Jerome Population: Strange
Jerome population: strange. That’s how the tiny ghost town sees itself and sports that statement proudly on a bumper sticker. I have to admit the statement caught my attention. We’ve been to Jerome numerous times, and I agree it is eccentric. Once a thriving copper mining town, now it’s a town for the quirky and unusual.
The spirits of the past haunt this picturesque town located in the Black Hills of Yavapai County. Jerome had the reputation of being the wickedest town in the state and, at its height, sported eighteen brothels and twenty-four bars.
In the 1920s, ten thousand citizens lived atop Cleopatra Hill and made their living from the United Verde Mine developed by William A. Clarke. Then, James Douglas, Jr. opened the United Verde Extension UVX Mine.
United Verde Mine was the leading copper producer in Arizona during its time. The money these mines produced created a post office in 1883—a schoolhouse in 1884, and a public library in 1889. However, growth tends to bring misfortune, and Jerome was no different.
Between 1894 and 1898, Jerome suffered four significant fires which destroyed quite a bit of the business district. The blazes destroyed much of the communities homes too. So, the residing leaders incorporated the town in 1899. Now they could collect taxes to build a fire station. The townspeople also established building codes for structures made of more fire-resistant material.
In the years between the late 1800s and when the mines closed for good in 1953, Jerome had horror stories that tainted their growth. Outsiders didn’t know about the number of miners killed getting the copper, making it a boom town.
One of the most prevalent stories is about young Charlie. He was a miner that fell into the nineteen hundred feet deep mineshaft. The shaft was so narrow that his head slid down the walls to the bottom. So, you can imagine why he’s decapitated. However, the acephalous specter only appears to people who do stupid things. He’s a protective spirit, but you don’t want him showing up. Because that means you plan on doing something stupid that will cause your death.
Jerome’s history wasn’t the most pleasant, and many of its people were racist. The saddest story I found is about Luis Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Sarah.
Many of the miners were from all over the world, including a large group from Mexico. These miners from Mexico established a sub-town in Jerome. Luis was fourteen years old and fell in love with Sarah, who was thirteen. As it happens many times in love stories, Luis got Sarah pregnant.
Sarah’s father was a racist and wasn’t happy with a Mexican impregnating his daughter. The Sheriff arrested Luis to put him out of reach of the enraged father. He planned to keep Luis safe until he could get a ride back to Mexico. However, the father poured gasoline through the window of the jail. He threw a match to ignite the gas and burned poor Luis alive.
They say if you visit the sliding jail, you can smell the remnants of the fire, and Luis might even talk to you. Paranormal enthusiasts flock to the site, searching for answers. Is the prison haunted, and do Luis and his girlfriend, Sarah, haunt it? Luis because he died a horrible death and Sarah because she is looking for her lost love?
In the 1960s, artists and artisans descended upon the city.
They dug a niche out for their work, and the town added its touch. Imported Grapes from Wilcox and wineries began springing up. Many original inhabitants never left Jerome; the pottery and glass makers stayed, and so did the ghosts.
In its heyday, the town had built four hospitals at the height of Jerome’s growth. Jerome’s collieries were dangerous, and loss of life averaged three men a day in the dark shafts. Copper mining created a poisonous gas that was hazardous for the miners to breathe, killing thousands.
The Jerome Grand Hotel was one of those hospitals and is now one of the most haunted hotels in the United States.
My sister, Tracy, and I visit Jerome often.
The town displays its uniqueness by combining new and old elements. Jerome’s history permeates every corner of the buildings that remain. Yet, in its wine tastings, eye-catching crafted jewelry, and art, it shows it’s also rooted in the present.
On a previous trip, we soaked in the history and partook of their wines, and we’ve dreamed of staying in the hotel but never had the opportunity. I’m a paranormal enthusiast and love haunted sites. Tracy is more into wines and jewelry. So, on this trip, I managed to get reservations at the Jerome Grand Hotel for two days. It was our combined birthday and mother’s day present to ourselves.
A side note here: Tracy and I were born the same month and day but three years apart. I wasn’t thrilled at three years old having a sister as a present. I wanted a toy and asked my mother to put her back where she came from, but no luck. We’re best friends now grown up, so I guess it worked out.
Everything is original at the Jerome Grand Hotel, including the 1920s elevator. You have to put a key in and then hold the button to get to the floor you want. But, first, you have to close two sliding metal doors.
I was in the back of the elevator, so I listened to Tracy and Kira, her daughter, bicker about how to work the elevator. I’m enjoying the debate and try not to laugh. They finally got the elevator to work, and we made it to our rooms on the third floor.
Tired from our three-hour trip, we decided to take it easy the first night and tour the quaint shops in the town. We ended the day finding a wine tasting at Passion Wineries. Tracy loves the dry reds, me and Kira love the sparkling sweet whites. We tasted the selections, my mouth puckering at the dryer ones. But we discovered two wines all of us enjoyed; a Moscato and a White Zinfandel. We planned to open them later that evening and unwind with good wine.
Instead, sidetracked by our stomachs growling, we hunt for sustenance. If you love good food, you’ll love the Jerome Grand Hotel’s restaurant; The Asylum. The average price is thirty dollars per plate, but the food is scrumptious. They have a flavorful drink called the White Sangria. It’s made from a combination of white wine and ginger ale filled with bits of mango, apple, blackberries, strawberries, and orange slices. Every sip is heaven in a stemmed balloon wine glass.
So, with full stomachs and a sangria buzz, we made it to our floor. Rickety elevator and all, feeling tired but relaxed from our day out. We find our room door ajar even though we know we closed it and locked it. We shook it off because we didn’t want to jump to the immediate conclusion that it was a ghost and settled in for the night. Then around twelve-thirty in the morning, we were awakened by a knock on the room door. I yelled, “Hello?” before getting up to look out into the hallway, but no one was there.
The disadvantage of older hotels is that the walls are paper thin. So, if someone’s there and ran away after knocking on the door, I’ll hear them. We turn off the lights and settle back in bed for more sleep. Around one-thirty, all hell breaks loose in the hallway. Some of it is human, but some are non-human.
A group of loud and boisterous partiers returns to their rooms, slamming their doors before peace reigns. For a measly few minutes, then the metal sounds. Metal objects are moving, dropping, and rattling in the hallway. Now it’s after three o’clock and quiet once more. We finally sleep until around eight but are still tired in the morning. So, we stay in our rooms until almost noon.
We have lunch at the Asylum and another glorious White Sangria before sightseeing. The hotel offers a complimentary shuttle, and the driver, Scott, is great. Once he learned I’m researching for this article; he takes us on a pre-emptive forty-five-minute tour. He teaches us about Jerome’s history, not in the tour books.
Afterward, we indulge in a wine tasting at Jerome’s winery, adding another bottle of white zinfandel to our growing wine collection – not that we’re lushes. Dinner at the Asylum with another white Sangria after another fantastic meal – ok, we’re lushes.
After exploring and learning about the local haunts around Jerome, we retire to our rooms. At one-thirty in the morning, the sounds of a baby crying and a man coughing wakes us up. Although the sounds were intermittent, we don’t get to sleep until after three.
I ask the front desk at check out if they checked in a family with a baby that night. They said no one under ten years old was in the hotel. We told them about the noise, and they inform us that the Grand Jerome Hotel used to be a hospital. The room across the hall was the nursery. Our rooms were the recovery room for patients with tuberculosis.
As we learned, Jerome, Arizona, is a vibrant town occupied by ghosts. Jerome isn’t for everyone, but if it calls to you. You will experience the magic and mystery that this haunted town has to offer.