Travel Writing

Flashback in Time in Jerome

They call Jerome, Arizona a ghost town, but the 500-600 or so live residents might disagree. The tiny town tucked on the side of a pine tree-covered mountain is an eclectic mix of hippies, bikers and assorted artists that have taken over the old copper mining site between Sedona and Prescott. But confuse it with Sedona at your own peril — most residents do not suffer the New Age crowd lightly. I was browsing one of the little shops on the main drag, when some tourists came in and asked about “vortexes.” The shop owner just glared at them and said, “No. We don’t do that here,” till they tucked their tails between their legs and slinked away.

On a summer weekend, you can expect to see the main strip lined with Harleys, and a crowd in the landmark Spirit Room bar. Supposedly haunted, the spirits usually on display here are of the alcoholic variety, served up by George the bartender, with long gray locks and a son named Grair named after the Grateful  Dead and Jefferson Aeroplane.

Could I make this up?

You never know quite what to expect on a weekend night at this bar. One night the band scheduled cancelled last minute, so the owner’s wife put on her best dress and came out to play…her accordion. For a crowd of locals and bikers. Or you might run into the Javelina club, a group of local women who meet and drink together…in pig noses. You don’t even have to be a part of the club to enjoy it – just watching the expressions on tourists’ faces when they walk in, see the group…and sort of walk back out, is priceless.

There are other great places to explore in Jerome. For dining, you could try the Flat Iron Cafe, an odd shaped building with lots of window light and a great selection of coffees, teas and baked goods.  Or go for a high end experience at The Asylum, known for its excellence in wine selections and spectacular views of the Verde Valley, which many shops and cafes overlook, creating a spectacular view at sunset.

Jerome has many artists studios and galleries, as well as artisan gift shops to browse. Whether you’re looking for pottery or antiques, you will find a great selection of gifts as quirky as the town itself.

The road is rather winding to reach the small town, with hairpin turns and some brick streets remaining, but once you get there, you can reach everything on foot, so staying in town is highly recommended.  The Jerome Hotel has many tales of hauntings and spooky legends, including the supposed death of a former caretaker before its reopening in 1994, and The Asylum restaurant is on site.

Want to do some ghost hunting yourself? The hotel runs daily tours and will even provide you with basic ghost hunting equipment: an EMT meter, infrared thermometer and digital camera. This tour is available only to guests of the hotel and can be purchased as a package deal.

Love old history? Tour the old mines museum, Jerome State Historic Park or the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town. Then take a slow train around the Verde Canyon — a four hour trip with open air viewing and food and beverages available.

Jerome may be a small blip on the map, but they pack a whole lot of fun, adventure — and wackiness into one small town. You would be hard pressed to characterize it, but I suppose if forced to, one might call Jerome “Northern Exposure”…on a 60’s acid trip.