Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ghosts of The Old West

Wickenburg, Arizona continues to bring the Old West to life in its stores, on its street corners, well, . . .pretty much everywhere you look.  The City Fathers (and Mothers) have promoted the history to the point that you can stroll the streets, guided by free walking tour maps (available everywhere it seemed), and 'meet' the folks who walked these same streets more than a century ago.

One of my favorite stops was the Jail Tree, where in the late 1800's -- during the gold rush boom -- there just wasn't the time to take away from mining to build something as practical as a jail.  So, the bad guys simply got chained to what was, and still is, called The Jail Tree.

Wickenburg's Jail Tree
j. smith photo, (c) 2011
The 200-year old Mesquite tree is found in the center of town in the back lot of one of those ubiquitous modern day versions of the corner grocery that seem to be on every other southwestern city corner.  It was at the store, that I learned about the ghosts of Wickenburg.

We'd visited the tree Sunday afternoon and after that Pig Trough feast I stopped in for a bottle of water.  While paying, the clerk asked the usual visitor questions, "So. . . where are you from?  How you like the town? Did you see the Jail Tree?"   

When I said I loved the spiny old tree out back, he offered a bit more history telling me that a jail had finally been built on this same corner. Some of the holding cells metal walls were used in the store's freezer unit.  And then he added:

"And you know. . . we have a ghost.  She comes in about 12:30 a.m. It's a little girl, you can tell from her laughter.  I've been working and the bells that ring when the door opens will start ringing and I look around and there is no one in the store, but then I hear her laugh. I just said 'hello' to her one night and then I heard the bells ring - she had left."

It seemed such a nice story; and one that made me want to come back to the store and the town. It was so easy and relaxed and comfortable.  I mean a welcoming place where even the ghosts are happy and laughing! Maybe I was I caught up in another tall tale from the Old West? I am not sure, but it added to my growing list of reasons, why I love this town.  So on our next visit in addition to stopping by that store again, I am going to go in search of more ghost stories . . .

I will be signing up for Hassayampa Heather's 90-minute stroll through town so that I can hear her stories about legends and ghosts that include:  The Legend of the Phantom Coach and The Ghost of the Vernetta Hotel.  The tours are offered weekdays at dusk (is that beyond too cool?) and on weekends during the day and again at dusk. 

If you are planning a visit and want to sign up, call (928) 232-9691 or check the tour website, Wickenburg Ghosts.

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