Thursday, February 21, 2013

They see dead people in Jerome

Jerome after a dusting of snow.
Her daughter sees dead people, but she (the daughter) can make them go away. That must be comforting.

This is the sort of conversation one apparently has in Jerome, Arizona, which is inhabited by a good many ghosts. Kathleen asked me if I could name a funkier town, and the closest I could come was Locke, California.

Jerome sits precariously above the Verde Valley midway between Phoenix and Flagstaff and, like most funky towns, got its start as a mining camp. The gold ran out, but not before a town had sprung up. In the last decade or so, vineyards and wineries have appeared along this narrow band of climate below Jerome, and it’s at the Caduceus tasting room where Kathleen had the conversation with the nice lady about seeing ghosts. I like it when Kathleen gets these conversations going, because she can do it with a straight face and I can just listen.

The nice lady (left, in black) and the tasting room guy
(behind the bar).
Apparently, everyone in Jerome sees ghosts. The guy running the tasting room told us of three personal encounters with ghosts and probably had many more stories. There’s the story about the unruly restaurant diner at whom a large book was thrown by an unseen hand. There’s the one about the picture on the wall that got turned wrong-side out, presumably by a different but equally unseen hand. Unfortunately, other customers came in and he got sidetracked. The nice lady did not get sidetracked, however. Her daughter started seeing dead people when she was three. Nowadays, when they appear she can tell them to move along if she has better things to do. This, apparently, has something to do with the fact the daughter is now college-educated, though I may have misunderstood that part.

As for why Jerome is particularly attractive to ghosts, the nice lady had a couple of theories.  For one thing, mining towns attract people who are particularly driven, and those kinds of people don’t “give up the ghost” so easily. Plus, there used to be a law in town mandating that people missing limbs or otherwise not properly configured could not show themselves in public. So … well, I’m not sure how that one creates ghosts, but I may have missed something when I spilled my wine at one point.

(Oh, the nice lady also runs the boutique next to the wine tasting room. She said she would be open the next day at 10, but maybe not until 11 if it snowed again overnight, because her sole employee might then want to take a “snow day” and she’d have to convince her to show up at the store anyway. No, I didn’t follow it, either.)

There are many buildings and homes in precarious perches here and there, none more so than the old asylum (as in “insane asylum”) at the topmost place in town.  t’s now a hotel and restaurant from which many ghost stories originate. We had considered staying there, and now I’m sort of bummed that we didn’t. I, personally, have never seen a ghost, nor felt the presence of one, nor even sensed that a spirit of any sort was in the general vicinity.

The young woman who ran the antique and knick-knack shop where Kathleen bought something or other said she once dated a man from Jerome but couldn’t get him to go down the hill. The people of Jerome are very happy to stay put, though we saw no signs of a Wal-mart or similar commercial monstrosity from which they can lay in stores and such. The lady whose daughter sees dead people told us there are only 450 residents of Jerome, so that probably explains it. Maybe they send out a representative now and then in a large conveyance to buy up quantities of necessities.

By the way, there’s a terrific little Mexican restaurant in Jerome called “Quince,” which we highly recommend, despite the buffalo skulls on the wall. Judging by the ghost sign (Ha ha! Ghost signs in a town crawling with ghosts!) above the door outside the restaurant, the building used to be a tiny Safeway. I didn’t look in the back – perhaps there’s a supermarket hidden away.

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