One of the most interesting places to visit in Tombstone, AZ is the Bird Cage Theater.
Originally opened in December of 1881 by Billy Hutchinson and his wife, this landmark is now a unique tourist attraction that appeals to a wide-range of visitors to the area. The theater derived its name from the fourteen cages which lined the upstairs balcony and offered a place for the local ladies of the evening to entertain their clients.
Although it only remained open for eight years during its initial run, the theater proved to be a popular watering hole and place of entertainment that was sought out by many locals and travelers. Portions of the exact history of the Bird Cage are lost to time, however performers popular in that day, including Eddie Foy Sr, Lotta Crabtree, Fatima and Lillie Langtry, are rumored to have spent time at the theater. It also had a reputation as a rather rough place to visit, with gun fights, brawls and other notorious activity taking place on a regular basis. In 1882 the New York Times remarked that the theater was “the wildest, wickedest nightspot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.”
After closing in 1889, the Bird Cage re-opened in 1934 with the new owners finding much of the interior untouched from its days as a ‘wild west saloon and brothel’. Since that time it has operated as a tourist attraction, offering insights into the history of the West and its own exotic background. The theater is said to be haunted and has been featured on programs such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, and a haunted tour is still a popular attraction at the Bird Cage. There are also 120 bullet holes that remain to be viewed throughout the theater, along with a wide range of displays featuring unique items of Tombstone history. The theater recently opened up some previously sealed off rooms, which offer an ‘un-touched’ view of how the place was furnished during its heyday.
When you visit, be sure to ask about the murder of Billy Milgreen, one of the most grisly murders in Tombstone history. And yes, of course Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and all the rest were regulars…