Tombstone is a town in Arizona that is best known for its Wild West history. There are a lot of historic places to see here like the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, the O.K. Corral outdoor theater, which is famous for reenacting a cowboy gunfight, and it is home to one of the most haunted theaters in the world – the Bird Cage Theater.
A photo of one of the streets at Tombstone, Arizona. (Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tombstone,_Arizona)
The History Of The Bird Cage Theater
The Bird Cage Theater was opened in December 26, 1881. It was originally owned by Lottie and William Hutchinson. William is a variety performer and has been in San Francisco watching other shows that are family-oriented. Initially, they intended the Bird Cage Theater to show such performances and even had a Ladies Night where the respectable women of Tombstone, Arizona enjoy a night out for free.
The Bird Cage Theater in the past. (Link: https://www.flickriver.com/photos/[email protected]/34852892052/)
However, they were not making a lot of profit from the original design of the programs so they decided to offer the type of entertainment that appealed to the miners. Ladies hung in rooms that were attached to the ceiling that mimicked the idea of bird cages thus the name of the theater.
Inside the Bird Cage Theater in an undated photo. (Link: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/439312138621753374/?lp=true)
Some of the first entertainers at the Bird Cage Theater were Mademoiselle De Granville or the Female Hercules. She reportedly picked up heavy objects with her teeth so she was also known as “The woman with the iron jaw.” Other entertainers were Burns and Trayers, who were an Irish comic duo, singer Irene Baker, opera singer Carrie Delmar, and comedian Nola Forest. Because of this, business became better. Miners would drink all night if they wanted to.
Photos of the performers at the Bird Cage Theater. (Link: https://ghostadventures.fandom.com/wiki/Birdcage_Theater_(episode))
Later, a poker game was introduced at the basement of the Bird Cage Theater. Those who wanted to play had to pay $1,000. A lot of notable people played poker there and it was a 24/7 kind of game because people go there at any time of the day and week. Accordingly, the longest poker game in history was played at this basement’s theater. The poker game lasted for eight years and it was estimated that around $10 million was exchanged in the game during that time. The Bird Cage Theater retained 10 percent of such amount.
The original Poker table used at the Bird Cage Theater. (Link: https://goodeatsarizona.com/bird-cage-theatre/)
The Bird Cage Theater closed in 1892. It was then leased as a coffee shop by 1934. Since then, it has given tours because of the alleged 26 resident ghosts that haunt the area. Some of the items from when it was used as a place for playing poker and when it served as a saloon and a brothel remain to be seen at the Bird Cage Theater.
The Ghosts Of The Bird Cage Theater
The resident ghosts are said to belong to the 26 people murdered inside the Bird Cage Theater. More than 140 bullet holes are said to still be seen around the building.
Some of the bullet holes at the Bird Cage Theater. (Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5469144070)
One of the grisliest murder at the Bird Cage Theater is that of high-stakes gambler Billy Milgreen. Accordingly, he was with two prostitutes before he was killed. The two prostitutes were named Margarita and Gold Dollar. Gold Dollar was Milgreen’s go-to prostitute and when she found out that he was flirting with Margarita, Gold Dollar attacked the other prostitute with a stiletto knife. Margarita was stabbed multiple times in the chest and died. Gold Dollar fled the scene and the murder weapon was never found so no charges against her were filed. A hundred years later, the stiletto was found behind the theater and it is now displayed inside.
One of the rooms where the prostitutes entertain their customers at the Bird Cage Theater. (Link: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/426645764674962710/?lp=true)
A photo of Gold Dollar and Billy Milgreen at the Bird Cage Theater. (Link: http://www.echoesofthesouthwest.com/2015/02/gold-dollar-fact-or-fiction.html)
It remains unclear when the other murders took place at the Bird Cage Theater and what was the cause of the fight that led to the killings either with a gun or a knife.
Another frequently seen ghost at the Bird Cage Theater is that of a man wearing a visor and pacing the stage back and forth.
Paranormal Activities At The Bird Cage Theater
Both visitors and employees have had experiences of paranormal activity while at the Bird Cage Theater. Some said they saw the wandering spirits of the prostitutes and men in cowboy hats who once frequented the theater. Others claimed that they were either touched or pushed by unseen entities.
During night time, the employees and visitors also hear laughing, yelling, and music being played as if the parties many years ago remain to be real. The smell of cigar also envelopes the rooms sometimes.
One visitor wrote during their visit, “Me and my family had a great paranormal experience at the Birdcage, and no its not fake or a setup. You really see, hear, smell and feel unusual paranormal phenomenon. We took an EVP and a female ghost actually spoke to us. It really blew us away.” It is unknown what the supposed female ghost told them.
Another shared that they went to the Bird Cage Theater for the night tour. The visitor revealed, “The last 30 minutes we went lights out. Within minutes of going dark, something (or someone) pulled on my sister’s ponytail.”
A visitor visited the Bird Cage Theater twice, eight years apart. She noted, “We did the 8pm ghost tour and it was pretty good. We did this same tour eight years ago and both times we experienced something. I don’t usually buy into this stuff but something touched my leg eight years ago. This time, something touched my son’s calf and bumped my mom’s arm during the lights out portion. Both times the meters went off. This is the only ghost tour we’ve been on where I can say something really happened.”
What You Need To Know Before Going To The Bird Cage Theater
To add to the charm, the Bird Cage Theater is dusty and most of the things there are the original items from when it was used as a saloon, a brothel, a theater, and a place where poker is being played. There are self-guided tours or tours at night with guides who will tell you about the history of the place. Wear comfortable shoes and be ready with your camera because there are a lot of things your camera can capture for you that your naked eyes might not be able to see.
The Bird Cage Theater visited by visitors. (Link: https://www.achp.gov/preserve-america/community/tombstone-arizona)