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Gadsen Hotel Front

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Driving down King’s Highway from the direction of Bisbee one of the most prominent objects you see as you approach Douglas is The Gadsen Hotel. The white five story building stands out among the buildings that surround it. Originally built in 1907 the building was named for the famous Gadsen purchase. The hotel became extremely popular with the burgeoning business brought in by the mining in nearby Bisbee and the settling of the new territory. The orginal hotel burned down, but was quickly rebuilt in 1929. The grandor of the hotel has attracted not only wealthy travelers and dignitaries but Hollywood as well. It has served such celebrities as Charlie Sheen, Tom Selleck and the stars of “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.” Some movies have actually been filmed in the hotel lobby. The Hotel was declared a National Historic Site.

The Hotel is famous for something else though as well, and seemingly takes pride in the fact that it is one of the most haunted hotels in the nation. The staff and visitors alike have seen ghosts in the basement, along the first floor mezzanine, and wandering the upper floors.

The first ghost is that of a headless man that has been seen both in the basement and wandering the upper floors. Some say that he is the ghost of Pancho Villa himself, and that the reason he is headless is because he had tattooed a treasure map on his head and the treasure proved too tempting for some of his followers, and they removed his head to gain the treasure map. We’re not so sure about that identification as Pancho Villa was killed in his car in Chihuahua on July 20, 1923. Though, his skull was stolen, which perhaps gave rise to the ghostly identification.

Another ghost that people have seen is that of a young Indian boy playing along the Mezzanine, and rumored to like to play pranks on workers and guests alike. It is here that I have to mention the only thing that I found strange during my visit, but it does come with some caveats, but it was strange nonetheless. After checking into my room I knew that I was parked in two hour parking across from the hotel and that I needed to move my car to the parking behind the hotel. So I gathered up my cameras and left my room.

The locks in the Hotel Gadsen are older, not the skeleton key locks like you see in the movie, though those are still on the door, but actual key locks instead of the newer computerized keycards that you see in a lot of modern hotels. I went to lock the door, turned the key and pressed to make sure it was locked, my paranoia in hotels kicking in. The door popped open, so I unlocked the lock, as now it would not close, and tried again, it popped open easily again. This continued literally for five or so minutes, finally, exasperated I figured, well, I had not even seen anyone on my floor and the room I was in, 212, was tucked away in a corner. So I hurried downstairs, took some pictures of the outside of the hotel and moved my car.

Gadsen Hotel Ghost Bench

I came back up, only being gone for about twenty to thirty minutes. I pushed on the door, thinking it would pop open just like every other time it had when I had left earlier and it stuck fast. Okay, I thought, I must have locked it good the last time. So I inserted the key and turned it to unlock it, it would not turn. I pulled the door towards me thinking the bolt was stuck, and tried again, it wouldn’t turn. I turned it all the way to the right, the direction to lock it, and then turned it hard to the left, again, nothing. This went on again for several minutes, I thought this was nuts, first couldn’t lock it, now can’t unlock it. The door couldn’t have swollen shut from the heat, as it was later in the day and getting cooler. I finally got it open and got into my sparse and tiny room. Again, the hotel is old and the wood around where the bolt sits was pretty torn up, but it was still a little strange. The thought of the little Indian boy having a laugh crossed my mind, but it was probably just an old lock on an old door.

Gadsen Hotel sign

Another ghost is a little mixed, we’ve read descriptions of a man in a khaki army clothes on the Mezzanine, and sometimes the same ghost is mixed with the first of the headless ghost. The last and final ghost is that of an elderly woman that roams the fourth floor. She is relatively harmless, just wandering the floor. All of the ghosts are more active around Christmastime and Lent, and lots of paranormal investigators have explored the hotel. The hotel is Grand and brings back memories of a time when the area was prosperous and well off. Go there and make a weekend of it, there is plenty to see in the area and the staff is exceptionally nice, you’ll have a good time, and you just might see a ghost in this Arizona treasure.

Updated July 20th, 2009