GHOST TOWN: Digging up the History of Jerome
by Douglas Chasar
Riding between Sedona and Prescott along Hwy 89A I must have been through the hillside town of Jerome at least a dozen times in the past year or so. I can't get enough of the twists and turns climbing up from Clarkdale or down from the Mingus Mountains. From the number of bikes I've seen parked along Main Street, I don't think I'm the only one who enjoys the ride.

Though I've been through the town several times, I've never stopped in Jerome aside from one occasion when my wife Wendy and I had to get off the bike to stretch our legs. On this excursion, we walked a little down Main Street and I got a sense of Jerome as an historic mining town. Nearly a year after that first, brief visit, we decided to stop in Jerome and stay for a while. I've heard a number of other riders talk about the Spirit Room, so I thought that would be a great place to start.

We sat at the bar of the Spirit Room and as I nursed my beer I asked the bartender, Lynn, about the history of the place. As part of the Connor Hotel, Lynn told me the Spirit Room had burned down twice (along with the rest of the hotel). She mentioned a few other events in the history of the Spirit Room before she referred to Jerome as a ghost town. I knew Jerome had a history, but I had never heard that it was a ghost town (not that I had done any research). I then put two and two together. With a bar named the Spirit Room and a restaurant called the Haunted Hamburger it was obvious. Jerome is a ghost town, receiving the status as its population dropped from 15,000 to less than 100 after the closing of mining operations in 1953.

I continued to probe for more information regarding Jerome as a ghost town when Lynn mentioned that the Connor Hotel is rumored to be haunted too. Now this was getting interesting. Indeed, a group of paranormal investigators had been to the Connor Hotel only a few weeks earlier, but I would have to talk to the hotel employees for more information.

A few minutes later Wendy and I found ourselves in the lobby of the Connor Hotel talking with Dianne. She told us the metaphysical researchers had been there with cameras and recorders specially tuned to capture spectral apparitions. According to Dianne, the investigators were unable to capture any recordings of spiritual energy in the hotel. Leaving the hotel, however, one of the women claims to have heard a voice speak her name while alone in an empty room. Other guests have reported hearing a barking dog though no canines were nearby at the time. Dianne further explained that the spiritual energy of an old man and a barking dog is focused on Room 5 of the hotel.

My curiosity now compelled me to visit Room 5. No guests were checked into that room, so Dianne obliged by giving me the key. Wendy and I proceeded up the quiet stairway and down the hall. I noticed the doors to a number of rooms were opened and the beds were made. I assumed housekeeping was responsible, though the telltale sign of the utility cart was nowhere to be seen. The door to Room 5 was closed unlike the others. I fumbled for the key Dianne had given me and reached out with my other hand and tested the door. Not only was the door not locked, but it pushed open without having to turn the knob. Relatively modest in size, perhaps four paces long and as many wide, Room 5 held nothing more than a bed, a chair, a window and two doors, one leading to the bathroom the other a closet. After seeing the other rooms made up, I was surprised to see the bed was unmade with the wadded up sheets on the chair.

I felt no presence or energy as Dianne suggested I would. However, as I stepped around the bed to peek into the bathroom, I frightened myself by imagining the white porcelain and tile splattered and smeared with bright red blood like a nightmare image from a Stephen King novel. A chill ran down my spine raising goose bumps on my arms and neck. I nervously laughed at myself and turned to exit Room 5 to join Wendy in the hall. Wendy peeked into the rooms through open doors marveling at the quaint authenticity of the decor: Black and white photos hung in antique frames, wooden nightstands, lacquered and polished held equally aged lamps contrasting with the modern microwaves and TV's.

I stood in the hall a moment before Room 5 drew me back. The second door, what I correctly guessed was the closet, remained uninvestigated. Without a word to Wendy I returned to Room 5. Reminding myself not to let my imagination get the better of me, I reached for the closet door and pulled it open. Simultaneously the main door to Room 5 closed behind me with an audible click. I laughed to myself at the irony, assuming a change of pressure in the room caused one door to close as I opened the other. I wondered if Wendy had noticed that I was gone, and considering what we were investigating I didn't want her to worry, so without incident I left Room 5.

We went back downstairs where Dianne was waiting with more information. One thing she emphasized was the good nature of the spectral energy. She wanted us to understand that the spirits were not harmful or frightful, they only served as a reminder and perhaps spiritual guides for the living. She continued to explain the ghosts were merely focal points of the spiritual energy that pervades the town. I got the impression that this spiritual energy is similar to the energy many believe exists in Sedona. When I mentioned this, Dianne corrected me by further describing Jerome's energy as masculine in nature. She said the masculinity stems from Jerome's history as a rough mining town.

She suggested we visit the Jerome Grand Hotel, also rumored to be haunted. Before being renovated in 1996, The Jerome Grand Hotel was the United Verde Hospital, known as the most modern and well equipped in Arizona. Dianne indicated that a number of German doctors found their way to the United Verde Hospital where they conducted many medical experiments on victims of mining accidents like attaching amputated limbs from one patient to another.

Curiosity once again aroused, we walked up Hill Street to the Jerome Grand Hotel. Before we started asking questions, Wendy and I decided to relax and have a drink in the hotel restaurant/lounge called the Asylum. The bartender was not forthcoming with information regarding ghosts and spirits, so we found our way down to the hotel lobby. The clerk behind the counter couldn't answer our questions either, but said someone would be there shortly who could. When she arrived, I asked LaWanda about the history of the Jerome Grand Hotel with as much discretion as I could. Her reply was a blatant, "What do you want to know about the ghosts?" I confessed that I was interested in that bit of information, but LaWanda wasn't about to reveal anything. She gave us a brief history of the hotel and explained that she was not particularly interested in adding to the notoriety of the hotel's reputation as being haunted. She said that, as it is, parents sometimes show up dragging frightened children with them to "see the ghosts."

She did admit, though, that a woman in white has appeared in the windows of the old hospital. More than once before the renovation the police had been called out to apprehend the intruder only to find an empty building. Holding back a knowing smile, LaWanda revealed that the woman was a nurse who used to work in the hospital. If we want to know more, she said, we would have to make a reservation and see for ourselves. Needless to say, Wendy and I have already planned our next ride.

Ride safe, ride often...hell, just ride! - dpc

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