The Jerome Grand Hotel Still Haunts This Old Ghost Town

Numerous deaths plagued the wickedest city in the west.

jerome hospital
Who wouldn't want to sleep in a haunted hospital-turned-hotel? | FiledIMAGE/Shutterstock
Who wouldn't want to sleep in a haunted hospital-turned-hotel? | FiledIMAGE/Shutterstock

Before the Jerome Grand Hotel was the Jerome Grand Hotel, it was the United Verde Hospital. And that’s where this story begins. It was 1888 and—in pursuit of copper, gold, silver, and manganese—the expanding United Verde Copper Company came to the booming mining town of Jerome, Arizona.

In its heyday in the early 1900s, Jerome was the third largest town in the state. Tucked into a steep hillside overlooking the Verde Valley, its narrow streets were brimming with 37 saloons, 13 bordellos, and a meager four churches—earning itself the title of the Wickedest City in the West. They needed a hospital to support all that drinking and sinful living, so the mining company built the United Verde Hospital—in 1917, and again in 1926 after a mine blast damaged the original. A series of ill-fated events at this site would almost lead one to call it cursed.

broken windows
Looking good! | CREATISTA/Shutterstock

A hospital that can’t keep people alive

When the Great Depression hit shortly after its opening, conditions at United Verde took a sharp downturn. Even in its earliest years, the hospital’s staff recounted stories of unexplained phantom footsteps and mysterious figures. All told, an estimated 9,000 people would meet their demise there.

Plagued with manmade disasters and poor fortune, Jerome’s population gradually dwindled from thousands to somewhere between 20 to 50 residents. In 1950, United Verde Hospital was abandoned for good—the furniture, x-ray machines, and medical devices sat neglected for the next 20 years.

It wasn’t until the ‘70s that the now-hazardous building was emptied out to discourage vandalism. A hired caretaker cast a watchful eye over the place...until his suicide in the 1980s. The hospital sat idle until 1994, when it was finally born anew, two years later, as the Jerome Grand Hotel. Today, it’s fair game to call this one of the most haunted places in Arizona—and a visit to the property (or an overnight stay, if you’re feeling brave) is a must-do for any trip to Jerome.

hotel jerome
The views are... to die for. | Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock

A hotel with ghostly restorations

During the restoration process, the building was returned to its pre-1930s grandeur. Its hallways are lined with antiques and adorned with ornate paintings, and furnishings of a bygone era are found throughout the mission-style hotel’s impressive five stories.

Many of the rooms offer soaring views of the valley—they’ll set you back around $200 a night, $500 for a suite. Registered hotel guests, and the spirits that presumably haunt the place, are the only ones allowed to roam the halls. But you can get the same view from the hotel’s onsite restaurant, The Asylum, which embraces its medical past with drink names like the Liquid Valium. There’s also a gift shop adjacent to the hotel lobby, which is also open to the public and was once an emergency room.

Even the elevator at the Grand Jerome Hotel has a mysterious story to tell. | Flickr/J Jakobson

“The structure remains physically the same as when it was the hospital,” says general manager Sarah Moser. Much of the building's original facilities, including its 1926 Otis Elevator, have been restored and even remain in use to this day. The mechanical, Jazz Age marvel is truly a sight to see, though the elevator has a history that will undoubtedly make you a little uneasy when you step inside.

In 1935, a well-known Jerome resident by the name of Claude Harvey was working as a maintenance man at the hospital. His body was found in the basement, pinned under the elevator. His death was ultimately ruled an accident. Upon investigation, though, the elevator was found to be in working order, leaving investigators and town residents wondering if Harvey jumped to his death or if he was murdered. The cause was never determined. Shortly after his tragic death, strange occurrences were reported… especially around the elevator.

Jerome sits on the steep slopes of Cleopatra Hill between Prescott and Sedona. | tracielouise/E+/Getty Images

Guests who never rest

A number of hotel guests have recounted other mysterious sightings. Visual apparitions range from human-shaped figures that roam the halls and stairways, to a friendly feline that is said to scratch and meow at the doors.

Moser, a hospitality veteran with 45 years experience, has been working at the Jerome Grand Hotel since 2014. She spent her adolescence in the Verde Valley, hearing stories about kids who would venture into the abandoned hospital, and tales of Jerome’s “ghost town” reputation. Now, the GM knows firsthand this is no ordinary building.

“Sadness, dismay, the sounds of trauma, the smells and sounds you would anticipate in an old institution, children laughing, running in the stairwells... I have experienced them all, even been touched multiple times, with no one around,” says Moser.

Still, hotel guests can rest easy (I guess?) knowing that the specters, for the most part, aren’t malevolent. “Though I've had many encounters with our spirited friends, at no time have I felt concerned for my safety,” Moser reports. “I began my work here as the night auditor, so plenty of opportunities to pick on the 'old girl working alone overnight,' but the spirits, for the most part, are kind, some even protective.”

The hotel’s mysterious past attracts history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts alike. “We draw visitors for a variety of reasons: certainly the thought of a beautiful, old building being lovingly restored, to the possibility of residual energy residing in the building,” says Moser.

Gold King Mine is a cemetery for big rusty trucks. | kenelamb photographics/shutterstock

A ghost town turned artisan enclave

Like the Jerome Grand Hotel, many of the historic buildings reminiscent of the town’s old mining days still stand today. At Jerome Historic State Park, you can explore a mansion-turned-museum that is the former residence of mining mogul James “Rawhide Jimmy” Douglas. Built in 1916, the historic site is home to a wine cellar, billiards room, and some of the period's most luxurious finery including a marble shower and ritzy features like steam heat. Pieces of Jerome’s mining history are preserved in the museum's collection of photos and exhibits.

Wander through the Gold King Mine, where for a small entrance fee you can explore old mine shafts, a working sawmill, a collection of over 180 rusty vintage vehicles, and even pan for some gold. Make room in your photo roll. Burros and other animals roam the property, and you can browse the dusty artifacts from an old school house, cobbler, gas station, and more.

And while the wicked, wild west reputation has dissolved, Jerome has developed a fresh identity as an eclectic, thriving arts community. The streets here are lined with boutiques, eateries, confectionaries, tour outfits, shops, and art galleries galore. That includes the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery, which takes up residence in historic digs and features works from more than 30 artists.

Caduceus Cellars
Find shelter from ghosts and have a glass of fine wine in Caduceus Cellars. | Photo courtesy of Caduceus Cellars

Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars has a home on Main Street where wineophiles can sample a selection of locally-produced wines from the hearth of the charming tasting room. Equal parts live music venue and tavern, the brick-clad Spirit Room tempts passersby with their lineup and unpretentious libations. And there’s Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes, the largest kaleidoscope shop in the world.

“What I love about Jerome is that history thrives here,” says Moser. “Aside from the shops, galleries, and other tourist areas, just walking the streets of Jerome takes you back.”

Haunted? Quite possibly. Storied history? Absolutely.

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Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based writer and photographer with a serious case of wanderlust. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram.