The Infamously Haunted Boothill Graveyard
Tombstone, Arizona is a wonderful tourist attraction. I’ve been there a couple of times myself, but I’m always surprised when I remember that Boothill Graveyard is also part of Tombstone.
I’ve heard of it and the old saying that they “died with their boots on.” Well, now it’s been said that “they stroll the cemetery.” The graveyard is not only known for all of the bodies that are buried there, but also for its frontier humor.
There is a marker in the cemetery above historic Tombstone, that reads: “Here lies Lester Moore. Four Slugs from a .44. No Les. No More.” Boothill graveyard was created in 1879 and looks like a typical old, western town cemetery. The name “Boothill” grabbed the funny bone of numerous other western yokels and Boothill cemeteries started cropping up at countless mining towns.
It even made an appearance in the TV show Gunsmoke, but Tombstone is home to the original Boothill Graveyard. Its ghostly residents are even known to interact with the unsuspecting tourists that dared to wander inside of her boundaries.
What’s really nice? As the original Boothill, it houses some of the most famous and infamous characters of both myth and movies like outlaws and outsiders, including Dutch Annie, the popular madam known as the “Queen of the Red Light District.” No one knew her real name, but when she went to meet her maker? More than 1,000 people followed her coffin to the cemetery, paying homage to this woman.
Then, of course, you have the three victims of the 1881 shoot-out at the OK Corral. October 26, 1881, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and his two brothers, Morgan and Virgil, got into a shootout in a vacant lot behind the OK Corral. That’s incorrect. The actual shooting didn’t happen at the OK Corral, but down the street at the end of Fremont Street.
I guess telling people that the gunfight happened in a vacant lot didn’t sound as romantic as the OK Corral. When all the shooting was done and quiet once more returned to Tombstone, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were lying dead in the dusty street.
Now they are permanent occupants of Boothill Cemetery along with many other Tombstone characters. One thing about Tombstone though, is their tongue-in-cheek sense of humor about their longtime guests. Many of the markers had rotted away under the intense heat of Arizona’s extreme summers and Monsoons the desert is known for.
The local residents rebuilt the markers but rebuilt them displaying Tombstone’s wicked side. Like, “here lies George Johnson. Hanged by mistake 1882. He was right. We was wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone.” It was nice the town admits their mistake, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do much for poor ole George Johnson.
Another marker reads, “Found dead in his cabin with bullet wounds.” A new one reads, “Died in dispute.” Others had one-word descriptions: “Hanged” while another stated, “Legally Hanged.” I guess there was a difference between the two.
Personally, hung is hung – I’m still dead. One marker even screams, “MURDERED.” Unfortunately, Boothill has its dark secrets as well. There is a division between the races in the old, western graveyard. Over 100 of the counted 300 dead were buried without names and markers. They were Chinese immigrants and a whole lot was set aside for the Jewish citizens.
This combination of violent characters and victims whose names nobody wanted to know or even cared to know, gives Boothill its haunted reputation.
Guests have reported seeing the very dead Billy Clanton trying to make his way back to town. Many tourists have seen shadows or unrecognizable misty figures floating around Boothill on the evenings the tourists braved to walk around.
Some wary visitors emphatically state they’ve seen realistic figures poking their heads out from behind bushes and tombstones. Were the ghostly apparitions trying to find their way home or were they bemoaning their less-than-satisfactory eternal lodgings?
Either way, if you are a lover of history and the spooky, Tombstone is the place to visit. Boothill is not the only haunted site there. There are numerous others, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you. I’ve been there a couple of times and it is indeed a great place to learn about Old West History and to do a spot of ghost hunting as well.