One book leads to another...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oatman Gold; The Legacy Lives

Few were unaffected by the spell of the Gold Rush days and California held its own allure for those who simply wished to go, as was the case for an entire family of nine who packed up all they owned and headed west. Along the treacherous Gila Trail across Arizona, the family encountered a band of Yavapai Indians whose initial cordial demeanor soon turned hostile and all but three family members were killed on the spot. While one son who was left for dead did actually survive, fourteen year-old OliveOatman and her young sister were abducted. 

Despite the tragic demise of the family for whom the town was eventually named, the tent city soon exploded with prosperity as gold was discovered—lots of it. For a time the population totaled in the thousands and warranted several saloons, businesses and hotels; one of which being the famous Oatman Hotel wherein resides today’s reigning blogpost ghost. But I’ll tell you more about Oatie a little later. 

Meanwhile, the Yavapai had traded Olive Oatman (for food and blankets) to the Mojave Indians who were much kinder to their captives, though Olive’s sister perished from the harsh elements. Five years passed before Olive was at last released, the Mojave having permanently marked her face; ensuring a life of public scrutiny to which she became quite adapt. 

Conversely, the town of Oatman continued to prosper, drawing not only fortune-seekers but Hollywood A-listers who chose to grace the halls and rooms of the Oatman Hotel. Legend holds that newlyweds Clark Gable and Carol Lombard enjoyed their stay so much that they’ve returned in afterlife and can be heard whispering in the hall.

But alas, (kicking the gold dust) as with so many good times, these times changed. The rather well-preserved town of Oatman now boasts a total of maybe a hundred year-round residents including the spirit of Oatie, an amicable Irish miner who didn’t make it back to his long-reserved room one frigid winter night because he fell asleep in a besotted stupor outside the hotel and froze to death. (Oh, Oatie…)

Anyhow, Oatie’s presence seems anything but evil, though he is given to mischievous activities. His room has been left just as it was; complete with his work boots under the bed where the indentation of a body can sometimes be seen beneath the window that Oatie seems to prefer is left open – year-round. He can’t seem to keep from tracking footsteps across a newly cleaned Lobby floor as he wanders around playing his bagpipe.

Regrettably, the hotel no longer offers guest accommodations and is now a museum, gift shop and popular restaurant and bar.

Now, getting there could prove to be a little tricky. RV-ers beware! There is no parking for anything bigger than a loaded pack-mule or a small compact car and it gets busy during winter tourist season.
And you may really want to park and walk around awhile after a wildly winding drive on a road (well suited for bikers) with cliff-hanging switchbacks that seem as imposing to impatient travelers on their way to Laughlin, NV as it is impressive to consummate wanderers in route to the next adventure.

Left behind by the miners of yore, wild burros freely roam the dusty main road on the lookout for any and all handouts (tourists can purchase burro treats at just about any store on main street), and Street Theatre is free and enjoyable with old western gunfights staged daily at noon and 2:15pm.  *Note: They roll up the dusty carpets at sunset.

Personally, I’m more drawn to the history surrounding the Oatman massacre than a perhaps delightfully haunted museum, but I am fascinated with the idea of wild burros roaming the streets! How about you? Would you take a short detour on a pleasant day to visit Oatman?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Image Is New Where Auras Remain

For a time back in 1929 Route 66 or the “Super Highway to the West” would take you right down the center of Williams, Arizona. But it was the very last section of the historic highway to give way to I-40 (with the stipulation of three off-ramps).

Also known as the ‘Gateway to the Grand Canyon’, Williams is steeped in American history and awash in visual delights with an extensive amount of attractions for tourists of all ages. You might figure by now what attracted me of course:  A haunted building called the Red Garter Bed and Bakery!  How could I resist a steaming cup of robust coffee, a sweet roll and a ghost story?

As the name might suggest, it was (to be fair) among other things, a bordello. Well, it was legal until 1907 in the state of Arizona and only half-heartedly enforced for many years after that. Meanwhile there were two rooms in the back where Chinese railroad workers lived and reportedly operated a chophouse and opium den inciting constant investigations by the sheriff, who, while being unable to account for missing workers, never found anything out of the ordinary.

Until 1940, when the brutal murder of a disruptive client occurred on the uncommonly steep stairs (called the ‘Cowboy’s Endurance Test) leading to the rooms on the second floor. A citywide crackdown ensued which led to the closure of the Bordello/Saloon after forty years of operation.

The Red Garter was operated for a great many of those forty years by a notable U.S. Cavalry Scout from New Mexico by the name of Longino Mora, who became legendary for having five wives and twenty-five kids over the years!  Creepin’ granny pants! Can you believe his oldest child was sixty when the youngest was born?

Over the next couple of decades the building was home to a variety of businesses though nothing seemed to stick until owner John Holt made just the right renovations and upgrades; effectively transforming a once tawdry image and tarnished reputation into a charming, respectable establishment while maintaining the majestic twelve-foot ceilings and antique furnishings that exemplify the 1890 ambiance and haunting mystique that keeps those little neck hairs waving!

Since it’s reopening in 1994 as the Red Garter Bed and Bakery, staff and guests alike began reporting mysterious sights and sounds—day or night—and  naturally attributed it to perhaps any of the many missing Chinese railroad workers or the murder on the stairs.  More than one guest described simply a ‘feeling’ of someone else in the room, while others declare they’ve seen and even made contact with an Hispanic girl with long dark hair who wears a white nightgown and says her name is Eva.

By far the most compelling phenomena is a 1934 photograph (which John Holt proudly displays upon request) of an unsmiling Longino Mora, along with his fifth wife and a young daughter;  all seemingly unaware of an Hispanic girl standing behind the counter, smiling broadly before a mirror she is not reflected in.  

How are those little neck hairs doing now? Certainly gives me a little pause. Does this sound like a place you’d enjoy an evening at? I always keep a camera handy, though twice I’ve been so entranced I totally forgot to use it! Would you be able to snap a picture of a ghost?

The Red Garter is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is well-known for delicious coffee and mouthwatering pastries, and now boasts a full-service restaurant!