Arizona ghost towns owe their existence to the rich metals found in the earth and in the rivers and streams: gold, copper, and silver. Gold was the first mineral to be discovered in 1857. Copper was found in 1864. Silver was also found, but both gold and silver ultimately would play second fiddle to copper, due to its high conductivity and great number of uses. Boom towns grew up around all the strikes, but as the mines petered out, the towns died too. The landscape of the state is filled with the spooky ruins of mining towns where men and women lived and died. These today are abandoned ghost towns that can be visited on organized jeep safaris or independently.
Only a few of the nineteenth-century mining towns were able to revive themselves and become viable communities again. A perfect example of this is the town of Jerome, where even today hotels welcome guests who claim to see ghostly apparitions and hear the sounds of crying, coughing, rattling chains, and eerie voices. Jerome is perhaps the most famous of the Arizona ghost towns, as it’s also home to the most famous haunted building. The Jerome Grand Hotel began life in 1927 as a state-of-the-art hospital and operated until the death of mining in the area made it unnecessary, around 1950. It is a huge Spanish Mission style building built at the summit of Cleopatra Hill overlooking the town. People come from around the world in hopes of catching a glimpse of the ghostly nurse who haunts the hallways and other spooky manifestations. There are many other buildings and places in Jerome that are said to be haunted, and ghost tours are a thriving part of the tourism industry here.
Many of the Arizona ghost towns were once “company towns,” named for and virtually owned by different mining companies. An example of this is Sasco, named for the Southern Arizona Smelting Company. Today, it is a silent reminder of its former glory days, with collapsed walls and crumbling foundations. Use four-wheel-drive car rentals to get to this remote town.
Of course, Tombstone (“The Town Too Tough to Die”) will be on most Arizona ghost towns list. It is registered as a National Historic Landmark District as one of the best examples of authentically preserved western mining towns in the United States. Here you can see the infamous OK Corral, the Crystal Palace Saloon, the honky tonk Birdcage Theater, Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, and of course the legendary Boot Hill. Head to Bisbee Arizona if you want some more haunting. It’s located about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson and is similar to Jerome. By the 1950s, the town’s population had dropped to only about 6,000. In the 1970s, artists and artisans discovered the charms of the town, and tourism began to revive the local businesses. The mine was reopened as a tourist attraction, and hundreds of thousands of visitors have since descended below the earth. The venerable Copper Queen Hotel is an architectural gem and has been open since 1902. As a guest here, you may be lucky—or unlucky—enough to encounter the spirit of Julia Lowell, a prostitute who committed suicide here.
There are several hundred Arizona ghost towns that are either abandoned or boast structures that are reputedly haunted. You are bound to stumble upon at least a few on just about any drive through the state. You’ll have the same luck driving through Colorado, which also boasts hundreds of ghost towns and haunted places.