The vertical city of artists and ghosts
Jerome, Arizona is a quirky town with an interesting history, nestled in the Black Hills Mountains, about 110 miles from Phoenix and 30 miles from Sedona. Jerome has been called “America’s Most Vertical City” and the “Largest Ghost Town in America.”
Jerome gets its reputation as a vertical city because it is perched at a 30-degree incline on Cleopatra Hill at an elevation of 5,200 feet.
Each street winds up the mountain, forming a town in tiers rather than a flat expanse of neighbouring streets. The town started as a copper mining camp and was incorporated in 1899. The population peaked at 15,000 in the 1920s. The wealthiest lived highest up the hill.
Jerome gets its reputation as the largest ghost town because of the number of supposedly haunted buildings. Jerome was a mining boom town once known as the wickedest town in the west. Over the years, accidents and incidents of foul play have left ghosts behind.
We visited Jerome with friends who had taken a haunted tour of Jermone on a previous visit Each tour member had been given an EMF meter to measure paranormal activity. The meter became extremely active in the resident stairway of the Connor Hotel. At one time, residents of the hotel would line up on that stairway, waiting their turn to use the telephone in the entryway at the foot of the stairs. The Connor Hotel has many stories of paranormal activity.
The Grand Hotel is another building that is supposedly haunted. This Spanish Mission style building was originally built as one of the most modern and best equipped hospitals in Arizona in 1927. It closed in 1950 and remained closed until 1994, when restoration began. Paranormal activity has been cited throughout the hotel, particularly in the first “self-service” elevator and the original boiler room. The clerk told us about a body being crushed under the elevator years ago. There are claims that the elevator has gone up and down on its own, without anyone it in or directing it.
I skimmed through a register at the front desk of the Grand Hotel. Guests recorded experiences about hearing wailing at night, feeling a sudden gust of cold, and windows rattling. Over the life of its mining history, Jerome has produced 2 ½ billion tons of copper. During the 1930s, dynamite blasts, combined with general shifting, caused parts of the town to crack or slide. One powerful blast caused a whole block to slide to the next level, including the “sliding jail”. The depression of the 1930s also slowed the mining. Despite a brief increase in demand for copper during World War II, the mines closed in 1953. 88 miles of tunnel still exist under Jerome.
In the 1970’s groups of artists moved into the empty buildings and reshaped the town into an artist community. Today, Jerome has a population of approximately 450, which includes artists, craft people, musicians, writers, hermits, gift shop owners, hoteliers, bed and breakfast operators, and even a winery. We watched a glassblower demonstrate his art in a shed on a property where nothing remained of the original building except the front facade.
After an enjoyable lunch at the Mile High Grill and Inn, we browsed the shops. There are many interesting shops, but I will mention one in particular. Nellie Bly contains a large collection of kaleidoscopes, ranging from simple and inexpensive to expensive hand-crafted works of art.
Even on a Monday in early February, tourists walked the streets. Among them, a class of school children from Gilbert on a field trip. On weekends, the town can become crowded. Jerome is a popular day trip destination.
Because of the paranormal activity associated with Jerome, I was told to watch for spirit orbs in photographs. The orbs are semi-transparent white balls seen floating in pictures taken in ghostly places. The orbs are not visible to the naked eye and show up only on camera. Believers consider the orbs to represent spirits of dead people. I snapped several photographs, but there is only one that may have orbs in it. It was taken in the hallway of the second floor of the Grand Hotel. Then again, they may be reflections from the mirror. I’m not sure.