Jerome, Arizona: An American “Ghost Town”

It’s tempting to relate the complete history of Jerome, Arizona here.  The town has an interesting, if rather violent and sad, past and a somewhat sordid present.  However, this is a photography blog, and I want to show you some pictures.  If you Google Jerome Arizona History you’ll find plenty of sites to read if you’re interested.  Let’s just say that the hills of this desert town are rich in copper.  The proliferation of electricity (which makes use of copper wire) and the needs of the first World War made this a huge, booming copper town.

Above we see some implements of early copper mining business.  Jerome’s mining and ore extraction process actually predates copper smelting technology, so that pot above simply heated up the ore, and workers poured off the good stuff at certain temperatures (some gold, some silver, lots of copper).  This pot is not without horrific, leg-melting accidents in its past.  There’s a joke about casting the first stone in there somewhere, but I’m too lazy to extract it.

Visually, the most striking aspect of the town are all the original buildings that still stand today.

It’s what happens when you play Another Brink in the Wall backwards.

Why are all these images yellow?  That’s easy.  It was incredibly hot and sunny when we were there.  When you’re in a desert town, at some altitude, and the locals are complaining about the heat, then you know it’s hot.  It was like being on some kind of Star Trek planet.  The heat was oppressive, the air seemed to dampen noise, and yes, it was yellow.

Perhaps I should put the word “stand” in quotes as these structures are barely clinging to the landscape.  Although everything looked like it was carefully positioned and crafted to look old and abandoned, I was assured that this is really how the town has settled over the years.  Let’s not forget that people still actually live here.

The architectural relics do exist and are fun to look at.  Some of the original structures were damaged in fires or other calamities over the years and have been rebuilt.  They’re still there too and in use today, but having four walls and roof isn’t quite as visually interesting.

There are also several places where ancient entrances into the mines can still be found.

Above, you see a mine entrance and a coal chute built right into the side of the hill.  It was implied that parts of the old mines are still secretly in use today.  Our tour guide made a point of extravagantly winking when he was ‘not’ explaining this to us.

Another fun structure is the old jail.

It’s fun because there’s mummified human bodies still in it.  Check out that car in the upper right corner.  It’s up an embankment and about 30 yards away.  That’s where this jail used to stand.  Over time, it has migrated, relatively intact, to its current location.

During our visit, we also got lectured on the subtle differences between a bordello, a brothel and a plain old whore house.  Apparently there are differences, and it has to do with cost and quality of, um, services provided.  One of the pictures above was originally part of a brothel.  Can you guess which one?  Hint:  When I took the picture, I was standing in the street, on top of a mass unmarked grave of hundreds of people whose identities are lost to history.

On a more positive note, due to some tenuous insider connections, we got a private tour of the Holy Family Catholic Church.  This afforded us access to places where people generally aren’t allowed to go, like the upper balcony.

Jerome, Arizona is called a ghost town, but it’s inhabited by many living people.  The term is used here not to denote a typical abandoned community, but rather in reference to the large number of actual ghosts that haunt the area.  After hearing some of the countless (often horrible, sometimes amusing) stories of the town’s history, I can certainly believe in a high probability of its being haunted.  The current locals swear by it, and some of them are very convincing.  However, if I ever spend a night in Jerome, I’d be more afraid of the building I was in collapsing on me than any paranormal activity.  But, I guess those two things don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

(Just kidding earlier about the mummified human bodies)

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