Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Lurks in Building 13? The Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona, U.S.A.
It’s not surprising that one of the most legendary spots on the American map has also become one of the hottest paranormal sites in the world. After all Tombstone, Arizona has been immortalized in several classic films (My Darling Clementine, Tombstone, and Wyatt Earp to name a few) and is a top Southwestern tourist destination. One of the places that make Tombstone such a rich historical hotspot is The Bird Cage Theater. Opened in December of 1881, it played an important role in the shaping of the history of some of the most notorious gunfighters and lawmen of the Old West. Part saloon, part gambling hall, part bordello and part show theater, The Bird Cage Theater has seen many violent deaths within its walls. It’s said the dead, among them prostitutes, gunmen, gamblers and soldiers, still reside inside the historic location. It’s also said that a careful or fortunate camera person can catch them on film. The hauntings are no secret. For decades it’s been known by the locals that there are those who still walk the floors at night, when the doors are locked and the sun goes down. And now with such shows as ‘Ghost Adventurers’ and ‘Ghost Hunters’ having done investigations inside, it’s a well known international ghost site as well, with tourists from all over the world flocking in to see if they, too, can catch a ghost in action. The City of Tombstone has even begun to give their very own Ghost Tours (see website for times and dates).
Some of the stories that have filtered out of The Bird Cage Theater are tragic. It’s purported that twenty six people were killed within its walls, and that over a hundred and twenty bullet holes still pepper the interior.
It’s not easy to forget the stories of the dead when you first walk into The Birdcage Theater, stories of violence and death, because the very wood seems to be permeated with the legends that abound of the place. One can almost hear the tinny piano playing in the corner, smell the sour stenches of body odor and horse sweat, taste the raw whiskey and dust at the back of your throat. It does not take a vivid imagination to hear and feel things inside the old place. At night, it is even harder to ignore the subtle sly sounds of thumping boot heels on the floor above you, or see the fleeting pale shape of a woman in white running up the stairs ahead of you. It is very easy to feel a sense of being watched by many eyes, some menacing, some amused, all of them lost to the sands of time and their own ends. In one corner of the first floor, there sits The Black Moriah, the undertaker’s carriage that buried everyone in Boot Hill, right down the road a piece, between the years 1881 and 1906. At night, it’s said you can hear the carriage moving, smell dust and horses around it. And as seen on a recent episode of ‘Ghost Adventurers’, one can even hear whispers emanating from it.

Some of the rooms are roped off from the public, but even they tend to give a fright or two every now and then. Tourists claimed to have seen men sitting at the old gambling tables. Some acknowledge the curious onlookers, while others ignore their terrified audience. It is said that things move in the middle of the night when no one is supposed to be inside. When the ‘Ghost Hunters’ crew visited the site, they managed to capture on camera objects which appear to be moving on their own. If it was for real, then it’s some pretty inarguable evidence of spectral activity.
So is The Bird Cage Theater really haunted? Or is it all just imaginations run wild?
I guess the only way to ever answer that question is to take a little trip to the desert, buy a ticket inside and walk the warped boards and slanted stairs for yourself. Hell, take along a camera, snap some shots of the seemingly empty dance hall and gambling rooms, of the bordello rooms and undertaker’s carriage. Just don’t be surprised if you happen to catch the face of someone who you know was not there when you took the picture. It happens all the time inside The Bird Cage Theater, pard’ner.

--Nickolas Cook