Jerome, Arizona: built into the sides of a mountain, a city that sits in tiers and overlooks the Arizona desert. People have come and gone in waves, leaving behind them mere remnants of a once wild city. Buildings endure, sometimes with as few as one or two walls intact.
Houses stand in a various states of disarray, often abandoned and sometimes overgrown. Some have been restored, others have been demolished. The juxtaposition of old and new is unique and interesting. More intriguing, though, are the tales of local haunting, especially at the Asylum-turned-Hotel. Bring some extra rolls of film; You’ll need as much as you can spare.
Bri loves ghosts. She’s been known to spend hours in isolation watching Ghost Hunters while we spend a night out on the town. It’s only natural that she would be interested in a town known for its spirits… Always a skeptic, I had to see the city for myself. Thus, I packed up my cameras and hit the highway. We traveled two hours north of Phoenix, towards Prescott and Flagstaff.
Jerome was, once upon a time, a mining town. As people began to arrive in greater numbers, vice followed. Gambling, prostitution and drinking made Jerome notorious as a Wild West town. A series of fires and economic decline led to people leaving the city of behind them; Shortly after, wanderers began to occupy the abandoned homesteads. They tore apart the homes, using furniture and any other wood as fuel for their campfires.
Remnants of the old times are littered about the city. Boarded-up homes next to occupied ones, wreckage and ruins next to parks ad playgrounds. As we walk, a hole in the wall that was once the doorway to a home is now just a dark tunnel. We don’t dare enter. I thought this strange, but there are doors and passages built into walls randomly throughout the city streets.
Bri and I stroll through the city streets. We come to an antique shop, but the business seems to be closed for the day, if not temporarily. As we begin to move on, a voice calls to us from the balcony above; An old woman has appeared, and she inquires about the nature of our visit. Before we know it, she’s downstairs and letting us in for a look at her shop and her home. We pick through some items… An old copy of Through the Looking Glass, some Raggedy Ann short stories, and a pair of shoes from the 30’s. Dorothy, the old woman in the shop, gives us a tour of her home and explains to us the significance of each and every item in her homestead.
Before we move on, we see a photograph above the steps: It’s one of the neighbor’s homes, and there’s a tiny light leak on the right hand side of the frame. Dorothy tells us it’s no light leak; As we look closer, we can make out the subtle features of a woman’s face. Bri’s tickled; I’m starting to come around.
After heading out of the antique shop, we make our way to the Haunted Burger restaurant for some a quick bite. Even the restaurants have character; We’re seated on the top floor, which gives us an epic view of the mountains and the city below us. We drink from mason jars and consider our next move…
Next up: the Jerome Grand Hotel , a former mental institution. Although I didn’t see or sense any ghosts, the building’s interior has a certain eeriness to it; An old-fashioned elevator with metal gates takes you to the higher levels, and the hallways leading to the Asylum Restaurant seem like a scene straight out of Clue. Some details of the hospital are evident for those with a keen eye; It’s no wonder the spirits linger.
There’s a lot to see and do in Jerome: Old-fashioned saloons, classic candy and fudge shoppes, the old copper mine, haunted houses and a thriving art community. It seems that almost every citizen in the town owns a classic car, but many use quads to get around the tiny town. The people, whether local or tourists, are often as interesting as the surrounding environment.
Get there if you can; I’m going to have to plan another trip sometime soon, and I’ll be sure to bring my Holga and Diana along for some ghost-hunting next time.