Showing posts from November, 2011

The Jail Tree

In the middle of the city of Wickenburg, AZ, sits a 200 year-old mesquite tree known as "The Jail Tree".  The tree once served as the town jail where from 1863 to 1890 outlaws were chained to it and kept there until they were transported to the nearest jail in Prescott.  There were an unknown amount of escapees who were able to remove the chains and get away.

Closed For Now

One of the places I had the pleasure of visiting this year was Vulture Mine.  The place had many of the original buildings, some intact, while the others were crumbling and had fences around them.  The moment you walk up the path to where the buildings are located, you feel many eyes of the ghosts from past residences who seem to still call the place home. 

Sharon and I met Marty and Roma, the owners at that time.  Marty was featured on the Vulture Mine episode of Ghost Adventures.  Apparently they sold the place and now the new owners have closed it for "reorganization".  All I can say is don't keep it closed for long.  There are many tourist who love to visit the place and take tons of pictures of the buildings, machines, and mining equipment while enjoying the history.

Superstition Mountains Claims More Lives

Sadly, on this past Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, a twin engine plane took off from Mesa’s Falcon Field airport and crashed in the Superstition Mountains. On board were the pilot and father, his three children, a co-pilot, and a mechanic who were headed to Safford. The children were to spend Thanksgiving with their father this year. Some witnesses said they saw a blue light followed by an explosion and then a large fireball. It took rescuers a while to get to the crash site because they had to use a DPS helicopter, then two by two they were dropped off on the top of the mountain, and had to hike in to where the plane went down. There were no survivors. The Superstition Mountains have a steep and rocky terrain and have claimed many lives in the past especially from those seeking the riches of the mysterious “Lost Dutchman Mine”.

Last year, July 2010, there was a report of three men who hiked into the mountains looking for the Lost Dutchman’s mine. They had been hiking the mo…

Me, Black Friday, and Toys R Us

Here we are, the infamous “Black Friday”. On this day, people with glazed eyes armed with ads get up in the middle of night to wait in lines in hopes to get that huge bargain. I used to be one of these people when my kids and I were much younger. Nowadays, I pull out my credit card, pull up the chair behind the computer and commence shopping online. This year will be a bit different; the credit card is now a pre-paid card to control spending.

I have all kinds of recollections of shopping with the other crazies, but my most memorable time on black Friday was at Toys R Us back in the 90’s. The night before I had my ads ready with all the items I wanted circled. I went to bed and set the alarm to 4:00am because the store opened at 5:00am. I was going to get there before the store opened and be ready to shop. I was dressed warm with my sneakers on and headed off. When I got there, I was surprised to see the long line which had already formed. I found the end and waited my turn.

Once I go…

No Cable, No Vacancy, No More

I have driven by this abandoned motel many times and finally one day had my camera with me.  I decided to stop and take pictures before the place was torn down.

Billy Claiborne: Another Wild West Bad Boy

He was born William F. Claiborne on October 21, 1860 and was present at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral for which he survived. He was referred to as an outlaw, gunfighter, and murderer. After the death of William “Billy the Kid” Bonney, he insisted everyone call him “Billy the Kid”. Stories were told that whoever would not comply were shot dead. Billy had other titles which were more honorable such as miner, cattleman, and rancher. What lead Billy to end up at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone and how did he survive?

Billy was born in Yazoo County, Mississippi and when he was just a teen he worked for John Slaughter driving cattle from Texas to Arizona near Tombstone. There were stories told that Billy once saved John’s life from a charging bull. John praised the boy calling him a “top hand”.

By 1881, things turned bad for the 21 year old. He was arrested for killing John Hickey in Charleston. He became friends with Johnny Ringo who was rumored to have hired a pricey lawyer for Billy’s d…

Kearny and Winkelman: Lesser Known Mining Towns

Hiding in the mountains near Globe/Miami, AZ are a couple of small mining towns, Kearny and Winkelman. Kearny was established in 1958 and built by the Kennecott Mining Company. It got its name from General Stephen Watts Kearny who traveled past that region in 1846 while heading to California. He was leading about 100 cavalrymen through the harsh desert and hostile Indian Territory. Because the smaller towns surrounding Kearny were located in the growing copper mine’s pits, its population peaked at almost 3,000 people when their residence had to move. Located near the town were the Ray Mine and Hayden Smelter. Today the town has a few residence left with many buildings and homes left abandoned.

Winkelman had a much earlier start but was not known by that name until March 8, 1905. It was first established as Dudleyville when a post office was built and named after Dudley Harrington. Harrington had a ranch in the area since 1879 and was the first postmaster. The post office helped move …

The Bird Cage Theatre Roped Me In

It was several years ago during a hot summer when I decided to go channel surfing. All my regular shows were reruns and I was looking for something new and different to watch. While thumbing through the channels I came across Syfy (which was spelled sifi at the time) and saw a show called Ghost Hunters. Hum, this sounded interesting and I was fascinated with the paranormal. I caught the show at the beginning and they were doing an investigation at the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, AZ. I was curious to see if they would find any ghosts there because I had visited the place several times in the past.

I watched as they walked around the place and were shown where all the ghostly hotspots were along with the history of the place. After that, they set up cameras and recorders throughout the building. When it got dark, they shut off all the lights and then two by two they went inside. They not only heard all kinds of noises and voices, they saw a ghost of a woman heading downstairs into t…

High Above Manhatten

The view from the Empire State building is amazing and breathtaking.  Getting to the top is tough for someone who is claustrophobic.  You are crammed in an elevator with many strangers and ride it up several hundred floors (at least it felt that way).  I quickly stood near the door and shut my eyes the whole way up.  It was worth it.  The view blew me away.

Smurthwaite House

Located in the historical Pioneer Cemetery in downtown Phoenix is the Smurthwaite House. It was built in 1897, and designed by James M. Creighton in a Shingle style. This building is one of a couple 19th-century built homes still standing in Phoenix.

It started out as a boarding house but became a private residence when Captain Trustrim Connell and his wife Anne bought it in 1903. They owned the house for 35 years until it was sold to Caroline Smurthwaite. Her husband was an art dealer and specialized in Native American art. Their daughter, Carolann, became ownership of the house after her parents died. When she died in 1982, she specifically stated in her will that the house be preserved so the public can enjoy it. It was donated to three Arizona museums who entrusted the house to the City of Phoenix.

In 1991, the house went through lots of restoration to bring it back to its former glory. Three years later, the city moved the 3,000 square foot building 26 blocks where the Pioneer C…

Haunted: Williams Air Force Base

Williams Air Force Base, now known as Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, sits on about 4,000 acres of land in Mesa, AZ. Williams AFB was established on July 16, 1941 and used for training fighter pilots. It was named after Charles Linton Williams, who was born in Arizona and a pilot. Over 26,500 men and women passed through the base and earned their wings. Williams AFB could boast having the most student pilots to graduate from their facility.

In 1993, Williams AFB had to close causing many to lose their jobs and millions of dollars lost in annual financial profits. Plans were immediate to revamped and redesign the base into a useable space. It is now an airport where many smaller and private planes are docked.

One of the buildings located on the far west side of the base was used as the hospital. Today it is the VA hospital and has reports of it being haunted. There have been several claims of a male ghost seen in the area once used for viewing newborns. This male ghost has also been see…

I'm Getting Published

My book, "Dead and Buried in the Southwest Desert" is going to be published.  I just sent the contract back to the publishing company and have some tweaking to do on the book to get it ready.  I don't know exactly when it will be published, but I will announce it as soon as I have a date.  To say I am very excited is an understatement.  I am ecstatic and the news is still sinking in.

The book is a labor of love combining my interest in history (especially stories of the Wild West) and my road trips with Sharon seeing what these places look like now.  It is seven chapters of stories and information along with many of my photos.  I start with Indians of the past (Sinagua, Salado, and Hohokam) and their ruins; next is the mining towns before and now; a chapter on some Wild West outlaws; abandoned places, cemeteries, and the bizarre things found buried in the desolate desert.  I am very excited and can't wait to hold a copy of my book in my hand.

Boot Hill: Tombstone's Infamous Graveyard

Boot Hill Cemetery was founded in 1878 on a hill northwest of Tombstone, AZ. It originally went by the name “The Tombstone Cemetery” until 1884 when a new cemetery was built at the end of Allen Street. The name Boot Hill was bestowed on the cemetery when many of the dead buried in its dusty grounds died quickly and with their boots on. Many were murdered or died in other brutal Wild West customs.

Time has taken its toll on the cemetery and its headstones. Many of the graves were in poor conditions, with the wood markers rotting making them hard to read. Lots of the markers for many of the graves could be off by two feet but are close to the original location. There are over 300 bodies buried in the cemetery, with about 205 known and recorded graves. Some of the headstones have the person’s nickname etched on them because their real names were unknown.

Many famous outlaws and lawmen are buried amongst the lesser known people who once called Tombstone their home. People such as Tom and…