Oatman Arizona ~ A Vision Of The Old West With Wild Burros, Ghosts, and Gunfights
A Town Full Of Intriguing History
What More Could One Want In An Old Western Town?
For anyone visualizing a trip back through time into the Old West, located in the Western States of the United States, they could do no better than a trip to Oatman, Arizona.
A nice little day trip from Las Vegas, Nevada, Oatman is only 126 miles Southeast of "Glitter Gulch." A short 2 1/2 hour trip will have you feeling like you've been transported back to the early 1900s in the Western United States. Might as well hitch up your ride and stroll into a saloon for a refreshment after the.... not so long trip!
Home to a "haunted hotel," Oatman boasts it's share of interesting ghost stories. The famous actor Clark Gable married his love, Carole Lombard just a few short miles from Oatman, in Kingman, Arizona. On their wedding night back in 1939, they honeymooned at what is now the Oatman Hotel. One can see the honeymoon suite they stayed in, as well as possibly have a ghostly encounter with either Clark or Carole. It is said that they loved this hotel for the peaceful surroundings and privacy that it afforded to them. Even back in those days, they had to be concerned with the unwanted appendages of fame.
It is said that Clark spent many nights playing poker with the town's folk, mostly miners there working in the mines of that day. Very sadly, Carole was killed in January of 1942 in a plane crash, in the mountains near Las Vegas, Nevada. Clark continued with his life, and with his career, and eventually remarried, but memories of his marriage to Carole Lombard are still very much a nostalgic part of the history of the Oatman hotel.
The Oatman hotel went through a number of name changes, mostly due to fires that struck the town and nearly destroyed everything. It began as the Drulin Hotel, was remodeled and was still known as the Drulin when Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stayed there. It was re-named the Oatman Hotel in the 1960s. Becoming popular for a while because of the historic road known as Route 66 that went past the town, it was a convenient stopping point for weary travelers. Because of it's unusual building structure, being the only two story adobe building in Mojave county, it is on the National Historic Building Registry. Today, it is a museum filled with interesting and nostalgic memorabilia from days gone by.
Once a brand new interstate was built, Oatman suffered another downturn, and nearly became a ghost town. All that remained for a while were a few restaurants and gift shops. The Oatman hotel became a popular tourist destination once again because of the word of the many frolicsome and playfully misbehaving ghosts that did not seem to want to leave the town.
The most famous of it's ghosts are of course, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. They enjoyed the hotel so much that it is said that they continue their honeymoon celebration there to this day. Reports of laughter and whispering long into the night abound, and according to one source, when a photographer once took a photo of the room, he was witness to the figure of a man that even showed up in the developed print.
The hotel is also known for the presence of other spirits, including that of a former chambermaid that once worked at the hotel. In that case, it is reported that on the second floor of the hotel (which is now home to a Theater Museum), on the beds on that floor people reported seeing outlines in dust of where a person had been sleeping... not a person, however, but a ghostly presence. Nothing else upstairs had been moved or disturbed, simply the outline in dust in the sleeping area.
Another story is circulated about an Irish miner that once lived there, who's family had perished on their way to America. It is said that he was so upset by the loss that he took to drinking... heavily... and one night he passed out in back of the hotel, never to awaken... except to walk through the halls of the hotel and to haunt the room in which he stayed, opening the window and removing the covers from the bed. Everyone there calls this spirit "Oatie," the spirit of the Irishman that never left... and still today upon occasion, one can hear the distant music of sad bagpipes being played in honor of his beloved family.
In the downstairs area sits the saloon where one can hitch up their ride and saunter in for a bit of ... imbibing... refreshment... or plain old fashioned "ghost watching." It is said that there are several mischievous spirits that continue to play here, lifting the unwatched glasses of customers, as well as lifting one's money off the bar. The walls of this saloon are covered with dollar bills, signed by customers who have visited, and it is said that the dollar bills number into the thousands.
Interesting wallpaper aside, another fascinatingly frightening aspect of this saloon includes the flushing of toilets when no one is in the bathroom, along with scary voices, and the appearance of footprints on a newly cleaned floor... Ok, now that I have you completely scared, it's time for one of the most FUN aspects of a visit to the Historic town of Oatman, Arizona.
The Wild Burro's Roaming The Streets Of Oatman, Arizona
Wild Burro's Roam The Streets!
Early in the morning, one will notice enticing sound of the pitter patter of little hooves on the pavement of Oatman, Arizona. Every morning, out of the surrounding hills of the town, wild burro's will come and wander the streets, looking for handouts from excited and well meaning tourists. At one time, tourists would feed them anything they had available at the time, which included the "junk food" that people tend to eat. This was bad for the burro's health, so today, the little shops that line the streets of Oatman sell "burro pellets" as well as fresh carrots to feed them. While this is still not the "natural" food that they would be eating in the wild, it is healthier for them than sweets and potato chips!
The wild burro's of Oatman are direct descendants of the burro's used back in the late 1800's and early 1900s to help the miners in their work. Once they were not needed any more, they were simply released into the mountains to fend for themselves. Being a very hardy animal, they did well and multiplied. Today these nearly "tame" burro's wander the streets, allowing people to pet and feed them.
It is important to always remember that these are indeed WILD animals, and could possibly bite or otherwise injure a person. One must use caution when approaching them, and visitors are cautioned NOT to feed carrots to the BABY burro's, as they can be a choking hazard for the babies. Most people being animal lovers would never attempt to hurt one of these beautiful animals with their big soulful eyes, (can you tell I LIKE burro's? I think they're so cute!) It's important to listen to the advice of the shop keepers and feed carrots only to adults, and not to the baby burro's. "Burro pellets" are best fed to the younger ones.
In the evening, shortly before sunset, one can watch the burro's head back into the mountains for the night... only to return the next morning for more feeding and love and affection given to them from curious tourists. If one is lucky enough to be in the town of Oatman on weekends, you may even have the treat of seeing a "gunfight" put on by actor's several times a day. Humorous, and reminiscent of possible "real" gunfights that might have occurred back in the days of the "real" Wild West, they are a glimpse into the "justice" system widely used back in those days. That of the quickest "draw" being the winner! As well as a very fast system of "justice" that did not require one to come up with "bail" money or to make court appearances.
To insert a fun fact for film lovers, the movie "How The West Was Won" was filmed in the town of Oatman, back in 1962.The film starred a stellar cast of famous actors, including John Wayne, James Stewart, Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. This film, interestingly enough, was selected to be preserved as "historically and culturally significant" to the United States. It is preserved in the National Film Registry of the U.S.
Taking a brief step back in time makes this a refreshing and fun day trip through Oatman, Arizona... one word of advice, however, a person that is wise will ALWAYS watch where they step!
For More About Wild Burros Of The Desert Southwest...
- Wild Burros Of The U.S. Desert Southwest
Wild burro's found throughout the United States desert Southwest roam freely among ten Southwestern states. Protected by law since 1971, the Federal Bureau of Land Management is responsible for their protection. An adoption program exists for those i