Tombstone gave us one of the coolest experiences we've had in Arizona. Read on to see what I mean.
We drove into town late on a stormy Sunday evening in early August - at the height of the Monsoon Season - and couldn't resist the urge to stop and look around - despite the clear and certain knowledge that virtually everything would already be long closed for the night. Though very warm, the wind was brisk and the air pungent with the smell of an impending downpour but we decided to browse the darkened storefronts anyway - taking our chances with a drenching - after all, most of the wooden sidewalks were covered with tin metal roofs so except for crossing the streets we would likely remain dry.
The town was deserted - not a soul besides us walked the streets and all the shops were closed - their windows dark and abandoned. As we strolled along the gloomy wooden sidewalks, peering into the various darkened stores filled with trinkets, postcards and western wear, a brief surge of rain pounded down upon the tin roof overhead - thundering out a frenetic though rhythmless drumbeat - then died away as quickly and as suddenly as it appeared, leaving behind only the musical tinkling of water running through the downspouts and splashing on the road below.
I moved along at a leisurely pace - taking in the sights and the sounds and the tangy fragrance of ozone-filled night air. Occasionally the sound of distant thunder rumbled. Behind me, my wife and her two sisters moved along even slower - seemingly compelled to stop and gaze longingly into the windows of each and every darkened and abandoned shop - and it wasn't long before I left them far behind and found myself wandering the empty streets alone.
Aside from the tinkling of the water, the creaking of the swaying shop signs dangling overhead, and the rustling of the wind, the night was silent as the dead - broken only by my footfalls as they echoed off the wooden walkway beneath me. Fascinated, I snapped photo after photo of the darkened, empty streets and the silent abandoned shops (sadly most would be too dark to share). Earlier that day, I'm sure these streets were crowded with throngs of mingling, gawking tourists from Milwaukee and Atlanta, from Brussels and Florence, and from Singapore and Osaka - wandering in and out of the stores and restaurants, stepping inside Big Nose Kate's and collecting photographic memories of their own of the OK Corral - but for now, I had the town to myself - needing to share it only with the lingering spirits of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday.
As I lined up to take a photograph of a corner hotel and restaurant opposite the one upon which I stood, from behind came a distant Tha-thump-thump!, tha-thump-thump!, tha-thump-thump! - beginning quietly but growing ever louder as the source of the strange sound moved up ever closer behind me. Mostly likely it was the setting - the unnatural emptiness of the abandoned streets, the complete and utter darkness of the night, the rustling of the wind and the creaking of the swaying signs dangling from their rusted chains overhead - but for whatever reason, the thumping from behind had a strange and eerie quality to it and I have to admit that the hair on the back of my neck rose and my heart skipped a beat. As I tried in vain to focus on the image in my camera lens, the sound drew ever closer and the overwhelming urge to turn and look behind me grew and grew - counter-balanced by a strange and irrational fear of what I might find. Finally, as the sound was nearly upon me, I broke my trance and pivoted - only to find it was naught but a scruffy-looking old man making his way along the wooden sidewalk with a cane. I felt foolish as I nodded a silent greeting to him as he passed - and he returned the same - but I have to admit it took several long minutes for my pulse to return to normal and the icy fingers running along my spine to subside. Finally from down the street my wife and her 2 sisters appeared from around a corner where they had wandered in their endless quest for window-shopping. I waited patiently for them to join me - my desire to wander alone squelched for the night. Unbidden, my mind flashed upon the realization that infamous Boot Hill lay somewhere nearby - but I quickly decided against a visit there this night.
Soon the trio of women reached me, and as one we continued along the covered walkway - meandering idly and peering into the darkened voids of each and every shop. As we turned and stared through the plate glass window at a grotesquely large black beetle (not sure if it was real - or a facsimile strategically placed there for the eerie affect it created) clinging to the bosom of a headless mannequin in what appeared to by a white, turn of the century wedding dress, the faint distant sound of music and laughter echoed in the night - perhaps from some distant tavern, perhaps from some distant time - and my wife and I turned and looked into each other's eyes - each knowing that THAT moment, and THAT memory would stay with us forever.
PS - For those of you out there who might suspect the narrative above is nothing more than a fictional flight of fancy, you can see 3 of the photos I took that night (including one of the beetle and the wedding dress) right here:
Arizona (mostly July/August 2007) pictures from arizona photos on webshots