Everyone likes a good ghost story for Halloween, and I'm no exception... except my ghost stories are real! The most reliable way to know whether or not a ghost story is real is to have direct experiential knowledge. This is my firsthand account of not so scary but very real ghost stories.
The one place I have visited that has nearly as many ghosts as living residents has to be Tombstone, Ariz. Just hearing the name Tombstone evokes the grittiest of the Wild West in the minds and imaginations of most. Tombstone was the home of legendary gunslingers like Virgil and Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and of course the famous shoot out at the O.K. Corral with the ill-fated Clanton brothers and Frank and Tom McLaury who now rest in Boot Hill Cemetery also in Tombstone.
The town was born when Ed Schieffelin discovered silver in 1880 in an area so remote and untamed, that a solider once told Ed that if he kept going into the Apache occupied hills, the only rock he would ever find was his tombstone. Hence the town was named. The greatest historical action in Tombstone started in 1880 and ended in 1889 when an earthquake displaced the water table and flooded the mines. During this time Tombstone burned to the ground three times, and three times was re-built, except for the Birdcage Theater. The theater was built of brick, not wood like the rest of the town. The Birdcage opened its doors in 1880, and for nine years those doors never closed. For nine solid years, gambling, drinking, prostitution, shooting and onstage entertainment raged 24/7. The morning of the earthquake in 1889, as the word spread that the mines were flooded, the Birdcage closed its doors for the first time and remained empty and dormant for many, many years thereafter. The perfect environment for paranormal incubation.
The theater is open to the public now but it is set up more like a museum than a place for live entertainment. But don't let that fool you. The performances of over a hundred years ago still go on, but not everyone can see them. I happened to be standing on the stage taking a picture of the theater when a ghostly two o'clock show began. In the left margin of the photo you can see the ghost of a showgirl swinging out over the theater on a trapeze what was removed more than 50 years ago.
My favorite place to stay in Tombstone used to be a charming bed and breakfast called the Buford House. The house is still there but it is no longer a bed and breakfast. The Buford House has its ghosts as well. The owners at the time, Ruth and Richard, are a delightful couple, and over the years we all spent many hours chatting and exchanging life stories.
Like most people, I asked Ruth and Richard if they felt the house was haunted. They told me about a young man named George who had died there in the 1800s, and they felt he never left. The convincing factor being that Ruth had personally seen a full-bodied apparition of George in house. They told me about a time when one of their dogs got out of the gated yard and was missing. A few days later, at 3 a.m., they heard someone ringing the doorbell repeatedly, like they were leaning on the bell. Ruth and Richard snuck up to the front door and pulled it open suddenly, thinking they were going to catch some kids fooling around ringing the bell. The moment the door flew open they could see that no one was there. But Belle, their missing dog, was standing just outside the gate and was waiting to be let in. They told me they knew then that it was George getting their attention so they could be reunited with Belle.
They also confessed that on most mornings since, as soon as one of them is up, the front doorbell rings until they answer it. And every morning just as they open the door the bell stops ringing and no one is there. They explained that they knew it was George saying, "Good morning." So after opening the door their new morning ritual became to say aloud, "Good morning George, we love you." They also told me they replaced that doorbell more than a dozen times to convince themselves it wasn't just the wiring.
I was staying at the Buford House with friends while I was recovering from an auto accident that created some neurological problems. Often, very early in the morning I would feel nauseated and needed to stand over the sink... just in case. I did not want to wake my friends, so I left our room and tiptoed into the kitchen. Ruth was a nurse so she understood my health challenges and did her best to make me feel at ease in an uncomfortable situation. While trying to quietly wretch in the kitchen sink, Richard stuck his head in the doorway. "I figured that was you," he said, "I just wanted to make sure everything was okay." Just then the doorbell started to ring. Ruth walked by rubbing her sleepy eyes mumbling, "George is at it early this morning." I watched her walk through the kitchen to the front door. The moment she opened the door the bell stopped ringing. There was clearly no one there on the well-lit porch. I saw the morning ritual with my own eyes and of course I had to join in on a rousing chorus of, "Good morning George, we love you."
Have a safe and happy Halloween. And may every ghost you encounter be entertaining and kind hearted.
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