Bird Cage Theatre
Legend says phantoms of the Wild West still catch shows and poker games at the Bird Cage Theatre
Bird Cage Theatre’s
- Unexplained smells of cigar smoke are often reported
- Disembodied laughing and crying have been heard
- Shadow figures are often seen around the building
- Objects are moved and thrown by unseen forces
- The piano reportedly plays by itself
Bird Cage Theatre’s History
With a name like Tombstone, Arizona, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that plenty of people died along the dusty roads of this small, Wild West town. Tombstone was made famous by the gunfight at the O.K. Corral that took place in 1881, leading to a lasting reputation as the heart of the Wild West, from brothels to bullet holes.
Many buildings from this iconic era still remain, including the Bird Cage Theatre. The small and simple theater provided the town with all the entertainment cowboys and miners could want, with plenty of alcohol, poker, entertainers, and prostitutes to go around. Though these heyday happenings are long past, they’re still remembered through the bullet holes in the walls, the artifacts on display, and the ghosts that reportedly remain.
Timeline of Bird Cage Theatre's History
Swipe or use timeline points to see Bird Cage Theatre through the years
On Christmas Eve, 1881, a new theater opened in the heart of Tombstone. Named the Bird Cage Theatre, owners Billy and Lottie Hutchinson hoped to attract families with respectable shows. The Hutchinsons saw family-oriented productions sell out in big cities, but in Tombstone the concept was a flop.
Miners, cowboys, and get-rich-quick drifters demanded a different kind of entertainment. In response, the Bird Cage Theatre started offering different acts to appeal to locals, from wrestling, drag ball masquerades, and minstrel shows.
Not long after the Bird Cage opened, it hosted a famously long-running attraction. Known as the longest poker game ever played, the Bird Cage’s basement poker table hosted a non-stop game from 1881 to 1889. Some well-known players took turns at the table, including Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Adolphus Busch.
It is said that over $10,000,000 passed over the table in this marathon game, made possible thanks to the Bird Cage’s 24/7 operation. Players were allowed to spend all night drinking and gambling if they chose to.
Despite the Bird Cage Theatre’s lively atmosphere, the local economy would soon take a harsh shift. Floods and fires in mines quickly turned regional mines unprofitable, with jobs drying up fast. By the early 1890s, the Bird Cage had closed and all of Tombstone seemed destined to do the same.
Luckily, Tombstone’s role as county seat saved it from ‘ghost town’ status. By 1929, the population around Tombstone had leveled out and avoided dropping to 0.
In 1934, the Bird Cage was purchased and turned into a coffee shop after having been untouched since the day it closed. In the years since the 1930s, the Bird Cage Theatre has been used as a variety of different businesses by numerous different owners, but nothing would prove as successful as the building’s original use.
When Wild West stories and folklore rose back into the public mind thanks to western movies in the mid-20th century, Tombstone transformed into a town-sized tourist attraction.
With that revitalization, the Bird Cage Theatre came back to life, and became one of the most popular stops for tourist traffic in the town. Since opening as a museum attraction, visitors and workers alike have said there’s a palpable liveliness to the theater, as if the 24/7 party at the Bird Cage never actually stopped.
And, as stories of shadow figures and disembodied voices piled up, it became an open secret that ghosts within the Bird Cage Theatre still make themselves known through revelry reminiscent of the Wild West.
Is the Bird Cage Theatre Haunted?
The haunting reports around the Bird Cage Theatre are numerous. One of the most common claims is that the theater will often reek of thick cigar smoke, even though it’s been decades since anyone lit up a smoke inside.
Other people say they will hear laughter and loud talking coming from empty areas of the theater, as if there are still parties going on and lively shows being performed there. The theater piano has also been heard playing notes by itself, adding to this idea that a paranormal party rages on inside the Bird Cage.
Bird Cage Theatre’s Lady in White
Apparitions are also a regular occurrence at the Bird Cage Theatre. Shadow figures of stage hands are often spotted moving around the stage. Others report the apparitions of cowboys around the bar or prostitutes in flowing dresses dancing around the rooms.
One apparition is seen so often that it has developed a reputation as the ‘lady in white.’ The Bird Cage Theatre’s lady in white is seen walking throughout the building, always wearing a white gown and matching white bonnet.
Fanciful Phantoms at Bird Cage Theatre
Despite being a regular sighting around the Bird Cage Theatre, the lady in white is notorious for never interacting with anyone. It has been reported that she appears upscale and wealthy; her famously white clothing is said to be quite fancy.
The lady in white’s well-to-do appearance would make her rather out of place in a rough town like Tombstone. No one is certain of the mysterious lady in white’s identity, but plenty of visitors and workers continue to see her ghost to this day.
The Many Haunts of Bird Cage Theatre
Other shadow figures are reported up in the theater box seats, where people on stage frequently say they spot shifting shadows moving back and forth. Additionally, there are regular reports around the Bird Cage of certain objects being moved around, or even visibly thrown, by unseen forces.
Perhaps the most famous instance of this poltergeist-like activity revolves around the hat worn by the theater’s statue of Wyatt Earp, which is often tossed around by a playful spirit.