The Paranormal at Home: Hauntings in 50 States – Arizona’s Bird Cage Theatre

Please click here if you would like to read the first article in the series.

Tombstone, Arizona looks like a town that was transported through time without the influences of modern technology. For those who lived in the area during the old frontier days, it was a haven of development in a land that was largely untamed. Life was rough and violence was commonplace. It comes as no surprise that locations like the Bird Cage Theatre seem to still “live” with remnants of the people and events of the late 1800s.

Haunted Arizona: The Bird Cage Theatre

The history of the Bird Cage Theatre runs almost as far back as the founding of Tombstone. The town was formed in 1879 and the business opened in 1881. It served as general entertainment venue with a brothel, gambling parlor, theater and saloon. Prostitutes worked inside 14 small rooms which were situated across two balconies. These drape-enclosed spaces were sometimes called “cages,” which is believed to have inspired the name. Opening hours were non-stop, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year over an eight year period. The Bird Cage Theatre was recognized as one of the “wickedest” night spots in the area. Over 120 bullet holes are still present throughout the building.

Bird Cage Theatre Bar
The original Bird Cage Theatre bar and 1881 mirror still standing in the front parlor.

One of the most grisly murders in Tombstone took place inside the Bird Cage Theatre’s barroom. Gambler Billy Milgreen frequented the establishment, often visiting his regular prostitute, Gold Dollar. On one particular occasion, Milgreen began flirting with Margarita, another prostitute that worked at the theatre. Gold Dollar grew jealous and stabbed her rival to death with a double edged stiletto knife before fleeing. The murder weapon was not found at the time and Gold Dollar was not charged. 100 years would pass before the knife was discovered behind the building. It is believed that up to 26 people may have met their end at the Bird Cage Theatre during it’s wildest 8 year period.

Paranormal Activity at the Bird Cage Theatre

Visitors and staff have reported hearing disembodied whispers and talking, even singing. The singing is sometimes accompanied by a visual experience that focuses on a woman apparition who eventually fades away. Ghosts are described as wearing period clothing, which has caused guests to mistake them for living actors. Other reports include the appearance of a man in black wearing a visor that traverses the stage.

Multiple groups of paranormal investigators have spent time at the Bird Cage Theatre. They also heard unexplained sounds, such as the echo of cowboy boots on the floor when no one is around and cards shuffling. Shadows are sometimes seen darting past windows and the aroma of smoke will suddenly appear even though no fire is ever found.

Bird Cage Theatre Prostitue "Cages"
The “cages” where prostitutes worked inside the Bird Cage Theatre

TAPs filmed their October 11th, 2006 episode of Ghost Hunters at the Bird Cage Theatre. During their stay, lead investigators Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes saw a woman in a white dress and bonnet heading down the stairs towards the poker room. Audio evidence captured the unexplained sounds of a piano playing music. Video was also recorded that showed a cord lift itself up with no one nearby.

The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures team spent time at the Bird Cage for the show’s November 30th, 2012 episode. Cameraman Aaron Goodwin had his shirt pulled while under the funeral hearse inside the building. Lead investigator Zak Bagans spotted what appeared to be a ghostly head while investigating the stage. The most dramatic piece of evidence Ghost Adventures collected was the sound of a voice in the poker room that was heard by Zak and co-investigator Nick Groff without the assistance of electronic devices.

The Bird Cage Theatre Today

The Bird Cage Theatre is still standing and serves as an important historic landmark in Tombstone. Rather than gambling, brawling and drinking, most visitors tour the building for its educational value. Curious individuals can take a museum tour while bolder guests opt for the ghost tour.

Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, AZ
A recent photo of the Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone, Arizona

Have you been to the Bird Cage Theatre (or would you like to go)? Share your personal experiences or investigative approach to this location in the comments.

2 thoughts on “The Paranormal at Home: Hauntings in 50 States – Arizona’s Bird Cage Theatre

Add yours

  1. This was my first ghost tour. I was excited and anxious. Looking forward to an hour and a half of dark time. I was disappointed to have to spend an hour listening to the tour guide talk and make jokes. We had half an hour of dark time. We did experience at least one presence so it wasn’t a total bust. The tour guide needed to talk less and give the guests more time for what they paid for!


    1. Thanks for sharing the info on the ghost tour, Sandra! Sorry you were disappointed by the way it was handled. While it’s great to have the back story, I would have to agree – I think I would be put off by all the lip service and very little hands-on investigation time (especially if you were promised the full hour and a half).

      I think this becomes more of a business opportunity at some locations so they treat it like a vacation tour and not really an opportunity to experience the paranormal. Hopefully others will complain and maybe they will take a second look at how they conduct their ghost tours.

      If you’re willing to share, would you mind providing more details on the presence you encountered and the phenomena that came with it? And have you gone on any ghost tours to other locations since (and if so, do you think they handled it better)?

      Thanks again for sharing! 🙂


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