BIRDCAGE THEATRE HISTORY
The Birdcage Theatre opened in December of 1881 and closed its doors in 1889. It was the town’s favorite night spot. Opened to cater to the “mining boom” of the 1880’s, it offered gambling, liquor, risqué entertainment, and women “of the night”. It was rated the “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. Thousands of miners and travelers enjoyed this famous spot. 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 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! When boom turned to bust in 1889, the Bird Cage was sealed and boarded up with all its furnishings intact. It re-opened in 1934 as a unique historic landmark, the only spot in Tombstone preserved in its original state. All the fixtures, furnishings, and gambling tables date from the days of the Earp’s. The business license issued in 1881 to “Dutch Annie” Smith by Cochise County to run a “House of Ill Fame” still hangs on the wall. Back in its hay day, Doc Holliday dealt Faro at the Bird Cage Theatre. Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo had their famous duel between the faro table and the grand piano. Apparently, no gunfight took place during this “duel”. It was actually (allegedly) the drunken posturing of the town’s two most feared gunmen. There were however 16 real gunfights within this building. The walls and ceiling are decorated with about 140 bullet holes. The most valuable antique on display is the infamous Black Moriah, the town hearse. Apparently, it was decided that the departed ought to take their final ride to Boothill in style. The hearse is trimmed in 24k gold and sterling silver. The McLaury brothers rode the Black Moriah to Boothill together after the shootout. There wasn’t enough room for Bill Clanton who had to settle for a lesser ride. The most compelling exhibit is the poker room. Located in the back room basement, it is said that this room and all its contents and furnishings are exactly as they were the day the Bird Cage closed. This includes the positioning of the chairs. Buy-in was $1,000 minimum.
CLAIMS OF ACTIVITY
Activity really jumps a notch or two in intensity after 9:00 pm, though manifestations have happened during the daylight hours as well.
People have smelt the distinctive odor of cigar smoke, and the distinct aroma of whiskey.
The museum’s sound system sometimes turns itself on, providing saloon music which surprises the living and brings enjoyment to the entities who still patronize The Birdcage Theater. Many witnesses among the living have heard the following:
- The clear disembodied voice of a woman singing.
- Sounds of music playing.
- Sounds of hearty laughter.
- Strange noises coming from the balcony boxes.
- The sound of people talking.
- The sound of dice being thrown, glasses clinking and cards being shuffled.
Cheryl Leavere, Birdcage Theater manager, reports “The ghosts here are friendly and like to play.” Items are moved around and put in odd places. An object in the form of a never before seen 100 dollar poker chip appeared one day on a gambling table, and was found by a tourist. The owner locked it in a safe. When experts arrived to take a look at it, the chip had disappeared, much to the annoyance of all involved. The chip reappeared in a locked desk drawer after the experts had left.
A life-sized statue of Wyatt Earp was placed in one of the balcony boxes. Every morning, afterward, museum employees would find his hat sitting in the middle of the floor below. This continued for 6 months. One morning, the statue was even completely turned around. A historian was finally consulted and he told them that they had put Wyatt Earp in the box that the Clanton’s used to reserve. They quickly moved the statue of Wyatt Earp to the correct balcony box, and the hat throwing stopped.
Transparent apparitions dressed in a variety of 1880’s attire, have been seen throughout The Birdcage Theater building. At night, the living has seen a whole room full of entities partying hardy in the main hall. An entity of a male stage hand, walking across the stage, going about his business is a common report. He is seen wearing black stripped pants, a visor and holding a clip board.
An entity of a female, dressed in 1880s attire, has been seen going into the wine cellar and then fading into the air.
An entity of a man, dressed in 1880s attire, is forever looking for his wife all over the theater, looking very sad, depressed and confused.
Referenced Website: http://www.hauntedhouses.com/states/az/birdcage_theater.cfm
One claim that is recalled from one of our members during a Ghost Tour of the Birdcage Theatre is that pebbles are known to be moved during times of night. They are moved onto tables and tossed across the room.
Another claim is that a prostitute by the name of Kayla has been captured on audio cursing while a guest had a silver dollar present.
PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION SUMMARY
ARRIVAL TIME: 10:00 P.M.
INVESTIGATION START TIME: 1:00 A.M.
EQUIPMENT TEAR DOWN: 3:20 A.M.
DEPARTURE TIME: 4:00 A.M.
WALK THRU AND EMPLOYEE INTERVIEWS:
Nova, a manager, gave a guided tour explaining claims and location. In the theatre room, sounds including footsteps, voices, and other noises are heard coming from the birdcages and main room. Tables and other objects have been moved during the night and found in different locations when the employees open the following morning. Feathers have been seen falling from the birdcage balconies when a male is in the room. According to Nova, no feathers are present in the area because of the claims. In the carriage room, an apparition has appeared in the carriage and been seen walking down the stairs. Phantom smells also occur in one of the birdcages and multiple rooms. The poker room has objects moved, a face seen in the mirror of one of the prostitute’s bedrooms. Sounds of a poker game and voices are also heard. Bill Hunley (The owner of the Birdcage Theatre) said that one morning two college girls that were working came in to find the auditorium door locked. They called Bill who came down and went through the back to unlock the door. He found that the dice table was wedged against the door. The dice table had 1 ½” plating and would have to be lifted over an area to get where it was placed. It took eight men to lift and move it back to it to its correct position. Nova also mentioned that when they installed a new alarm system, it would go off until they had it fixed. When it would go off,the next morning objects would be moved around.
While investigating in the carriage room, Kris (Investigator-in-training) asked if Margarita was there. What sounded like a female voice, said something in response. Directly after the voice, a speaker in the front area madea loud sound three times. Marianne (Investigation Director of West Coast GAPS) asked, “If that was you Jake, can you please do it again twice?” The speaker then went off twice in a row with the same loud static sound. At that time, Makayla (Co-Founder of West Coast GAPS) was at command center and saw a feather fall on one of the cameras. Andy and Shaun (Founder and Tech Manager of West Coast GAPS) along with the FOX News crew went into the auditorium to find the feather. A feather was found near the corner directly across from the door entering the auditorium. It is still undetermined whether it is the same feather because it was seen on camera falling in the middle of the room. Shaun also heard what sounded like a female humming or singing in the carriage room later in the night. Dimitra, Tom, Kelly, and Steve heard footsteps coming from the upper balconies in the birdcages. Shaun, Makayla, and Teresa were investigating the poker room when Shaun saw what appeared to be an apparition of a cowboy behind his camera next to the stairs.
When examining the mirror in the bedroom downstairs next to the poker room, it was found that the smudges and dirt on the mirror looks like the face of a woman. When light from a flash or a flashlight is shone on the mirror, it will appear to look like a face. Many walls in the carriage room and near the stairs leading to the poker room were covered with Plexiglas. The Plexiglas causes reflections that can easily be mistaken for a person. The angles of the glass created an effect that would make a person think that they have seen something out of the corner of their eye as well. The floorboards of the building are wooden and sound travels throughout the building. When someone steps in the front entrance area with someone else in the poker room, it sounds as if someone is walking in the carriage room directly above. This could easily be mistaken for footsteps when it is someone in another part of the building. The acoustics in the building also traveled throughout. If someone is speaking, it can be heard in other parts of the building. Outside contamination is also a possibility. The walls are not insulated enough to prevent outside sound from traveling into the building.
EQUIPMENT USED AND AREAS COVERED:
8 Channel DVR System (Command set up in front entrance area)
3 Long Range IR Cameras (Stage stairs from far corner, theatre entrance from stage, carriage from top of stage stairs)
2 Mid Range IR Cameras (Shooting down stairway leading to poker room, grate in poker room from gift shop entrance)
3 Wide Angle IR Cameras (Balcony from bottom of stage stairs, poker room from corner near bar, carriage room from below buffalo mount)
3 Stationary H2 Audio Recorders (Theatre room, near carriage, near table in poker room)
1 Roaming H2 Audio Recorder (Used in each EVP session)
Sound Board with 4 channels (Center of theatre room with 2 toward front, 1 towards poker room, 1 at top of poker room stairs)
HD Sony Camcorder (Poker room from base of stairs)
EVP SESSION ASSIGNMENTS AND LOCATIONS:
Session 1: Andy, Shaun, Steve, FOX News and camera in the theatre room then the carriage room
Session 2: Tom, Marianne, Michael, Beth in the poker room
Session 3: Andy, Dimitra, Kris, FOX News and camera crew in the poker room then the carriage room
Session 4: Shaun, Makayla, Teresa in the poker room
Session 5: Kelly, Dimitra, Tom, Steve, FOX News and camera in the theatre room then the carriage room
PICTURES DURING INVESTIGATION:
The evidence that we found at the location included video of the feather falling which is inconclusive. The main evidence is several EVP’s that include: A female voice singing in the carriage room; a voice captured in the poker room; a female voice captured on all of the microphones from the sound board whispering what sounds like, “yes”; the sound of cards being shuffled in the poker room, and a few other confirmed EVP’s.
After reviewing the evidence, West Coast GAPS has reached a conclusion concerning the claims of paranormal events. We were unable to debunk most of the claims and with evidence supporting the claims in the form of EVP’s, we have concluded that the Birdcage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona does have aranormal activity at its’ location.