Perched high within the Black Hills, inside the Prescott National Forest, sits a town famous among both ghost hunters and “Wild West” enthusiasts. Located approximately 2 hours north of Phoenix, and 1 hour, 20 minutes south of Flagstaff, there are many things to do and see in Jerome, Arizona. Established in 1876, it was once the 4th largest city in the state, peaking in the 1920’s with 15,000 residents. This was due almost exclusively to being a mecca for copper mining. These days, it’s sparsely populated with a population fluctuating between 444 and 500 permanent residents.
Once known as “the wickedest town in the West”, Jerome was described by a Phoenix newspaper as having “one beggarly looking church and at least sixteen saloons and more going up”. The town was essentially saloon after saloon with brothels, opium dens, and gambling halls sprinkled between. According to Jerome Ghost Tours, “Home to more brothels per capita than anywhere else in the country, Jerome made its mark for more than just copper and gold”. As one can imagine, this town attracted a less-than-savory crowd, with many outlaws making their way through, including the infamous Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp.
However, Jerome attracted all types of folks looking to “strike it rich”. While the Great Depression slowed down the production of copper, it came back with a vengeance during WWII due to the massive demand for copper. After WWII ended, the demand for copper once again plummeted, and sadly, Jerome plummeted with it. After the Phelps Dodge Mine closed in 1953 – which is the mining company that held the claim to the city… and still does – Jerome was all but destined for “ghost town” status. Which is exactly what it (almost) became. The town had approximately 100 permanent residents, who were determined to save the town from extinction. They openly embraced Jerome’s image and role as a historic ghost town, and eventually, in 1967, it was designated by the federal government as a National Historic District.
Also, allegedly, the constant debauchery and death that came with the lawlessness of Jerome has attracted a certain kind of energy, i.e. ghosts. Overall, Jerome is considered to be extremely haunted by paranormal enthusiasts. Not only did many perish from “normal” Wild West things like bar fights and dysentery, allegedly upwards of roughly 10,000 people died in the United Verde Hospital… which went on to became the Jerome Grand Hotel. This hotel in particular is said to be the most haunted building in Jerome and has been the subject of more than one popular ghost-hunting TV show. People routinely claim to see ghosts there, as well as elsewhere throughout the town, many dressed in late-1800’s western garb. It’s unsurprising, as people were regularly stabbed, shot, hung, beat, assaulted, robbed, overdosing, and dying in mining accidents during this towns heyday.
Important: Your experience will likely highly depend on time of year and what day of the week you visit. Our first visit was in April, on a Saturday, and it was packed. The traffic was horrendous and the free parking was extremely limited. Most people were having to park in the large lots near the visitor center, which require payment via nearby kiosks. We came back in August, on a Monday, and it was a completely different experience. We easily snagged one of the free parking spots along the street, and the difference in the amount of traffic and people was shocking.
Some of the historic places I’ll cover: the Sliding Jail, the Haunted Hamburger, Spook Hall (aka Lawrence Memorial Hall), the Svob Family Marker on what’s left of the Bartlett Hotel, the blast furnace, the Jerome Grand Hotel, and Connor Hotel. Let’s go!
The Sliding Jail
Achieving its nickname from a 225-foot slide down a steep hill, the Sliding Jail is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Jerome. Check out The Sliding Jail of Jerome, Arizona. for more details!
Hands down Jerome’s most famous restaurant, and probably one of the most famous eateries in all of Arizona, the Haunted Hamburger is typically a “must-do” for all Jerome visitors. Open daily from 11am to 9pm, it’s perched up high, at 410 Clark Street. This location offers a sweeping view of neighboring Verde Valley and of Jerome down below. Beware of how busy this place can be, as how easily you snag a table will highly depend on the day of the week, time of day, and time of year. During our first visit to Jerome, on a Saturday, it was a solid 1-hour wait. Four months later, on a Monday, we were seated immediately.
The hauntings were first noticed by the building’s current owners, when tools began to disappear, specifically hammers. They chalked up it up to simple misplacements. It wasn’t until the previous owner asked how things were going and told them to beware of hammer-stealing ghosts that they put two-and-two together. Shortly after that, the hammers started reappearing in odd places. Other weird and strange occurrences happen daily to the staff, who have all embraced the ghostly vibe. You’ll find fake skeletons adorning the walls, roof, and crevices of this popular burger joint.
Obviously the Haunted Burger is best known for its burgers (aside from its ghosts), however, they also serve chips and salsa, deep fried pickles, onion rings, multiple salads, chili dog, BBQ chicken, Philly cheese steak, salmon burger, chicken strips, fish and chips, and much more.
Overall, we enjoyed the food and atmosphere of the Haunted Hamburger. I would recommend!
Now officially known as Lawrence Memorial Hall, Spook Hall used to be the old J.C. Penny dry goods store, built around 1935. It acquired its nickname after the Jerome Historical Society held its second annual “Spook Night” inside in 1954. They coined the “spook” term a year prior after spending countless nights in a saloon underneath the town’s mine museum, where they’d joke that “they were a bunch of spooks”. The term was then used to help promote the town as “spooky”.
Located at 260 Hull Ave., just down the street from the Sliding Jail, the hard-to-miss building slightly resembles a small airplane hangar. Now a banquet hall, it’s named after Richard Lawrence, a 1950’s postmaster in Jerome – who also just so happened to be the first member of the historical society’s executive board.
Strange occurrences are said to occur inside this large, beige building, adding to the validity of its nickname. It’s said to be home to one of Jerome’s most well-known ghosts, a prostitute who was stabbed to death by a miner. She is said to roam the front, always lingering briefly before vanishing. Prostitutes never inhabited the current building; however, before it was constructed, several small shacks known as “cribs” stood in its place, which is where these ladies of the night would entertain.
Located at the intersection of Main and First Street sits an iron marker dedicated to the Svob Family. A prominent family in the early days of Jerome, they came from Croatia to chase the American dream shared by many who went West. The inscription reads, “Jerome, Arizona, 1906, Ignac and Mary Svob, Croatian immigrants, arrive in town with their infant daughter, and begin a family that would become well known in Jerome for their strong work ethic, love of family, and sense of loyalty.”, along with a black and white photo of all 11 Svob family members.
Erected in 2014, it’s located on the corner of the dilapidated Bartlett Hotel, which was built in 1901. Not the first hotel to stand on this corner, it was built after the Grandview Hotel, which was made of wood, burnt to the ground in 1898. The Bartlett Hotel was made of brick and had lavish rooms, each decorated in a different color. There were also stores along the sub-level, where Jerome’s longest-running newspaper, The News, operated for more than 20 years. The sub-level also housed a bank, drug store, and offices. The building became unstable in the 1930’s and was completely abandoned in the 1940’s. All that remains now is the frame.
Located in what I’d call the “town center”, across from the Hotel Connor, is one of the blast furnaces used to smelt copper during the town’s copper smeltin’ days. This blast furnace was in use as far back as 1882, making it 141 years old. Instead of coal, it used the substance coke, which came from Wales, England. It had to travel across the Atlantic Ocean, around the Horn of South America, up to San Francisco, then was transported via railroad to Ashfork, Arizona, where it was loaded onto a mule-drawn freight wagon and hauled 60 miles over the mountains to Jerome. The furnace originally produced around 8,000 pounds of copper per day, which pales in comparison to the copper smelting peak of 142,290,460 pounds per day in 1929. At one point, this furnace produced around $1 million in copper per day.
Marketed as “Arizona’s mile high historic landmark“, this large hotel is as historic as it is haunted. Looming high above the rest of the town, the building that is now the Jerome Grand Hotel is quickly approaching centennial status, at a current age of 97 years. Built in 1926, it was originally the United Verde Hospital, which was the 4th and final hospital built inside Jerome. As mentioned above, upwards of 10,000 people are believed to have perished at this hospital. It closed in 1950, as the mining operations began to cease and better medical services were available in nearby Cottonwood. The building sat empty and unused for the next 44 years, when in 1996, a man named Larry Altherr purchased it and opened the iconic Jerome Grand Hotel.
Given its history, it’s unsurprising that it’s considered to be the most haunted location in all of Jerome, if not Arizona (although The Palace Restaurant and Saloon: Step into a Wild West Time Machine. might beg to differ). Numerous ghost hunting TV shows, YouTubers, and podcasters have come to this hotel in the hopes of capturing ratings gold, while many every-day guests check in hoping for the same experience. Many people claim to hear coughing, voices coming from empty rooms, labored breathing, doors slamming, footsteps, children laughing and crying, and mysterious knocks. People claim to smell cigar smoke, dust, flowers, and whiskey. Guests report lights flicking off and on, and their TVs turning off and on by themselves. They will find appliances unplugged and their electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops dead, even if they had a full charge. People also claim to physically see ghosts, mainly the ghosts of children. There are numerous reports of children around the age of 4 or 5 running down the hallway of Floor 3, sometimes crying or laughing. Some guests claim to see the children at the foot of their bed staring at them.
Due to it being an active hotel with paying guests, private tours are not allowed, and only registered guests are allowed on the guest floors. The lobby (former ER) and the Asylum Restaurant (the former intake area and medication dispensary), open Wed to Sun from 11am to 9pm, are both open to the public. The hotel is open 365 days a year, so if you want a peek at the ghostly shenanigans yourself, just book you a room!
Built in 1898 by David Connor, you can still stay in this 124-year-old hotel, equipped with 12 old-style rooms. It once offered 20 rooms of “first-class lodging”, complete with a barroom, multiple card rooms, and billiard tables on the first floor. The rooms were rented for the hefty price of $1.00 per night (approximately $35 today) and the hotel’s telephone number was 8.
During Jerome’s Wild West mining days, it quickly established itself as one of the hotels with the finest lodgings in the West. It had its own bus for delivering guests from the train depot. It was one of the first buildings in Jerome to be wired for electricity, allowing each room to be equipped with a call bell. Unfortunately, it enjoyed only around 33 short years of service before David Connor decided to close the hotel. The mining industry had begun to wane significantly, which meant the cash flow coming into the hotel did too. From 1933 to around the 1970’s, the hotel sat idle, until Jerome saw its resurgence in popularity. The Connor Hotel enjoyed the boom in popularity, closing only briefly in the 1980’s to bring the hotel up to code. The rooms now go for around $195 per night.
Overall, Jerome can be either a fun day outing or a full weekend excursion. Aside from what’s mentioned above, there are countless shops, including Jerome’s Jewelry and Gifts, Turquoise Spider, and Rickledoris Candy & Popcorn Company. There is also the Jerome Historic State Park, Douglas Mansion, Gold King Mine Museum and Ghost Town, and Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum. You will also find art galleries and private art stores, as well as numerous restaurants. If you’re ever in the central Arizona area, and have a day to spend, drive on up to Jerome and step on back into the Wild, Wild West!
You may even see a 👻🤪