Today Jerome, AZ is a small town in the mountains of Arizona near Sedona. A former mining town, Jerome was notorious not only for its miners, but also for its many brothels and accidents. My dear friend, the Arizona Wine Monk, convinced me that I needed to go on a ghost tour. While there are a couple offerings in town, we went for the friendly folks at Ghost Town Tours under a strong recommendation.
Locally owned and operated, Ghost Town Tours offers tour guides that live close to the sites they are showing. This also helps them lead the tours, as I’m convinced that residents of Jerome are part mountain goat. Many of the paths and walking surfaces are different heights, cracked or just plain old. It becomes a thing of beauty to see a tour guide walk backwards, all while not tripping. As a tourist, I certainly needed the provided flashlight.
Not all tours are offered at night. Ghost Town Tours has two main focuses: Historical Tours and Ghost Tours. Ghost and Historical tours are offered during the day, but there are a few ghost tours offered at night for those looking for a ghost experience or more ambiance. The tour I went on is called “The Ghost Adventure.” On all ghost tours, participants are provided with an EMF detector. An EMF detector is a device that was originally designed to find electromagnetic fields, particularly when working on construction sites. They have been known to pick
up the presence of spiritual forces. Participants were warned to turn their cellphones off or to Airplane Mode so not to accidentally trigger an EMF detector when a text message comes through. It’s also a great deal more fun when your cellphone isn’t ringing every two seconds.
Our tour guide, Shane, taught us how to hold the EMF detector “like a remote” to get more accurate readings. He also warned us each time we were near an area that had a known electrical transformer and invited us to check to see if it was a real reading by moving the meter up and down in one area to see if the reading went all the way down to the ground. According to Shane, if the signal goes all the way to the ground it likely is an underground electrical reading and not spiritual activity,
The first thing I learned about Jerome is that ghosts absolutely love me. Our first step of the tour was to go to a sunken jail, located in a portion of the town affected by a terrible landslide following a copper smelting accident. The jail itself was eventually pulled across the street to it’s final resting place, as it was in the middle of the road for a while. In this area, there is no active electrical wires or transformers. That made it even more interesting when my EMF detector began to light up regularly. Following our guides’ advice, I would move the EMF meter to test and discovered that every time the detector was picking up activity at about the height of a small child.
The Ghost Adventure tour also gives participants a chance to use a “Spirit Box.” A Spirit Box is a device that scans between radio signals to try and pick up possible messages from beyond. Modern music,and consistent and emotional speech patterns are to be ignored from these devices as 9/10 times they are just picking up a local radio signal. For folks who watch Ghost Adventures or follow other Paranormal Investigation shows, you need to know that you aren’t always going to pick up a clear signal. Remember that these shows have well paid editors to make things more exciting.
The beauty of the city of Jerome is that there was so much chaos from an outbreak of Spanish Influena, brothels and mining accidents that if you’re going to have a Spirit Box experience, this is one of the easiest places to have it happen. We walked to an area of town known as “The Cribs.” The Cribs is the area of town where prostitutes would rent a room for short periods of time to bring back their “Johns” for a few hours. The area has an uneasy sadness about it, even a century later when it’s now mostly wine tasting locations and souvenir shops. There is a small window where it is possible to see the remnants of a small alternate jail so that ladies of the night weren’t “paraded through the proper parts of town.” We tested out the Spirit Box here after having no real luck near our other locations. The Wink Monk and I asked a few questions. Per Shane, one must never ask Time-based questions. For example, never ask how old someone is or what they used to do. Do not ask how they died; sometimes they don’t know they are dead. The Wine Monk and I began to seek a name, and boy did we get one.
“What’s your name?” I asked the Spirit Box. “Warren.” The name was clear and not merely a blip from a radio signal. There is that odd moment of panic where you and your ghost hunting companion may look at each other. Some of you will be like me and be excited. Other’s of you will be like my Monk friend and immediately get a concerned look on your face. We asked a few more questions, verifying with the EMF detector that there was activity. Warren was evidently near the cribs to find a lady for the night. Most of the group was happy to move on from this spot.
The scariest part of the tour took place at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Jerome. Originally a hospital, the structure burned to the
ground multiple times before finally being rebuild as a much more solid Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the buidling still has a few structural damages that the church and city are actively working to preserve. There’s nothing worse than having part of a church slide into one of the only roads that leads to outside resource. While the inside of the church is oddly creepy, it was the outer gardens where the real creepiness lay. The outer gardens aren’t just a place of repose; they are also a cemetery. There are an estimated four bodies buried in the yard, including that of a priest and a former head nun at the church. Rumors of ghostly activity in former nun quarters, now the caretakers home, exist. This area is not open to the public.
In the garden, I found myself suddenly very uncomfortable and not just because of the very creepy angel statute (don’t worry, I didn’t blink). Shane, our guide, brought out a special series of boxes that react when something moves in the area of them. There are multiple levels of lights, going from one small light to all lit up at once. While we had used this in a few other locations, we really didn’t get too much activity. I kept my distance from the lights, but whenever I would come within a few feet of them, something or someone seemed to delight in lighting up the indicators. Our Spirit Boxes caught the phrase “No” at least ten times in one area, as if something wanted us to go.
What finally encouraged me to step away from the tour group and wait outside the garden was when Shane gave us a visual look at something that happened to a previous tour group. During one particular tour, a family of tourists began to complain of pains. One woman lifted her pant leg to discover three lines of perfect scratches down her calf. Her husband showed signs of colored bruising around his wrist. This was the part on the tour where I crossed myself three times and stepped away. Violent attacks, after all, are usually more the realm of poltergeist or demon activity. After seeing the pictures and hearing a spirit box say “No” a couple more times, I happily waited at the top of the hill for the rest of the tour group to finish exploring.
There were so many stories, details and experiences from The Ghost Adventure tour with Ghost Town Tours that you really have to experience for yourself. The tour is usually about two hours. I recommend booking your tour package online and bringing a friend.
Here are somethings I learned about ghost hunting in Jerome, AZ:
- Wear close-toed shoes and don’t be afraid to use your flashlight
- Listen to everything your tour guide tells you, even if you think you’ve heard it all before
- There will always be one tourist in your group that is a blowhard; let them be. It’s funnier when the ghosts go after them.
- Chances are you will be touched or communicated with. Be prepared for this and remain calm.
- Pray for protection and safety before you go out.
- Ask your tour guide questions!
- Turn off your cellphone or place it on Airplane Mode.
- Bring a friend with you.
- Do not ask time sensitive questions of the ghosts.
- You are encouraged to take pictures and you should; just don’t blind the person next to you.
You can find out more about Ghost Town Tour and book your package here: http://ghosttowntours.org/