Monday, September 5, 2011

On Location Article

I wanted to share this article with you all that was released in Suspense Magazine. Here you go:

On Location
The Coexistence of the Past and Present
Ghost City Inn, Jerome, Arizona
Starr Gardinier Reina

Not even 125 years and an explosion can have an effect on Jake Stark and Grandma Garcia's sanctuary. Jerome holds special—and sometimes traumatic—memories for them. They have their reasons for clinging to life and their choice of residence is the Ghost City Inn.

The City of Jerome, Arizona sits atop what's called Cleopatra Hill between Flagstaff and Prescott. Born to house mining operations and their workers from the early 1800s, the city was no stranger to violence. It was dubbed the 'Wickedest Town in the West', but is now home to its legendary ghosts and various artists.

Having read about the Ghost City Inn and its charming inhabitants, I booked our vacation purposely to include a several day stay. I let my husband, not the first person to jump on a ghostly band wagon, believe I figured the inn and the city would be fascinating and tried to convince him that the talk of ghosts was merely media hype. But devious is what I was when I requested the Verde View Room, which is supposedly the most haunted of this bed and breakfast.
The inn has six bedrooms and is absolutely appealing with its uneven floors, secluded spots and doors with unusually low doorknobs. This latter is because Grandma Garcia was a short woman and they were adjusted for her specifications. There we met Jackie Muma, owner and hostess of the Ghost City Inn—no, she's not a ghost. Stories abound in this quaint place and Jackie was more than happy to share them. One of the first things she told me was she didn't realize when she purchased the building ten years ago that the bed and breakfast would have permanent guests—courtesy of the times of yore. Perhaps something happened while the Christian couple owned it because, Jackie admitted, "they were in a hurry to sell it" and Escrow closed within thirty days.

What some scoffed at as funny pranks, Jackie found no humor in. Keys would be missing, only to turn up later. Old-time music could be heard coming from the Verde View Room, even though Jackie unplugged the radio and ensured there were no backup batteries. One of the craziest things that happened to her was when during one of the many times her cell phone was not where she left it. Jackie asserted that after searching, she ultimately found it in the refrigerator, of all places. She is positive she did not place it there and no one else was in the building at the time. It became irritating to her after a while and someone suggested she ask whoever was playing these games to stop. She went room to room asking them to "please leave me alone" and even prayed. Since then, she has not been the brunt of any of the annoyances. Guests however, are a different story.

One of the repeat visitors is none other than the woman who purchased it in 1920. Simply known as Grandma Garcia, this short, hunched woman lived on the premises until her death in 1978 in what is currently the Cleopatra Hill Room. She acted as caretaker for the Garcia House—its name while under her ownership—and the miners frequenting it, cooking all the meals for them when they woke from their eight-hour shifts. At some point during these years, the Garcia House was also a bootleg liquor site; that is, until a still exploded. This incident left Grandma Garcia terrified of any open flames in the house, such as candles or lighters. The damages the blast caused to the upper floor are still apparent. According to Jackie, the eaves under the roof are still charred.

Grandma Garcia has been known to appear in her old room in a wispy, transparent image. Guests who have stayed in the Cleopatra Hill Room have reported minor incidents. Cigarettes would not be where a person left them and would later show up somewhere else. Lighters disappeared, sometimes never to be located or found in the toe of a shoe. Another guest reported Grandma Garcia shook her index finger at them as they smoked outside the room on the patio. One of the sisters in a Spanish family who all stayed there claimed Grandma Garcia began swearing at her in their language, accusing her of doing things she shouldn't be. The woman confessed to her family and Jackie she had been doing something wrong, although refused to say what it was, and after the occurrence, vowed to stop. Yet another guest was said to have been woken by what felt like a hand caressing her cheek. Is Grandma Garcia still there as a caretaker? Is she watching over her home and taking care of guests as she did for so many years? Is she trying to thwart potential disasters due to fire? No matter the reason, her granddaughter Oralee, who now resides in California, felt her presence at the inn when she visited. Oralee shared stories with Jackie of when she was a little girl staying there.

Another event occurred in the Western Room. A woman woke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. When she saw herself in the mirror, she was startled. She was wearing red lipstick. Half asleep, she wiped it off and went back to bed. In the morning, she thought she dreamt the entire episode. But she hadn’t. In the bathroom’s trash can, she found a tissue with red lipstick on it she couldn’t explain. The guest told Jackie she didn’t wear lipstick at all, only clear Chapstick. It was an enigma and she had no idea how she ended up with lipstick on in the middle of the night. Was this a practical joke of Grandma Garcia’s? Did she apply the red lipstick to the guest’s lips as she slept?

Grandma Garcia is not the only paranormal manifestation at the Ghost City Inn. When Jackie first purchased the bed and breakfast, there was a shared bathroom upstairs between the Northern Exposure Room and the Verde View Room outside of the common area. Jackie was vacuuming in this vicinity when a man walked past her and into the bathroom. She turned the vacuum off and called out to him that he was not allowed to use the bathroom, that it was for guests only. He ignored her and continued on. Not wanting to barge in, she knocked on the stall and repeated her request that he leave. After getting no response, she trod further into the bathroom only to find it empty. The only exit would have been out the bathroom window, which Jackie stated, he could not have possibly done, or through the door. She is still emphatic that he did not walk past her. Jackie described the man as three-dimensional. He was a “solid person with long, grey hair and wearing a long duster”. It appeared as if he was just coming in after a hard day of work, looking haggard and dirty. She went looking for him and checked every room. She was not able to find the man neither upstairs nor in the inn at all.

Some time later, a woman guest checked in. Shortly after getting her room, she came back down and reported to Jackie she had seen a solid man with a full, grey beard, grey hair sporting a long duster coat. Jackie was astounded; she had proof now she hadn’t lost her mind when she previously saw him. This woman had described the same person she spotted. It turned out her guest was a medium and told her who this person was. He was a cattle herder, according to this medium, who used to come to Jerome once a month, stay at the inn and spend his wage in town. His name was Jake Stark. When asked, the medium said he had not been killed in the inn.

If Jackie had any doubts about the validity of this woman or her story, it was soon abated when the medium revealed things about Allen—Jackie's husband—and herself that she was certain no one could have known. According to what Jackie told me, Allen at the time had been having back problems. The medium warned her he needed to take care of the problem or would end up having back surgery. Just a few short weeks later, Allen went in for the operation. As to Jackie, she confessed she still financially assisted her young adult son, who no longer lived with her. As any parent would, Jackie had trouble denying her son when he needed help and just that morning, she sent him money she previously secreted away without anyone knowing, not even Allen. The medium’s knowledge of this personal information convinced Jackie of her authenticity. She now knew without a doubt the medium was not a fake and the man she’d seen upstairs was Jake Stark.

This medium was not the only person who Jake Stark revealed himself to. Jackie narrated another story to me. Approximately three or four years ago, a man staying there was awakened in the middle of the night by Jake. He was forced to stay up until he physically put on paper words Jake demanded he write: “Cecil Thompson did it.” After he did this, Jake allowed the man to go back to sleep. In the morning, the guest met Jackie at the door and told her what happened and asked her if she knew who Cecil Thompson was. She didn’t. According to Jackie, researched revealed that the Thompson family were villains living in Jerome in the late 1800s who were forcibly kicked out of the town. Is it possible Jake was killed by Cecil? Is Jake’s spirit still there because of the violent way his life ended?

Although this story is not about me, I’m pretty sure you’re wondering about our stay. Human curiosity begs the question: did I or my husband see anything? My answer is: unfortunately not. My husband’s answer is: thank god, no. Do I personally believe? Absolutely. I would have loved to have seen Jake or Grandma Garcia. If I had, I planned on asking them questions: what happened to them? Why are they still here? Are they perhaps stuck here waiting for something or someone?

I might get another chance to question them because we do plan on going back again. Well, I first have to convince my husband because on the morning we were to check out, I confessed to him just how haunted this inn and city supposedly are. So he knows if we go back, he could end up wearing red lipstick in the morning. Why didn’t I tell him before or as we arrived? He believes just as I do, which is the problem. And he most certainly does not share the same enthusiasm of running into them or having his sleep disturbed. If he sees or hears anything, he might just go running down the hill, screaming like a little girl.

Is this really all true? Do things go bump in the night at the Ghost City Inn and in Jerome? You be the judge. Go stay there. Maybe Jake and/or Grandma Garcia will appear. If they do, you need not worry. They are harmless and more pranksters than anything. If you see them, ask them my questions, but please share the responses with me. I’m curious to know. Aren’t you?

To learn more about Starr Gardinier Reina, author of “Deadly Decisions” visit her website at


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

We love staying in haunted places. That sounds like a fun time. I've only passed through Jerome never stayed. Loved your article.


Starr Reina said...

Thanks, Marilyn. It is definitely worth the visit.

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