Paranormal promises: Tourists scammed in Tombstone

Tombstone is known for its silver mining and gun fights. It was the epitome of a wild west town. The town is dependent now on tourism. The image is enhanced by the town’s multiple paranormal themed tours. Earlier this summer, a scam artist tempted paying tourists to visit historic Tombstone but there was no tour, no lodging, no experience.

Source: Gullible is as gullible does

The current investigation in Tombstone is attempting to uncover the defrauding of numerous people around the United States and Canada, says Deputy Ivan Bernal of the Tombstone Marshal’s Office.

As television reality shows such as Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters are becoming more popular, The Bird Cage Theatre in Tombstone began offering ghost tours and allowing private groups to go on paranormal investigations. This was one of stops the scam artist promised the tourists they would see.

Bill Hunley, the manager at Bird Cage Theatre, claims the house is definitely haunted but that he won’t guarantee that visitors will have a paranormal experience while visiting. Of course not, because it’s all about what anomaly will be interpreted as “paranormal” by the visitors. Hit or miss.


The risk of paranormal tourism for customers is that they are never guaranteed to get their money’s worth and have the experiences such paranormal tours offers the chance to have. But that doesn’t stop such tours from being profitable. As this piece notes, an abandoned location with some rich history will yield “ectotourism” dividends. (That’s a really terrible word.) The West Virginia Penitentiary attracts paranormal seekers, not history buffs.

“Once we did paranormal tours, we really had to get serious about it,” Park noted. “We said, ‘Okay, we have to treat this like a business and not like folks are just coming over and visiting.’” People and groups now book tour dates in advance online, with 70 percent of tour sales arriving from the Pittsburgh market. Visitors haven’t balked at the $950 Private Paranormal experience for a total of as many as 20 people who arrive at midnight and basically rent the facility until 6 a.m.

The nonprofit set up in West Virginia makes some profit off this. They are surprised how much people will pay to spend a night in a creepy location.

Paranormal tourism also includes UFO sites and Bigfoot camping trips. However, such tours and adventures deliver mostly fictional accounts and possibly false history instead of accurate information. Worst of all, the events promote belief in the paranormal.

The Federal Trade Commission notes companies won’t be in trouble as long as they don’t guarantee anything specific. As long as they are not deliberately deceiving the audience, they’re in the clear, from a legal stand point. It’s up to people themselves to weigh the risks and gamble on such tourism.

More: Trying to boost your local tourism? Become a hauntrepreneur.

  11 comments for “Paranormal promises: Tourists scammed in Tombstone

  1. September 23, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    The thing that really made me angry in the reference article was that “Raven Tempest”, who apparently is able to work as a counselor without a license because she bills herself as a “psychic advisor”.

    To me, and others like me, who have master’s degrees in psychology but are unable to hang out a shingle due to the near-impossibility of finding someone to do supervision for licensure (unlike social workers, there are not a lot of licensed psychologists who are in a position to supervise up-and-coming psychologists for licensure), this is maddening, to say the least.

    Sometimes it just seems like the fraudsters have the upper hand.

  2. September 24, 2015 at 4:25 PM

    Well, just like hackers always have the upper hand over computer security development, and weapons always have the upper hand over defenses, technologically speaking. It’s a lot easier to find holes, break things, circumvent stuff than it is to contain, to defend, or to build.

  3. Amanda
    September 24, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    I went on a ghost tour in Edinburgh some years back. Went into the underground vaults and a churchyard and they told mostly stories of murders, the plague, witchcraft and disasters. No claims that we would experience anything paranormal. They did have someone in a mask jump out on us at the end of the tour. Everyone jumped and then started laughing. No one took it seriously and it came across as more of a history tour. I did see the aurora whilst on the tour. Not supernatural but much more interesting.

  4. Tony
    September 24, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    That’s funny — during the seventies I worked for a couple of summers at a dude ranch near Tombstone and regularly hung out with folks who worked at the Bird Cage Theatre, and don’t recall any talk of the place being haunted. I guess the tourists’ interest in live theatre isn’t what it used to be.

  5. September 24, 2015 at 7:31 PM

    Tombstone is certainly a fun place to visit but if I realized there was big money to be made from hauntings at Boot Hill and the Bird Cage I’d have set up a tour of Haunted Sunnyslope (a Phoenix neighborhood) including the Haunted Timo Wine Bar, the Haunted Via DeLosantos Mexican Cafe, the Haunted Arizona Canal and the Haunted Walmart Neighborhood Market.

    If you do venture on down to the “town too tough to die,” be sure to stop by the Rose Tree Inn Museum (“home of THE WORLD’S LARGEST ROSE TREE”).

    Browsing the Tombstone website I see that there are at least 3 promoters of haunted tours and events. I’d hate to see how many hauntings there would be if it wasn’t too tough to die.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy
    September 24, 2015 at 11:24 PM

    “Raven Tempest”?

    That sounds like either a superhero, a D&D character, or a Fluffbunny Wiccan from GTA: Vice City Talk Radio.

  7. Sam
    September 25, 2015 at 7:39 AM

    Why are all ghosts either Victorian-era or wild-west/civil war themed? Where are the ghosts wearing sequined bell-bottoms or 80’s shoulder pads?

  8. Bill T.
    September 26, 2015 at 9:57 AM

    “It was the epitome of a wild west town”, or, at least its promoters would have us believe. My vote for epitome of western towns would go to Bodie or Virginia city:

    “There were military companies, fire companies, brass bands, banks, hotels, theatres, ‘hurdy-gurdy houses’, wide-open gambling palaces, political pow-wows, civic processions, street fights, murders, inquests, riots, a whiskey mill every fifteen steps, a Board of Aldermen, a Mayor, a City Surveyor, a City Engineer, a Chief of the Fire Department, with First, Second and Third Assistants, a Chief of Police, City Marshal and a large police force, two Boards of Mining Brokers, a dozen breweries and half a dozen jails and station-houses in full operation, and some talk of building a church.” “Roughing It” (Mark Twain)

  9. September 26, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    …referring to which of the three cities above, Bill?

  10. Bill T.
    September 27, 2015 at 3:49 AM

    Virginia City.

  11. Bill T.
    October 1, 2015 at 3:04 AM

    On rereading my original, I see I was harsh. Apologies for that.

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