402 E Fremont St, Tombstone, AZ 85638
Schieffelin Hall wasn't your typical "Bit House," no sirree. The only respectable theater in town, the hall brought opera and upscale performance to the outlawed West. After being abandoned for half a century, it's no wonder the paranormal had time to fester. Haunted by a lace-clad Lady in Red and a man who took his own life, the ghosts of Schieffelin Hall are sure to put on a show.
According to Renée Gardner, author of Southern Arizona's Most Haunted, most of the ghosts prowling the old theater are performers. Gardner confirms that the theater's hotspot is concentrated in the stage area, particularly backstage in the dressing room.
The famous trope strikes again, this time, in Tombstone. Believed to be one of the actresses who once graced the Schieffelin stage, this eerie solid apparition is often caught perusing the premises in her crimson getup.
In her book, Gardner mentions that on one particular occasion, a local ghost tour guide went down to the dressing room to investigate the Lady in Red rumors. She entered the dark dressing room and waited, but nothing appeared.
Convinced that she'd wasted her time, she started to walk out. But just as she passed by one of the large mirrors in the room, she saw what was unmistakably the reflection of a woman in a red gown.
To validate she wasn't just seeing what she wanted to see, she called one of the building's employees over. By the time the employee reached the dressing room, the woman had vanished.
The hall is plagued by recurring poltergeist phenomena. Anything from objects moving unexplainably on their own, the piano being played by unseen hands, doors closing and locking overnight, and electronics malfunctioning can be experienced in the old theater.
With a town known for its shootouts and general lawlessness, it's no surprise that ghostly cowboys are said to stalk the building in the afterlife. Legend has it that, if you listen carefully, you can hear spurs rattling near the hall's entrance at night.
In short, we don't think so. Schieffelin Hall was used by the Freemasons as a lodge for many years, and it was during this time that a man allegedly shot himself in the basement.
After scouring the newspapers of the time, there is indeed mention of a man taking his life in a basement. This man was an older pioneer merchant by the name of Frank B. Austin. In the July 13, 1905 issue of The Cooper Era, Austin went into his store and grabbed a six-shooter before heading to the basement and shooting himself in the temple.
Here's the catch, it didn't happen at the lodge, but rather, a few feet away from it. Austin's store was located at less than a minute walking distance from the masonic lodge, so it's no surprise that people began to associate Schieffelin Hall with the tragedy.
Since the hall has come out as a haunted location, paranormal enthusiasts have geared up to investigate the landmark. Youtube channel The New Reality Paranormal posted a video in which the investigators captured several EVPs of a man who shot himself.
Could this be the ghost of Frank B. Austin?
Contrary to popular belief, ghosts can go wherever they want. Although Austin took his life elsewhere, nothing is stopping him from wandering - and haunting - the town. Given that the beautifully restored hall is located only steps away, it's no wonder, ol' Mr. Austen has decided to stick around.
Schieffelin Hall was constructed in 1881 by the brother of the town's founder, Al Schieffelin. Meant to appeal to Tombstone's elite, the refined theater accommodated up to 600 people and boasted some of the most decorated performances of the era.
It was "the largest, most elaborate theater between El Paso, Texas and San Francisco, California," frequented by the classy rich folks in town.
And that was only the first floor.
The second floor housed the King Solomon Lodge, one of the five main masonic lodges in the state. True to Wild West form, Wells Spicer (who famously exonerated the men who instigated the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral) was the first master of the lodge.
Tombstone was founded as a silver mining town in the late-19th century, with many of its inhabitants working in the mining industry. By the early-20th century, however, the once-booming silver mining town began to decline, mainly due to the mines flooding.
The flooding brought the town's economy to a screeching halt, leaving residents no choice but to abandon Tombstone. As Tombstone transitioned into a ghost town, Schieffelin Hall slowly fell into disrepair.
In 1963, after decades of deterioration, the hall was saved by Historic Tombstone Adventurers, an organization formed solely to restore the town's landmarks.
Following a successful restoration, the hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, before being donated to the city in 1979.
Now standing just as it did all those years ago, the hall continues to serve the public. Plays, performances, meetings, and social gatherings are all hosted within the significant landmark. A space for locals and tourists, Schieffelin Hall is a living relic of the old Wild West.
Schieffelin Hall currently operates as the local Justice Court and a meeting place for the City Council. The theater is still in use for plays and other events.