535 East Allen Street, Tombstone, AZ

(520) 457-3421

Status: Former Vaudeville Theater; Former Coffee Shop; Heritage Property and Tourist Attraction; Paranormal Investigations Available



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By RE HawkinsCC BY-SA 3.0Link

By Hawkeye58 at English WikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0Link

By Hawkeye58 at English WikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0Link


The Bird Cage Theatre was open between 1881 and 1894 but highly dependant on the economy of Tombstone. Meaning sometimes it was open; sometimes not so much.

It was originally opened on December 26, 1881 as a family theater with the intention of being respectable and modeled after the ones in San Francisco; it even had a ladies night. In hindsight this is all but laughable and the level of entertainment would become considerably raunchier very shortly.

Entertainment at the Bird Cage included: female weightlifters; wrestling; cross dressers and masquerade balls. The longest running poker game ever in the world took place in the basement – for $1000 buy in anyone could join and saw many famous players including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Diamond Jim Brady and Bat Masterson. The game was played for 8 years and it is estimated over $10 million was bet with the house keeping 10%.

In March of 1882 the first death knell was sounded for the silver mine and, by proxy, Tombstone and its businesses. Water was struck at 620 feet (190 metres) and while the flooding didn’t immediately fill the mine from that point on pumps were needed.

The pumps eventually couldn’t keep up and more and more silver disappeared under the water. In 1886 the pump and hoist at the Grand Central Mine burned up and the price of silver fell to 90 cents an ounce. The mines were suddenly no longer feasible to run.

The Bird Cage closed in 1892; although it would open again in 1894 briefly; Tombstone’s glory days as a rough and tumble mining town were over.


Paranormal Activity

Twenty-six people are known to have died in the walls of the Bird Cage – one of the women who entertained gentlemen guests had her heart carved out with stiletto – and no one knows how many other people met their end here.

The most famous ghost is that of Margarita – the murdered madame – whose apparition is seen throughout the building. Generally, she is seen naked but sometimes she will be wearing just her bloomers. Although her murderer – another prostitute – was known no murder was weapon was found and no witnesses would come forward so no ever served time for the crime.

The stiletto was found over a century later and is now one display at the Bird Cage. Many people think the murderer’s energy surrounds the weapon.

Then there’s the “Lady in White” who is generally accepted as a residual haunting as she has never shown any interest in the living; or even acknowledged their presence. She is most commonly seen on the stairway down to the poker room or in the room the poker room itself. She will lift her hem of her long white dress to keep from tripping and then stare into nothing as if eternally looking for something she never finds.

William Hunley (the owner) hired a medium and conducted a séance in the Bird Cage. One of the ghosts seemed to take great issue with this and began to strangle William. The ghost only stopped when the medium broke her trance; William’s neck was bruised for 6 weeks the injury was so severe.

An antique poker chip was found in the building but it has a habit of only appearing when it wants to and disappearing when it doesn’t want to be found. Legend says it belongs to Doc Holliday and he’s peculiar about who touches it.

Then there is Carmelita Gimenes, one of the ladies of the night, who worked in the brothel. She poisoned herself with arsenic and, despite being taken to a doctor, died. Her apparition still wanders the streets of Tombstone but she sticks close to the Bird Cage – anchored there by the reasons she took her own life - or so the legends say.

Most agree that the party never ended at the Bird Cage. Phantom laughter still echoes through the building when it is empty; especially from the old brothel rooms. Phantom cigar and cigarette smoke smells float through the air although no has smoked there in decades. The piano will, occasionally, tap out of few notes with no one near it. Shadow figures wander across the stage and peek out of the curtains.

Other Activity: disembodied voices; unexplained noises; phantom footsteps; electrical disturbances; poltergeist activity; touches by unseen entities; light anomalies and feelings of not being alone.