Joshua Lott for The New York Times
Guests at the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Ariz., record their encounters with the supernatural in journals at the front desk. Renée Gardner, right, leads tours of the hotel in the hope of meeting some of the resident ghosts. More Photos »
BISBEE, Ariz. — Many hotel guests would complain if they were awoken by bumps in the night or if they found their things had mysteriously disappeared from their dressers. But not visitors to the Copper Queen Hotel, a rustic old place that is considered Arizona’s longest continuously operated hotel.
The Copper Queen is haunted, or at least that is what the owners claim and what numerous guests have affirmed over the years with stories about mysterious voices, odd sounds and smells, and even levitating objects. For many, a quiet, uneventful night at the Copper Queen, which dates to 1902, is a dire disappointment.
“Oh, oh!” a non-ghostly woman exclaimed in surprise when she rounded a corner on the fourth floor one recent evening. When she realized she had encountered another non-ghost, she seemed disappointed. “Have you seen anything?” she asked.
The front desk clerk’s voice grew low as he told how he heard a female voice one evening while riding the elevator between the third and fourth floors, even though he was the only physical being inside. And he swore up and down that he once saw a room key floating in the air.
At his side were the ghost journals, accounts left by guests over the years of their encounters with the hotel’s resident spirits. So compelling are some of these tales that they have been compiled into a book that came out this month. Adding credence to the hotel’s claim of three resident ghosts, at least for those who believe in the paranormal, was the hotel’s appearance in an episode of the “Ghost Hunters” show on the Syfy Channel.
One Copper Queen guest, Tina LaVon, wrote about how she had tried to take a photo in the hotel but the camera said it had no memory card. The scary part is, she insists it did have a memory card.
Others wrote of hearing whispers, of the remote control for the television not working or of a cellphone battery mysteriously losing power. A child wrote of losing her stuffed animal only to have it mysteriously reappear later.
Nine-year-old Devan heard breathing over his shoulder when he was reading the ghost book. Other guests said coins disappeared from the desk in their room, which legend has it is the handiwork of Billy, a young ghost, who died long ago in the nearby San Pedro River and supposedly now has the run of the Copper Queen.
“Southern Arizona’s Most Haunted,” a book on Bisbee and other reputedly haunted locales in the southern part of the state, recounts how Billy has been seen jumping on the leather couch in the lobby.
“The Copper Queen Hotel is haunted by over 16 spiritual entities,” said the book’s author, Renée Gardner, who has been named by the local Chamber of Commerce as the official ambassador to the ghosts and spirits of Bisbee. She conducts walking tours of ghostly spots around this old copper mining town, as well as a special driving tour in a secondhand hearse.
All the spirits supposedly roaming around the Copper Queen, and some guests perhaps pretending to be spirits themselves, mean a lot of potential for mischief.
A guest named Roxana wrote of a ghostly incident that occurred when she showered.
“My husband and daughter left our room and I got in the shower,” she said. “When I was in the shower I heard the bathroom door shake. When my husband and daughter returned I said, ‘Very funny.’ They swore they hadn’t returned to scare me.”
Another guest, Natasha, wrote about something that may or may not have happened as she and her stepfather were dining one night. He had locked the door to their room, No. 401. She had seen him. But when they got back, their door was wide open.
There have been rooms that got phone calls with no one at the other end of the line, a photograph on the wall that moved, a shaving kit that fell to the bathroom floor and mysterious taps on guests’ shoulders by invisible beings.
“My husband and I are believers but skeptics at the same time,” wrote a woman who heard strange sounds in Room 316 at 2 a.m.
On Thursday nights, ghost experts lead guests through the creaky old building in search of mischievous Billy, a former prostitute named Julia Lowell (who is said to have taken her life in the hotel and now pays particular attention to male guests) and a mysterious bearded man in a top hat and black cape who smells of cigar smoke.
Not all guests have ghostly encounters. On a recent night, the old elevator did make some groaning noises, but they seemed more mechanical than supernatural. From the hallway on the fourth floor, one could hear sounds from guest rooms, although they seemed to be CNN. Nothing appeared to have moved in Room 404 from late one night to the next morning.
Yes, for some guests, the Copper Queen is not the least bit scary, offering little more than a good meal, a lively bar scene and an uninterrupted night of slumber.
“Absolutely nothing happened to us of a ghostly sort,” a guest named Crystal wrote in the journal. “The only sounds we heard were from the noisy people upstairs.”