Whores, Miners, and the Mentally Insane: The Haunted Arizona Town
After driving up a precariously skinny road, winding up Cleopatra Hill, 5,600 miles above sea level, Jerome city begins. At first glance, the most vertical city in the United States is a small but bustling tourist den; a parade of art galleries, shops, restaurants, and saloons with all too typical gag-inducing charm. But it’s what lies behind this facade that provides the real and sinister intrigue of this tiny Arizona town.
Today, Jerome boasts a population nearing 440 people (that’s not including dogs, cats, or the undead), but in its heyday, the town was a booming 15,000 individuals banking on the success of the copper mining industry.
In 1903, the New York Sun stated that Jerome had earned the title as the, “Wickedest City in the West” because the prosperous mining town was also a haven for, to say the least, bad behavior. With an overwhelmingly male population who lived life on the less than the savory side, past-times included indulging in alcohol, drugs, gambling, and prostitution. Not to generalize too much, but those endeavors had/have the tendency to lead to “fun” things like bankruptcy, mental illness, murder, and the crowd favorite, sexually transmitted diseases. This may lead some to ponder: what’s better than a town filled with sex, scandal, and drugs? The answer is a town filled with the ghosts of prostitutes, gamblers, murders, and opium addicts . . . and Jerome fits that bill.
After nearly 70 years of raping and pillaging the mineral deposits, the mines closed down and, overnight, Jerome became a ghost town. Some of the buildings began to literally slip down the hill, including the town jail, and remain in limbo today. It wasn’t until a group of artists rediscovered this gem in the 1960s that the charm and flavor of Jerome was restored. It wasn’t long before an abundance of paranormal phenomena was witnessed and Jerome earned the new title of the largest ghost town in America, and with good reason.
The most ominous and haunted buildings loom over the town from the top of the hill; the Jerome Grand Hotel and the United Verde Hospital Club House. The Grand was constructed in 1926 as a hospital to treat cases of Tuberculosis and the constant stream of mining accidents. It is estimated that around one person per day died over the nearly 30 years of the hospital’s existence, totaling around 9,000 people. It wasn’t until 1994 that the building was restored and transformed into its present day status as a hotel. Both guests and hotel staff have claimed to see full apparitions, orbs, moving objects, as well as disembodied voices, coughing, and wheezing coming from dark corners. But perhaps the most famous ghost residing here is Claude Harvey. Claude was a maintenance man who was discovered in the boiler room, presumably murdered, in 1935. Today, the paint outline of his body still exists and illustrates the fact that his head was underneath the elevator at the time of his death.
Years later, another maintenance man repeatedly complained about seeing a woman in the basement and was found hanging from a pipe two weeks later. The theory is that he was so disturbed by what he was witnessing that he no longer could face going on . . . or maybe the ghost lady was so foxy, he just wanted to join her.