Haunted Places: The Bird Cage Theater
Looking for a night out on the town? How about a night in the “town too tough to die” at "the wildest, roughest, wickedest honky tonk between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." That’s what the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona was known for back in the 1880’s. It wasn’t only a theater, it was also a saloon, gambling hall, and a brothel. Today, the Bird Cage Theater serves as a museum.
The Bird Cage Theater first opened its doors on Christmas Day of 1881 by Billy Hutchinson and his wife Lottie. It got the name Bird Cage Theater because of the 14 cages or boxes that were on top of the balcony. Seven were on each side. They were also known as cribs. These “cages” had prostitutes in them and there were drapes for privacy so they could entertain their clients. Ghost hunters have reported being touched and kissed on the cheek by spirits when in these rooms claiming that they still do the business that they were doing when they were alive.
The theater during its time was the site of sixteen gun fights which resulted in the 26 deaths. One hundred-forty bullet holes have been counted in the ceilings and walls. It closed its doors in 1889 because of ground water seeping into the mines, but most of the building is left the way it was. They even have manikins spread throughout the museum to make it look like it’s still a functioning place. The Bird Cage was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They had non stop business for over eight years.
Since the theater was open all the time, it was also the site of the longest poker game ever played. This poker game went on for 8 years, 5 months, and 3 days, meaning that it lasted from the time it opened to the time it closed. Over 10 million dollars changed hands during this period. Minimum buy at the table was $1000.00 per person. Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Diamond Jim Brady, and George Hearst all participated in this marathon.Today, employees have reported hearing a poker game going on when the theater is closed. There have been poker chips flying, glasses clanking, and people making noises. However, staff at the theater has gone to check this out many times when they hear these noises and find that no one is down there.
A hearse called the Black Mariah sits in the Bird Cage Theater. With all of Tombstone, Arizona’s cowboy shooting’s, the Black Mariah was there to take a cowboy to it’s final resting place. After all, that’s what Tombstone was all about and that hearse was the portal to death for a forty year period. The saying is the hearse had a cowboy for breakfast every day during that time, meaning that someone was shot in Tombstone every day. That would come to 14,600 deaths. Most of the paranormal activity at the theater revolves around the hearse. Caleb is said to be the evil spirit that stays around the hearse. Paranormal investigators have captured aggressive electronic voice Phenomenas (EVP’s) with profanities and demonic voices. A silver dollar from 1800 is said to trigger this activity.
The Bird Cage Theater has been closed down since 1889. It didn’t open again until 1934 and is still open as of today. Unfortunately, it is no longer open 24/7. However, It is a spot of rich paranormal activity.
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