Wednesday, November 30, 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.

Monday, November 28, 2011

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.

The haunted residence house.

the Gate House

Sunday, November 27, 2011

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 mountains in the day and returning to their motel room at night. The area they focused on was about 40 miles east of Phoenix where they would spend the day exploring the area looking for the elusive mine. Since they were only taking day hikes, they did not have the provisions and equipment to spend the night in the sweltering desert. Their vehicle was spotted in the parking lot where the trail begins. When they didn’t check in with their family the following Sunday, they became alarmed and called authorities. With the soaring temperatures of about 115 degrees, they are not expecting a good ending to this story. Searchers have swept about 100 miles of the harsh desert and rugged mountain terrain looking for the three men. There were rumors that this story was a hoax. I haven’t been able to confirm that as of yet.

The Superstition Mountains were named for all the tragedy that the gold seekers came across while searching for the gold mine. Many met their demise either from the Apaches, the extreme heat or the elements or the harsh desert. One of the rock shapes that people come across while searching for the mine in the mountains, is Weaver’s Needle. This tall mass stands as a symbol for all of those who searched, and possibly died, never finding the Lost Dutchman Mine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

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 got in and grabbed a shopping cart, I entered the store to wall-to-wall people. You could not move and the isles were not visible. I proceed to find my items I circled trying to maneuver my cart through the bodies. People were wandering around like zombies. At a slow pace, I finally made my way to the first item. I don’t know how many times I said “excuse me” as I navigated my shopping cart through the crowd. I managed to get everything I went there for and headed towards the cashier. The lines were so long that I got to know the lady in front of me. An hour or so later, we exchanged numbers and finally it was time to pay. I made my way out the store, took a breath and headed home.

That was a crazy experience I will never forget. I have shopped on “Black Friday” since, but I now go a bit later. It has been awhile since needing to go to Toys R Us. My kids are all grown up, but now I have two granddaughters and I will start all over again. At least the stores are much more organized to handle the massive crowds.

I am training my Granddaughter to Black Friday shop.
She is going big.  I am so proud.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

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.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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 defense. He was acquitted of murder and totally dedicated to Ringo from then on. Billy was known to have exchanged words with the Earps and Doc Holliday. He was with Ike Clanton on the day of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Some stories say that he was not armed when all the shooting went down and others say he took a couple shots at Virgil Earp. During the battle, he either ran or was pulled into the C.S. Fly’s Photography Studio, and was not wounded. Afterwards, he was called to testify in the trial that followed.

Billy kept a low profile until the Earps left in April of 1882. He was looked at as a coward and condemned for not helping his friends during the gunfight. His friend Johnny Ringo was shot and killed on July 13, 1882 which caused him to spiral downward even more. His drinking became a huge problem getting him into many brawls. Billy picked a fight with “Buckskin” Frank Leslie because it was rumored he wouldn’t call him “Billy the Kid”. He wasn’t worth Leslie’s time and ignored the drunken kid. Pissed off, Billy returned to the Oriental Saloon later that evening, armed and drunk, and yelling for Leslie to come out. They met out in the dusty streets where Leslie got off a single shot to Billy’s chest knocking him down. On November 14, 1882, friends took him to a doctor where he died six hours later. Some reports are that just before he died he uttered these words, “Frank Leslie killed Johnny Ringo, I saw him do it”.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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 increasing supplies and mail which came though Florence to all the smaller surrounding towns. By the 1890’s problems arose from the cattle overgrazing, and preventing grass from growing back. The nearby San Pedro River would flood causing the town’s folks to move their store on many occasions. In 1903, the railroad line was laid out close to Peter Winkelman’s land resulting in the post office being relocated. With this move, the town of Dudleyville was renamed Winkelman. This town has also shown signs of a poor economy, with many places left empty and with the ghosts of the past wandering through the diminishing walls.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

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 the basement only to disappear. At the end of the show they presented the owners with evidence of the sounds of piano playing, and cards shuffling on the recorders, and a heavy cord unwrapping from a bell on the wall by unseen forces on the video camera. Wow, this was so cool, and I was hooked. The show that followed was when they went to St. Augustine Lighthouse and had more cool evidence captured. I started watching Ghost Hunters every week since then, and still do. Yes, it has lost some of its glory and excitement, but I just can’t seem to stop watching.

After seeing that show along with Ghost Adventures and even Ghost Lab’s experiences at the Bird Cage Theatre, I wanted to be a part of a ghost hunt there too. Just this past May, I got to see that dream fulfilled. There were seven of us who got to be a part of the investigation. We also had experiences hearing voices, strange noises, and felt like we were being watched. (Click link to read about our experience.) The three hours was not enough time and we are hoping to investigate the place all night the next time.

Now Fact or Faked is doing an investigation there too. It looks like from the previews they had some weird things happen to them too. (Is this show becoming a ghost hunting show?) Whatever we all encountered while investigating this little place, the Bird Cage Theatre is a creepy and interesting place to do a ghost hunt.

the cages

The stage where an apparition has been seen walking across.

The bell where the cord unwrapped itself on GH.

main hall

We heard lots of noise by this hearse.

The basement where we heard lots of noises and voices.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

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.

Monday, November 14, 2011

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 Cemetery is located. More restoration was done and by May 17, 2001 the Smurthwaite House was put on the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday, November 11, 2011

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 seen wandering around the old operating rooms. Some have said while in the old Officers Club they have heard disembodied voices. It sounds like another place for us ladies to investigate, along with our POE team.

Happy 11-11-11 everyone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I'm Getting Published

Cover by Jeremy at ebooks designs

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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It Feels Like Winter

I live in a desert city west of Phoenix.  Just a few months ago the weather was breaking heat records at 110 degrees for many consecutive days.  The humidity, which is normally low, was higher making it feel like we were melting.  It would go from extreme hot to a very nice 70 degree winter.  This was normal for my city, no falls or springs, just winter and long summers, but things are changing.

It had been a few years since I seen snow which was normal.  This year was going to be different.  My husband won a contest for an all expense paid trip to a Montana ranch.  This trip would be in mid January and in the dead of winter.  We were a bit worried because we didn't have heavy winter clothes and might freeze our asses off.  We found out when we got there they have provided us with all the clothing we needed to keep warm as part of the winners package. (Us and 100 other couples.)  Needless to say there was snow on the ground everywhere and the day before we had to leave, it snowed even more.  Breathing was difficult but the scenery was beautiful.  I didn't know it but more snow was in my future for 2011.

Sharon and I planned a trip to Vulture Mine and then Prescott at the end of January.  We booked a room at a haunted hotel in Prescott and did some experiments to draw out the ghosts.  The next day, we awoke to it snowing.  We became giddy girls, grabbed our cameras, and ran outside the hotel to take pictures.  We were worried the ride home might be difficult, but the snow just stayed in Prescott.  This was the second time seeing it snow in one year, but that wasn't it.

Back at home, we were experiencing freeze warnings.  This was not normal to have these warnings in the big ol' desert city, but the temps did drop to the teens.  It was so cold, it snowed on the mountains near my house.  Score, more snow.  I grabbed my camera and took off in my car to take pictures of this rare site.  My goodness, this has turned out to be a snowy year for me and it wasn't over yet.

Sharon and I decided to help our friend in her annual event called, The Cemetery Crawl.  It was similar to Amazing Race where the contestants would get clues which lead them to their next destination.  We would be at one of those places to make sure all the participants checked in and got their next clue.  After they all left, we would head off to our next check point.  That was what we had planned but Mother Nature had her own plans, she made it snow.  It was April, spring, and we thought the weather was going to be wonderful heading to Flagstaff, but we were wrong.  We never made it to Flagstaff and got stuck in Sedona.  We didn't feel it was a bad thing being trapped in Sedona while the city was experiencing the unusual snowy weather.  It was almost magical seeing the snow on the red rocks and it turned out the be a great trip.

Now it is November and we are getting freeze warnings.  I don't know if I am going to see anymore snow this year, but I am looking forward to the colder weather and having another winter experience.