Investigation Report

Location: Birdcage Theater, Tombstone, Arizona
Date: May 24, 1998
Weather Conditions: Clear
Humidity: 26%
Geomagnetic Storm Activity: Inactive
Temperature: 87
Number of Photos taken: 50
Number with possible targets: 1
Average EM Readings: 4 m.g.
Average M fields Readings: 1 n.t.
Average E Field Readings: 1 v.p.m.
Cold Spots detected: None
Hot Spots Detected: None
Olfactory Phenomena: None
Visual Phenomena: None
Type of Investigation: Ghost Hunt

Copyright 1998 to 2005 by Cody Polston, Bob Carter and SGHA. All Rights Reserved.

Location Description and History

It opened in December of 1881 and closed its doors in 1889. During its short business life, the Bird Cage was the wildest place in the west! The Bird Cage is named after its thirteen little cribs that hang from the ceiling where ladies of the night plied their trades. Twenty dollars a night, would buy a gentlemen a bottle of whiskey and a lady for the night. Different from the way Hollywood has portrayed it, no respectable lady would have ever entered the Bird Cage. The longest single poker game in history was played in the basement gaming area. Eight years and four months of one continuous poker game!
The theater is very interesting because of its antiquities.It adds to the possibility of a residual haunting.

Most of the open spaces that used to contain tables for its patrons is now replaced by historical objects, much like a mini museum. we also noticed that the piano near the stage is the original one that was placed there over a century ago.This is a picture of the famous Bird Cage Theater (lower left), as it looked after it closed in 1889. The Bird Cage was literally boarded up for about fifty years, before it was reopened as a tourist attraction. Besides remodeling the outside to prevent it from being destroyed by weather, the Bird Cage is an original Tombstone building. Most of Tombstones original buildings were completely destroyed by one of two fires that took place during the 1880's.

In the 1880s it was not only a theater, but also served as a saloon, gambling hall and brothel. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - even on holidays. The New York Times called it, "the wildest, roughest, wickedest honky tonk between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." That statement was well deserved, since the Bird Cage was the scene for twenty-six deaths during its eight years of business.

Doc Holliday dealt Faro from time to time at the Bird Cage Theatre. One night Johnny Ringo, who hated Holiday with a passion, was passing Doc's table. When Doc slurred, "Care to buck the tiger, Johnny? It's the gustiest game in town." Ringo wheeled around, removing his bandana and yelled back, "care to grab to the other end of this bandanna, this is the deadliest game in town?"

Doc stood and said with a smile, "Sure Johnny, I'm your huckleberry and this may be my lucky day." When two men grab opposite ends of a bandanna, they fire at each other, at point blank range. Normally this would kill both men, however Ringo was drunk and slow on the draw. At the last second Curly Bill grabbed at Ringo's gun and yelled, "Hell Doc he's drunk!" as both men fired and missed. Holiday, who was also in a drunken stupor answered, "Bronchos, I drink more by 10:00 AM, than he can all day." Holiday then walked off. This event is known as the handkerchief dual and it took place in the Bird Cage Theatre, between the Faro Table and the Orchestra Pit. The ladies of the night or soiled doves, worked the customers of the Bird Cage 24 hours a day. The ladies plied their trade in cribs suspended from the ceiling in the building. There are 14 cribs which line the side of the gambling hall in the Bird Cage, 7 on each side of the room. The ladies would close the drapes to entertain their clients with champagne, kisses and other favors of the trade.

Today the floor of the Bird Cage has been converted into a museum, but the theater's namesake - the famous "bird cages" where ladies of the night sold pleasures to cowboys and miners - are still intact. You can see their red curtains in this photo. The old song, "She's only a bird in a gilded cage" by Arthur J. Lamb was written for the "tainted angels" of the Bird Cage Theater. Today, though, a visitor can walk through the museum-floor and soak in the history of this wonderful old place. Historic figures such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson once walked on these very floorboards.

Reported Phenomena

The sounds of laughing, yelling, and music have been reported to pour out of the theater at night. Visitors during the day have smelled fresh scents of cigar smoke and the sharp odor of whiskey, even though neither are allowed there now, nor have been for many years past. Testimonies by tourists and Bird Cage employees recount sightings of people wearing period clothing from the 1800s, and in particular, a man in black wearing a visor walking has been witnessed walking across the stage. Some of the sounds seem to come from the balconies above the main floor.

The Investigation

We began our investigation in the main room, where the patrons of the theater would watch the nightly shows. Due to the Memorial day weekend, we were unable to obtain better access to do a full investigation. So we decided to pay for admission tickets and do a general sweep of the areas open to the public.


We received suspect readings with our EMF detectors almost immediately after turning them on. The readings varied between 6.2 to 8.6 milligauss. The next logical thing to do was to access if the fields that we were detecting were man made or were they emanating from some of the old antiques that were on display. It was difficult to determine if the fields were man made due to the lack of information concerning the location of the power lines in the building. However we were able to determine that they were static in nature and not moving.

Once again we had a mirror / reflection problem when it came to photography. The flash on the camera can create a false target on film if the light from the flash is reflected back onto the camera's lens. We compensated as best as possible but we were unable to solve this problem completely. It is definitely something that needs to be taken into consideration on a follow up investigation. we were also unable to do any "IR" work due to the nature and conditions of our visit.

 

Initial Conclusions

Recommend another ghost hunt at this location.

Back to Haunted Arizona

Back to SGHA Home