After driving up a precariously skinny road, winding up Cleopatra Hill, 5,600 miles above sea level, Jerome city begins. At first glance, the most vertical city in the United States is a small but bustling tourist den; a parade of art galleries, shops, restaurants, and saloons with all too typical gag-inducing charm. But it’s what lies behind this facade that provides the real and sinister intrigue of this tiny Arizona town.
Today, Jerome boasts a population nearing 440 people (that’s not including dogs, cats, or the undead), but in its heyday, the town was a booming 15,000 individuals banking on the success of the copper mining industry.
In 1903, the New York Sun stated that Jerome had earned the title as the, “Wickedest City in the West” because the prosperous mining town was also a haven for, to say the least, bad behavior. With an overwhelmingly male population who lived life on the less than the savory side, past-times included indulging in alcohol, drugs, gambling, and prostitution. Not to generalize too much, but those endeavors had/have the tendency to lead to “fun” things like bankruptcy, mental illness, murder, and the crowd favorite, sexually transmitted diseases. This may lead some to ponder: what’s better than a town filled with sex, scandal, and drugs? The answer is a town filled with the ghosts of prostitutes, gamblers, murders, and opium addicts . . . and Jerome fits that bill.
After nearly 70 years of raping and pillaging the mineral deposits, the mines closed down and, overnight, Jerome became a ghost town. Some of the buildings began to literally slip down the hill, including the town jail, and remain in limbo today. It wasn’t until a group of artists rediscovered this gem in the 1960s that the charm and flavor of Jerome was restored. It wasn’t long before an abundance of paranormal phenomena was witnessed and Jerome earned the new title of the largest ghost town in America, and with good reason.
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