Bird Cage Theatre In Tombstone
The Bird Cage is perhaps the most authentic tourist attraction in Tombstone AZ. It still contains most of the relics, furniture, window coverings and even poker tables that existed in its wild west hey day during the late 1800s. During the peak of the silver boom, it was opened on Christmas Day, December 25, 1881.
For the next eight years the Bird Cage never closed and ran continuously 24/7 every day of the year. When water began seeping into the major mines in the area and other mining veins dried-up, Tombstone died a gradual death and became a ghost town. The Bird Cage was closed and sealed-up in 1889.
When the Bird Cage building was purchased by new owners in 1934, it was surprising that few of its contents were disturbed since its closing in 1889. Including were its saloon bar, poker tables, furniture, chairs and pictures that hung on the walls. All relics are now on display as an operating museum.
The Wildest, Wickedest Night Spot
The New York Times called the Bird Cage the "wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." Legend has it that 26 people were killed in the Bird Cage during it reputed eight years as one of the wildest and meanest places in Tombstone, Arizona. Over a hundred bullet holes still remain in the building confirming its reputation.
Also called the "Bird Cage Theatre", the entertainment included a saloon, theatre, poker parlour in the basement and a brothel. Its interested to note that its ongoing poker game never broke-up, with both good guys and bad guys continuously playing poker for its entire eight years while it was open. Some of its more famous poker players included Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, Diamond Jim Brady and George Hearst.
How The Bird Cage Got Its Name
Originally it was called the "Elite Theatre" and was quickly changed to the "Bird Cage Theatre." It was also sometimes called the "Bird Cage Opera House." Fourteen "cages" called "cribs" were suspended from the ceiling of the main floor. These were "bawdy cages" with drapes that were drawn closed when the "ladies of the night" entertained their customers.
The theatre did have stage entertainment where performers such as Eddie Foy, Lotta Crabtree, Lily Langtree and Lola Montez entertained the men from the wild, wild west. Respectable ladies in Tombstone never went near the Bird Cage.
Gunfights, Knifings & Killings
Those were tough days. In drunken states and accusations of cheating at poker led to 26 killings and murders at the Cage. At least one was a brothel lady named "Margarita" who was murdered by one of her co-prostitutes who went by the name "Gold Dollar". As the story goes, Gold Dollar caught Margarita sitting on the lap of a poker player named Billy Milgreen who was also the boyfriend of Gold Dollar. In a jealous rage, Gold Dollar stabbed Margarita in the chest, killing her.
When the Sheriff was summoned, Gold Dollar fled out the back door and hid the knife somewhere outdoors. Since the murder weapon could not be found, no murder charges were filed against Gold Dollar. It is interesting to note that the double-edged stiletto was discovered behind the Bird Cage more than a century later where it laid hidden for over a hundred years.
The Bird Cage Today
Today it is a museum tourist attraction that is open to the public year-round from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm daily in Tombstone, Arizona. The place has a reputation of being haunted. Who knows, those poor souls that were murdered may be ghosts still playing poker with a shot of whiskey and a lady on their laps.
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Southern Arizona Destinations