Bird Cage Theatre
Opened in 1881 on the day after Christmas, the Bird Cage Theatre was originally intended by its owners to be a family-friendly entertainment establishment. However, the heavily male demographics of Tombstone's mining community led to the Bird Cage becoming known as the "wildest, wickedest night spot" in the West. A reported 26 people were killed in shootouts at the Bird Cage, with 140 bullet holes littering the walls. The theatre was also known for its prostitution and gambling. The longest poker game in history- lasting 8 years- was played in the theatre's basement. The Bird Cage Theatre closed in 1889 after the silver mines shut down. When the building was purchased in 1934, the new owners found that everything was left exactly as it had been in the 1880's. Today, the Bird Cage Theatre operates as a museum, tourist attraction, and favorite destination for paranormal investigators.
Backstory and Context
The town of Tombstone was founded in 1879 and quickly became a boom town in what is now coined the Wild West. By 1881 the population had boomed to 1,000 citizens and by 1882, it had a population between 5,000 and 15,000. In that year, the city became the seat of the newly established Conchise County.
Silver mines are what first drove people to Tombstone, but capitalists continued to move there as industry developed. The city had running water, telegraphs, some telephone service, and refrigeration, which allowed for things such as ice cream and ice skating. There were still those people who were considered shady characters and caused trouble for the law. When the Birdcage Theater opened on December 25, 1881, it became a hot spot for such fugitives, as well as ordinary drinkers, gamblers, and prostitutes. It is said that the women would hang cribs in the gambling hall for their babies to sleep in as they pleasured their clients. Today there are 14 cribs hanging along the sides of the gambling hall.
Besides drinking, gambling, and prostitution, other inappropriate behavior was known to take place at the Birdcage Theater. It is rumored that 26 people were killed within the walls of that establishment.
Lack of water led to problems in Tombstone. Two major fires, one in June of 1881, and the other in May of 1882, devastated the city.
There were no railways going into Tombstone, so it was isolated from the rest of the country. By 1890 the US Census says that Tombstones population had dwindled down to 1900. Then by 1900 there were only 700 residents left. It was truly becoming a ghost town.
Bird Cage Theatre. The Bird Cage Theatre, Bird Cage Theatre. Accessed November 3rd 2020. https://tombstonebirdcage.com/.
Tombstone Chamber of Commerce. Bird Cage Theatre, Tombstone Chamber of Commerce. Accessed November 3rd 2020. https://tombstonechamber.com/directory/bird-cage-theatre-tombstone-chamber-of-commerce/.