It may be a small-town sheriff’s office, but “it’s not Barney Fife’s jail,” says Kip Culver of the old Gila County Sheriff’s Office and Jail in Globe.
“In a jail such as this, there are no happy stories.”
The turn-of-the-century building, made of poured, reinforced concrete and steel cell blocks salvaged from Yuma’s territorial prison, was built in 1910 on the site of the mining town’s gallows, and it housed the area’s roughest characters, from drunks and prostitutes to thieves and murderers.
The building is the starting point for an adult-geared Halloween tour of the city’s historic buildings and darkest tales, stories culled from old newspaper accounts, records and community lore.
“Most of the accounts get into murders and hangings and prostitution and the history of bordellos — a lot of unpleasant stuff,” says Culver, director of Globe’s Historic Main Street Program. “If you were able to make it in a mining town in the Arizona territory, you were a rugged individual to begin with, and maybe you were even wanted by the law somewhere else. You add to that a mix of whiskey, women and gambling, and that combination resulted in a lot of violence.”
Take, for example, the ranch hand who embarked on day trip in 1911 with his employer’s teenage daughters. The girls were discovered drowned in the Salt River, the ranch hand with a gunshot wound that took off the tip of his tongue and his jaw.
Without the ability to speak in his own defense, he was jailed pending an investigation. Not only did news articles of the day report the man was tormented by the ghosts of the murdered girls outside his cell window, he was murdered in his cell by a mystery killer, someone who hid on the upper floor of the adjacent courthouse all night, then took aim through a window at first light.
The ranch hand’s jail cell is on the tour, as is the courthouse, where — since the murder — a man smoking a cigar has been seen trudging up the stairs to the third-floor courtroom. When spoken to, say locals, the man and the smell of cigar smoke disappear.
Guides will lead visitors through the jail and into the courthouse by way of a catwalk, the same one jailers used to transport inmates between their cells and the courtroom. The tour then heads up Broad Street, where more historic buildings and chilling tales await.
“Whether you do believe in spooks or not, Globe definitely has its Old West history,” says Culver, whose office is inside the old jail. “Nothing’s ever jumped out and said 'Boo!’ but there’s a high creepy factor after dark.”
GHOSTS OF GLOBE TOUR
What: Take a 45-minute walking tour of this historic mining town’s creepiest sites and the tales that go with them. Subject matter may be grisly and suggestive, and is not recommended for children; use parental discretion.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 31
Where: Old Gila County Courthouse (now the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts) at the intersection of Broad and Oak streets in Globe, about 70 miles from Mesa. To get there, take U.S. 60 east to Globe and turn left at the light at Broad Street. Follow to Oak Street and park
Cost: $3 per person. People with special needs should call ahead, as there are stairs on the tour.
Information: (928) 425-0884 or (928) 425-9340
Hit the road for Halloween
Four more Arizona towns within a few hours’ drive are offering up good reasons to take a spooky — or at least, colorful — day trip. Be sure to call ahead to confirm before driving out of your way.
What: Jerome is Arizona’s most famous ghost town, and the fire department’s annual Halloween Masquerade Ball has everything a good costume party should: live music, a full bar, prizes for the best get-ups and a haunted location — Spook Hall. The venue sits on the site of the town’s old prostitute cribs, and one of the city’s most famous ghosts — a prostitute who was stabbed to death by a miner — is said to lurk in front of the building.
When: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Oct. 31
Where: Spook Hall is on state Highway 89A in Jerome, about 130 miles from Mesa. To get there, take Interstate 17 north to Exit 287, and turn left on state Highway 260. In Cottonwood, turn left onto Highway 89A. Follow the signs for 89A and Jerome up the mountain and into town.
Cost: $10 per person at the door. Prior to the dance, tickets are available at the Spirit Room bar on the corner of Main Street and Highway 89A. The event is for adults only, and ID will be required.
Information: (928) 634-0774 or www.jeromefd.org, click on “Community”
What: The old buildings and winding streets of this famous mining town can creep a person out nearly any day of the year, but Halloween in Bisbee is especially spooky. The grand old Copper Queen Hotel’s Halloween Street Party features music, dancing and a costume contest, and other noteworthy establishments around town — including St. Elmo’s, the oldest bar in Arizona — will offer music, costume events and drink specials. There will also be tarot card reader and past life readings, aura photographs and a Nov. 1 formal ghost hunt with Old Bisbee Ghost Tour and a group of paranormal investigators. The tour company also offers spooky walking excursions on weekends.
When: The Copper Queen Hotel party is 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Oct. 31; ghost hunt activities begin around lunchtime Nov. 1.
Where: Bisbee, about 208 miles from Mesa. To get there, take Interstate 10 south past Tucson to Exit 303. Take state Highway 80/Interstate 10 toward Benson/Douglas. Stay on Highway 80 south and follow signs into Bisbee.
Cost: Admission to the hotel’s party is $5. Contact Old Bisbee Ghost Tour for pricing and information on walking tours and the ghost hunt. Reservations are required for both at (520) 432-3308 or www.oldbisbeeghosttour.com.
Information: (520) 432-3554 or www.discoverbisbee.com
What: The crew aboard Verde Canyon Railroad’s Haunted Halloween Express will be in costume for this four-hour train excursion that skirts the Verde River through bald eagle country. Foliage along the banks should be turning shades of scarlet and amber, and there will be prizes awarded for the best, funniest and scariest adult and child costumes on board. If there are any heart-stopping moments, they’ll come when the train plunges into complete darkness: the trip includes two passes through a 680-foot tunnel dating back to 1911.
When: 1 p.m. Oct. 31. The train returns to the depot around 5 p.m.
Where: Verde Canyon Railroad Depot, 300 N. Broadway in Clarkdale, about 120 miles from Mesa. To get there, take Interstate 17 north to Exit 287. Turn left on state Highway 260 and follow into Clarkdale.
Cost: $34.95 to $79.95 per person, depending on coach or first-class tickets and passenger’s age. Children age 2 and younger are free when they ride on the lap of an adult. Reservations are required.
Information: (800) 293-7245 or www.verdecanyonrr.com
What: The town’s Festival of Color is a hot air balloon rally set against the backdrop of the Huachuca Mountains. Bright and bold balloons will be displayed on the ground and in the air three days in a row, but the festival’s second day features a mass launch, live music, food and vendor booths, an airplane parade and a nighttime “glowing” of the balloons.
When: Festival activities and launches are scheduled 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 1.
Where: Veteran’s Memorial Park, 3105 E. Fry Blvd. in Sierra Vista, about 185 miles from Mesa. To get there, take Interstate 10 toward Tucson to Exit 302, and turn south onto state Highway 90 toward Sierra Vista. Follow the signs into town.
Cost: Free admission; food and merchandise will be available for purchase