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Ghosts to haunt Jerome’s streets
Written by Greg Ruland   
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 00:00

The Jerome Ghost Hall of Fame opens Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8, featuring some of the best- and least-known tales of disincarnate beings said to walk the streets and sidewalks of the old mining town.

The town inducts an inaugural class of spooks when wandering spirits guide tours on the half hour starting at 6 p.m. each night. Tickets are $15 on Friday and $20 on Saturday. Proceeds go the Jerome Historical Society.

Writer and director of the 2011 Jerome Ghost Walk is Michael Gallagher, who wrote the script for last year’s show about the town’s toughest lawman, “The Life and Times of Johnny Hudgens.”

This year, the theme is different but no less shocking, Gallagher said.

“It’s not centered on one particular character,” he said. “It’s about some of the famous ghosts, but also some of the less-known stories.”

Take, for example, the Marion 300 Steam Shovel, a monstrous machine that helped dig the Panama Canal before it came to Jerome in 1918 on the orders of William Clark.

First-time Ghostwalk actor Leo Shakespeare, playing the ghost of Jake Stark, rehearses a Three-Card Monte scam scene on the streets of Jerome on Thursday, Sept. 22. The popular Jerome Historical Society fundraiser takes place on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 7 and 8.According to Gallagher, the shovel boasted an eight-cubic-yard dipper, two coal-fired boilers, and a four-man crew to operate it. It rotated in a complete circle as it moved back and forth on rails.

The shovel operated for six years before miners started using a process known as tunnel blasting. Under this method, mine shafts were packed with more than 100 tons of dynamite, which was ignited to collapse large sections of the mountain, according to the Jerome Times, a website dedicated to telling the history of Jerome.

In 1926, the shovel accidentally dug into an unexploded section of a tunnel packed with dynamite. The shovel sparked an explosion that killed two crewman instantly and threw huge chunks of metal into the sky. Pieces of the shovel weighing as much as 300 pounds were discovered more than a half mile away.

“One chunk crashed through a roof and into a bedroom, barely missing two children who were sleeping there,” Gallagher said.

Another ghostly presence to be inducted into the hall is the Cuban Queen, the proprietor of a brothel by the same name that supplied women to the miners and other interested customers during the latter years of Jerome’s history, Gallagher said.

Peggy Hicks, a local real estate agent who appeared in Ghost Walk productions for the past five years, recalled a personal ghost story about the Cuban Queen during a rehearsal for the 2010 show.

Hicks’ book on the subject, “The Ghost of the Cuban Queen Bordello,” is popular with history buffs and modern-day ghost hunters.

Hicks said she walked around the crumbling Cuban Queen one day during a presale inspection. When she smelled fried chicken, she looked up to see a dark-skinned woman wearing a 1920s-era flapper-style dress staring down at her from a midair perch on the side of the building where a balcony once stood.

“It still gives me chills just to talk about it,” Hicks said. “She stared at me, shaking her head, then disappeared through the wall.”

 

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