Summer is slipping through our fingers but this is a trip that you can embark on at any time of the year – explore the wild American West. It breathes the air of old times drenched in whiskey, lust for gold and money, bloody violence and awesome ill repute. And much of it IS haunted.
Many ghost towns stand as silent witnesses to that era when America was trying to get rich quickly.
Catapult yourself back to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and get immersed in a long lost spirit. Fly in to Arizona; it is a good starting point. Then rent a car and cruise to some of the neighboring states. Indulge. Get the wheels you have always wanted to test – a luxurious SUV, or something more elegant; or better yet – a convertible BMW hooligan.
Make your first stop at Vulture Mine City, Arizona. This settlement sprang to life when a prospector named Henry Wickenburg arrived in New York from Prussia in 1847. He went to San Francisco but one time, during his travels to the “interior,” he noticed a quartz ledge not too far from the camp where he was staying in Arizona. Later he returned alone, and gradually began to work the mine.
Vulture Mine turned into the most important gold mine in Arizona, and would eventually spark the development of the city of Phoenix. But back then it wasn’t all golden nuggets and heavenly bliss, for the city did manage to live up to its eerie name. Today, a testament to the brutal violence there is an ironwood tree. It is said that, over time, 18 men were hanged on it for murder and rape or even stealing high-grade ore. The names of the men and their crimes are hardly remembered today because nobody kept a record. Yet witnesses have reported ghost sightings and strange knockings as proof that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.
Dubbed “one of the seven portals to the Other side,” Goldfield was founded in 1902. In only six short years, its population exploded to 20 000 people and produced $11 million in gold. “Money was flowing like wine,” wrote one of the notorious Earp brothers who lived there briefly. So was blood.
Today, two of the early buildings are well preserved – the local high school and the Goldfield Hotel at Crook Avenue. It is said that the hotel is filled with ghosts. Legend has it that its owner, George Wingfield, frequented a prostitute called Elizabeth. She became pregnant and claimed that the child was his. When her pregnancy began to show, Wingfield worried that a possible scandal could affect his business affairs. Allegedly, he tied Elizabeth to a radiator in room 109; after she gave birth, Wingfield murdered her and threw the baby in a mine shaft.
On the brighter side, the Goldfield had the longest bar in the history of American mining towns for whatever that’s worth.
And here you have it – the Wild Wild West at its finest. The story of Frisco started in 1875 with lots of silver. Yet somehow, the town’s fabulous past is widely associated with ramblers, gamblers, gunners and tramps. Records show that at some point the dusty streets were so littered with corpses that city officials had a wagon collect them in the morning. The solution came in the face of a tough marshal who had no intention of building a jail or making any arrests for that matter. He just gave the outlaws two options – either flee or die. He reportedly killed six people on his first night in town. After that shooting spree, things in Frisco seemed to cool down.
People say this old mining town is cursed. Its history began in 1859 with a great promise of abundant gold supplies. Its development was so rapid that in no time the town boasted a Wells Fargo Bank, four fire brigades, several daily newspapers, a railroad and even a jail. About 65 bars along Main Street encouraged midnight brawls and shootouts. Bodie even had its own Chinatown. However, by 1880, most of its inhabitants were lured by other prospects and many began to leave. The population declined.
By 1915, Bodie was already labeled a “ghost town.” Homes, churches and other once important buildings were deserted. Most of the furniture was left exactly where townspeople had left it more than a century ago. Rumor has it that if a visitor is ever tempted to take something from Bodie, he or she quickly return it once they find that the object is cursed. Stuff such as old bottles, rusty nails and parts of a clock have found their way back. They belong to the past.