Two hangman's nooses and gallows behind the courthouse in Tombstone, Arizona (tombstone14xy)
The gallows outside the courthouse, with hanging nooses. The original Cochise County courthouse - Tombstone was the county seat until 1929 - now the courthouse is state historic site and museum.
Tombstone, Arizona - The 'town too tough to die', and perhaps one of the most famous of the wild western 'ghost' towns. Founded in 1879 near several very lucrative mines, Tombstone grew rapidly from dozens of people in 1879, to thousands in 1880, peaking at close to 15,000 in 1881. Located in the rugged far southeast corner of the Arizona Territory, Tombstone was a wild and lawless city, and home of Wyatt Earp and the Shootout at the OK Corral. But by the mid-1880's, the mines were largely played out, and became flooded with water, and Tombstone began to fade away.
But it never really died off. Despite the closures of the mines and devastating fires, several hundred people remained, and Tombstone remained the county seat and center of activity for the region for many decades. As the mystique and allure of the 'Old West' grew in popular culture grew, Tombstone seized on the opportunity and turned the town into somewhat of an amusement park, and now draws close to half a million visitors per year.
The downtown district has been restored into a 'wild west' main street, with dozens of tourist shops and trinket stores. There are several restaurants and saloons and dinner theaters, and on the edge of town you can tour the mines. Actors dressed up in costume roaming the streets, and hold reenactments and shootouts several times a day. All pure tourist kitsch, of course - the type of place where you can get your 'old time' black and white portrait taken in period dress, then head over to buy fudge and hot dogs and little shot glasses with Tombstone etched in the side. Don't get me wrong - it's fun for the whole family with an entire day's worth of entertainment, but don't go expecting some authentic western experience.
I passed through on New Year's Eve 2007, with a limited amount of time available because I was driving to California that day, so it was just a quick visit and a taste of what was available. Furthermore, I was coming down with a particularly nasty case of the flu, starting out the day in okay shape but heading downhill rapidly, so I wasn't in the mood for big-crowd-type of events.
Here's what I did do in Tombstone: I perused the downtown historic district for a while, then headed over to the former county courthouse (which serves as a museum). On a bend in the highway out of town is an abandoned tourist trap called 'Wyatt Earp's Old Tombstone' - a mini-reproduction western town now faded and falling to pieces. And finally, on the outskirts of town is the famous Boot Hill, one of the most notorious cemeteries in the West.
If I had more time, there were plenty more attractions to visit. But with the effects of the flu dragging me down and many miles of road ahead of me, I left Tombstone early, and headed west to a stop at nearby Fairbank, a REAL abandoned ghost town just a few miles away.
Picture taken December 31, 2007. To see more pictures of my visit to Tombstone, please visit my Tombstone, Arizona photoset.
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