Old Bisbee Ghost Tour: Chasing the Spirits of the Wild WestNovember 13, 2011 No Comments
Dad and I love ghost tours. It might have something to do with having lived in New Orleans, where it is said that the veil between this world and the next is a bit thinner than it is in most places. Or maybe it’s just an extension of our love for Halloween. Regardless of the reasons, though, we make it a goal to take a ghost tour wherever we go.
Since we travel all the time, we have experienced the gamut–haunted pub crawls, hearse tours, flashlight expeditions through creepy properties with documented paranormal activity, and a wide range of “stand on the sidewalk and listen to stories” tours. But the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour in Bisbee, Arizona, was a first — the first ghost tour that ever required us to sign a liability waiver. You know it’s going to be a good tour when in the first two minutes they ask you to sign a document promising not to sue if the person you’re with dies on the tour!
Bisbee is just one of those places you have to see to believe. Like Jerome, Arizona, Bisbee is an old mining town literally built on the side of a mountain. Founded in 1880, Bisbee boomed during the height of the Gold Rush, becoming the largest town from St. Louis to San Francisco by the early 1900s. In fact, Bisbee’s success came just as the famed Tombstone was falling into decline. In 1929, the county seat for Cochise County moved from Tombstone to Bisbee. The town continued to thrive until the Copper Queen Mine closed in 1975.
Seemingly destined to become one of the West’s many ghost towns, Bisbee was saved by a group of artists who recognized the historic town’s potential as an arts colony. Today, Bisbee is noted for its gay-friendly culture, quirky atmosphere and plethora of well-preserved historic buildings.
About the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour
With such a colorful past and present, Bisbee is a natural home for a ghost tour. The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour company actually offers four different options–a walking tour, a hearse tour, a pub crawl and a paranormal investigation of the Copper Queen Hotel. The pub crawl, open only to adults 21 and over, is offered only on specific dates. The paranormal investigation is available only to guests of the hotel. The hearse tour sounded intriguing, but is offered sporadically depending on crowd levels and gas prices. So we signed up for the walking tour.
As of 2011, the walking tour begins at 7 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and lasts approximately an hour and a half. Additional tours are often added during the Halloween season. The tour costs $13 for adults and $11 for kids under 12. Dogs are allowed on the tour, but due to the steps and uneven walkways, strollers are not permitted.
Just getting to Bisbee was quite an experience for us flatlanders! Our RV park was in Tombstone, roughly 30 minutes away. When we called to make reservations, we were advised to allow extra time to navigate the roads into town. As luck would have it, a tremendous rainstorm hit just as we were preparing to leave. Negotiating the curvy mountain grades would have been nerve wracking under the best of circumstances, but the rain definitely added to the excitement!
Approaching Bisbee, we had to take a circular drive above the town before reaching the road that descended into Bisbee. It was a great birds-eye view, but there was nowhere to pull off and take photos. Driving in town was a bit confusing as well as many roads went straight up, making it difficult to anticipate our turns. But we did fine, and found a parking spot close to the Copper Queen Hotel, where the tour began. The rain stopped just as we arrived, leaving a slight mist behind that enhanced the spooky atmosphere of the tour.
Our tour guide, Renee, was dressed in authentic Old West garb, adding a wonderful layer of realism. After collecting payment and liability waivers from everyone in the group, she gathered us together to explain how the evening would progress. Renee would walk in front of the tour group to lead the way, while her husband and business partner would bring up the rear. This provides an additional level of safety during the tour. We were to visit numerous sites with documented paranormal activity, but the only property we would actually enter was the Copper Queen Hotel at the end of the evening. Although the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour website recommends bringing your own flashlight, most of us had not complied. Renee distributed flashlights to everyone who needed one.
The sun was just beginning to set as the tour began, and I briefly wondered why the tour started so early. But I soon realized that the early hour allowed our group to gain some familiarity with the endless steps and steep walkways of Bisbee, as well as to cover some of the steepest portions, while there was still some light. By the time the sun had fully set, it was easy to tell why both the liability waivers and the flashlights were distributed! Built literally on the side of a mountain and approximately one mile in elevation, Bisbee is not an easy town to navigate on foot.
The tour was fantastic! Renee was well-versed on Bisbee’s often-sordid mining history. Unlike many ghost tours, however, she traced most of the stories from their origins through today. She is apparently well respected in the community, and business owners share their most puzzling stories with her. It was wonderful to hear not only the precipitating event, such as a murder, but the effect that the paranormal activity has on shopkeepers and tourists today.
Approximately halfway through the tour, we had a rest stop at a haunted park. This was a welcome chance to sit down and relax while Renee shared various ghost photos that locals and visitors have captured around Bisbee.
The evening ended at the Copper Queen Hotel, allegedly one of the most haunted properties in Bisbee. We relaxed on comfortable sofas while Renee told us of ghostly happenings throughout the hotel. When the tour officially ended, Renee stayed to answer questions and look at photos that people in our group took throughout the tour.
Tips for Parents
The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour is family-friendly and appropriate for all ages. The company website advertises a Well-Behaved Child Policy, in which they reserve the right to charge double for any child who misbehaves and disrupts the tour. But the environment is laid-back and welcoming, so barring major meltdowns, I doubt that the policy would be invoked.
If your kids are small, consider holding their hands throughout the tour. Loose gravel, steep climbs and concrete stairways could be dangerous for those who are not paying attention. Dad was fine on his cane, but those with major mobility problems may want to forgo this tour.
Carry water and salty snacks, particularly if your tour is on a drier night. The desert air can be dehydrating, and the altitude can be depleting. The walk is relatively slow-paced, and the guides are excellent at adapting to individual walking speeds.
Don’t forget your camera. Dad and I had numerous orbs appear in our photos, and what appears to be a ghostly face in a mirror. Make sure there is plenty of room on your memory card, as the best way to get ghostly images is to constantly photograph everything as you go.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour is a great way to learn the history of this remarkable town. The stories are, by nature, somewhat sordid, but they are presented factually rather than milked for effect. If possible, consider spending an entire day in Bisbee capped off by an evening ghost tour.