We couldn't find any other accommodations in Bisbee when we pulled in at dusk--the whole trip had been a spur-of-the-moment deal--and the Oliver House looked clean and quaint; two things I demand of any B&B. We checked into the Clark Gable Room (the Morey Amsterdam Room was unfortunately occupied), I tossed a toothbrush on the bed and stepped out into the hallway to read an article about the place that was hanging on the wall.
This article informed me of many things, mainly that the joint was haunted. And for good reason, too. One guy had been shot in the forehead at the foot of the stairs in 1920, and a love triangle gone bad had allegedly resulted in something of a blood bath in Room 9, I think it was. Room 13 was really an action spot; a previous owner claimed the room reeked of bad juju, and that a ghostly woman was repeatedly seen scudding down the hall and into ol' 13, slamming a ghostly door behind her. The current owner had had the house exorcised a few years ago, apparently to no avail.
Heck of a way to advertise, informing guests that brutal slayings had taken place in the room they'd just checked into.
After dinner we came back and played Scrabble in the communal living room (that's how exciting my life is), and during the game, I struck up a conversation with a gracious, articulate, 75-year-old woman who was also spending the night. And she informed me of many things. One was that you could only see ghosts peripherally, and that she'd been seeing--and talking--to them for 50 years or so.
"I see em in our house in Phoenix all the time," she told me. "Lots of Indians. They sit down and tell me things; they're all real friendly spirits." I asked her how she knew they were Indians. "They're dressed like Indians," she scoffed. Oh. And these were some of the words we came up with during the game: Fears, scared, died, omen, soul. I lost.
Eventually, we hit the hay, and I drifted off fast. Ghosts schmosts. But I was awakened, yes, in the middle of the night, by a weird tapping that was metallic and echoing. Went back to sleep. It woke me up again, and then I heard footsteps on the stairs that were very loud, but never continued down the hall. I heard a lot more of this stuff, going in and out of sleep, and kept writing it off as part power of suggestion, part full hotel. Hours later I was awakened by Mother Nature, and decided to brave the hallway to the shared bathroom. As I finished my business, I heard someone moving out in the hall. I exited the john to see an aged gentleman standing there dressed in a plaid shirt with dark pants held up by suspenders, just like old-time miners used to wear. This was right at the foot of the stairs, where the forehead murder occurred. As Jack Benny used to say, I shit you not. I rushed past him to the safety of the Clark Gable Room and leaped into bed. Heart pounding but bladder empty, I finally slept.
Came the morning, and we joined the other guests for the breakfast that came with the bed. I scanned the dining room, and that aged gentleman was nowhere to be seen. We sat next to a grounded, well-groomed couple who told us that their closet door had repeatedly opened and closed all night. Then we left.
That day we saw a dead coyote on the side of the road, and went to Mexico for 20 minutes, but nothing could compare with the night in the Oliver House. All I can tell you is that there are, of course, no such things as ghosts. Oh, and there's no such thing as the Morey Amsterdam Room, either. Homesick James, Who Had Nothing to Do With My Weekend: You've heard of his cousin Elmore, who's long gone, but Homesick is still here at age 83, applying a slide to Nellie Bell, his faithful guitar. Homesick ran away from his home in Tennessee when he was 12 (that was in 1922; think about it), and teamed up with Blind Boy Fuller in North Carolina two years later. It's not often you get the chance to see an artist like this, so go to the Rhythm Room January 28 and 29. Call 264-7880 for info.
A Bit of Swafford in the Night: Whether you get the name joke or not, I strongly advise you to go see the Best David Swaffords in the World. Made up of local rock celebs Robin Wilson, Brian Griffith, Dan Henzerling and Rick Purcell (that's a Gin Blossom and a Dead Hotman, among others), the Swaffs are pretty much the most glorious cover band I've ever seen. Set lists are crammed with stuff by Seventies and Eighties gods like the Plimsouls, the Records and Cheap Trick; the band does it every Tuesday night at Edsel's Attic.
Match Wits With Madame Tussaud: Her name is Gloria Estefan, and we all love her. We boogied down to the spicy rhythms of her ex-group Miami Sound Machine, we breathed a collective sigh of relief when the spunky gal recovered from a brutal bus accident to grace the stage again, and when she hit the charts with "Get On Your Feet" last year, we got off our butts and followed orders!
And now we can go to London to view an actual wax-Estefan in the legendary Madame Tussaud's Rock Circus museum. That's right, she's taking her rightful place among the motionless versions of rock's great ones, and Gloria herself was on hand to commemorate the unveiling this month. If you don't believe me, just check out the picture. But wait--which one is the real Cuban-American songbird? Sure, a match would help solve the mystery--one Gloria would melt, the other Gloria would begin shrieking--but we don't have that luxury. The sculptor who created Gloria II, Paul Bainbridge, is certainly no slouch in the likeness department, but no doubt some savvy Screed readers can pick out the living lady in the accompanying photo.
Take your time, crank up "Dr. Beat" and move the page to any angle you wish, jiggle it rapidly if you want--the rules are wide open! When you think you've got the answer, drop Screed a line in the mail to this address: "The I Think I Know Which Gloria Estefan Is Made of Wax Contest," P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002. And no phone calls--I mean it.
The first four replies with the correct answer will win one of the remarkable plastic baby heads pictured on this page, signed with the name "Gloria Estefan" in a script that looks very much like her own. These heads are imported from Korea, where Old World toy craftsmanship translates to "keepsake" for you here in America. So play along, and help launch Gloria's step into waxen immortality!