ill repute in the offbeat bars of Mill Avenue. He wasn't one to
leave stones unturned or coupons unclipped. His marauding eye had settled on rumors of ghosts that lived in the once
proud city of Jerome, Arizona. Jerome was, at a time, the third largest city in the Arizona Territory. This was brought
about by the boon of copper found inside its hills and its bordellos that thrived atop of them. 15,000 people had once
come to live in its mile high altitude. But as the billion-dollar mining venture had run its course the population dwindled to
a paltry 400 denizens clinging to the side of the Mingus Mountain. The whole city slopes downward and lives in a
perpetual state of falling, literally! The jail they had built to hold the rascals and bushwhackers that encompass such
mining towns had slid down the hill 250 feet! It still rests there as a deterrent to would-be lawbreakers that they may put
in there and allowed to skate to bottom of the mountain with them inside. Amongst their boarded up buildings and mining
museums, the city is trying to make a comeback as a tourist destination. They have quaint little gift shops and a whole
community dedicated to antiques. But the ghosts of the past are near and they have brought fear to its residents.
In its heyday, the city had built a state-of-the-art hospital. The hospital was built near the top of the mountain and was
the highest hospital in the country. With the many mining accidents and the gallons of penicillin that had to be dispensed
due to the bordello trade it quickly became the most recognized hospital in the state. But as the population dwindled,
with the fall of the copper trade, it became abandoned. Falling into a state of disrepair for nearly a half of century, it was
brought back to life as a hotel. The Jerome Grand Hotel was opened in 1996. It was here that Red had asked me to
come and join him for a spell. He had heard that the ghosts of yesteryear were rampant throughout the hotel. Many
strange and eerie happenings had taken place in its rooms since its opening and Red, being the intrepid investigator he
was, had to see for himself.
We traveled along the snaky highway that skirts the precipice of the city's outcroppings. It was a cold and blustery
February evening when we arrived at the hotel. Greeted by its grandeur and its spectacular view of twinkling lights
below, I entered the lobby with Red. Its proprietor, Larry, was there to assure us that none of his guests had met an
untimely demise while he had owned it. He went on to tell us of a few strange encounters that guests had claimed and
that he, himself, had never really gotten over some of the encounters he had had with the spiritual apparitions. Not
wanting to scare his customers into retreat he digressed and handed us the keys to the connecting rooms of #31 and
#33. After implicit instructions on the use of the elevator, the oldest in the country, we made our way to the third floor.
The spacious halls were lined with antique grandfather clocks, 18th century paintings and Victorian-styled furniture.
Each room had wide hospital doors with a window above the door. Red stated that it felt like this was more of psychiatric
ward than a regular hospital. We had entered a scene from "One Flew over a Cuckoo's Nest!" We turned on the
radiator to combat the chill of February when the noises began. It started with sharp rattling, groans in the walls and a
tapping that was never resolved. We quickly changed and decided to investigate the nightlife of this scary little town. We
left the building only to be greeted by a howling wind that chilled us to the bone and left a sense of foreboding evil. We
traversed the empty playground and down the city's stairs that are throughout. We happened upon an eatery that was
appropriately named the "Haunted Hamburger." Quiet and fashionable, the eatery was filled with diners who said little
and wouldn't greet our eyes. I envisioned all of them chasing us out of the town with pitchforks and torches. We ate our
hamburgers in relative peace as Red dominated the conversation with tales of the supernatural. After the waitress
conveniently lost Red's credit card we become aware of the town's penchant for tourist money. It was then "located" with
a sneary smile by the waitress who complained about the ghosts that must have taken it.
We braved the cold to further down the street to the oldest continuously functioning saloon in Arizona, "The Spirit
Room." Dark and portentous it beckoned a weary traveler with cheap booze and cheaper women. At least these were
two accommodations that Red found particularly appealing. We saddled up to the bar and ordered some refreshment
from the Hell's fallen Angel bartender. He was a nice enough gent who didn't believe in casual conversation with the
un-local folks. As our eyes adjusted, we passed our glance along the faces of every kind of make of human in the known
world. There were elderly travelers, young saucy women, drunken cowboys, an Indian gentleman, lost yuppies and a
uptight middle-aged women who was definitely out of her realm. Soon, a man in his seventies with long stringy hair,
disheveled clothing and a bright red nose came and started speaking to us. He inquired about what we were doing in
his little town. The ancient miner laughed when we exclaimed that we had come to see the ghosts. "Oh, you really don't
want to meet up with them!" He stammered. "By the feel of your forehead I can tell if you are receptive enough to their
curiosity." He pawed my head and avowed that I would, indeed, meet a ghost or meet my fate in this town. With this tidbit
of knowledge I decided I had had enough excitement for the night and I would make my way back to the Grand Hotel.
Besides, I was still sober enough to navigate the complexity of the elevator. Red decided to stick around and soak up
more of the atmosphere and more of the spirit of the Spirit Bar. He would have to walk the hill that, after a few cocktails,
would look like Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I spent an anxious evening trying to discern the various creaks and pops from the regular noises of the boiler. While
tossing and turning to the slightest sound I noticed the temperature was rising to scald. It was if the gates of Hell had
opened up and Satan was breathing down upon me! As I fought the lethargy of drifting sleep and the outright fear of
placing my feet on the ground, I groggily made my way to the radiator and turned it off.
The next morning, I discovered Red had spent a restless night wandering the halls of the Grand Hotel searching for the
ghosts. He had learned that back in 1935, a man had been killed, crushed under the elevator! An autopsy was never
done, and there is a belief that, a mysterious stranger killed him. He also learned that a man had hung himself on the
same floor we had stayed! Another had fallen to his death from a balcony. Unfounded rumors circulated that all of these
deaths were deliberate acts of evil by unknown actors. I am not talking about Tex Ritter here! We congratulated
ourselves for having the audacity to come to the most haunted place in Arizona and staying throughout a cold, windy
and noisy night without taking flight. Red was disappointed that he didn't shake hands with a ghoul or goblin, just that
female one in the Spirit Room.
We bid our hosts "adieu" and promised to come again. Maybe on Halloween!