The first thing you think when you visit the town of Jerome is- How the hell do all of the buildings stay on that steep decline? The beautiful artist community was once a gold and copper mining magnate, but today the winding streets are filled with boutiques, shops, and museums. The entire town is built into the side of a tall mountain that overlooks the Verde Valley. Roads are often one-way as the narrow streets are lined with historic houses and reminders of the rough and tumble lifestyle those who lived and worked in the town subscribed to. You may even feel a sense of a fear of heights as you explore the once wild town with the picturesque views.
At the very top of the mountain that houses the town of Jerome is a building that feels too large for the space. The Jerome Grand Hotel has a long, long history and more than a few spirits within the brightly colored building on the hill. A mine and museum are just a few blocks away, reminding the populace that the town was once a copper and gold mine boom town, just like hundreds of other small towns in the region. At its height, nearly 11,000 people lived in this exciting town. It earned the moniker of “the Wildest Town in the West,” from its 37 saloons and a dozen bordellos serving the bustling town. The population dropped drastically, leaving only 130 full time residents after the mines closed and the nearly 80 miles of tunnels were boarded up. It was then that the town of Jerome became a haven for artists, with no fewer than 4 art studios within the city limits and art dealers dotting the narrow streets.
Looking peacefully at the very top, the Jerome Grand Hotel began its life as a house of healing– Back then, in the early 1900s, it was known as the United Verde Hospital, where the reports of hauntings first began. The hospital was built by the mining companies to service the miners and workers living in the wildest town of the west. It was repaired and rebuilt in 1927 when a blast from the nearby mine damaged the structure.
At the height of the mining industry, the great depression hit hard among the population, with some legends saying more than 9000 people met their end within the walls of the old hospital. In the 1950s, the hospital was left abandoned, with machinery and medical equipment still left in place after the population had dwindled so much as to remove the need for a hospital in town.
A caretaker was employed in the 1970s to clean up and keep the old building safe– until his untimely demise at his own hand. The building sat abandoned and in disrepair until 1994. Just two years after acquiring the building, a new life would be breathed into the bricks as it became the Grand Jerome Hotel we know today. The hotel was restored to its 1930s splendor, complete with antiques lining the hallways and more than a few ghost sightings in the hallowed halls.
In 1938, a man fell to his death near the elevator shaft, with some rumors saying it was anything but an accident. Murder or suicide, the death of this repairman made the area near the original and functioning 1920s elevator a hotspot for paranormal activity. Coupled with the countless deaths from its time as a bustling hospital, the halls of the Grand Hotel are said to be teeming with spirits. Shadow people occasionally peek from behind corners at the guests, or appear as full apparitions in some of the rooms. Employees of the hotel say they’ve never felt unsafe with the appearances of the ghostly figures, many of which they believe are helpful and curious– From a hospital to a hotel, the creeping ghosts seem to have adapted to their jobs as hosts and helpers.
Room 32 is said to be the most haunted location in the 1920s building. Reports say that inanimate objects move of their own accord and you likely could see apparitions going about their business in the room that was once part of a hospital ward. Staying in this haunted room may change your opinion of the existence of ghosts– not everything can be explained away so easily.
Today, the hotel is bustling again, with an eatery on the bottom floor and rooms rented out for $200-$500 dollars, depending on the view and luxury. Visiting Jerome itself is an experience not many forget- with the Verde River Valley stretched out in the green its named for far down the high mountain vantage point of the hotel. Are you brave enough to stay the night in a building that has seen so much death and mayhem? Regardless, a visit to this artist enclave and tourist destination will leave you feeling like you’re looking right into the wild west.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.