Bird Cage Theatre - Tombstone
Activity meter: very high
Likelihood of real presences: very high
Overall rating: 5 stars
From 1881 to 1889, the Bird Cage was reputed to be one of the meanest places in the wild west. According to the official website, the New York Times referred to it as "The wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast" in 1882. Although it was called a "theatre" -- and did have a large stage, orchestra, and performances to support the name -- it was better known for its saloon, gambling, and prostitutes. Its brothel side was in fact how the theater got its name, as each side of the gambling hall is lined with seven "cages" in which the ladies of the night worked, each of them having curtains that could be closed when they were with clients.
Many famous old west figures, such as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, spent much of their time at The Bird Cage. It was open 24 hours a day in its hayday, and there was even a non-stop poker game played for over eight years.
The theatre closed in 1889 due to water seeping into the mines of Tombstone, closing down the entire town. In 1934, it was bought by new owners, who were happy to find that hardly anything had been disturbed in the past 45 years. They opened it again as a wild-west tourist attraction and museum.
According to legend, a total of 26 people were killed in the theatre during its eight years, and over 120 bullet holes remain in the walls, including some from a rather famous fight between Curly Bill and Doc Holliday.
Another death that took place in the building was that of Marguerite, a pretty young Mexican who set her sights on a man who was already taken. The man's girlfriend was a dancer who would often moonlight as a prostitute, and went by the name Gold Dollar, and when she found out Marguerite was coming on to her man, she threated to cut her heart out. When she caught her in the act, sitting on the boyfriend's lap, she did exactly what she said she would, using her stilletto heel to stab Marguerite in the heart.
Today, the Bird Cage's rich and violent history is well-preserved, and the spirits seem to appreciate it.
The ghostly activity is, for the most part, what you would expect from a building with this sort of history. Transparent men wearing old west clothing, the smell of whiskey and cigar smoke (even though neither is allowed at the site anymore), ghostly ladies of the night, and the sounds of saloon nightlife heard at all hours of the night when the theatre is closed. There are sounds of music, laughter, glasses clinking, and an entire room of people enjoying themselves... Sometimes they are not just sounds, but can actually be seen through the windows; a room full of entities, in the middle of the night, which is no longer a part of the theatre's business hours.
Many of the furnishings and artifacts in the theatre are originals and have been there ever since the 1800's, including the poker tables, and the pool table on which Morgan Earp was killed -- complete with his blood stains! With this sort of artifacts, there is bound to be a lot of residual negative energy.
It is said that there are as many as 26 "documented" ghosts hanging around the Bird Cage -- the same number of people who were killed there. There may be at least four others, as well. Perhaps the most-often seen is a male stage hand who walks across the stage, holding a clipboard and wearing a visor. Then there is Marguerite, the ghost of the girl who flirted with Gold Dollar's boyfriend. There is also a man who has been seeing searching for his wife, looking "sad and confused." He once interacted with an employee who thought he was a living person, but then vanished in the few seconds the employee's back was turned. The ghosts of suicidal prostitutes also supposedly haunt the building, after killing themselves out of despair that came from getting too old and having not found a man to marry so they could become "respectable" ladies. One of these entities has been seen disappearing into the wine cellar.
Another employee once saw three old west characters near the gift shop counter, all three of them turning to look at the employee and then vanishing into thin air. The police have been called to the scene after employees thought they had caught an intruder on security cameras, but it turned out there was no one in the building. The owner of the Bird Cage felt himself being choked, to the point of turning blue and not being able to breathe, during a sťance.
A several-hundred pound table was once moved overnight, to a spot where it would have to have been lifted over another table. The next day, it took eight men to move it back. This is most incredible thing that has been moved from one place to another by unseen forces, but not the only thing. Another often-told story is that of the poker chip that appeared out of nowhere, and when the owner had experts to come and evaluate it, it had disappeared from the safe where he had put it. Later, once these experts had left, it showed up in a locked desk drawer.
Another incident last for six months and started when a life-size Wyatt Earp was placed into a "crib" or "cage" (the theatre's namesakes that line the balcony) thought to have once been frequented by Earp. His hat would be removed from his head and placed on the downstairs floor every morning, and once the statue was turned around. It was then discovered that the crib had in fact not been frequented by Earp, but by his sworn enemies, the Clanton family. Once they had moved the statue to the proper location, these activities ceased.
One ghost is said to actually be a member of the famed Clanton family -- possibly Billy Clanton, who was killed by Earp's posse at the O.K. Corral.
During a paranormal investigation, one investigator's camera began operating itself, snapping a total of 16 photos without being touched by any living person. In these photos, an orb can be seen moving around until it's out of the frame.
There is so much paranormal activity at the Bird Cage, it would probably be impossible for us to list it all here. However, in the future, we will add even more.
If you have had a personal encounter with the unexplained at this location, submit it and it may be posted here.
517 E. Allen Street
Location and Visitor Info:
Tombstone, AZ 85638 Information about museum tours, ghost tours, business hours and more can be found at the official website, tombstonebirdcage.com.