The Birdcage Theater of Tombstone
Last month, while on a driving tour of the great American Southwest, I made it a point to visit Tombstone, Arizona. Tombstone is within close driving distance of THE THING?, located right off Interstate 10, and I couldn’t pass through the area without stopping to see both attractions. They’ve preserved a street in Tombstone, the street down which the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday walked to the OK Corral on Wednesday, October 26th, 1881. To stroll down this dusty street, or rather walk the wooden sidewalks, to visit and enter the OK Corral, to see the historic markers and stand in the exact spots where the events occurred, was irresistibly dreamy to a history and Old West buff, or to a fan of the various movies based on what happened there.
Most of the historic street, though, is a modern reproduction. Not many of the buildings are original; those sadly have been lost to time. One of the few authentic structures, however, is The Birdcage Theater, so named because of the small compartments, similar to opera boxes, where the “soiled doves” would “entertain” their customers. These “birdcages,” seemingly too small for anyone to have laid down (I guess they didn’t spend much time horizontal), overlooked the interior of the saloon proper, where Doc Holliday dealt faro and stared down gunfighter Johnny Ringo near the saloon’s piano. The walls are full of bullet holes and the atmosphere is heavy with history and the weight of years–and perhaps with something else, as well. Twenty-six people died violent deaths there, including one saloon girl whose heart was cut from her chest on the wooden floor. I did not see any ghostly residents while touring the Birdcage, but I don’t doubt they were there.
Within the building’s “backstage” area sits the Black Moriah. This stylish, well preserved hearse, trimmed in 24 karat gold, is one of only eight that were made, and carried all but six of the people who are buried in nearby Boot Hill Graveyard to their final repose there; this includes the victims of the OK Corral gun battle. Tour guides say that most of the paranormal activity reported at the Birdcage tends to center on the Black Moriah. Wonder why.