Bird Cage Theatre

Bird Cage Theatre

Bird Cage Theatre Old West theatre, gambling hall, saloon, and brothel in Tombstone, Arizona, haunted by numerous ghosts.


The Bird Cage Theatre achieved fame and notoriety in the 1880s as the roughest, wildest honky-tonk in the West. It was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In its eight short years of business, 20 gunfights and 26 murders took place there. Some of the most famous personalities of the Wild West were frequent visitors, among them Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson.

The Bird Cage was especially famous for its prostitutes, the “soiled doves” and “tainted angels” who entertained men in “cribs” or “cages”—alcoves on the second floor over the main hall. Men paid 20 to 25 dollars for the company of one of the girls. While the entertaining went on in the cribs, exotic dancers took the stage to music played by a live orchestra. Supposedly, a card game lasted the entire history of the hall—eight years, five months, and three days.

Doc Holliday especially liked to play Faro, a popular game in the 19th century. The combination of liquor, gambling, and women was combustible, leading to the gunfights that left 140 bullet holes in the hall and untold bullet holes in victims. The unlucky ones were collected by hearse and carted up to Boot Hill for burial. One of the unfortunate dead was Morgan Earp, brother of Wyatt. Morgan was killed on a pool table that still bears his bloodstains. The Bird Cage closed in 1889. It is now a museum, in near original condition. Tombstone is much the same as it was in the late 19th century and is a popular tourist draw.

Haunting Activity

Footsteps have been heard on the stairs to the basement where the gambling took place. Poltergeist and ghostly phenomena include lights going on and off, sensations of presences, and problems with cameras and other equipment. Phantom Smells of tobacco and whiskey can suddenly permeate the air, and the sounds of shouting, laughter, and gambling are heard. Sounds emanate from the empty cribs on the second floor. The parlour where the long game went on—and where the higher-priced women entertained men inside rooms—is one of the most active areas of the theatre. Apparitions of people dressed in late-19th-century clothing are seen, especially a man wearing a black visor who walks across the stage.


  • “Bird Cage Theatre in Haunted Tombstone, Arizona.” Available online. URL: htm. Downloaded October 13, 2006.
  • “The Bird Cage Theatre.” Available online. URL: https:// Downloaded October 13, 2006.


The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits– Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – September 1, 2007

The adobe building on the southeast end of Tombstone’s Allen Street that would eventually become the Birdcage Theater opened on December 23, 1881. It served as a burlesque hall with a stage, bar, casino, and dance hall. Cage-like cribs hung from the ceiling where the “soiled doves” entertained the miners, cowboys, drifters, and home boys as long as they had money in their pockets to spend.

It was a place that was only in business for nine years, but the building knew what violence was all about. The Birdcage has 140 bullet holes in the walls and the ceilings, evidence from the many shootings that happened there. It was also a witness to the murder of Margurita, who was mortally stabbed by Gold Dollar for sitting on the lap of Billy Milgreen, whom Gold Dollar considered to be her man.

Hundreds of tourists visit the Birdcage, and many tell the same stories and see the same things: they speak of the “cold spots” and invisible people who sing and talk in rooms that are empty. Some have seen a woman singing and then the sudden appearance of a crowded room, complete with cigar smoke, liquor, and loud voices in a room that a moment earlier was completely empty.

A man with a celluloid visor who carries a clipboard walks across the stage and is seen by many, along with ghosts who like to wear old-fashioned clothing and who appear so real, tourists think they are part of the Birdcage staff until they walk right through the walls.

Not all of the ghosts are on the inside, as is evidenced by this picture I took outside the Birdcage on my last visit to what I feel is the most haunted town in the West—Tombstone, the town known as “too tough to die.” Be sure to notice the pair of boots in the middle of the doorway. It must be someone who died with their boots on.

Written by — Janice Cottrill Investigator, Researcher, and Writer, Cottrill Investigations

TEL: 1 (520) 457-3421


Encyclopedia of Haunted Places -Ghostly Locales from around the World – Compiled & Edited by Jeff Belanger – Copyright 2005 by Jeff Belanger