Bisbee Arizona: a historic town that many say has a dark side

It's one of the oldest cities in Arizona. Bisbee a century ago was a booming mining town where gold, silver, and copper flowed from the mines, and the cash poured into posh hotels and shady saloons.

But far from being a ghost town, Bisbee has made a comeback thanks to tourism, where many visits the town's mining past or check-in to a landmark hotel where the guests reportedly don't always check-out.

It's a survivor of a town, once the largest city between San Francisco and St. Louis. Bisbee is now a tourist spot thanks to its old west charm and what the old west left behind. The explosive growth of the town around the turn of the century is thanks to the Copper Queen Mine where 8 billion pounds of copper were mined.

Two former miners showed FOX 10 how it was done in the early days. Even in the machine age the work was never easy or very comfortable even at break time.

"They were all two-seaters, I worked eight years underground, and I never saw two miners on it at the same time just to let you know that," said William Acuna.

Thank to nearly 100 years of mining more than 2,000 miles of tunnels snake their way through the mountains around Bisbee. Should anything go wrong the miners would have to evacuate through a tunnel taking them 1,500 feet to the surface.

In addition to copper, the mine produced 77 million ounces of silver and 3 million ounces of gold.

"The mine was the main source of income here in Bisbee, so it was very important," said Don Carbajal.

The mine closed in 1975 and Bisbee moved on, continuing to embrace its history. A history that some believe has a dark side that lingers in this town.

Inside the Copper Queen Hotel, there are 16 entities that are believed to reside inside. It holds the honor as the oldest continuously operating hotel in Arizona and is the crown jewel of the town. The hotel still maintains its turn of the century charm. Built originally for executives, it now hosts mostly tourists, many of them hunting ghosts.

Three ghosts appear to be the most active. The first is a smoking man who walks the hotel's 4th floor, guests have claimed to smell cigar smoke, and for the living guests smoking is not allowed.

The second is Julia Lowell, a prostitute who fell in love with one of her clients and was rejected.

"Julia's overreaction to this was killing herself, they believe she hung herself outside her room on the third floor," said Renee Gardner.

"Guests in her room have reported strange encounters. They've claimed that she will get into bed with them, that Julia will take the covers off their feet and tickle their toes, then do a seductive dance at the edge of their bed," she said.

The third is Billy, a little boy who drowned in a nearby river. His mom is believed to have worked at the hotel.

"Billy is a trickster, he is a prankster, he will play little practical jokes on people, like hiding their shoes underneath their bed, stealing their keys, moving their jewelry," said Gardner.

A family eating dinner at the hotel reported a strange encounter. "Their little girl kept climbing underneath the table, she would come, but she would climb back underneath. They finally asked her what she was doing, and she said she was playing with Billy. They had no idea who Billy was, they had no idea there was a little boy ghost, and the daughter had no prior knowledge of him at all," she said.

Guests are encouraged to write about their stay in a book kept at the front desk.

But it's not just the Copper Queen that has a dark history, there are other spots as well.

The Oliver House is believed to be one of the most haunted places in the State of Arizona.

It's an old boarding house, and locals say decades ago a Sheriff's Deputy staying at the home caught his wife cheating. He shot his wife and her lover, came down to the parlor and shot everyone he could. He then left town and shot himself.

Spotting ghosts has become a sport. Groups gather on the 4th floor, armed with ghost hunting equipment, hopeful to catch a glimpse.

Renee Gardner leads the ghost hunt; she doesn't detail all the spirits that many claim haunt the halls of the Copper Queen. She wants ghost hunters to figure that out on their own.

"We've had people who have had to sleep in the lobby, they have checked out of their rooms completely and slept in their van," said Gardner.

But clearly, many believe some guests never did check out.