Spend Halloween in a real ghost town
Jerome, Arizona is a special place to be in October. There’s an annual Halloween celebration, with guided “Spirit Walks” that explore the local historic buildings accompanied by narratives of spooky tales. Another annual event, the “Ghost Walk” at the Jerome Historical Society, features actors in period costumes dramatizing shootouts, murders, drownings and séances in a re-telling of Jerome’s bone-chilling history. Every year new stories surface of eerie events that have taken place in Jerome’s history.
The Grand Hotel is considered the “most haunted” of all the buildings in Jerome. If that doesn’t scare you, consider that it used to be the Jerome Mining Hospital, where spirits of the lost souls who died there are rumored to still haunt the building. The infamous “Death Rooms,” where former patients were once left to die, are now hotel rooms where guests can stay. The Grand Hotel often sells out their rooms a year in advance, reserved for Halloween celebrations, but there are other hotels where you can stay.
Located in Verde Valley, Jerome is a former mining town that sits on Cleopatra Hill. Today tourists visit Jerome to learn about its history and to shop at the local gift stores and galleries. Once labelled the “wickedest town in the west,” Jerome has turned into an artisanal community that embraces its colorful history.
“In 1876, mining claims and a mill were located near the town, These claims were puchased in 1882 by the United Verde Company, and the tent camp was named Jerome after Eugene Jerome, a major financier of the company. Senator William Clark of Montana purchased the company in 1883. By the mid-1920s the population had grown to almost 15,000 before it began to decline.” Source: Historic Plaque in Jerome.
Back in 1950 the mine closure dropped the local population to below 100 residents, and Jerome became a ghost town. Today there are a few hundred more residents keeping the history fresh in the minds of tourists and visitors. If you take a walk through Jerome, it’s like walking back in time. You’ll pass by old saloons and historic buildings that still hold their iconic southwestern character. There are even remnants of a once bustling “Red Light District.”
If you go during Halloween …
There are three guided “Spirit Walks,” at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Each time slot can accommodate up to 200 people, who tour historic buildings in groups of 40 to 50 and listen to ghost stories. The event begins at Spook Hall (260 Hull Avenue), where musicians set the mood.
Tickets are between $6 and $12, depending on age, and if they’re purchased in advance from the Jerome Historical Society (928) 634-1066. There’s no fee for children up to age 6.
While the Ghost Walk is on the streets of Jerome, the Halloween Dance Party takes place primarily in Spook Hall. For more than three decades, the costume ball has been a fundraiser for the town’s fire department. “It’s quite an event,” says Fire Chief Terry Molloy, “the whole town has taken it up; even the bars are decorated, and people book rooms six to 12 months in advance.”
The Halloween Dance Party begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 2 a.m. It includes a full cash bar and a costume contest with different categories that vary from year to year. Jerome businesses donate prizes for the winners, including dinners, overnights and gift certificates. “The whole town celebrates. It’s a very spooky night. Everybody has a great time,” says Molloy. Tickets are $10 at the door.