Located at 126 All Souls Avenue, perched atop a concrete hill in Old Bisbee is where you’ll find the Oliver House. This red brick structure currently functions as a bed and breakfast to guests of all kinds– including some who are no longer among the living. In fact, despite the cheerful appearance of the building and its premiere location for bird watching, the building has an ominous feeling and a violent past.
Oliver House was conceived as a business office and boarding house for the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company’s executives and, later, the miners. The wife of mining tycoon Henry Oliver, Edith Ann Oliver, oversaw the construction of the building in 1908. Mrs. Oliver had the building made from brick due to the frequency of fires in Bisbee. (Several Bisbee historical records have been destroyed in fires that have torn through the town.) The property was sold in 1986 to Dennis Schranz, and made into a bed and breakfast. When he was told the place was haunted, Schranz, then a skeptic, laughed off the comments. Schranz hasn’t been a skeptic since his first night in Oliver House.
From its hilltop perch in the mountainside mining town, Oliver House is somewhat secluded, even though it’s centrally located in Old Bisbee. The only way to approach the building is by treading a narrow footbridge, traveling through a creepy gate, and along a short pathway to the front porch. If this doesn’t give you an eerie vibe, then the building’s violent past will.
Oliver House is the location of some reputed twenty-six deaths, most of which are said to be murders. Unfortunately, the actual number of deaths having occurred in this building cannot be completely verified due to the loss of records due to neglect or fire. However, one of the most mysterious of those deaths– a death that can be verified– is that of Nathaniel “Nat” Anderson.
The story locals like to tell says that Nat Anderson, a miner, was staying in what’s now known as “Room 13″ of the Oliver House. Nat was also having an affair and the woman whom he was having the affair with was the wife of someone Nat owed money. According to the story, Nat’s moneylender discovered the affair and went to confront Nat with the business end of a pistol. Nat was found shot in the back and in his forehead at the top of the stairs, outside the door to his room on February 22, 1920. Despite the belief that it was the moneylender who had killed poor Nat, the murder remains unsolved. Perhaps this is why Nat Anderson is still said to haunt Room 13 of the Oliver House…?
A newspaper article from the Tombstone Epitaph details the events leading up to the murder of Nat Anderson in an article titled “Find No Clues to Killing of Nat Anderson”. The story reads:
BISBEE. Feb. 23. The Investigation of the murder of Nat Anderson early Sunday morning has come practically to a standstill. Every clue that has presented itself to the police has been run down.
On the evening prior to the murder Anderson was at a party at the home of Mrs. Norris Greeley in Wood Canyon. It was a simple social affair among friends, cards and dancing being the principal entertainment.
Shortly before 1 o’clock the guests left the house in a crowd, proceeding a short ‘distance together. When they separated Anderson escorted Miss Elizabeth King to her home on Tembey Avenue. He entered the house and talked with her for a few minutes, leaving at about 2:25 o’clock. He then went to the English Kitchen on Main street and ate a light supper.
Anderson left the English kitchen shortly after 2:30 o’clock and presumably went directly to the Oliver house where he rooms. It is but a few minutes walk. The shooting occurred at 3:10 o’clock.
An inquest yesterday morning shed little or no light on the murder. The coroner’s Jury gave a verdict of death “from gunshot wounds at the hands of an unknown person.” Following the shooting both Mrs. Richard Davis, the landlady, and a roomer saw a man leaving the place. They did not see him clearly enough to describe him.
The theft of money and a watch from Kay Ross’s room a short time prior to the shooting, remains a puzzling feature of the crime. The weight of evidence against the theory that the man who entered Ross’s room is the same man that shot Anderson is almost overwhelming. On the other hand everything points to the crime as being the act of a man who had some personal score to settle with Anderson, a score of violent hatred. Before firing the third shot into the prostrate man’s back his assailant cursed him with a vile epithet.
There is a wooden foot bridge across the canyon leading to the front of the house. A nearby neighbor said that before the shooting a scuffle was heard on this bridge and a woman screamed.
The police think that the robbery of Kay Ross’s room might have been a coincidence or might have been done with the object of throwing them off the trail to make it seem as if it was the act of common thiefs trying to escape.
We have a town radio station in Bisbee called KPRP. There is a story of one of our local DJs whose friend bet him $100 dollars to spend the night in Nat’s room. The DJ took the bet thinking he was going to make a quick hundred bucks. He did not believe in ghosts and was the ultimate skeptic. He checked in, unlocked the door to Room 13, opened it, and saw a full-body apparition standing in front of him. He got so scared that he immediately shut the door, checked out, and gave his friend the money stating that he now believed in ghosts.
A room formerly known as “The Blue Room” is the alleged location of another adultery related murder in 1932. In this story, the wife a policeman was having an affair and, when the officer learned of the affair, he went on a murderous rampage killing his wife, her lover, and anyone else he found. Eventually, he turned the gun on himself. This story is often connected to that of Nat Anderson because of the similarities in the catalyst to the murders. Residual hauntings in this room involve sounds of footsteps and moving furniture when no one is around.
While most of the paranormal activity seems to be centered about Room 13, there are other rooms where guests have reported strange happenings.
There was once a room called the “Grandma Room”, named after the apparition of an old lady which guests reported having seen in the room. On nights when the apparition was seen, usually rocking in a rocking chair in the room, a broken coo-coo clock would chime at 2am. The old woman is said to have passed away in the room. Though she is thought to be benevolent, there is one story where this ghostly granny showed a mean streak.
When new owners purchased Oliver House and renamed the “Grandma Room”, they also removed from the room the rocking chair and coo-coo clock which had been related to the room’s hauntings. This made the Grandma Ghost very upset. In her book, Renee Gardner tells the story of a young guest who had an experience with the ghost shortly after these changes had been made:
There was a family staying at the Oliver House with their three-year old little boy. His parents tucked him into bed and then went downstairs to socialize with the other guests that were in the house. An hour later, the little boy came running down the stairs crying hysterically. His parents calmed him down and asked him what had happened. He responded, “The little old lady bopped me on the head.” Thinking that he just had a bad dream, his parents calmed him down, took him back up to bed, and to their astonishment the next day he woke up with a giant black and blue mark on his forehead.
The house has other rooms that are haunted– most all of the second floor has haunting tales. The stories associated with the other rooms in the house include creepy feelings of being watched, doors opening and closing, footsteps, the sound of running water. There have even been reports of parties on the second floor when the second floor was empty. Some stories also include hearing work being done on pipes that no longer exist.
Whether you’re drawn to Bisbee for its rich Arizona mining history or for its ghostly hauntings, the Oliver House is a fascinating place to stay for an unforgettable experience.
Official Bed and Breakfast Website:
* Treat, Wesley. “Weird Arizona: Your Travel Guide to Arizona’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets”. Ed. Sceurman, Mark and Moran, Mark. New York: SSterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2007, pp 198-199.
* Gardner, Renee. “Southern Arizona’s Most Haunted”. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffler Publishing Ltd., 2010. pp 94-97.
* “Find No Clues to Killing of Nat Anderson.” Tombstone Epitaph 29 February 1920: 3. (Update to Article 2012-02-26)