Ghost Town of Arizona
Despite considering myself generally adventurous, I do tend to avoid heights or potentially haunted places out of principle. I like to joke that I’ve got a practical fear in heights and an impractical one in haunts, so it wouldn’t seem that a ghost town perched on a cliff only accessible by a mountain pass would be an attractive experience.
Oddly, Jerome was one of the most warm and welcoming stops on our entire trip to Arizona. Had we stayed the night, my opinion might be different, but for a day trip, the town was anything but eerie. It was quiet and peaceful. The streets seemed an oasis rather than cemetery.
We had lunch at the self-described “oldest continuously operating restaurant in northern Arizona”. Layers of paint could be seen on almost every surface inside from the crooked unleveled bar to the splintered creaking floor. Old fans worked, as they likely had from the beginning. A glass water dispenser with beads of condensation slowly dripping to the floor was a welcome sight in that dry Arizona heat.
Once seated, we were told by our hostess that the original owner has passed peaceful in the booth I had chosen. Looking around at the bright pastel green and purple of the latest coat of flaking paint, I was content. With the valley on full display out the window next to us, I couldn’t help but smile slightly.
It was peaceful, and with a view like that I’d be hard pressed to leave the booth as well. Without the morbid history, I might have sat there all afternoon. Instead, we stepped outside and enjoyed the patio and the smell of the smoker while we ate. I ordered sweet tea and it came in a mason jar garnished with a lemon slice. It was the best sweet tea I’ve ever had outside of Texas.
You cannot visit Jerome without be tempted to climb the hill up to the former hospital now known simply as the Jerome Grand Hotel. Having done so myself and taken the Otis hospital elevator up to the asylum level (which now serves as the onsite restaurant), I offer a brief cautionary advisory. Do not go. There is not much to do there, and the building feels very different from the rest of the town.
The main office keeps journals full of ghostly experiences as reported by hundreds of guests, and the history of the place is beyond gruesome. I personally did not want to spend much time at a place where thousands had died. My own experience was mostly mundane, but I will admit to seeing something pass in a mirror for a fraction of a second that wasn’t quite right. I must believe it was just nerves though, as it was just after riding in the confines of the elevator.
As we drove back down the mountain towards Prescott, I couldn’t help but feel some small tinge of regret. Remembering the quaint streets and friendly storefronts and galleries, it almost seemed the town was calling us back. I admit, it might have been nice to stay until sunset. From the cliff it might have been beautiful, but that would have meant spending the night.